Emperor of Mexico 1864-1867
1/10 scale resin bust
Sculpted by: Carl Reid
Box art painted by: Mike Cramer
Maximilian I was born July 6, 1832 and died June 19,1867. He was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire. After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy, he was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on 10 April 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy.
Maximilian was born in Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, capital of the Austrian Empire. He was baptized the following day and given the full name Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph. Adhering to traditions inherited from the Spanish court during Habsburg rule, Maximilian’s upbringing was supervised by an aja (governess) until his sixth birthday. Afterwards, his education was entrusted to a tutor. Most of Maximilian’s day was spent in study. The thirty-two hours per week of classes at age 7 steadily grew until it reached fifty-five hours per week by the time he was 17. The disciplines were diverse: ranging from history, geography, law and technology, to languages, military studies, fencing and diplomacy. In addition to his native German, he eventually learned to speak Hungarian, Slavonic, English, French, Italian and Spanish.
In 1848, revolutions erupted across Europe. In face of protests and riots, Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated in favor of Maximilian’s brother, who became Franz Joseph I Emperor of Austria. Maximilian accompanied him on campaigns to put down rebellions throughout the Empire. Only in 1849 would the revolution be stamped out in Austria, with hundreds of rebels executed and thousands imprisoned. Maximilian was horrified at what he regarded as senseless brutality and openly complained about it.
When he entered military service, he was trained in the Austrian Navy. He threw himself into this career with so much zeal that he quickly rose to high command. He was made a lieutenant in the navy at the age of eighteen. In 1854, he sailed as commander in the corvette Minerva, on an exploring expedition along the coast of Albania and Dalmatia. At the age of twenty-two, Archduke Ferdinand Max took office as Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian Navy in 1854. In 1859, Ferdinand Maximilian was first approached by Mexican monarchists — members of the Mexican aristocracy, led by local nobleman José Pablo Martínez del Río — with a proposal to become the Emperor of Mexico. In Paris, 20 October, 1861, Maximilian received a letter from Gutierrez de Estrada asking him to take the Mexican throne. He did not accept at first. However, after the French intervention in Mexico, under pressure from Napoleon III and after General Élie-Frédéric Forey’s capture of Mexico City and the plebiscite which confirmed his proclamation of the empire, he consented to accept the crown in October 1863, Maximilian was not told of the dubious nature of the plebiscite, which was held while French troops were occupying most of the territory. His decision involved the loss of all his nobility rights in Austria, though he was not informed of this until just before he left. Archduchess Charlotte was thereafter known as “Her Imperial Majesty Empress Carlota”.
In April 1864, Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian conceded his duties as Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian Navy. He traveled from Trieste aboard the SMS Novara, escorted by the frigates SMS Bellona (Austrian) and Themis (French), and the Imperial yacht Phantasie led the warship procession from his palace at Miramare out to sea. They received a blessing from Blessed Pope Pius IX, and Queen Victoria ordered the Gibraltar garrison to fire a salute for Maximilian’s passing ship.
The new emperor of Mexico landed at Veracruz on May 21,1864 to wild enthusiasm from the crowds. He had the backing of Mexican conservatives and Napoleon III, but from the very outset he found himself involved in serious difficulties since the Liberal forces led by President Benito Juárez refused to recognize his rule. There was continuous warfare between his French troops and the Republicans.
In 1865, the U.S. used increasing diplomatic pressure to persuade Napoleon III to end French support of Maximilian and to withdraw French troops from Mexico. Washington began supplying partisans of Juárez and his ally Porfirio Díaz by “losing” arms depots for them at El Paso del Norte at the Mexican border. Though urged to abandon Mexico by Napoleon III himself, whose troop withdrawal from Mexico was a great blow to the Mexican Imperial cause, Maximilian refused to desert his followers. Maximilian allowed his followers to determine whether or not he abdicated. Maximilian fought on with his army of 8,000 Mexican loyalists. Withdrawing, in February 1867, to Santiago de Querétaro, he sustained a siege for several weeks, but on May 11 resolved to attempt an escape through the enemy lines. This plan was sabotaged by Colonel Miguel López who was bribed by the Republicans to open a gate and lead a raiding party through with the agreement that Maximilian would be allowed to escape. The city fell on 15 May 1867 and Maximilian was captured the next morning after the failure of an attempt to escape through Republican lines by a loyal hussar cavalry brigade led by Felix Salm-Salm. Following a court-martial, he was sentenced to death.
Maximilian wears the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of the Mexican Eagle Collar and sash.