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Etienne,DuchessofBurgundy 08-22-2003 01:52 AM

Mexico, the Mexican Empire, Emperor Maximilian & Empress Carlota, née of Belgium
Empress Charlotte "Carlota"
Charlotte of Belgium

Archduchess of Austria - Empress of Mexico

She was the daughter of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, born in 1840. Charlotte, as she was known before becoming Empress of Mexico, was charming, attractive and beautiful with her black hair, dark-brown eyes and slender figure. She was also intelligent, serious, dutiful and energetic and her behaviour was always dignified. At the age of 13, she already read Plutarch..

Charlotte of Belgium was only 10 years old, when her mother died and it marked the end of her childhood. In 1853 her brother Leopold (1835-1909) married the Habsburg Princess Marie Henriëtte (1836-1902). In the summer of 1856 the 24-year-old Habsburg Archduke Maximilian, a brother of the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph, visited Brussels. Charlotte fell hopelessly in love with him. Maximilian asked Leopold I for the hand of his daughter and, although Leopold I preferred Pedro V of Portugal as son-in-law, he allowed 16-year-old Charlotte to make her own choice. On his second visit to Brussels, Maximilian talked with Charlotte about his liberal, idealistic and Byronic ideas. He showed her the drawings for the villa Miramar, being build in medieval style near Triëst, and fascinated her with the stories of his travels to exotic places.

Emperor Maximilian

The negotiations about the dowry dragged on for some time, but on July 27, 1857, 17-year-old Charlotte married Maximilian. Afterwards they travelled via Vienna to Italy, because Maximilian had been appointed as viceroy of Lombardy and Venice. They were coolly received in Milan, but Charlotte was enchanted when she saw Venice, and she wrote enthusiastic letters to Brussels. In 1859 the Italian War of Freedom broke out and Maximilian and Charlotte were forced to flee. Later that year there was true roomers about he having an affair, and since they slept in different bedrooms. Even then they remained friends and appeared as a doting couple to the outside world. Residing in the villa Miramar, Charlotte read books, wrote, painted, swam and sailed, but she was bored and longed to be useful.

In 1863 Napoleon III of France offered the crown of Mexico to Maximilian. He hesitated. Charlotte, however, longed for a vocation and pushed him to accept the proposal. A group of wealthy, conservative Mexicans convinced them that the people of Mexico wanted him as their Emperor. After Napoleon III had promised that he would "never let the new empire down", Maximilian signed the agreement. Charlotte's French grandmother, Marie Amélie (1782-1866), shrieked: "They will be killed! They will be killed!". In contrast, all Charlotte's Coburg relatives seem to have been blinded by the glitter of the Imperial Crown. When the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph declared that Maximilian had to give up his rights to the Austrian throne on accepting the Mexican Crown, Maximilian again hesitated. Charlotte tried to negotiate with Francis Joseph, but he did not give in, thus Charlotte convinced Maximilian to renounce his rights to the Austrian throne. Then Charlotte changed her name to 'Carlota' and started organising their departure.

They had left Austrian soil on April 14, 1864, and arrived in Mexico on May 24, where they were coolly received. In Mexico City the ramshackle Palacio National resembled barracks, so they moved to castle of Chapultepec. Mexico was nearly bankrupt and their position was precarious. The Mexican conservatives supported Maximilian, who had liberal ideas, while the liberals preferred the elected president, Benito Juárez (1806-1872), whose followers were conducting a guerrilla war against the French troops. When Maximilian decreed a guarantee of the freedom of religion, he antagonised the papal nuncio, too, and as a result the pope withdrew his support in the spring of 1865. That year the American Civil War ended. The United States opposed to the French troops in Mexico and supported Juárez. To make things worse, Maximilian could not get along with the French supreme commander in Mexico. He travelled through the country, desperately trying to win over the Mexican people. Charlotte ruled in his absence and, even when he was present, she often drew up official documents for him. Despite their professional co-operation, the couple continued to sleep in separate bedrooms and Maximilian often shared his bedroom with other women. One of them was the 17-year-old Concepción Sedano y Leguizano, who gave birth to a son. Since Maximilian did not have any prospect of begetting a legitimate heir, he decided to adopt a grandson of a former Mexican Emperor, Agustin de Itúrbide (1783-1824). The boy's mother soon regretted the arrangement and started proclaiming loudly throughout France that Maximilian "had stolen her son from her".

Early 1866, Napoleon III refused to give Maximilian any further financial support, despite his earlier promise. As a result of American pressure and his fear of Prussian aggression, Napoleon also announced the withdrawal of his troops from Mexico. Earlier Charlotte had received the news of her father's death and now she became nervous and depressed. However, when Maximilian contemplated his abdication, Charlotte refused to give up and, despite the raining season, she decided to travel to Europe to reason with Napoleon III. She arrived in France on August 8, 1866 and received a telegram from Napoleon III informing her of his illness. Charlotte nevertheless travelled to Paris and moved into the Grand Hôtel. The next day the Empress Eugénie, Napoleon's Spanish wife, visited her and through Eugénie's mediation, Charlotte was later received by Napoleon III. She described her plan how to save the Mexican Empire, but Napoleon and his councillors were unrelenting. During their second meeting, Charlotte became terribly upset and began to cry hysterically. In their third and final conversation Napoleon told her that the withdrawal of the French troops was final.

In her letter to Maximilian, Charlotte wrote that Napoleon III represented "the evil on earth" and that he was "possessed by the devil". Friends commented on her strange behaviour. While she was travelling from Paris to Triëst, she told her lady-in-waiting that she had identified a farmer in the field as an assassin. She ordered the coachman to increase speed and held an handkerchief in front of her face during the remainder of the ride. In the villa Miramar a courier arrived from Mexico with bad news and a request from Maximilian to ask the pope for help. Thus, Charlotte left for Rome, and had two meetings with the pope. Then, one morning, she burst into the pope's apartments, kneeled before him and screamed that her staff tried to poison her: "All food they give me contains poison and I am starving". That day she insisted on spending the night in the Vatican and the astonished pope had a bed prepared in the library. Officially, it was the only time ever that a woman stayed a night in the Vatican. The next day, the mother superior of a nearby convent persuaded Charlotte to visit an orphanage. With an handkerchief in front of her face Charlotte travelled in her coach to the convent, where she held a charming speech. Afterwards, she was lead about the convent and in the kitchen she snatched a piece of meat from a hot pan. She burned her hand, fainted from the pain and was hurried off to her hotel. When she was thirsty, she took the pope's glass and walked with it to a public fountain. Her relatives were informed of her condition and soon her brother Philip arrived and escorted her to Triëst.
From then on Charlotte was confined to Miramar by Maximilian's relatives and no one was allowed to visit her. As a result of the quietness and good food, her physical health improved and she was as beautiful as ever, but apparently her behaviour remained strange. She was not invited for the marriage of her brother Philip in May. Charlotte occupied herself with reading books and writing letters. As a result of her long seclusion at Miramar, rumours started that she had been pregnant, when she left Mexico, and had given birth at Miramar early 1867. Some even tried to identify the child as Maxime Weygand, while other rumours said that this man was a son of Charlotte's brother, Leopold II. In any case, it is highly unlikely that the proud, dutiful and unapproachable Empress Charlotte would have taken a lover.

Early 1867 the French troops were withdrawn from Mexico and Maximilian cabled his family in Vienna that he would soon return home. His family underestimated the seriousness of the situation in Mexico and his mother, Sophie of Bavaria, wrote firmly: "I must still wish that you hold out in Mexico as long as you can with honour do so." Thus, when the supporters of Juárez advanced on Mexico City, Maximilian retreated to Querétaro. With only a small army of supporters, he met Juárez in battle, was quickly defeated, captured and sentenced to death. Many distinguished European liberals, like Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi, took pity on the naive and well-meaning Emperor and petitioned Juárez to spare his life. On the morning of June 19, 1867, however, Maximilian was led out on the hill near Querétaro. He presented each man on the firing squad with a gold piece, asking them to aim carefully at his heart. Nevertheless, the first salvo did not kill him, and one of the bullets pierced his face. The second salvo was deathly.

Marie Henriëtte, the sister-in-law that Charlotte had always loathed, travelled in the summer of 1867 to Miramar, to escort Charlotte to Belgium. In the Palace of Laken the ex-Empress happily lived amongst her relatives until the summer of 1868, when she was suddenly overcome by fits of frenzy and confined to castle Tervuren. During the winter she was back in Laken, but in the spring of 1869 her condition worsened and from then on Charlotte was to remain in castle Tervuren. She laughed, wept, held monologues and talked incoherently, but she had still many lucid periods, when she behaved dignified, gave perfectly normal answers to questions, read books, painted or played the piano. She was always concerned about her appearance and she was still a beauty.

In March 1879 the castle was on fire. Charlotte was tied to her carriage with a shawl and brought to Laken. After a few weeks she was confined to castle Bouchout. There, her condition worsened and in attacks of frenzy she smashed the furniture, broke vases, tore up books and cut up paintings. Strangely, she never damaged possessions that reminded her of Maximilian. King Leopold II never visited his sister at Bouchout, but Queen Marie Henriëtte and her daughters did. Princess Stephanie writes in her memoirs that even as a child she was never afraid of her Aunt Charlotte. During World War I the German Emperor decreed that castle Bouchout was not to be disturbed, because Charlotte was the sister-in-law of his ally, the Austrian Emperor. It was not until January 19, 1927, that Charlotte died of pneumonia at the age of 86.

Cathérine Bergeyck 09-13-2003 02:35 PM

The castle of Bouchout, where princess Charlotte spent the last part of her life.

Josefine 12-01-2004 03:24 PM

what a castle who lives there now

Cathérine Bergeyck 12-02-2004 04:02 AM


Originally Posted by Josefine
what a castle who lives there now

I believe it belongs to the state and is used for events of the EU.

Josefine 07-03-2005 06:31 AM

are there any photos her her?

Warren 07-03-2005 07:24 AM

Empress Carlota
4 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by Josefine
are there any photos her her?

Here are some pics...

gogm 01-07-2006 02:04 PM

I have pictures I downloaded several years ago and haven't been able to relocate on the Web (in either Spanish or English); one was being posted by the Museo Nacional de Historia of Mexico. She was beautiful.

The US amassed troops on the Mexican border at the end of the Civil War in support of the "Monroe Doctrine" of keeping European powers out of the Western hemisphere. While Latin Americans know how the Monroe Doctrine was greviously abused, this application was appropriate (the Cinco de Mayo holiday celebrates the defeat of French troops by Mexican forces at Puebla in 1862). Louis Napoleon withdrew from Mexico.

The Austrian ambassador to France heard of of Maximillian's eexecution at a fete being given by the Imperial couple in Paris and walked out.


Hannelore 01-07-2006 02:10 PM

Thank you very much!

For those who read Dutch and French, I can recommend a very good book on her:

Charlotte. Van Laken tot Mexico: biografie van een keizerin, Mia Kerckvoorde, Lannoo, 1991.

Warren 01-07-2006 11:47 PM

Another book:

Imperial Adventurer: Emperor Maximilian of Mexico and his Empress, by Joan Haslip, Weidenfeld and Nicolson ©1971. There is an interesting appendix on the "Weygand legend".

Preity 03-21-2006 08:39 AM

Empress Charlotte Photoalbum:

You must click Keizerrijken , and than Mexico , Keizerin Charlotte and finally the Fotoalbum.

:) Preity

jarrow1967 04-11-2006 01:31 PM

charlotte of belgium empress of mexico

Originally Posted by Hannelore
Thank you very muc

For those who read Dutch and French, I can recommend a very good book on her:

Charlotte. Van Laken tot Mexico: biografie van een keizerin, Mia Kerckvoorde, Lannoo, 1991.

I would like to ask you please, I am english I do not read dutch and french would this book be worthwhile for its photographic contents please

neil smithson:)

Cathérine Bergeyck 04-15-2006 01:31 PM


I would like to ask you please, I am english I do not read dutch and french would this book be worthwhile for its photographic contents please

neil smithson:)
It's most of all worthwhile for the text :) It contains a number of pages with small photographs, but not so many of Charlotte, if you want I can scan them and post them here...

Cathérine Bergeyck 05-25-2006 12:25 PM

1 Attachment(s)
a beautiful scanned photo of empress Charlotte/Carlota

Cathérine Bergeyck 05-25-2006 12:51 PM

2 Attachment(s)
two more...from postcards

marian 05-25-2006 01:27 PM

I recommend a mexican book : "Noticias del Imperio" of Fernando Del Paso. It is a interesting book about the last Empire mexican, how president Benito Juárez won the war, because Napoleon´s wife, Eugenia, wanted that Mexico had a Emperor for benefit of France. It´s a good book and this tell how the French killed mexicans for that the foreign monarch had power, richness in our country. But too, this book tell how Maximilian practised the adultery, and maybe Charlotte too. It is possible that Maximilian was grandchild of Napoleon Bonaparte, because his mother, Sophie, had an affair with the son of Napoleon I, who named the king of Roma, maybe. I recommend that you read tuis book, it is interesting.

marian 05-25-2007 08:37 PM

Mexico and the Mexican Empire
Many monarches have lived in exile in méxico. The deceased sha of Iran and his family they lived in Cuernavaca, his sisters belonged clientas to my uncles, who have a shop where they sell electronic devices and my aunt was recording the novels. Carol of Romania and Elena lived also here. In cuernavaca there died murdered the ex-son-in-law of Maria Jose of Italy, who he was the husband of the princess Beatriz. There were the dukes of Windsor of visit in the 40, the king Harald of Norway partic'pó in the Olympian Mexican games in 1968 as Ana of England. Here there lives Azalea, granddaughter of the útimo king of Italy. It seems to me that there married a Mexican businessman owner of the Mundet (refreshments) and they have children.
Besides, Mexico possesses" royal inheritors " family Iturbide lives in Australia, the inheritor is Maximiliano de Habsurgo, whose ascendancies were adopted by the emperor Maximiliano, since he did not have children with Carlota. Besides, the family Moctezuma Barragán is descendants of the last Aztec emperor, who also has descendants in Spain: the counts of Miravalle. It is a long history. Carlos of England, whom I greeted personalment
He has come often as his father. Naruhito of Japan, the kings of Sweden, the king of Morocco have done visits of State as Guillermo of Holland and the princes of Asturias with the kings. There are members of other royalties who come from vacations to Acapulco or Cancún.
:lol: :flowers:

HRH Kimetha 05-25-2007 09:19 PM

Why do you suppose many of the exiled and non-serving monarchies come to Mexico? Does the Mexican government grant special rights and protection to them?:smile:

marian 05-26-2007 01:22 PM

theydonot protect them, even the government does not want to pay 90000 Euros to them a year for their subsistence for descendants of the last Aztec emperor, and they are Spanish descendants, the counts of Miravalle and Mexicans the family Moctezuma Barragan, which now are political.

It is said that the real objects and properties of Carlota and Maximiliano is in power of politicians, and they are not those of the castle. If there are brought of Vienna the Aztec sunflower called Moctezuma's plume and other jewels, the same thing would happen the same I think.
I am studing this because I am Journalist and I have 23 years of studies. I read much books about this. And I know for example, that Felix and his older brother were work in Monterrey. Here is the photo of the royal crown.

principessa 11-21-2007 09:47 AM

Imperial Family of Mexico
Does anyone have the webadress of the Imperial Family of Mexico?

Warren 11-22-2007 02:44 AM

Iturbide Imperial Family of Mexico website: casa imperial de Mexico

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