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Those were the last words of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico as the revolutionary soldiers of Benito Juarez riddled his body with bullets when he stood in front of a wall in Querétaro.

She was the daughter of a king and the wife of an emperor.

Princess Charlotte

Princes Charlotte of Belgium married an Austrian Archduke who would never rule in Europe. His older brother had already ascended the throne, and Maximilian had little or no chance of a kingdom.

The marriage was arranged; the Belgian Princess was a second cousin to the idealistic Archduke and spent a few unhappy years while in Italy with Max as he “ruled” there.

It eventually became a love match.  Married just seven years at the time of their acceptance of the throne in Mexico, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and Archduchess Maria Charlotte were both young, well educated, and happily in love.

Maximilian was described as extremely personable, handsome, idealistic and trusting. He was also naive and extremely gullible.  Horrified at conditions in Europe, he said,

“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.”

He, 32, and she just 24, were duped by Napoleon III into becoming the Emperor and Empress of Mexico.

Accepting the Imperial Crown

A natural linguist and talented writer, Carlota was slender and petite, with dark eyes and dark brown hair. When she knew she and Maximilian would be going to Mexico she immediately hired a Spanish language teacher to study with. Shortly after arriving in Mexico, she changed her name to Carlota, and adopted the Spanish spelling.

As they crossed the Atlantic Ocean, they were looking forward to carrying out their duties as Mexican Monarchs.

The problem was, not all of Mexico wanted an Emperor.

Most wanted freedom after chaffing for hundreds of years under Spanish rule.

They had no idea it would end the way it did.

It ended badly.

The Imperial couple loved Mexico – the food, the people, the culture.  Sheltered and protected from the revolutionary spirit outside the palace, they lived in a fantasy world that crumbled.

Carlotta and Max

Benito Juárez, gaining more and more support day by day and Napoleon’s abandonment of the couple would bring a day of reckoning.

Leaving Maximilian at home, embracing for an unrealized last time, Carlota traveled Europe seeking support for the puppet monarchy, begging for help from friends, family, kings, queens, and the Pope.

Maximilian was gunned down on June 19, 1867.

Manet's Execution of Maximilian

Carlota, literally lost her mind.

Hearing of her condition, Carlota’s brother King Leopold of Belgium, took her to a mental institution in Vienna.

She was, at the age of 26, pronounced incurably insane.

The king had pull.

At the time, she was the richest woman in Europe.  Her considerable estate was “managed” by her brother’s ministers and used to fund his conquest of the Congo

She remained confined in her palace at Trieste for the next 60 years, and died in 1927 at the age of 87. Maximilian died without ever learning about her mental state.

Truly, it was Poor Carlota.

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