1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Maximilian, emperor of Mexico

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MAXIMILIAN (1832–1867), emperor of Mexico, second son of the archduke Francis Charles of Austria, was born in the palace of Schönbrunn, on the 6th of July 1832. He was a particularly clever boy, showed considerable taste for the arts, and early displayed an interest in science, especially botany. He was trained for the navy, and threw himself into this career with so much zeal that he quickly rose to high command, and was mainly instrumental in creating the naval port of Trieste and the fleet with which Tegethoff won his victories in the Italian War. He had some reputation as a Liberal, and this led, in February 1857, to his appointment as viceroy of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom; in the same year he married the Princess Charlotte, daughter of Leopold I., king of the Belgians. On the outbreak of the war of 1859 he retired into private life, chiefly at Trieste, near which he built the beautiful chateau of Miramar. In this same year he was first approached by Mexican exiles with the proposal to become the candidate for the throne of Mexico. He did not at first accept, but sought to satisfy his restless desire for adventure by a botanical expedition to the tropical forests of Brazil. In 1863, however, under pressure from Napoleon III., and after General Forey’s capture of the city of Mexico and the plebiscite which confirmed his proclamation of the empire, he consented to accept the crown. This decision was contrary to the advice of his brother, the emperor Francis Joseph, and involved the loss of all his rights in Austria. Maximilian landed at Vera Cruz on the 28th of May 1864; but from the very outset he found himself involved in difficulties of the most serious kind, which in 1866 made apparent to almost every one outside of Mexico the necessity for his abdicating. Though urged to this course by Napoleon himself, whose withdrawal from Mexico was the final blow to his cause, Maximilian refused to desert his followers. Withdrawing, in February 1867, to Querétaro, he there sustained a siege for several weeks, but on the 15th of May resolved to attempt an escape through the enemy’s lines. He was, however, arrested before he could carry out this resolution, and after trial by court-martial was condemned to death. The sentence was carried out on the 19th of June 1867. His remains were conveyed to Vienna, where they were buried in the imperial vault early in the following year. (See Mexico.)

Maximilian’s papers were published at Leipzig in 1867, in seven volumes, under the title Aus meinem Leben, Reiseskizzen, Aphorismen, Gedichte. See Pierre de la Gorce, Hist. du Second Empire, IV., liv. xxv. ii. (Paris, 1904); article by von Hoffinger in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, xxi. 70, where authorities are cited.