19th-Century Painting of Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico

      Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico reigned from April 10, 1864 – June 19, 1867. His rule laste 3 years and 21 days.

     Maximilian was not a Mexican, but instead an Austrian. He was born in Vienna, Austria on July 6, 1832. His mother was Sophie of Bavaria, and his father was Archduke Franz Karl of Austria. As a child, he was sickly and was often ill. However, he was known for his curious nature, cleverness, and sharp mind. His older brother, Franz Joseph, became Emperor of Austria-Hungary in 1848, making Maximilian the Archduke of Austria. In 1853, Maximilian married Charlotte of Belgium.

     Mexico was recovering from The War of The Reform. The country had taken loans from Britain, Spain and France to finance the civil war, and was in the process of paying them back when in 1861 President Benito Juarez suspended the payments. His goal was to improve the infrastructure of Mexico before paying off the loans. Napoleon III of France was angered by this, and asked Maximilian if he wanted to rule Mexico. Maximilian said no. In 1864, Napoleon joined forces with Britain and Spain to ship soldiers to Mexico. Eventually, Mexico City was captured and the country was under French “control”. Napoleon approached Maximilian again, asking him the same question, but this time telling him that Mexico was stable and the Mexicans welcomed him into their country. This was, however, a lie. Mexico was still extremely unstable and the Mexican citizens were revolted by the idea of having a European rule their country.

     The naive Maximilian accepted Napoleon’s offer. He arrived in Mexico in 1864. He was crowned at the Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City, along with his wife Charlotte. The conservatives and clergy of Mexico supported Maximilian, but they had little power. Maximilian was aghast when he saw the disparity between the rich and the poor in Mexico. Because of this, he supported the social reforms of Benito Juarez. This angered the conservatives, and the liberals of Mexico were still not pleased. Seeing this increasingly volatile situation, Charlotte travelled to France, Austria, and Rome to ask for aid. She was refused. Maximilian soon realized that he had no allies and his subjects were becoming increasingly disloyal and rebellious. Charlotte fled to Europe, but Maximilian stayed in Mexico, determined to rule the country he had been given.

     France had long ago withdrawn their forces from Mexico. Now, the liberals of Mexico, led by Benito Juarez, began to take up arms and rebel against Maximilian. In early 1867, Mexico City fell to Juarez’s liberals. Maximilian retreated, but was eventually captured. When it was announced he was going to be executed, dozens of European monarchs appealed to Juarez to spare Maximilian’s life. Juarez, however, would not turn the other cheak. On June 19, 1867, Maximilian was shot to death.

Interesting Fact #1: Avenida Reforma, an important street in Mexico City, was ordered built by Maximilian.

Interesting Fact #2: Maximilian’s older brother, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary, reigned for 67 years, longer than any other Austrian monarch, and the third longest reign in the history of Europe.

Interesting Fact #3: Maximilian had multiple affairs during his lifetime. His first affair was with a German countess, but she was deemed unworthy of him by his family. His most well-known affair was with a Portuguese noblewoman, Maria Amalia of Braganza. She died before they could be engaged.

Credits: http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/19thcenturylatinamerica/p/maxaustria.htm, http://www.mexonline.com/history-maximilian.htm, http://www.austrianinformation.org/march-april-2007/2007/4/23/maximilian-i-of-mexico.html, Picture: http://www.corbisimages.com/Enlargement/CS002921.html