History, like a good book or movie, can be vivid, romantic, and tragic all at once. And perhaps there’s no greater tragedy than the one of Old Mexico about the man and his wife that came to rule a perfect world only to be left disappointed, heartbroken and put to a cruel death for one, and a life-long commitment to a mental institution for the other.
The story starts in 1864 when Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and Archduchess Maria Charlotte, both of royal blood, were appointed Emperor and Empress of Mexico by Napoleon III of France. Ferdinand was the son of Archduke Franz Karl, the ruler of Austria, and related by blood or marriage to every ruling family in Europe. Charlotte was daughter of King Leopold of Belgium, cousin of Queen Victoria of England and grand-daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte III, the King of France.1
The young couple had been married for seven years at the time of their appointment and were very much in love. Unwilling at the beginning, Ferdinand was finally convinced by Napoleon and a group of Mexican government conservatives-in-exile that Mexico desperately awaited a liberating ruler to take them into the “new age”.
A natural linguist and talented writer, Charlotte was slender and petite, with dark eyes and dark brown hair. When she knew she and Maximilian would be going to Mexico she had immediately hired a Spanish teacher to teach her the language. Shortly after arriving in Mexico, she changed her name to Carlota, and adopted the Spanish spelling. Maximilian was described as extremely personable, handsome, idealistic and trusting. He was also naive and extremely gullible. Though not as open to learning languages as Carlota, he spoke several, including English.2
There is also well-documented suspicion that Maximilian was the actually the son of Napoleon II. Those who believe this, many Europeans and the Viennese in particular noted the strange close relationship that existed between Sophie and Napoleon II.... [continues]
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