It was actually clear to those involved that they were making a mistake.

On April 10, 1864, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph, accepted the offer of a high-ranking delegation from Mexico as second emperor after Augustine I (in office a few months 1822/23) in his residence at Miramar Castle near Trieste. To become head of the Central American state.

Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian is offered the imperial crown by a Mexican deputation in 1863

Source: picture alliance / IMAGNO / Austri

Maximilian had taken six months to make the decision, because the emissaries had already put forward the proposal in October 1863. He finally accepted, although none of his political demands were met: there were no serious preparations for a liberal constitution with a constitutional monarch nor had the referendum required of him revealed that the Mexicans actually wanted a dynasty from Europe.

Because of the questionable framework conditions of the offer, the Viennese court had also advised Maximilian against the "Mexican adventure".

But the Kaiserbrother, who had a lot of ambition but little prospect of realizing any of it, struck the warnings in the wound.

Soon after, he embarked for Mexico with his wife, the Belgian Princess Charlotte, and arrived in Veracruz on May 29, 1864.

Emperor Franz Joseph I (2nd from left) with his brothers Ludwig Viktor, Karl Ludwig and Maximilian - photo around 1860.

Source: picture-alliance / akg-images


But it quickly became apparent that his dream of becoming emperor himself was in reality a nightmare.

The ruling couple did not expect a triumphal procession as hoped, but at best friendly disinterest, but sometimes also outraged protest.

Under these circumstances, Maximilian and Charlotte came to Mexico City, the capital located 2,300 meters above sea level.

Conservatives loyal to the emperor dominated here, while the liberal Republicans, led by President Benito Juárez, controlled northern Mexico.

Maximilian celebrated his 32nd birthday on July 6, 1864 in the neglected Chapultepec Castle outside the city, and his situation did not improve in the following months.

Because the civil war in Mexico was at least a proxy conflict over the balance of power in the New World.

On the one hand stood the already overpowering United States, which, however, had been embroiled in its own grueling civil war since 1861;

on the other hand, European monarchs such as Napoleon III, the self-proclaimed Emperor of France, and Queen Isabella II of Spain.

Napoleon initiated and promoted Maximilian's candidacy in order to benefit from the inner-European power structure.

But after the end of the Civil War, France withdrew most of its troops from Mexico.

Maximilian I could now only rely on the local monarchist party, which had actually lost to the republicans around President Juárez in 1861 and for whom the imported ruler from Austria was actually too modern.

"The shooting of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico" by Edouard Manet (1832-1883) is probably one of the most famous paintings of an execution

Source: picture-alliance / akg-images /


So he was trapped with his last loyal troops in the city of Querétaro, which finally fell on May 14, 1867.

Maximilian renounced the possible escape and stood before the court martial of the republic, which sentenced him to death as a usurper.

On June 19, 1867, the second and last Emperor of Mexico died from several bullets from the Execution Platoon.

The Austrian journalist Johann Ritter von Hoffinger (1825–1879) called after him: “Even in death a hero, because his guilt - leaving his fatherland for the sake of a crown that was not his due - was based on a noble error, he atoned for it with the Deaths."

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