MAXIMILIAN I, Emperor of Mexico
Maximilian I (1832-1867), Emperor of Mexico from
qualifies as one of the country's most ill-fated
rulers. Hailing from a European dynasty, Maximilian
was duped into accepting the role of Mexico's emperor.
Brought to the country under false pretenses, the
archduke of Austria was led to believe his presence
would be welcome by the people of Mexico. In fact, the
opposite was true.
Mexico was experiencing the painful residues of a
civil war (The War of the Reform) when Maximilian
arrived in Veracruz in 1864. Mexico's president,
Benito Juarez, supported wide sweeping reforms for the
country. This deeply angered the conservatives and the
church who sought to maintain the status quo.
In 1861, President Juarez suspended interest payments
to Britain, Spain and France. Juarez took this drastic
measure out of necessity to help stabilize the
country's infrastructure. This decision, however, set
off a chain of events that ultimately culminated with
Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico|
In response to President Juarez' decision, Napoleon
III of France persuaded Britain and Spain to join
forces with his country and demand repayment from
Mexico. The Treaty of London was signed in 1861 for
this purpose. However, France had ulterior motives
that went beyond
the settling of a debt. Napoleon III sought to take
advantage of Mexico's instability by establishing a
monarchy in the country.
Once Britain and Spain learnt of France's true intent,
they withdrew from the treaty. Napoleon III remained
resolute and French soldiers were promptly dispatched
to Mexico. The Battle of Puebla occurred during this
time, a rare Mexican victory over a foreign country.
This famous engagement gave birth to the tremendously
popular Cinco de Mayo holiday so widely celebrated
Despite Mexico's success at the Battle of Puebla, the
French soon emerged victorious and took command of
Mexico City. This occupation was welcomed by the
conservatives and members of the clergy who hoped to
have their powers restored by the forthcoming
Maximilian, Photographic Portrait||
Maximilian was enjoying the life of a country
gentleman when Napoleon III approached him concerning
the role of emperor. A member of the Imperial
Habsburg-Lorraine family of Europe, Archduke Ferdinand
Maximilian of Austria had a received a fine education.
However, he possessed a naive nature that led him into
dangerous circumstances. As a result, Maximilian
became embroiled in an international melee that would
have no happy ending.
Napoleon III convinced Maximilian that Mexico had
authorized his appointment. In truth, a mockery of a
vote had been staged. Led to believe their presence
would be welcomed, Maximilian and his wife
Charlotte looked forward to their new home and
dominion. They set sail for Mexico.
Maximilian was crowned Emperor on April 10, 1864. Both
he and his wife immersed themselves in Mexico's
culture. Charlotte changed her name to the Spanish
equivalent and was known as Empress Carlota. A
humanitarian at heart, Maximilian could not help but
notice the great disparity between the country's rich
and poor. To the great dismay of those who had put him
in power, Maximilian supported the liberal social
reforms set forth by President Benito Juarez.
The United States had been embroiled in its own civil
war during the French occupation of Mexico. However,
once this war was over, the United States made it
clear that they recognized Benito Juarez as Mexico's
legitimate president and reminded France of the Monroe
Doctrine. As a result, Napoleon III was successfully
pressured to withdraw his troops from Mexico.
Without military support, the Maximilian monarchy was
destined to fail. Empress Carlota returned to Europe
to beg Napoleon III and the Pope to reconsider their
decision. Her pleas fell on deaf ears and these futile
attempts proved to be the downfall of Empress
She lived out her life in Europe, in seclusion, never
to see her husband again.
The bullet riddled shirt|
Maximilian was encouraged to flee for his life. He
adamantly refused, fully committed to Mexico and her
people. Maximilian had grown to love his adopted
country and felt responsible for her future. Before
long, Maximilian was captured and sentenced to death.
Pleas came from around the world, imploring President
Juarez to spare Maximilian's life. These pleas were in
vain. Maximilian was executed by a firing squad on
June 19, 1867. A famous chapter in Mexico's history
had come to an end.