Fulcrumvale: Competent to rule? Certainly. But to check their master? No. The Empress reserves the right to dismiss and appoint ministers of state, so while they are men who know what they are doing, they cannot afford to upset her for it may mean an end to their job. The Prime minister is an exception: she's intimidated (and somewhat scared) of him, and would never try to move him from office. Plus, he's elected by the 15% of the population who have the vote (the upper class plantation owners and such), so dismissing him might cause a back-lash.
Hajji Giray I: Hehe, yes. Brazil is a stagnating empire, and when empires tend to stagnate, immorality is not far behind. They are young women, and as much as we like to think of the Victorian era of being prudish, it was not always the case. The court is a place of decadence and decay. Later chapters will bring a shock to these people who believe Brazil is immortal and will last thousand years.