Bernardo O’Higgins, (born probably Aug. 20, 1776/78, Chillán, Chile, Viceroyalty of Peru—died October 1842, Peru), South American leader and first Chilean head of state (“supreme director,” 1817–23), who commanded the military forces that won independence from Spain.
Bernardo O’Higgins was born in Chillán, a town in southern Chile, then a colony of Spain. As noted in his Certificate of Baptism, he was the illegitimate son of Ambrosio O’Higgins, a Spanish officer of Irish origin who became governor of Chile and later viceroy of Peru; his mother was Isabel Riquelme, a prominent lady of Chillán.
Bernardo’s father had only indirect contact with his son, who used his maternal surname until his father’s death. At 12, Bernardo was sent to Lima for his secondary education. Four years later he went to Spain. At 17 he was sent to England for further education.
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Bernardo O’Higgins bust in Richmond