Scope and Contents
Original letters from Charlotte of Belgium, chiefly as Carlota, Empress of Mexico; papers of Felix Eloin, Maximilian’s chef du cainet civil, containing letterpress copybooks, letters, memoranda, and notes by, to, and about Eloin. Also includes photographs, engravings, and drawings of Charlotte, of Mexico City, and of members of the Mexican military. Published materials include broadsides, decrees, and newsclippings regarding Maximilian’s reign in Mexico. Mexican sheet music from 1859-1908 and newsclippings from Mexican newspapers reflect on the reign of Maximilian in Mexico, the role of Juan Benitez, and other political figures of the time, and 19th century Mexican poltical history in general, dating from 1895-1947.
Charlotte (Coburg) of Belgium (1840-1927), daughter of Leopold of Belgium (1790-1865), and Louise of France (1812-1850) married Maximilian, Archduke of Austria in 1857. Carlota, as she was known in Mexico, was eager to establish European rule in Mexico after her father rejected the Mexican throne in her youth. She accompanied Maximilian to Mexico in 1864. During her years in Mexico, the first signs of mental illness emerged. In 1866, she left Mexico to solicit the financial support of Napoleon III and never returned. Her mental illness worsened and she eventually was committed to a mental hospital in Austria where she died in 1927.
Ferdinand Maximilian (Hapsburg) Archduke of Austria and Emperor of Mexico (1864-67) was the younger brother of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916), son of Franz Karl (1802-1878) and Sophia of Bavaria. He married Charlotte of Belgium in 1857 and, after serving posts as governor of Lombardy and Venetia, accepted the Mexican crown in 1864. The French withdrew support of foreign rule in Mexico in 1865, but Maximilian remained in Mexico and briefly retained the throne. In 1867, he was captured by Benito Juarez's troops, tried, and executed.
Juan Almonte was a Mexican General, a member of the Conservatives and a Mexican ambassador to Paris.
Louis Forey was a French general and commander-in-chief of the French troops in Mexico under Napoleon III.
Leonardo Marquez (1820-1913) began his military career in the Texas campaign of the 1830s. During the War of the Reform (1858-60), he fought on the side of the Conservatives and later supported the monarchy of Maximilian during the period of French Intervention (1862-67). After the fall of the Empire, Marquez went into exile in Cuba.
Historical setting: In 1861, Mexican liberals, under the leadership of Benito Juarez, made a triumphant return to Mexico City. They had won the War of Reform and finally passed the 1857 constitution into law. The Conservatives withdrew from Mexico City, taking with them the bulk of the treasury and plotting the reestablishment of the monarchy under foreign rule. In 1862, Napoleon III persuaded Britain and Spain to join him in sending forces to occupy positions around the Mexican coast until Juarez settled the Mexican debts, but agreed not to seek territorial rights or to interfere with the government of the country. Shortly after this decision, however, in the secret convention of Miramar, Napoleon III concluded that Mexico desired to be ruled by a foreign monarch. Napolean based this decision on information provided by the Conservatives in Mexico.
Napoleon III chose Archduke Maximilian of Austria to become "Emperor of Mexico." Against the wishes of Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, Maximilian's brother, Maximilian accepted the crown offered to him by a delegation of Mexican Conservatives on April 10, 1864. Initially, Napoleon III sent six thousand troops to march on the capital. Despite their superior weapons and numbers, the Mexicans defeated the French at Puebla on the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), still celebrated as a national holiday in Mexico.
With this defeat, Napoleon III sent over 20,000 troops and Benito Juarez withdrew from Mexico City. Maximilian soon realized that the French government had been misled by the conservatives. He attempted to compose a cabinet of moderates, yet his generals, Leonardo Marquez and Miguel Miromon were leading Conservatives. By 1865, the United States demanded that the French withdraw their troops from Mexico and Napoleon III complied. Maximilian stayed on, and grew increasingly dependent on dwindling Conservative support. Charlotte traveled to Paris in 1866 to appeal to Napoleon III to send troops.
Charlotte failed to convince Napoleon to continue the war effort and never returned to Mexico. Soon after her return to Europe, she was declared insane and spent the rest of her days in an Austrian institution. Without French support, Maximilian was taken prisoner, put on trial, and finally executed by firing squad on March 19, 1867.