Maximilian and Carlota in Mexico
History, like a good book or movie, can be vivid, romantic, and tragic all at once. And perhaps there’s no greater tragedy than the one of Old Mexico about the man and his wife that came to rule a perfect world only to be left disappointed, heartbroken and put to a cruel death for one, and a life-long commitment to a mental institution for the other.
The story starts in 1864 when Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and Archduchess Maria Charlotte, both of royal blood, were appointed Emperor and Empress of Mexico by Napoleon III of France. Ferdinand was the son of Archduke Franz Karl, the ruler of Austria, and related by blood or marriage to every ruling family ...view middle of the document...
It was said that Sophie never recovered after his death and that she blamed it on Metternich for the rest of her life, and that, from birth, Maximilian's stature resembled Napoleon II's more than that of Franz Karl, his older brother, or any of his younger brothers.3
While the United States was busy with its Civil War, a group of conservative Mexicans and the French Emperor Napoleon III devised to put Maximilian on the Mexican throne because the Mexican government of Benito Juarez was far too liberal for some Mexicans. Napoleon wanted to collect a debt from Mexico and further his imperialist dreams in the Americas. The debt Mexico owed the French was $15 million on which Juarez had suspended payment. To further this scheme, Maximilian was lied to and believed the Mexican people had voted him their king. He agreed to move to Mexico as elected emperor backed by support from the French army.4
In June of 1864, Ferdinand and Marie-Charlotte-Amelie-Augustine-Victoire-Clementine- Leopoldine (know as Carlota to her friends), daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians, set sail for Mexico to claim the throne.
Maximilian had big plans for changing things for the good of the people that included bringing in European scholars to teach the many illiterate Mexicans to read and write their own language, and inspire them to bring Mexico into what he termed “the Golden Age of growth and enlightenment.”
The couple settled in Chapultepec Castle just outside Mexico City and Maximilian wasted no time in advancing some of his policies for change. He started restoration of the beautiful castle that had been allowed to fall into ruin, and began touring the country in an effort to meet the people and explain that he had arrived to restore their independence. He ordered the end of the mistreatment of workers and limited the hours they could be forced to work. His orders were never carried out.5
Things came to a head when Maximilian received word from Napoleon that he...