MARIE CHARLOTTE of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Charlotte of Belgium
(1840-1927) ex-Empress of Mexico
Marie Charlotte (Marie-Amélie-Auguste-Victoire-Clémentine-Léopoldine) of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium and Leopold's second wife, Louise-Marie of France (eldest daughter of Louis-Philippe), and sister of Leopold II of Belgium, was born in Laeken on 7 June, 1840. Upon the death of her mother in 1850, Charlotte was handed over to a governess, the countess Denise d'Hulst, who is said to have loved her deeply. After a meeting at a ball in the Palce in Laeken in 1856, Charlotte became engaged to her second cousin Archduke Maximilian of Austria on 23 December of the same year. They were to be married in Brussels on 27 July, 1857, and moved to Milan for the following two years where Maximilian was viceroy of the Austrian Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. On his stepping from the viceroyship in July 1859, the couple moved to the castello di Miramar in Trieste. From November of the same year Charlotte spent several months in Funchal on the island of Madeira while her husband visited Brazil. On 10 July, 1863, with the proclamation of the Mexican empire, it was proposed that Maximilian should become Emperor of Mexico; his wife was to be Carlota of Mexico. Having accepted their roles, the (now imperial) couple left for their new empire on 14 April, 1864, to be crowned on 10 June of the same year in the metropolitan cathedral in Mexico City. The reign did not last long. Upon the withdrawal of French troops and opposition to their reign within Mexico, Charlotte returned to Europe (arriving in August 1866) to lobby France, Austria and the Pope for help, but to no avail. It was at this time that Charlotte is said to have suffered mental collapse. Upon being pronounced insane (October 1866), she spent the rest of her life in seclusion, first (very briefly) at Miramar Castle near Trieste, Italy, and then (from July 1867) at the Château de Bouchout in Meise, Belgium, where she died on 19 January 1927. Her mortal remains lie in the Church of Notre-Dame in Laeken.
Pierre Larousse, Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle, Paris : Adminstration du Grand dictionnaire universel, 1873 [Reprint Slatkine: Geneva-Paris, 1982], vol. 3 (pt. 2), p. 1,023
Egon César Comte Corti (trans. J. Vernay), Maximilien et Charlotte du Mexique 1860-1865, Paris: Plon 1927
Dominique Paoli, L'Impératrice Charlotte « Le soleil noir de la mélancolie », Paris: Perrin 2008