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Carlota of Mexico

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Title: Carlota of Mexico  
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Subject: Maximilian I of Mexico, Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, Juarez (film), History of Mexico, Princess Clémentine of Belgium
Collection: 1840 Births, 1927 Deaths, Archduchesses of Austria, Austrian Princesses, Belgian Princesses, Bohemian Princesses, Burials at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken, Dames of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa, French Intervention in Mexico, History of Austria, History of Mexico, House of Habsburg-Lorraine, House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Belgium), Hungarian Princesses, Independent Mexico, Mexican Imperial Consorts, Mexican Monarchy, People from Laeken, Princesses of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Royalty and Nobility with Disabilities
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Carlota of Mexico

Carlota of Mexico
Empress consort of Mexico
Tenure 10 April 1864 – 15 May 1867
Coronation 10 April 1864
Born (1840-06-07)7 June 1840
Laeken, Brussels, Belgium
Died 19 January 1927(1927-01-19) (aged 86)
Meise, Belgium
Burial Royal Crypt, Laken
Spouse Maximilian I of Mexico
Full name
Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine
House House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Father Leopold I of Belgium
Mother Louise of Orléans
Religion Roman Catholicism

Carlota of Mexico (Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine; 7 June 1840 – 19 January 1927) was a Belgian princess, the daughter of Leopold I of Belgium, who became Empress of Mexico as the wife of Maximilian I of Mexico.


  • Princess of Belgium 1
  • Archduchess of Austria 2
  • Empress of Mexico 3
  • Family 4
  • Former Empress 5
  • Honours 6
    • Grand Master 6.1
    • Received honours 6.2
  • Ancestry 7
  • In popular culture 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Princess of Belgium

Princess Charlotte, by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

The only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians (1790–1865) by his second wife, Louise, Princess of Orléans (1812–1850), Charlotte was born at the Royal Palace of Laeken in Laeken, Brussels, Belgium. Charlotte had three brothers: Louis-Philippe, who died in infancy, Leopold, who on the death of their father became Leopold II of Belgium and Philippe, Count of Flanders. She was also a first cousin to both Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, as well as Ferdinand II of Portugal. She belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Her favorite grandparent Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies, Queen of France, was the consort of Louis-Philippe of France, and a niece of Marie Antoinette. Maria Amalia was Charlotte's close confidante, and on her wedding day in 1857, she wore a bracelet with a miniature portrait of her. They regularly corresponded, especially later while Charlotte was in Mexico.

When Charlotte was ten years old, her mother, Louise-Marie, died of tuberculosis and Charlotte was entrusted to the Countess of Hulste, a close family friend. Although young, the princess had her own household; but for a few weeks out of the year, Charlotte stayed in Claremont with Maria Amalia and the rest of her mother's family in exile.

Archduchess of Austria

Photo of young Archduke Maximilian and Archduchess Charlotte

On 27 July 1857 in Brussels, Charlotte married her second cousin Archduke Maximilian of Austria, the idealistic younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. Napolean III gave Carlotta and her husband Maximillian a beautiful bisque bust of Chalotta as a wedding gift. This bust is in the Pope's Tavern, Florence, AL. In the Court of Vienna she was much prized by her mother-in-law, Princess Sophie, who saw in her the perfect example of a wife to an Austrian Archduke. Charlotte disliked Empress Elisabeth (also known as Sissi), Franz Joseph's wife. It is said that the archduchess disliked the deep connection that existed between the empress and Maximilian, who were confidantes and shared the same tastes for many things, especially because her sister-in-law was universally admired for her beauty and charms.

Charlotte spent several relatively happy years in Italy as Maximilian's wife while the archduke served as the governor of the provinces of Lombardy and Venetia. The position was purely nominal, as power rested in the hand of the Emperor and his officers.

Empress of Mexico

Maximilian and Carlota were crowned in 1864 at the Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City.

In the early 1860s, the ambitious Napoleon III initiated the French intervention in Mexico. France, eager to turn Mexico into a satellite state, searched for a suitable figurehead to serve as the nominal emperor of Mexico. His choice was Maximilian, who held no real power in Italy and was eager for a more challenging role. Against his brother's advice, Maximilian accepted the Mexican crown and the couple sailed for the New World.[1] The imperial couple were crowned at the Catedral Metropolitana in 1864 and chose as their seat Mexico City, making their home in the Neoclassical Chapultepec Castle. As Empress, she took the name of Carlota (Spanish for Charlotte). Carlota tried to take her imperial duties seriously, and even undertook a tour of the remote Yucatán frontier, visiting the ruins of Uxmal.

Only months after the coronation, however, Napoleon III began signaling his abandonment of Maximilian, and the French began to withdraw their troops from Mexico. This strategic pullback was a potentially fatal blow to the infant Mexican monarchy. The situation was exacerbated by a United States blockade that prevented French reinforcements from landing. In a desperate attempt to save her husband's throne, Carlota returned to Europe, seeking assistance for her husband in Paris, Vienna, and finally in Rome from Pope Pius IX. Her efforts failed; she manifested symptoms of paranoia, suffered a profound cognitive and emotional collapse, and never returned to Mexico.


Portrait of Empress Charlotte by Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

Carlota and Maximilian had no children, but in 1865 the imperial couple adopted Georgetown University.

Rumors persist that, in 1866, Carlota was having an affair with Belgian officer Colonel Alfred Van der Smissen and that she gave birth to a son, Maxime Weygand, in Brussels on 21 January 1867. Weygand refused to confirm or deny the persistent rumor and his parentage remains uncertain. Weygand was a French military commander in both World Wars I and II.[3]

Former Empress

Empress Carlota, photograph c 1864–1866
Replica of the cross of the Order of Saint Charles

President Benito Juárez of the Republic of Mexico oversaw the execution of Maximilian in 1867. (His last words were reportedly of his absent wife: "Poor Carlota!"[4]) The empire had collapsed after only three years. Carlota's mental state continued to be poor. Her brother Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, had her examined by alienists (psychiatrists), who pronounced her insane. She spent the rest of her life in seclusion, first at Miramar Castle near Trieste, Italy, and then at the Castle of Bouchout in Meise, Belgium. During World War I, her Belgian estate was surrounded by the occupying German army, but the estate itself was sacrosanct because Austria was one of Germany's chief allies and she was the widowed sister-in-law of the Austrian emperor.

As Carlota 's illness progressed, her paranoia faded. She remained deeply in love with her husband. After his death, she cherished all of the surviving possessions they had enjoyed in common. The bias of the historiography of the time makes it difficult to assess to what extent she suffered from alleged mental conditions such as psychosis, paranoia and monomania. Her considerable fortune as one of the richest women of Europe was administered by baron de Goffinet, a servant of Leopold II, who ensured that the money was used for his personal colonization of the Congo.[5]

Carlota died of pneumonia brought on by influenza at the Bouchout Castle, in Meise, Belgium, on 19 January 1927, and is buried at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken.


Grand Master

During the Second Mexican Empire, she was the Grand Master of the :

It was a women-only order consisting of maximum 24 "Grand Crosses" and an unlimited number of "Crosses". It was named after her patron, Saint Charles Borromeo. Being the wife of a member of the Imperial Family of Austria, the Order of the Starry Cross seems a probable model.

Received honours

Carlota of Mexico received the following honours:[6]


In popular culture

Visit of Empress Elisabeth at the Castello di Miramare 1861; Charlotte of Belgium (in white dress) welcomes Elisabeth while her husband Ferdinand Maximilian and his brother Emperor Franz Joseph I. wait on the boat. Source Historical Museum of Castello di Miramare.
  • Medea de Novara portrayed Empress Carlota in the films Juárez y Maximiliano (1934), La paloma (1937), The Mad Empress (1939) and Caballería del imperio (1942), all directed by de Novara's husband, director Miguel Contreras Torres.[7]
  • Bette Davis portrayed Empress Carlota in the film Juarez (1939), directed by William Dieterle.[8]
  • Carlota is referenced in the first season of The Dick Van Dyke Show in an episode titled "Empress Carlotta's Necklace" (1961).
  • María Rivas portrayed the Empress in the historical telenovela Maximiliano y Carlota (1965).[9]
  • Nelly Meden portrayed Empress Carlota in another historical telenovela, El carruaje (1972).
  • News from the Empire (Spanish: Noticias del Imperio, 1986), a novel by Fernando del Paso, shows a literary portrait of the Empress and her madness.
  • Marisol Santacruz portrayed Empress Carlota in an episode of the Mexican documentary television series Secretos de nuestra historia (2006), which features "virtual interviews" with historical figures of Mexico.[10][11]
  • The musical Carlota: A Serpentine Crown (2009), by composer and scenarist Marcel Wick, portrays Carlota as a woman driven by ambition towards inevitable disaster.
  • The American film production company Two M Films has announced a project entitled "Bringing Back Charlotte". The company gained exclusive access to the archives of the Belgian royal palace, and were allowed to read the letters the empress had written to her father and brothers, while being in Mexico. Belgian born writer/director Maxime Brulein is said to direct the film, for which he wrote the screenplay.[12]


  1. ^ Royal Ark
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ Haslip, Joan The Crown of Mexico ISBN 0-03-086572-7
  4. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham. Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Dying Sayings at
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^

Further reading

  • Prince Michael of Greece; The Empress of Farewells – The Story of Charlotte, Empress of Mexico, New York 1998.
  • del Paso,Fernando: Noticias del Imperio. México 1987
  • Bibesco, Princesse Marthe: Charlotte et Maximilien. París 1962.
  • Castelot, André: Maximiliano y Carlota. La Tragedia de la Ambición. México 1985.
  • Corti, Conte Egon Caesar: Maximilian und Charlotte von Mexiko. Nach dem bisher unveröffentlichten Geheimarchive des Kaisers Maximilian und sonstigen unbekannten Quellen. 2 Vols. Zurich, Leipzig, Viena 1924.
  • Corti, Conte Egon Caesar: Maximilian von Mexiko. Die Tragödie eines Kaisers. Francfort del Meno 1953.
  • Desternes, Suzanne; Chandet, Henriette: Maximilien et Charlotte. París 1964.
  • Gómez Tepexicuapan, Amparo: "Carlota en México." En: Igler, Susanne; Spiller, Roland (eds.): Más nuevas del imperio. Estudios interdisciplinarios acerca de Carlota de México. Francfort del Meno 2001. (=Erlanger Lateinamerika-Studien. 45). p. 27–40.
  • Miguel de Grecia: La Emperatriz del Adiós. El trágico destino del emperador Maximiliano y su mujer Carlota. Barcelona 2000.
  • Harding, Bertita: Phantom Crown. The story of Maximilian and Carlota of Mexico. New York 1934.
  • Haslip, Joan: The Crown of Mexico: Maximilian and his Empress Carlota. 2a edición. Nueva York 1972.
  • Hyde, Montgomery H.: Mexican Empire. The history of Maximilian and Carlota of Mexico. Londres 1946.
  • Igler, Susanne: Carlota de México. México 2002. (=Grandes Protagonistas de la Historia Mexicana) [segunda edición: 2006].
  • Igler, Susanne: De la intrusa infame a la loca del castillo: Carlota de México en la literatura de su 'patria adoptiva'. Frankfurt: Peter Lang 2007 (Studien und Dokumente zur Geschichte der Romanischen Literaturen, 58).
  • Kerckvoorde, Mia: Charlotte. La passion et la fatalité. París 1981.
  • Maria y Campos, Armando: Carlota de Bélgica. La infortunada Emperatriz de México. México 1944.
  • Praviel, Armand: La vida trágica de la emperatriz Carlota. Buenos Aires 1937.
  • Jasper Ridley: Maximilian & Juarez. Phoenix Press, London 2001

External links

  • Imperial House of Mexico
  • Biography of Charlotte of Belgium (1840–1927)
  • Carlota of Mexico at Find a Grave
  • Works by or about Carlota of Mexico at Internet Archive
  • 1923 Newspaper Interview with one of Carlota's Ladies (in Spanish)
  • C.M. Mayo's blog for researchers of Mexico's Second Empire, a period also known as the French Intervention"
  • An Account of the French Intervention and the 2nd Mexican Empire, 1862–1867.
Carlota of Mexico
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: June 1840 Died: 19 January 1927
Mexican royalty
Title last held by
Ana María de Huarte y Muñiz
Empress Consort of Mexico
10 April 1864 – 15 May 1867
Monarchy abolished
Titles in pretence
Title last held by
Ana María de Huarte y Muñiz
Empress Consort of Mexico
15 May 1867 – 19 June 1867
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