Maximilian's wife Charlotte

Leopold I, King of Belgium with his wife Louise and their children.


Empress Charlotte (Carlota) of Mexico
Charlotte of Belgium was born on the 7th June 1840.
Charlotte belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and was the daughter of King Leopold I, of Belgium and Louise of Orléans.


Leopold I, King of Belgium


Princess Charlotte belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Charlotte was the daughter of Leopold I, King of Belgium, and Louise of France.


The young princess was very dignified, intelligent, charming, and beautiful.  
Charlotte’s brother Leopold married in 1853 to the Habsburg Princess Marie Henriette and during the summer of 1856 the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian visited Brussels.
During his first and second visit the young sixteen-year-old Charlotte fell in love with Maximilian and was fascinated by his charm and the stories of his travels to exotic places and drawings of Miramar Castle which Maximilian was having built near Trieste. 
In February 1857, Maximilian was appointed Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia. 
The Archduke asked the King for the hand of his daughter and on the 27th July 1857 the then 17-year-old Princess Charlotte married Maximilian in Brussels.
The young couple then travelled to Milan. 
The beautiful city of Venice and the idea of her husband’s future role as Viceroy seemed to make up for the cold reception that the young couple had received on arrival. 
During the following two years Maximilian and Charlotte lived in Milan as Viceroys of Lombardy-Venetia.
In 1859, Emperor Franz Josef dismissed his brother from this post.
The Emperor was upset about the liberal policies which his brother favoured. 
Maximilian stayed in his castle at Miramar.
The marriage between Maximilian and Charlotte was not that what it seemed to be.
Maximilian spent a lot of his time in Vienna and travelled to Brazil and enjoyed the joys of life as they came.
Charlotte stayed in Miramar during his absence and carried on pretending to be happily married.

Miramar Castle

Maximilian’s way of life made things get worse after Charlotte had been infected with venereal disease which made it impossible for her to have children.
The couple thereafter slept in separate bedrooms but continued to show themselves together in public and did not display any problems openly. 
In 1863, Napoleon III of France offered the Crown of Mexico to Maximilian.
Maximilian was not sure and hesitated.
Charlotte was very interested and was in favour of the offer. 
Napoleon III wanted to conquer Mexico for France and at the same time weaken the United States by supporting the Confederate States. The French were at first defeated at the Battle of Puebla but tried again and managed to take control of Mexico City.
A group of pro-French Mexican monarchists were interested in establishing a monarchy, and Maximilian was selected as the possible Emperor.
Napoleon III promised that the French would support the Mexican Empire and Maximilian finally agreed to accept the Imperial Crown of Mexico. 
In 1864, Maximilian and Charlotte left Trieste and sailed to Mexico where they received yet another cold reception and very little enthusiasm.

Maximilian and Charlotte leaving Trieste


The coronation took place in 1864 at the Catedral Metropolitana in Mexico City. 
The Imperial couple resided in the Imperial residence Castillo de Chapultepec which is located on top of Chapultepec Hill in Mexico City.
In 1865, the American Civil War came to an end and the United States started to put political pressure on France and opposed the presence of French troops in Mexico.
The situation in Mexico started to change rapidly.  Maximilian believed that they had the support of the Mexican people but Maximilian was too liberal for his conservative supporters and the United States refused to recognize their rule as legitimate. 
In 1866, Napoleon III soon started to back out and withdraw his support. French troops left and Maximilian received a fatal blow which was to destroy the young Mexican Empire. 
Maximilian wanted to abdicate but Charlotte wanted him to carry on.
Charlotte decided to travel to Europe and try to convince Napoleon III to continue his support for the Mexican Empire, but the French Emperor refused. Charlotte began to cry hysterically but Napoleon insisted that the withdrawal of the French troops was a decision that had been made and refused any further help.
Charlotte then went to Vienna and then to Rome in a desperate attempt to find support for her husbands cause.
In Rome, Charlotte asked Pope Pius IX and managed to see the pope. Charlotte became more and more unusual in her ways. Her family had to be informed and her brother Philip arrived and escorted her back to Miramar. 
Charlotte’s behaviour became increasingly strange but her mental health started to improve again in Miramar. 
In 1867, the French troops had been withdrawn from Mexico and Maximilian informed his family in Vienna of his intention to return home. 
The republican army under the command of Benito Juárez advanced towards Mexico City. Maximilian went to Querétaro with a small contingent but was quickly defeated, captured and sentenced to death. 
Charlotte's mental state continued to worsen. She retired to Miramar Castle and later moved to Belgium but her mental health worsened and Charlotte was later confined to the castle of Tervuren. 
Suddenly in March 1879 a fire broke out in the castle and Charlotte was brought to Laeken and then to the castle Bouchout.
Her mental condition worsened into uncontrollable attacks of frenzy - smashing furniture - breaking vases – tearing up books - cutting paintings - but she never damaged anything that reminded her of her beloved husband. She also suffered fits of laughter or weeping and constantly spoke to herself but at the same time she had still many hours in which she behaved dignified and was able to give perfectly normal answers to questions.
She spent her time painting or reading or sat at her piano playing music. 
Charlotte lived in seclusion for the last nearly sixty years of her life and probably never realised that her husband was dead.
Charlotte died on the 19th January 1927 at Bouchout Castle and is buried at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken, Brussels.