Maximilian "Mexico's Emperor" July 6, 1832 - June 19, 1867
Louis Napoleon, emperor of France, dreamed of emulating the military conquests of his famous uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, and in 1861 sent his army to conquer Mexico. Embroiled in the Civil War, President Lincoln could do little more than protest this blatant violation of the Monroe Doctrine. He did divert troops for a Texas campaign as a warning to the French, but the effort proved to be detrimental to the war effort.
Archduke Maximilian was the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, and his wife, Princess Charlotte, was the daughter of King Leopold of Belgium. This young royal couple was very bright, Maximilian being a naturalist who specialized in butterflies and birds, and Charlotte delighted in philosophy and mathematics. They felt they were well qualified to rule a kingdom, but alas, their relatives were unable to provide the with one. They had to content themselves with leading a life of luxury in a castle in Trieste until 1863, when Louis Napoleon, desiring to set up a puppet regime in Mexico, asked Maximilian to become emperor of the Mexican empire. Maximilian accepted with two conditions: first, that the Mexican people request that he become their ruler; and second, that France support the regime with its military and finances. Louis Napoleon agreed to the second condition and had his army gather the required signatures for the first condition- at gunpoint.
Charlotte and Maximilian quickly studied Mexican history, learned some Spanish, and sailed away to Mexico in the spring of 1864. A year later, the United States decisively won its war with the Southern states and then sent an "Army of Observation" to the Rio Grande. Louis Napoleon, facing financial and military problems in Europe and fearing war with the powerful U.S. Army, notified Maximilian in early 1866 that France would no longer support him, and then withdrew the French army from Mexico. Maximilian refused to abandon "his people" and faced a Mexican firing squad with dignity.
Fascinating Fact: Charlotte was 27 years old at the time of Louis Napoleon's betrayal. Her tribulations caused her to go mad, and she returned home and lived for another 60 years without ever regaining her sanity.
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