Maximilian Mexico
Emperor of Mexico, Austrian archduke
Maximilian Mexico
Maximilian I was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire. After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy, he was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on 10 April 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy. Many foreign governments, including that of the United States, refused to recognize his administration.
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    THIRTIES
  • 1867
    Age 34
    The sentence was carried out in the Cerro de las Campanas on the morning of 19 June 1867, when Maximilian, along with Generals Miramón and Mejía, were executed by a firing squad.
    More Details Hide Details He spoke only in Spanish and gave his executioners a portion of gold not to shoot him in the head so that his mother could see his face. His last words were, "I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me. May my blood which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. Viva Mexico, viva la independencia!". Generals Miramón and Mejía were shot after him. Both died shouting, "Long live the Emperor." After his execution, Maximilian's body was embalmed and displayed in Mexico. Early the following year, the Austrian admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff was sent to Mexico aboard SMS Novara to take the former emperor's body back to Austria. After arriving in Trieste, the coffin was taken to Vienna and placed within the Imperial Crypt, on 18 January 1868, where it can be viewed today.
    The city fell on 15 May 1867 and Maximilian was captured the next morning after the failure of an attempt to escape through Republican lines by a loyal hussar cavalry brigade led by Felix Salm-Salm.
    More Details Hide Details Following a court-martial, he was sentenced to death. Many of the crowned heads of Europe and other prominent figures (including the eminent liberals Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi) sent telegrams and letters to Mexico pleading desperately for the Emperor's life to be spared. Although he liked Maximilian on a personal level, Juárez refused to commute the sentence in view of the Mexicans who had been killed fighting against Maximilian's forces, and because he believed it was necessary to send a message that Mexico would not tolerate any government imposed by foreign powers. Felix Salm-Salm and his wife masterminded a plan and bribed the jailors to allow Maximilian to escape execution. However, Maximilian would not go through with the plan because he felt that shaving his beard to avoid recognition would ruin his dignity if he were to be recaptured.
    Withdrawing, in February 1867, to Santiago de Querétaro, he sustained a siege for several weeks, but on May 11 resolved to attempt an escape through the enemy lines.
    More Details Hide Details This plan was sabotaged by Colonel Miguel López who was bribed by the Republicans to open a gate and lead a raiding party though with the agreement that Maximilian would be allowed to escape.
    His self-declared empire collapsed, and he was captured and executed by the Mexican government in 1867.
    More Details Hide Details His wife, Charlotte of Belgium (Carlota), had left for Europe earlier to try to build support for her husband's regime; after his execution, however, she suffered an emotional collapse and was declared insane.
  • 1866
    Age 33
    Nevertheless, by 1866, the imminence of Maximilian's abdication seemed apparent to almost everyone outside Mexico.
    More Details Hide Details That year, Napoleon III withdrew his troops in the face of Mexican resistance and U.S. opposition under the Monroe Doctrine, as well as increasing his military contingent at home to face the ever growing Prussian military and Bismarck. Carlota travelled to Europe, seeking assistance for her husband's regime in Paris and Vienna and, finally, in Rome from Pope Pius IX. Her efforts failed, and she suffered a deep emotional collapse and never went back to Mexico. After her husband was executed by Republicans the following year, she spent the rest of her life in seclusion, never admitting her husband's death, first at Miramare Castle in Trieste, Italy, and then at Bouchout Castle in Meise, Belgium, where she died on 19 January 1927. Though urged to abandon Mexico by Napoleon III himself, whose troop withdrawal from Mexico was a great blow to the Mexican Imperial cause, Maximilian refused to desert his followers. Maximilian allowed his followers to determine whether or not he abdicated. Faithful generals such as Miguel Miramón, Leonardo Márquez, and Tomás Mejía vowed to raise an army that would challenge the invading Republicans. Maximilian fought on with his army of 8,000 Mexican loyalists.
  • 1865
    Age 32
    Maximilian issued his Black Decree on October 3, 1865.
    More Details Hide Details Its first article stated that: "All individuals forming a part of armed bands or bodies existing without legal authority, whether or not proclaiming a political pretext, whatever the number of those forming such band, or its organization, character, and denomination, shall be judged militarily by the courts martial. If found guilty, even though only of the fact of belonging to an armed band, they shall be condemned to capital punishment, and the sentence shall be executed within twenty-four hours". It is calculated that more than eleven thousand of Juarez's supporters were executed as a result of the Black Decree, but at the end it only inflamed the Mexican Resistance.
  • 1864
    Age 31
    In April 1864, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian stepped down from his duties as Chief of Naval Section of the Austrian Navy.
    More Details Hide Details He traveled from Trieste aboard SMS Novara, escorted by the frigates (Austrian) and Themis (French), and the Imperial yacht Phantasie led the warship procession from his palace at Miramare out to sea. They received a blessing from Pope Pius IX, and Queen Victoria ordered the Gibraltar garrison to fire a salute for Maximilian's passing ship. The new emperor of Mexico landed at Veracruz on 21 May 1864, and received a cold reception from the townspeople. Veracruz was a liberal town, and the liberal voters were opposed to having Maximilian on the throne. He had the backing of Mexican conservatives and Napoleon III, but from the very outset he found himself involved in serious difficulties since the Liberal forces led by President Benito Juárez refused to recognize his rule. There was continuous warfare between his French troops and the Republicans. The Imperial couple chose as their seat Mexico City. The Emperor and Empress set up their residence at Chapultepec Castle, located on the top of a hill formerly at the outskirts of Mexico City that had been a retreat of Aztec emperors. Maximilian ordered a wide avenue cut through the city from Chapultepec to the city center; originally named Paseo de la Emperatriz, it is today Mexico City's famous boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma. He also acquired a country retreat at Cuernavaca. The royal couple made plans to be crowned at the Catedral Metropolitana but, due to the constant instability of the regime, the coronation was never carried out.
  • 1863
    Age 30
    After General Élie-Frédéric Forey's capture of Mexico City and a French-staged plebiscite that confirmed his proclamation of the empire, Maximilian consented to accept the crown in October 1863.
    More Details Hide Details His decision involved the loss of all his nobility rights in Austria, though he was not informed of this until just before he left. Archduchess Charlotte was thereafter known as "Her Imperial Majesty Empress Carlota".
  • TWENTIES
  • 1861
    Age 28
    In Paris, 20 October 1861, Maximilian received a letter from Gutierrez de Estrada asking him to take the Mexican throne.
    More Details Hide Details He did not accept at first, but sought to satisfy his restless desire for adventure with a botanical expedition to the tropical forests of Brazil. However, Maximilian changed his mind after the French intervention in Mexico. At the invitation from Napoleon III.
  • 1859
    Age 26
    In 1859, Ferdinand Maximilian was first approached by Mexican monarchists—members of the Mexican aristocracy, led by local nobleman José Pablo Martínez del Río—with a proposal to become the Emperor of Mexico.
    More Details Hide Details The Habsburg family had ruled the Viceroyalty of New Spain from its establishment until the Spanish throne was inherited by Bourbons, so Maximilian was considered to have more potential legitimacy than other royalty, but Maximilian was unlikely to ever rule in Europe due to his elder brother.
  • 1857
    Age 24
    They lived as the Austrian regents in Milan or Viceroys of Lombardy-Venetia from 1857 until 1859, when Emperor Francis Joseph, angered by his brother's liberal policies, dismissed him.
    More Details Hide Details Shortly after, Austria lost control of most of its Italian possessions. Maximilian then retired to Trieste, near which he built the castle Miramare.
    On 27 July 1857, in Brussels, Archduke Maximilian married his second cousin Princess Charlotte of Belgium (later known as Empress Carlota of Mexico), the daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians and Louise-Marie of France.
    More Details Hide Details She was first cousin to both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Maximilian and Charlotte had no children together.
    In his political views, Archduke Maximilian was very much influenced by the progressive ideas in vogue at the time. He had a reputation as a liberal, and this led, in February 1857, to his appointment as viceroy of the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia.
    More Details Hide Details
  • 1854
    Age 21
    In 1854, he was only 22 years—as a younger brother of the Emperor, and thus a member of the ruling family—he was appointed as commander in chief of the Austrian Navy (1854–1861), which he reorganized in the following years.
    More Details Hide Details Like Archduke Friedrich (1821–1847) before him, Maximilian had a keen private interest in the fleet, and with him the Austrian naval force gained an influential supporter from the ranks of the Imperial Family. This was crucial as sea power was never a priority of Austrian foreign policy and the navy itself was relatively little known or supported by the public. It was only able to draw significant public attention and funds when it was actively supported by an imperial prince. As Commander-in-Chief, Maximilian carried out many reforms to modernise the naval forces, and was instrumental in creating the naval port at Trieste and Pola (now Pula) as well as the battle fleet with which admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff would later secure his victories. He also initiated a large-scale scientific expedition (1857–1859) during which the frigate SMS Novara became the first Austrian warship to circumnavigate the globe.
    He was made a lieutenant in the navy at the age of eighteen. In 1854, he sailed as commander in the corvette Minerva, on an exploring expedition along the coast of Albania and Dalmatia.
    More Details Hide Details Maximilian was especially interested in the maritime and undertook many long-distance journeys (for Brazil) on the frigate Elisabeth.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1832
    Born
    Maximilian was born on 6 July 1832 in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, capital of the Austrian Empire.
    More Details Hide Details He was baptized the following day as Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph. The first name honored his godfather and paternal uncle, The King of Hungary and the second honored his maternal grandfather, The King of Bavaria. His father was Archduke Franz Karl, the second surviving son of The Emperor of Austria, during whose reign he was born. Maximilian was thus a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a female-line cadet branch of the House of Habsburg. His mother was Princess Sophie of Bavaria, a member of the House of Wittelsbach. Intelligent, ambitious and strong-willed, Sophie had little in common with her husband, whom historian Richard O'Conner characterized as "an amiably dim fellow whose main interest in life was consuming bowls of dumplings drenched in gravy." Despite their different personalities, the marriage was fruitful, and after four miscarriages, four sons—including Maximilian—would reach adulthood.
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