True confession: I had not the patience to wait for Madame Toselli’s book from the library. I splurged and purchased it immediately. I am sure “her own story” will soon be forgotten, for her writing has little merit. However, the glimpse inside the life of royals proved irresistible. I opened a can of Campbell’s oxtail soup – giving in to the Campbell’s habit, sometimes asparagus or pepperpot, into which I lazily slip all too often – and read it cover to cover.
It is easy to understand how her book angered the upper crust of Saxony, whom she describes as so old-fashioned that antediluvian is the adjective most appropriate. She writes, “The Court circle at Dresden… was composed of the most narrow-minded, evil-speaking and conceited collection of human beings it is possible to imagine.”
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.
And so, Maximilian, the falling emperor of Mexico, awaited his fate.
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.
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.
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.