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Dossier thématiques : A close-up on: the Mexican campaign, 1862-1867
Timelines : The Mexican Campaign, 1862-1867
Articles : A new Napoleonic campaign for Montereau


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MAXIMILIAN I, Archduke Ferdinand-Josef

(1832-1867) Emperor of Mexico

The Archduke Ferdinand-Josef, brother of Franz-Josef, and the second son of the Archduke Franz-Karl, at first served in the Navy. He then became viceroy of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia (1857), a position he occupied only until in 1859. He was contacted when the Empire was proclaimed on 10 July, 1863, following extensive diplomatic talks on the subject of occupying the throne of Mexico. He had been suggested by Napoleon III (Ferdinand-Josef was a catholic prince) and he was encouraged to accept the offer by his wife Charlotte of Belgium. On 10 April, 1864, he renounced his claim to the Austrian throne and on 28 May, he arrived at Veracruz. Wanting to be independent, he abandoned the conservative and catholic party in order to lean towards the liberals. This was a fatal error for him. Rouher wrote to Napoleon III "It would not seem that the Emperor Maximilian has any practical sense or resolve at all; he has abandoned himself to a sort of philosophical liberal reverie and he has done nothing concrete which might give him a chance of survival, such as setting up an army and organising his finances. Indeed, the one key source of strength that he lacks is military prestige." When the Mexican expedition turned into a catastrophe, Napoleon III recalled his troops at the beginning of 1866. The Empress Charlotte retuned immediately to Europe to appeal to Napoleon III. On receiving no satisfaction from that quarter she became exasperated and sank into dementia. In February, 1867, the last French soldiers left Mexico. Maximilian was hunted down by Juarez's men and taken prisoner at Queretaro. He was shot in June along with his two supporters Miramon and Mejia.

Source: Dictionnaire du Second Empire, p. 796, Paris: Fayard 1995, ed. PH and AM
Oct. 2011


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