Date of Birth: 6 July 1832
Spouse: Charlotte, daughter of Leopold I, king of Belgium, and Louise-Marie of France
Predecessor: Agustín II (as pretender)
Reign: 1864 – 1867
Summary: México’s two emperors were very different people. Augustín was a popular and well-known figure before his coronation while Maximilian had never even been to México until 1864. That’s because Maximilian was Austrian in origin. He was the brother of Emperor Francis Joseph I and was married to the Belgian princess Charlotte. Maximilian was the commander-in-chief of the Austrian Navy and did whatever his brother required of him. He was liberal-minded and hated suffering.
In 1859, the Mexican aristocracy invited Maximilian to become emperor of México. They hoped that by restoring the monarchy, they could centralize the government around their rule. Maximilian declined the invitation at first but then France got involved. Napoleon III invaded México in the midst of the U.S. Civil War, hoping to create a loyalist state in the New World to check the growing power of the United States. He captured México City in 1863 and a rigged election soon after chose Maximilian as emperor. The Austrian archduke accepted the invitation. He and his wife arrived in Veracruz in May 1864. They never knew his election was arranged.
México had fallen into civil war. Benito Juárez, the elected president, controlled the north and Maximilian spent most of his power to return México to peace. But peace was impossible so long as Maximilian ruled. Still, he tried to improve conditions in his new home. He banned child labor and shortened work hours. He also cancelled debts and forbade corporal punishment. He wished to return México to its democratic ideals. Every day, he became more involved than his aristocratic supporters wished. His blatant liberalism would become his downfall.
When the United States Civil War ended in 1865, Maximilian began losing supporters. In response, he invited ex-Confederates and foreigners into México to tip support in his favor. He even adopted the two grandsons of Emperor Agustín as his heirs to emphasize continuity and respect for the former monarchy of fifty years earlier. But it all backfired terribly. Napoleon III withdrew his support in 1866 and Charlotte went to Europe to seek allies. She never returned. Maximilian was captured by the Republican army on May 15th, 1867. A month later, he was executed by firing squad. He died proclaiming: “I die for a just cause: the independence and liberty of México. Let my blood be the last disgrace of my new home! Long live México!” His body was returned to Austria where he rests today. Mexico dissolved the monarchy upon his death and became a problematic but sometimes functional republic again. (Expanded version of the article "The Tragic Tale of Maximilian I" soon to be published in XOXOR: La Gran Revista!!!)
Date of Death: 18 June 1867
Successor: Agustín III (as pretender)
Other Monarch Deaths:
Roman, grand prince of Kiev (1205)
Albert, king of Saxony (1902)