Bernardo O'Higgins was born in the Chilean city of Chillán on the 20th of August 1778, the illegitimate son of Ambrosio O'Higgins born in County Sligo, Ireland, who became governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru. His mother was Isabel Riquelme, a prominent local; the daughter of Don Simón Riquelme y Goycolea. Bernardo at the age of 17 was sent to Richmond upon Thames to study at Clarence House. There, studying history and the arts, O'Higgins became acquainted with American ideas of independence and developed a sense of nationalist pride.
He met Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan idealist and believer in independence, and joined a Masonic Lodge established by Miranda, dedicated to achieving the independence of Latin America. He returned to Chile in 1802 after the death of his Father Ambrosio in 1801. In 1808 Napoleon took control of Spain, triggering a sequence of events in South America. In Chile, the commercial and political elite decided to form an autonomous government to rule in the name of the imprisoned king Ferdinand VII; this was to be one of the first in some steps toward national independence, in which O'Higgins would play a leading role. After being deposed and exiled to Peru for many years.
In 1842, the National Congress of Chile finally voted to allow O'Higgins to return to Chile. After travelling to Callao to embark for Chile, however, O'Higgins began to succumb to cardiac problems and was too weak to travel. His doctor ordered him to return to Lima, where on 24 October 1842, aged 64, O'Higgins died. He is considered the Liberator of Chile and the Father of the Country.