The Tragic Rule of Maximilian and Carlota in Mexico

Empress Carlota and Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, circa 1864, from the Lusher Collection and included in exhibit at the Witte Museum February 1 through March 30

Empress Carlota and Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, circa 1864, from the Lusher Collection and included in exhibit at the Witte Museum February 1 through March 30

City of Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 10, 3 p.m., 1867 – Yesterday morning Col. Paulino Gomez Lanadrid, commanding 700 reinforcements of Imperial troops sent to succor the besieged garrison at Cuernavaca, was killed near that place during an attack by a body of Liberals, who were lying in ambuscade….

More than 500 families, mostly Mochos and French, will leave here on the 20th with 4,000 French troops….

Maximilian is waiting for the last French soldier to leave. The shadow of the last of the expeditionary corps will not be lost sight of by the Archduke, who is now residing in a humble house between here and the Castle of Chapultepec.

The New York Times

And so, Maximilian, the falling emperor of Mexico, awaited his fate.

"Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico" by Edouard Manet, 1868

“Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico” by Edouard Manet, 1868 (not part of exhibit at the Witte)

The French installation of the Archduke Maximilian and his Belgian-born wife Charlotte to reign over the politically unstable Mexico of 1864 was bound not to end well. But the story is a rich one of international intrigue on both sides of the Atlantic.

m-and-c-galley-coverAs Trinity University Press prepares to release Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico by Mary Margaret McAllen, the Witte Museum is opening a companion exhibit, “Maximilian and Carlota: Last Empire in Mexico,” focusing on the fascinating lives of the ill-fated royal couple. The exhibit of portraits, photographs and artifacts opens on February 1, while the author will read from her book and be available to sign copies during a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 8, at The Twig Book Shop.

Fell in love a few year’s ago with C.M. Mayo’s masterful novel, The Last Prince of the Mexico Empire, focusing on a child caught up in the political turmoil – Principe Agustin de Iturbide y Green. A Library Journal review in 2009 perhaps summarizes the complexities involved most succinctly:

Once upon a time, there was a little half-American boy who briefly became heir to the Mexican throne—until his distraught parents sued the doomed Emperor Maximilian for his return.

I highly recommend Mayo’s book, and am looking forward to reading McAllen’s. And if these and the exhibit leave you thirsting for even more glimpses into the lives of Maximilian and Carlota, Mayo maintains an ongoing blog Maximilian ~ Carlota, described as “resources for researchers of the tumultuous period of Mexican history known as the Second Empire, or ‘French Intervention.'”

I’m hoping one of the two authors will suddenly contact me with a sliver of information (a very unlikely record to stumble upon, so am certainly not holding my breath) about a San Antonio connection to the royal rulers. Among the Austro-Hungarians enlisted to serve in support of their reign in Mexico was Baron George Ritter von Tomasini (1818-1912). As the Second Empire of Mexico collapsed, Tomasini and his wife made their way to New Orleans and to San Antonio by 1872. Here, they joined the community of dairy farmers at the Coker Settlement, about which I am writing a book for the Coker Cemetery Association. Geographically, the heart of the Tomasini farm was located where the cluster of shops and restaurants known as The Alley on Bitters are found today.

Eva and George Tomasini, photo from www.thealleyonbitters.com

Eva and George Tomasini, photo from http://www.thealleyonbitters.com

February 3, 2014, Update: Read Steve Bennett’s review of McAllen’s book in the San Antonio Express-News

March 19, 2014, Update: David Martin Davies will moderate a discussion with McAllen from 10 to 10:45 a.m. in the Story Room on the 3rd floor of the Central Library during the San Antonio Book Festival on Saturday, April 5.

January 5, 2016, Update: C.M. Mayo has posted a podcast of a conversation with McAllen recorded in The Twig in October 2015.

4 thoughts on “The Tragic Rule of Maximilian and Carlota in Mexico

  1. Sarah says:

    Didn’t know about your Coker book. I keep running into Cokers, met one just last week, in Boerne.

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  2. C.M. Mayo says:

    Muchísimas gracias for your kind words about the novel, gosh!! About Baron Ritter von Tomasini, I will keep my eyes out for you. Perhaps I missed him on this webpage’s list, do have a look if you haven’t already:
    http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/mexican/mxranklist.htm

    I would think you might find some names connected to him there as well.

    Suerte!!!! Please keep me posted, I would be so delighted to learn more about this story.

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    • Catherine – Thanks for the link I definitely had not come across. The website is quite helpful. Unfortunately, the list of officers is from 1866, and this lieutenant evidently saw the future, exited Mexico and landed in New Orleans in December of 1865. A descendant traced documentation of his earlier Austro-Hungarian military service beginning as early as 1844 and continuing through the 1850s. The handed-down story is that he went to Mexico as early as 1862. Perhaps he was serving as a mercenary in the service of the French under Lorencez?

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      • C.M. Mayo says:

        I think your theory makes a lot of sense. All of these armies were chock full of soldiers of fortune from various countries. One idea occurs to me: many of the French officers left memoirs that are now available as print-on-demand editions and, though I have not checked lately, I would think some may also be on http://www.archive.org which has a search feature. Perhaps he would have been mentioned in one or more of these… Please keep me posted… I will keep my eyes open for you…

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