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For some, he was the scapegoat for France’s expansionist ambitions. For others, he was nothing greater than a usurper, positioned on the throne of Mexico by one other usurper – Napoleon III – to satisfy his imperialist undertaking.
The fact is that the story of Maximiliano de Habsburgo and his spouse Carlota, within the so-called Second Mexican Empire, was a tragic episode within the historical past of Mexico created on deep misunderstandings.
But what was it that led the Austrian archduke and the Belgian princess to just accept the throne of a New World nation? mired in deep divisions and conflicts?
And why did Mexicans resolve at that time of their historical past that they may not govern themselves and agreed to be led by an unknown overseas aristocrat?
Mexico: a “country on fire”
In May 1864, when Maximiliano landed within the port of Veracruz, he arrived in a deeply divided and unstable nation.
Four many years had handed since independence from Spain and all through that interval the newly fashioned sovereign nation had been mired in years of deep disaster and divisions, as Héctor Zagal, a philosophy professor on the Universidad Panamericana, explains to BBC Mundo.
“By 1864 Mexico had lost half of its territory to war with the United States, it had had more than 27 presidents and most of them had not finished their mandate.”
“Mexico had had a coup, revolutions and finally a very bloody civil war. And it was also literally bankrupt,” provides the additionally creator of the novel “Empire”, which offers with the final days of Maximilian.
This bloody civil conflict, the War of the Reform (1858 to 1861), pitted the two massive teams that divided the nation: liberals and conservatives.
The bloody battle ended with the defeat of the Conservatives and with Benito Juárez, the chief of the Liberals, as president of the nation.
With the nation in chapter, President Juárez decides to droop the fee of the overseas debt and the measure provokes the intervention of essentially the most affected international locations: Spain, France and the United Kingdom, which in 1862 despatched armed expeditions to Veracruz.
Both Spain and the United Kingdom attain an settlement with Juárez and withdraw their troops. But France, below the reign of Napoleon III, orders his military to advance in the direction of the capital.
As professor Erika Pani, from the Centro de Estudios Históricos del Colegio de México explains, the suspension of funds on Mexico’s debt is an “ideal excuse” for the expansionist ambitions of Napoleon III.
“The United States is totally consumed by its civil war (the Civil War), and Napoleon III sees his old dream of restoring the French presence on the American continent and of putting a dam on Anglo-Saxon expansionism as feasible,” explains the historian.
In addition, the Mexican conservatives, who had fought and misplaced towards the liberals, ask France for assist to revive their former privileges and promote the institution of a second empire in Mexico.
“And so, Napoleon III listens to the Mexican conservatives who want the salvation of the country to come from outside,” Erika Pani tells BBC Mundo.
“They decide that, as the republic has not worked in Mexico, we must return to the monarchical government, which they believe is finally going to bring order to the country.”
Maximiliano, “ideal candidate”
French troops occupy the Mexican capital in 1863, and Juárez and his cupboard flee to the north of the nation to attempt to set up a technique to retake energy.
With the defeat of the republic, the Mexican conservatives see the chance to reinstate the monarchy with a European aristocrat that permits them to regain energy and eradicate liberal reform legal guidelines.
Napoleon III, who needed to strengthen ties with Austria, thinks that Maximilian of Habsburg, the brother of the Austrian emperor, Francisco José, is the perfect candidate to occupy the throne of Mexico.
Mexican conservatives help Napoleon III’s proposal, and a fee travels to Trieste to supply the archduke the crown of Mexico.
“The Mexican monarchists considered Maximiliano as the ideal person to safeguard their interests: he was a young Catholic prince, married to a daughter of King Leopoldo of Belgium, also a Catholic nation and of great influence in international politics,” explains anthropologist Gloria Delgado de Cantú in his e book “History of Mexico, historical legacy and recent past”.
“For this reason, they trusted that the archdukes would restore to the Mexican clergy the privileges that Juarista liberalism had taken away from them,” he provides.
And so, on May 28, 1864, Maximiliano and Carlota disembarked within the port of Veracruz, and the Second Empire of Mexico started.
Maximiliano stays depending on the help of France, which had thought-about the Mexican undertaking as a colonial journey, explains Héctor Zagal.
“This second empire was supported by French troops who were occupying an important part of Mexico.”
“And offering the crown to Maximilian of Habsburg what it really suggests is that he is going to be like a puppet of Napoleon III,” he provides.
In a short while Maximiliano started to turn out to be disillusioned and to lose the help of the conservatives who had introduced him to energy.
The emperor determined that he wouldn’t return the products they’d expropriated the ichurch after the Reform Laws.
He additionally defended a number of of the political concepts proposed by the liberals in the course of the Juárez administration: agrarian reforms, freedom of faith, and the extension of the proper to vote.
He restricted working hours and abolished the work of minors and took an curiosity within the dwelling situations of the indigenous individuals on the estates of the big landowners.
He quickly gained the rejection of all: from the conservatives and the clergy, who noticed him as a traitor, and from the liberals, who had at all times thought-about him an invader.
Nor was he ever capable of acquire the help of the remainder of his Mexican topics.
“Maximiliano was a man of little character. Very bad at numbers. An emperor who spends a lot of money on works, undoubtedly beautiful, such as the remodeling of the Chapultepec Castle, or the Avenida de los Emperadores (today Avenida Reforma), but that he does not realize that the empire was financially unviable, “explains the professor on the Universidad Panamericana.
“He tried to become Mexican: he dresses as a charro, learns Spanish, tries to attract the sympathy of indigenous communities and sometimes he succeeds.”
“But at the end of the day, and Carlota reminds him of that in a letter, he was a foreign prince whose strength rested fundamentally on the French troops,” provides Héctor Zagal.
“America for Americans”
By 1865, after the American civil conflict ended, President Andrew Johnson, invoking the Monroe Doctrine, opposes the presence of France in Mexico and exerts growing strain for Napoleon III to withdraw his troops from the nation.
And France, occupied in a warlike battle with Prussia, withdraws its military from Mexican lands.
While the French troops withdrew, Juárez and his liberal troopers superior in the direction of the capital and regained management of the nation in 1866.
Carlota travels to Europe in search of the help of Napoleon III and Pope Pius IX, who firmly refuse to assist.
Maximiliano, already with out the help of the French, tries to abdicate however his household convinces him in any other case.
“A Habsburg never abdicates, under any circumstances,” his mom, Sophia of Bavaria, tells him in a letter.
“In the end, without the support of the French, the empire ends up falling like a house of cards that perhaps leaves a romantic vision, behind which there is a lot of blood,” says Héctor Zagal.
Thus, three years after having launched into his Mexican journey, Maximiliano is arrested and shot in May 1867, with what stays sealed the triumph of the liberal republic in Mexico.
This tragic finish, historians agree, has led to idealizing the figures of Maximiliano and Carlota, which proceed to trigger fascination greater than 150 years later.
But what did this episode in historical past depart for Mexico?
“In Mexico there were a series of invasions, like the American one (1846 to 1848), which was so serious that some thought that the country could be lost,” explains Héctor Zagal.
“After the Second Empire, the experience of the Republic is restored and the confidence is generated that Mexico will be independent and it will not be a colony or protectorate of another country“.
“Because Mexico could have become a protectorate, like countries like India, which in the 19th century ended up being colonies or protectorates,” provides the creator of “Empire.”
And the trainer on the Colegio de México, Erika Pani, agrees.
“I believe that the overwhelming republican victory, against the empire and a European power, undoubtedly consolidates the sense of nation and links the republic and the Constitution with the homeland.”
“But also, by getting rid of these characters -which are very colorful- (the message is) this is what happens to those who come to conquer Mexico. Mexico eliminates them. Europe, European powers: do not believe that Mexico is a field of colonization, “says the historian.
‘What many proceed to marvel, even 154 years later, is why these European enlightened princes agree to come back to a rustic so divided and mired in battle?
Some historians imagine that it was Carlota’s ambitions that prompted Maximiliano to just accept the crown of Mexico.
But historians consulted by BBC Mundo imagine that the rationale was each naivety and ignorance of the scenario in Mexico.
“We keep letters that show that Maximiliano thought that coming to Mexico would be the same as staying in Miramar (his castle in Trieste), collecting insects and furniture, sailing, building terraces,” says Héctor Zagal, a professor on the Universidad Panamericana.
“And he comes to Mexico with this dream of building a castle in the European way over an old Mexican castle, when the country is at war, burning and impoverished. I think it was enough to know a little more about the history of the country.”
Maximiliano and Carlota had been viceroys of Lombardy and Veneto. But when Austria loses the provinces, the archdukes stay an official place and should return to Miramar.
“I think they are extremely bored in Miramar and they bet on the (Mexican) adventure,” says Erika Pani.
“But there is also his youth. Maximiliano is a second prince who arrives in Mexico at the age of 27. This youth could explain why he has been so ineffective,” says the trainer on the Colegio de México.
“Perhaps there is also the fact that he did not know the Mexican reality, which really was a very complex situation. This perhaps contributes to his saying yes, because he does not know that he is getting into an eleven-rod shirt from which it was practically impossible to get out” .
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