Maximilian of Mexico was born in Vienna, Austria in 1832 as Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph. He was the grandson of Austrian emperor, Francis II, and younger brother of Franz Joseph who became Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, and President of the German Confederation.
Maximilian’s story, in contrast to the two, is a gripping tragedy of a caring ruler living in deeply troublesome and problematic circumstances.
But Maximilian’s life didn’t start off particularly tragic. In fact, he had as normal of a childhood as a prince could possibly have.
He had a liberal metropolitan education, he loved riding horses, and he often traveled throughout Europe.
From a very early age he knew what it meant for him to be a second child. He would spend a lot of his time attempting to surpass his older brother and prove himself worthy and deserving of the throne.
He quickly learned how to fluently speak German, English, Hungarian, Slavic and Spanish in order to compete with his brother.
He was extremely bright and studious, witty and charismatic.
Unfortunately, that mix of great charm, jealousy, and competitiveness would put a massive strain on his relationship with his brother and they would hardly even remain friends.
In 1848 the King stepped down so that Maximilian’s brother, Franz Joseph I, could step up during a period of revolutions across Europe.
Maximilian accompanied his brother in his attempts to end these revolutions throughout the Austrian Empire. It wasn’t until a year later, in 1849 that these revolutions were stamped out in Austria.
Hundreds of rebels were executed and thousands were imprisoned. Maximilian saw this as horrific, barbaric, and senseless.
He was openly against all of this monarchical brutality and stated: “We call our age the Age of Enlightenment, but there are cities in Europe, where, in the future, men will look back in horror and amazement at the injustice of tribunals, which in a spirit of vengeance condemned to death those whose only crime lay in wanting something different to the arbitrary rule of governments which placed themselves above the law”.
It’s safe to say that Maximilian was a voice of power for the silenced early on.
The following years before his appointment as Emperor of Mexico were very busy ones. He became a lieutenant of the Navy and then commander in chief; under him, the Navy gained great influential support from the Imperial family and drew public attention.
He modernized the naval forces and was very involved in creating naval ports in Austria. One of his proudest moments, being highly interested in Science, was that he initiated and led an expedition that became the first Austrian warship to circumnavigate the entire globe.
On July 27th, 1857 in Brussels Maximilian married his second cousin, Princess Charlotte of Belgium who would change her name to Carlota once they arrived in Mexico. They had no children together, but lived happily as Austrian regents in Milan and Viceroys of Lombardy-Venetia until Maximilian’s brother, Emperor Franz Josef, dismissed Maximilian because he was deeply angered by his liberal policies.
This turned out to be a big mistake, and shortly after he was dismissed, Austria lost control of most of Italy, only severing the relationship with his brother more.
In 1859, Mexican monarchists with a proposal to become Emperor of Mexico first approached Maximilian.
He was asked to take the throne in 1861, but he quickly refused and instead journeyed to Brazil. Soon after, France took over in Mexico and he reconsidered at the invitation from Napoleon III.
He accepted the crown in 1863, but was purposely misinformed by Napoleon that there had been a vote from the people to accept him as their ruler.
He also had no idea until the day before he departed that at the acceptance of the Mexican throne he had lost all nobility rights in Austria, putting him in a very tough situation if he were ever to retract from the Mexican throne.
At his arrival in Veracruz on May 21st 1864, he received almost no welcome from the townspeople, but he was still full of hopes and dreams of changing and improving Mexico. …..continues
Pages: 1 2