Carlota of Mexico

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Carlota of Mexico
Charlotte, Empress of Mexico.jpg
Portrait by Franz Winterhalter, 1864
Empress consort of Mexico
Tenure10 April 1864 – 15 May 1867
Coronation 10 April 1864
Born(1840-06-07)7 June 1840
Laeken, Brussels, Belgium
Died19 January 1927(1927-01-19) (aged 86)
Meise, Belgium
Full name
French: Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine
Spanish: María Carlota Amelia Agustina Victoria Clementina Leopoldina
House Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Father Leopold I of Belgium
Mother Louise of Orléans
Religion Roman Catholicism

Carlota of Mexico (7 June 1840 – 19 January 1927) was a Belgian princess who became Empress of Mexico when her husband became Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.

Princess is a regal rank and the feminine equivalent of prince. Most often, the term has been used for the consort of a prince, or for the daughter of a king or prince.

Maximilian I of Mexico emperor of Mexico

Maximilian I was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire. He was a younger brother of the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I. After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy as its commander, he accepted an offer by Napoleon III of France to rule Mexico, conditional on a national plebiscite in his favour. France, together with Spain and the United Kingdom, invaded the Mexican Republic in the winter of 1861, ostensibly to collect debts; the Spanish and British both withdrew the following year after negotiating agreements with Mexico's republican government, while France sought to conquer the country. Seeking to legitimize French rule, Napoleon III invited Maximilian to establish a new pro-French Mexican monarchy. With the support of the French army and a group of Conservative Party monarchists hostile to the Liberal Party administration of the new Mexican president, Benito Juárez, Maximilian was offered the position of Emperor of Mexico, which he accepted on 10 April 1864.


Princess of Belgium

Princess Charlotte in 1842, by Franz Winterhalter. Princess Charlotte of Belgium.jpg
Princess Charlotte in 1842, by Franz Winterhalter.

The only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians, by his second wife, Louise of Orléans, Charlotte was born at the Royal Castle of Laeken, Belgium. She was named after her father's first wife, Princess Charlotte of Wales, who had died in childbirth in 1817. Charlotte had three brothers: Louis-Philippe, who died in infancy, Leopold, who on the death of their father became Leopold II of Belgium and Philippe, Count of Flanders. She was also a first cousin to both Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, as well as Ferdinand II of Portugal. She belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Leopold I of Belgium German prince who became the first King of the Belgians

Leopold I was a German prince who became the first King of the Belgians following the country's independence in 1830. He reigned between July 1831 and December 1865.

Louise of Orléans French princess; Consort of Léopold I of Belgium

Louise of Orléans was a French princess who became the first Queen of the Belgians as the second wife of King Leopold I. She was also known as Louise-Marie.

Princess Charlotte of Wales Second in line to the British throne

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was the only child of George, Prince of Wales, and his wife Caroline of Brunswick. If she had outlived both her grandfather King George III and her father, she would have become Queen of the United Kingdom, but she died at the age of 21, predeceasing them both.

Her favorite grandparent Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies, Queen of France, was the consort of Louis-Philippe of France, and a niece of Marie Antoinette. Maria Amalia was Charlotte's close confidante, and on her wedding day in 1857, she wore a bracelet with a miniature portrait of her. They regularly corresponded, especially later while Charlotte was in Mexico.

Marie Antoinette Last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution

Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.

When Charlotte was ten years old, her mother, Louise-Marie, died of tuberculosis and Charlotte was entrusted to the Countess of Hulste, a close family friend. Although young, the princess had her own household; but for a few weeks out of the year, Charlotte stayed in Claremont with Maria Amalia and the rest of her mother's family in exile.

Tuberculosis Infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing mucus, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Claremont (country house) English country house and gardens in Surrey

Claremont, also known historically as 'Clermont', is an 18th-century Palladian mansion less than a mile south of the centre of Esher in Surrey, England. The buildings are now occupied by Claremont Fan Court School, and its landscaped gardens are owned and managed by the National Trust. Claremont House is a Grade I listed building.

Archduchess of Austria

Photo of young Archduke Maximilian and Archduchess Charlotte Maximilian and Charlotte.jpg
Photo of young Archduke Maximilian and Archduchess Charlotte

In her youth, Charlotte resembled her mother, and was noted to be a beauty, possessing delicate features. Combined with her status as the only daughter of King Leopold, she was a desirable bride. On 27 July 1857 in Brussels, Charlotte married her second cousin Archduke Maximilian of Austria, the idealistic younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Napoleon III gave Charlotte and her husband Maximilian a beautiful bisque bust of Charlotte as a wedding gift. In the Court of Vienna she was much prized by her mother-in-law, Princess Sophie, who saw in her the perfect example of a wife to an Austrian Archduke. This contributed to the strained relationship between Charlotte and Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife of Franz Joseph, whom Sophie treated rather cruelly. It is said that Charlotte disliked the deep connection that existed between Elisabeth and Maximilian, who were confidantes and shared the same tastes for many things, especially because her sister-in-law was universally admired for her beauty and charms.

Brussels Capital region of Belgium

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 161 km2 (62 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

Franz Joseph I of Austria Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary

Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, and monarch of many other states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from 2 December 1848 to his death. From 1 May 1850 to 24 August 1866 he was also President of the German Confederation. He was the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, as well as the third-longest-reigning monarch of any country in European history, after Louis XIV of France and Johann II of Liechtenstein.

Biscuit porcelain unglazed, white ceramic ware

Biscuit porcelain, bisque porcelain or bisque is unglazed, white porcelain treated as a final product, with a matte appearance and texture to the touch. It has been widely used in European pottery, mainly for sculptural and decorative objects that are not tableware and so do not need a glaze for protection.

Charlotte spent several relatively happy years in Italy as Maximilian's wife while the archduke served as the governor of the Austrian provinces of Lombardy and Venetia. The position was purely nominal, as power rested in the hand of the Emperor and his officers.

Lombardy Region of Italy

Lombardy is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy, in the northwest of the country, with an area of 23,844 square kilometres (9,206 sq mi). About 10 million people, forming one-sixth of Italy's population, live in Lombardy and about a fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in the region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest regions in Europe. Milan, Lombardy's capital, is the second-largest city and the largest metropolitan area in Italy.

Empress of Mexico

Maximilian and Carlota were crowned in 1864 at the Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City. Catedral de Mexico.jpg
Maximilian and Carlota were crowned in 1864 at the Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City.

In the early 1860s, the ambitious Napoleon III initiated the French intervention in Mexico. France, eager to turn Mexico into a satellite state, searched for a suitable figurehead to serve as the nominal emperor of Mexico. His choice was Maximilian, who held no real power in Italy and was eager for a more challenging role. Against his brother's advice, Maximilian accepted the Mexican crown and the couple sailed for the New World. [1] The imperial couple were crowned at the Catedral Metropolitana in 1864 and chose as their seat Mexico City, making their home in the Neoclassical Chapultepec Castle. As Empress, she took the name of Carlota (Spanish for Charlotte). Carlota tried to take her imperial duties seriously and even undertook a tour of the remote Yucatán frontier, visiting the ruins of Uxmal.

Only months after the coronation, however, Napoleon III began signaling his abandonment of Maximilian, and the French began to withdraw their troops from Mexico. This strategic pullback was a potentially fatal blow to the infant Mexican monarchy. The situation was exacerbated by a United States blockade that prevented French reinforcements from landing. In a desperate attempt to save her husband's throne, Carlota returned to Europe, seeking assistance for her husband in Paris, Vienna, and finally in Rome from Pope Pius IX. Her efforts failed; she manifested symptoms of paranoia, suffered a profound cognitive and emotional collapse, and never returned to Mexico. Maximilian was captured and executed in 1867.

Carlota and Maximilian had no children, but in 1865 the imperial couple adopted Agustín de Iturbide y Green and Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzán—grandsons of Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu, an earlier emperor of Mexico (r. 1822–23). They gave two-year-old Agustín the title of "His Highness, The Prince of Iturbide"—similar imperial titles were accorded to various members of the child's extended family—but never intended to give him the throne, because he was not of royal blood. [2] Maximilian explained himself that it was all a charade to get his brother Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria to give him one of his sons as heir. [2] The explosive events of 1867 dashed any hopes of inheritance, and after he grew to adulthood, Agustín renounced all rights to the Mexican throne, served in the Mexican army, and eventually established himself as a professor at Georgetown University.

Rumors persist that, in 1866, Carlota was having an affair with Belgian officer Colonel Alfred Van der Smissen  [ nl ] and that she gave birth to a son, Maxime Weygand, in Brussels on 21 January 1867. Weygand refused to confirm or deny the persistent rumor and his parentage remains uncertain. Weygand was a French military commander in both World Wars I and II. [3]

Empress Dowager

The Empress of Mexico, circa 1864-66. Empress Carlota of Mexico ca1864-1866.jpg
The Empress of Mexico, circa 1864-66.
Empress Carlota in 1865 Carlota, Empress of Mexico.jpg
Empress Carlota in 1865
Replica of the cross of the Order of Saint Charles OrderofSanCarlos.jpg
Replica of the cross of the Order of Saint Charles

The empress was sent to Europe in 1866 to find help from family. [4] She was received both by the French Emperor and later by the Pope in audience, without success. She was possessed by the idea that she would be killed by poison and refused to eat normal food. Her secretary Batti was horrified when she drank public water from the fountains in Rome, [4] she even bought a cat to taste her food. King Leopold was shocked and sent the count of Flanders to Italy to visit his sister. The Empress who was very depressed and unstable took her court to Miramare, Maximilian's castle near Trieste, Italy, on advice of her brother the Count of Flanders. [4] Dr. Riedel, Director of the Lunatic Asylum of Vienna visited her, to report the Emperor.


While the Empress was resting, the Emperor of Austria and the King of Belgium sent delegations to Miramare Castle. The Count of Bombelles, [4] and Dr Von Jilek, a friend of the Emperor of Mexico, were sent to Miramare. [4] The King of Belgium sent baron Auguste Goffinet on mission to get his sister home. Emperor Maximilian was captured by Mexican Republican forces and executed on 19 June 1867. Now archduchess again, she was obedient to the Austrian court, and Count Karl of Bombelles tried to keep her in Miramare. Discussions between the imperial court and Brussels became more important, because of the heritage. The emperor placed Charlotte under custody of his brother Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria. The king sent his wife to Vienna to visit her cousin Emperor Franz-Josef and take care of Charlotte.

There she was kept in observance by a team of medical and imperial guards. The king sent Jan Frans Bulckens (1813–1876) [4] psychiatrist of Belgium to his sister. [4] The medical team decided that the empress could not be told of the execution of her husband. With medical approval, Queen Marie Henriette gave her sister-in-law a faked telegram from her husband to come back to Brussels.

This worked and the empress-dowager left Miramare for the last time. Together with her sister-in law, Queen Marie Henriette and the Belgian delegation they left for Belgium. After she left Miramare she was returned to the Imperial Court.

Historians think that after the death of the Emperor in Mexico, Charlotte only had the status of a rich dowager. For the Viennese court and imperial family it was of financial interest to keep her in Miramare. There her fortune was guarded under care of Eduard von Radonetz, the prefect of Miramare (Trieste)  [ it ]. When she was in Belgium the Viennese court would need to pay her dowry to Leopold in Belgium. This theory is confirmed by André Castelot. [5]

Return to Belgium and Death

At the end the Austrian delegation allowed the empress and her sister in law leave to Belgium where the king gifted her court at Bouchout Castle in Meise, Belgium. During the final years of his life the king cared for his sister. The former Empress wrote notes of profound gratitude of the care she received from her brother and nephews. [6]

During World War I, her Belgian estate was surrounded by the occupying German army, but the estate itself was sacrosanct because Austria-Hungary was one of Germany's chief allies and she was the widowed sister-in-law of the Austrian emperor.

As Carlota's illness progressed, her paranoia faded. She remained deeply in love with her husband. After his death, she cherished all of the surviving possessions they had enjoyed in common. The bias of the historiography of the time makes it difficult to assess to what extent she suffered from alleged mental conditions such as psychosis, paranoia and monomania.[ citation needed ]

Carlota died of pneumonia brought on by influenza at Bouchout Castle on 19 January 1927, and is buried in the Royal Crypt of the Church of Our Lady of Laeken.

She was the last surviving child of Leopold I.



Carlota of Mexico received the following honours: [7]


Visit of Empress Elisabeth at the Castello di Miramare 1861; Charlotte of Belgium (in pink dress) welcomes Elisabeth while her husband Ferdinand Maximilian and his brother Emperor Franz Joseph I wait on the boat. Source Historical Museum of Castello di Miramare. Dell'Acqua Arrival of Empress Elisabeth in Miramare.jpg
Visit of Empress Elisabeth at the Castello di Miramare 1861; Charlotte of Belgium (in pink dress) welcomes Elisabeth while her husband Ferdinand Maximilian and his brother Emperor Franz Joseph I wait on the boat. Source Historical Museum of Castello di Miramare.

See also

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  1. Royal Ark
  2. 1 2 Villalpando, José Manuel; Rosas, Alejandro (2011). Presidentes de México. Grupo Planeta Spain. n.p. ISBN   9786070707582.
  3. Haslip, Joan. The Crown of Mexico . ISBN   0-03-086572-7.[ full citation needed ][ page needed ]
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 De terugkeer van Charlotte Paperback. Juli 1867 – een delicate opdracht voor baron Adrien Goffinet, Université de Genève
  5. Maximilien et Charlotte du Mexique : La tragédie de l'ambition
  6. G. FREDDY, Léopold II intime, Parijs, 1905
  7. Buyers, Christopher (2009). "Mexico—The Habsburg Dynasty—Genealogy". The Royal ark ( Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  8. "Medea de Novara". Internet Movie Database . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  9. "Bette Davis Is Empress In 'Juarez'". The Register-Guard . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  10. "Telenovela Carlota y Maximiliano (1965)". YouTube . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  11. "1/2 Entrevista Virtual, Emperatriz Carlota de México (Charlotte de Belgique)". YouTube . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  12. "2/2 Entrevista Virtual, Emperatriz Carlota de México (Charlotte de Belgique)". YouTube . Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  13. "Charlotte de Belgique à Hollywood". 22 January 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014.

Further reading

Carlota of Mexico
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: June 1840 Died: 19 January 1927
Mexican royalty
Title last held by
Ana María Huarte
Empress consort of Mexico
10 April 1864 – 15 May 1867
Monarchy abolished