Maximilian I of Mexico explained

Maximilian I
Imgw:200px
Reign:10 April 1864 – 19 Jun 1867
[1]
Coronation:10 June 1864
Succession:Emperor of Mexico
Reg-Type:Regent
Predecessor:Mexican Republic
Benito Juárez as President of Mexico
Agustín de Iturbide was previous monarch
Successor:Monarchy Abolished
Benito Juárez as President of Mexico
Succession1:Head of State of Mexico
Predecessor1:Félix María Zuloaga
Successor1:Benito Juárez
Reign1:10 April 1864 – 19 Jun 1867
Reign-Type1:Tenure
Full Name:Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph
Spouse:Charlotte of Belgium
Issue:Prince Augustine (adoptive)
Prince Salvador (adoptive)
House:House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father:Archduke Franz Karl of Austria
Mother:Princess Sophie of Bavaria
Birth Date:6 July 1832
Birth Place:Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
Death Place:Cerro de las Campanas, Querétaro, Mexico
Place Of Burial:Imperial Crypt, Vienna, Austria
Signature Alt:Cursive signature in ink
Religion:Roman Catholicism

Maximilian I (Spanish: Maximiliano I; 6 July 1832 – 19 June 1867) 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. This helped to ensure the success of republican forces led by Benito Juárez, and Maximilian was captured and executed in 1867.

Though criticised as naïve and indecisive, Maximilian is often praised by historians due to his liberal reforms, his genuine desire to help the people of Mexico, his refusal to desert his loyal followers, and his personal bravery during the siege of Querétaro. He has been highly praised even by historians who believe he had no business becoming involved in Mexican affairs. In Mexico, he and his consort are known as Maximiliano and Carlota.

Early life

Birth

Maximilian was born on 6 July 1832 in the Schönbrunn Palace, located in Vienna, capital of the Austrian Empire. He was baptized the following day and given the full name Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph. The first name honored his godfather and paternal uncle, the future Emperor Ferdinand I and the second honored his maternal grandfather, King Maximilian I of Bavaria.

His father was Archduke Franz Karl, the second surviving male child of the Holy Roman Emperor Franz II (after 1804, ruling the Austrian Empire as Franz I). Maximilian was thus a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a female-line cadet branch of the House of Habsburg. His mother was Sophie, a Bavarian princess of the House of Wittelsbach. Intelligent, ambitious and strong-willed, Sophie had little in common with her husband, who 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.

Malicious gossips at the court stated that Maximilian was in fact the product of an extramarital affair between his mother and his first cousin Napoleon II (then known as the Duke of Reichstadt), the son and heir of Napoleon Bonaparte, ruler of the French Empire, and his second wife, Archduchess Marie Louise (daughter of Franz II). The existence of an illicit affair between Sophie and Napoleon II, and any possibility that Maximilian was conceived from such a union, are widely dismissed by historians.

Education

Adhering to traditions inherited from the Spanish court during Habsburg rule, Maximilian's upbringing was supervised by an aja (governess) until his sixth birthday. Afterwards, his education was entrusted to a tutor. Most of Maximilian's day was spent in study. The thirty-two hours per week of classes at age 7 steadily grew until it reached fifty-five hours per week by the time he was 17. The disciplines were diverse: ranging from history, geography, law and technology, to languages, military studies, fencing and diplomacy. In addition to his native German, he eventually learned to speak Hungarian, Slavonic, English, French, Italian and Spanish. From an early age, Maximilian tried to surpass his older brother Franz Joseph (Francis Joseph) in everything; attempting to prove to all that he was the better qualified and deserving of more than second place status.

The highly restrictive environment of the Austrian court was not enough to repress Maximilian's natural openness. He was joyful, highly charismatic and able to captivate those around him with ease. Although he was a charming boy, he was also undisciplined. He mocked his teachers and was often the instigator of pranks—even including his imbecile uncle, Emperor Ferdinand I, among his victims. Nonetheless Maximilian was very popular. His attempts to outshine his older brother and ability to charm opened a rift with the aloof and self-contained Franz Joseph that would widen as years passed, and the times when both were close friends in childhood would be all but forgotten.

In 1848, revolutions erupted across Europe. In face of protests and riots, Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated in favor of Maximilian's brother, who became Franz Joseph I. Maximilian accompanied him on campaigns to put down rebellions throughout the Empire. Only in 1849 would the revolution be stamped out in Austria, with hundreds of rebels executed and thousands imprisoned. Maximilian was horrified at what he regarded as senseless brutality and openly complained about it. He would later remark: "We call our age the Age of Enlightenment, but there are cities in Europe where, in the future, men will look back in horror and amazement at the injustice of tribunals, which in a spirit of vengeance condemned to death those whose only crime lay in wanting something different to the arbitrary rule of governments which placed themselves above the law."

Career in the Austrian Navy

Travels

Ferdinand Max was a particularly clever boy who displayed considerable culture in his taste for the arts, and he demonstrated an early interest in science, especially botany. When he entered military service, he was trained in the Austrian Navy. He threw himself into this career with so much zeal that he quickly rose to high command.

At the age of twenty-two, Archduke Ferdinand Max took office as Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian Navy in 1854. Like Archduke Friedrich (1821–1847) before him, Ferdinand Max 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 the 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, Ferdinand Max 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.

Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia

In his political views, Archduke Ferdinand Max 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.

On 27 July 1857, in Brussels (Belgium) Archduke Ferdinand Max 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. She was first cousin to both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Ferdinand Max and Charlotte had no children together.

They lived as the Austrian regents in Milan or Viceroys of Lombardy-Venetia from 1857 until 1859, when Emperor Franz Josef dismissed Ferdinand Max from this post. The emperor was angered by the liberal policies pursued by his brother in Italy. Shortly after his dismissal, Austria lost control of most of its Italian possessions. Ferdinand Max then retired to Trieste, near which he built the castle, Miramare.

Emperor of Mexico

Offer of the Mexican crown

See also: Imperial Crown of Mexico. 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. 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, after the French intervention in Mexico, under pressure from Napoleon III and after General Élie-Frédéric Forey's capture of Mexico City and the plebiscite which confirmed his proclamation of the empire, he consented to accept the crown in October 1863 (Ferdinand Maximilian was not told of the dubious nature of the plebiscite, which was held while French troops were occupying most of the territory). 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".

Reign in Mexico

See also: Second Mexican Empire. In April 1864, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian conceded his duties as Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian Navy. He traveled from Trieste aboard the 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.[2] They received a blessing from Blessed 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 to wild enthusiasm from the crowds. 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. Maximilian was shocked by the living conditions of the poor in contrast to the magnificent haciendas of the upper class. Empress Carlota began holding parties for the wealthy Mexicans to raise money for poor houses. One of Maximilian's first acts as Emperor was to restrict working hours and abolish child labour. He cancelled all debts for peasants over 10 pesos, restored communal property and forbade all forms of corporal punishment. He also broke the monopoly of the Hacienda stores and decreed that henceforth peons could no longer be bought and sold for the price of their debt.

As Maximilian and Carlota had no children, they adopted Agustín de Iturbide y Green and his cousin Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzán, both grandsons of Agustín de Iturbide, who had briefly reigned as Emperor of Mexico in the 1820s. They gave young Agustín the title of "His Highness, the Prince of Iturbide" and intended to groom him as heir to the throne.

To the dismay of his conservative allies, Maximilian upheld several liberal policies proposed by the Juárez administration – such as land reforms, religious freedom, and extending the right to vote beyond the landholding class. At first, Maximilian offered Juárez an amnesty if he would swear allegiance to the crown, even offering the post as Prime Minister, which Juárez refused. Later, Maximilian ordered all captured followers of Juárez to be shot, in response to the Republican practice of executing anyone who was a supporter of the Empire. In the end, it proved to be a tactical mistake that only exacerbated opposition to his regime.

After the end of the American Civil War, the United States began supplying partisans of Juárez and his ally Porfirio Díaz by "losing" arms depots for them at El Paso del Norte at the Mexican border. The prospect of an US invasion to reinstate Juárez, and the inevitable bloodthirsty reprisals that Juárez was so famous for, caused a large number of Maximilian's loyal adherents to abandon the cause and leave the capital. Meanwhile, Maximilian invited ex-Confederates to move to Mexico in a series of settlements called the "Carlota Colony" and the New Virginia Colony with a dozen others being considered, a plan conceived by the internationally renowned U.S. Navy oceanographer and inventor Matthew Fontaine Maury. Maximilian also invited settlers from "any country" including Austria and the other German states.[3]

Nevertheless, by 1866, the imminence of Maximilian's abdication seemed apparent to almost everyone outside Mexico. 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 near Trieste, Italy, and then at Bouchout Castle in Meise, Belgium,[4] where she died on 19 January 1927.[5]

Downfall

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 Miramon, 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. 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. 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.

The city fell on 15 May 1867 and Maximilian was captured the next morning after the failure of a courageous attempt to break through Republican lines by a loyal hussar cavalry brigade led by Felix Salm-Salm. 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 for the Emperor's life to be spared. Although he liked Maximilian on a personal level,[6] 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. 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. 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!" Despite having taken the money, the Juarista firing squad shot him in the face.[7] The two Mexican generals shot after him both died shouting, "Long live the Emperor."

Burial

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 the SMS Novara to take the former emperor's body back to Austria. After arriving in Trieste, the coffin was taken to Vienna and buried in the Imperial Crypt on 18 January 1868.

Legacy

In Mexico today Maximilian is generally seen neither as a hero nor as a villain, but rather a man who tried to do his best for the people despite having no business involving himself in Mexican affairs. Early in his rule he began to lose the backing of his principal supporter Napoleon III, while in general Maximilian proved to be much too liberal for his Mexican conservative allies.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal Name:Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico
Dipstyle:His Imperial Majesty
Offstyle:Your Imperial Majesty
Altstyle:Sire

Titles and styles

Full title as Emperor

His Imperial Majesty Don Maximiliano I (Maximilian I), By the Grace of God and will of the people, Emperor of Mexico.

Honors

Emperor Maximilian I was Grand Master of the following Mexican Orders:

He was a recipient of the following foreign honors:

Genealogy

Issue

Endnotes

  1. "Such an easy assumption of an improbable sexual relationship", said Alan Palmer, "fails to understand the nature of the attachment binding" Sophie and Reichstadt, who saw themselves as alien misfits stranded in a foreign court. To Palmer, their "confidences were those of a brother and elder sister rather than of lovers." "There is no documentary evidence to suggest that she and the Duke of Reichstadt were ever lovers", according to Joan Haslip. "Whether the young Napoleon was actually the father of Maximilian could only be the subject of fascinating conjecture, something for courtiers and servants to gossip about on the long winter nights in the Hofburg [Palace]", said Richard O'Connor. "There is not a shred of evidence to support the rumors", affirmed Jasper Ridley. "It was said that Sophie confessed", continued Ridley, "in a letter to her father confessor, that Maximilian was the son of Napoleon, and that the letter was found and destroyed in 1859, but there is no reason to believe this story ... would she have had a sexual relationship with a boy whom she regarded as a child and a younger brother?" The birth of two more sons after the death of Reichstadt in 1832 lessened even more the credibility of these claims.

References

External links

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Notes and References

  1. Derecho Mexicano, Jacinto Pallares, Mexico ISBN 1-162-47704-0
  2. Haslip, Joan, Imperial Adventurer – Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, London, 1971, ISBN 0-297-00363-1
  3. Rolle, Andrew F., The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico, University of Oklahoma Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-8061-1961-8.
  4. "Charlotte of Mexico's Misfortune", New York Times, March 6, 1885.
  5. "Belgium Mourns for Dead Empress; Tragedy of Life of Charlotte, Wife of Maximilian, Is Recalled", New York Times, January 19, 1927.
  6. Maximilian and Carlota by Gene Smith, ISBN 0-245-52418-5, ISBN 978-0-245-52418-9
  7. Giving executer(s) a portion of gold/silver is well-established among European aristocracy since medieval time and not an act of desperation. In other accounts, Maximilian calmly said, "aim well", to the firing squad and met his death with dignity.