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Charlotte of Belgium

Charlotte of Belgium

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Charlotte of Belgium (7 June 1840 – 19 January 1927) is remembered today as Carlota of Mexico as empress consort of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico
Maximilian I of Mexico
Maximilian I was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire.After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy, he was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on April 10, 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy...

, ex-Archduke of Austria.

Princess of Belgium



The only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians
Leopold I of Belgium
Leopold I was from 21 July 1831 the first King of the Belgians, following Belgium's independence from the Netherlands. He was the founder of the Belgian line of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha...

 (1790–1865) by his second wife, Louise-Marie, Princess of France
House of Orleans
Orléans is the name used by several branches of the Royal House of France, all descended in the legitimate male line from the dynasty's founder, Hugh Capet. It became a tradition during France's ancien régime for the duchy of Orléans to be granted as an appanage to a younger son of the king...

 (1812–1850), Charlotte was born at the Royal Castle of Laeken in Laeken, Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, Belgium. Charlotte had three brothers: Louis-Philippe
Louis-Philippe, Crown Prince of Belgium
align="right"|Louis-Philippe, Crown Prince of Belgium was the eldest child and heir-apparent of Leopold I of Belgium and his second wife, Princess Louise d'Orléans.- Life :...

, who died in infancy, Leopold, who on the death of their father became Leopold II of Belgium
Leopold II of Belgium
Leopold II was the second king of the Belgians. Born in Brussels the second son of Leopold I and Louise-Marie of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the throne on 17 December 1865 and remained king until his death.Leopold is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free...

 and Philippe
Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders
align="right"|Prince Philippe of Belgium, Count of Flanders was the third born son of King Leopold I of the Belgians and his wife Louise d'Orléans . He was born at the Château de Laeken, near Brussels, Belgium...

, Count of Flanders
Count of Flanders
The Count of Flanders was the ruler or sub-ruler of the county of Flanders from the 9th century until the abolition of the position by the French revolutionaries in 1790....

. She was also a first cousin to both Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

 and her husband, Prince Albert, as well as Ferdinand II of Portugal
Ferdinand II of Portugal
Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha , named Prince Ferdinand Augustus Francis Anthony of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Koháry, was King of Portugal as husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal from the birth of their son in 1837 to her death in 1853.In keeping with Portuguese law, only after the birth of his son in...

. She belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is a German dynasty, the senior line of the Saxon House of Wettin that ruled the Ernestine duchies, including the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha....

.

Her favorite grandparent Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies
Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies
Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily sometimes known as Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies was a Princess of Naples and Sicily and later the Queen of the French from 1830–1848, consort to Louis Philippe I....

, Queen of France, was the consort of Louis-Philippe of France
Louis-Philippe of France
Louis Philippe I was King of the French from 1830 to 1848 in what was known as the July Monarchy. His father was a duke who supported the French Revolution but was nevertheless guillotined. Louis Philippe fled France as a young man and spent 21 years in exile, including considerable time in the...

, and a niece of Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette ; 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was an Archduchess of Austria and the Queen of France and of Navarre. She was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I....

. 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
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 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
Claremont (country house)
Claremont, also known historically as 'Clermont', is an 18th-century Palladian mansion situated less than a mile south of Esher in Surrey, England...

 with Maria Amalia and the rest of her mother's family in exile.

Archduchess of Austria


On 27 July 1857 in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, Charlotte married her second cousin Archduke Maximilian of Austria
Maximilian I of Mexico
Maximilian I was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire.After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy, he was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on April 10, 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy...

, the idealistic younger brother of Emperor Franz Josef
Franz Joseph I of Austria
Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I was Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Galicia and Lodomeria and Grand Duke of Cracow from 1848 until his death in 1916.In the December of 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria abdicated the throne as part of...

 of Austria. In the Court of Vienna
Wien
Wien is the German language name for Vienna, the city and federal state in Austria.* Wien , in Vienna, Austria* Theater an der Wien, a theater in Vienna located at the former river WienWien may also refer to:...

 she was much prized by her mother-in-law
Princess Sophie of Bavaria
Sophie Friederike Dorothee Wilhelmine, Princess of Bavaria was born to King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and his second wife Karoline of Baden. She was the identical twin sister of Princess Maria Anna of Bavaria, Queen of Saxony as wife of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony...

, who saw in her the perfect example of a wife to an Austrian Archduke. Charlotte disliked Empress Elizabeth (also known as Sissi
Elisabeth of Bavaria
Elisabeth of Austria was the spouse of Franz Joseph I, and therefore both Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. She also held the titles of Queen of Bohemia and Croatia, among others...

, Franz Josef'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 governor of the provinces of Lombardy
Lombardy
Lombardy is one of the 20 regions of Italy. The capital is Milan. One-sixth of Italy's population lives in Lombardy and about one fifth of Italy's GDP is produced in this region, making it the most populous and richest region in the country and one of the richest in the whole of Europe...

 and Venetia. Although Lombardy and Venetia were then under the rule of the Austrian Empire
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

, neither Maximilian nor Charlotte held real power, and both were fatally eager for more challenging roles in life.

Empress of Mexico


In the early 1860s, the ambitious Napoleon III initiated the French intervention in Mexico
French intervention in Mexico
The French intervention in Mexico , also known as The Maximilian Affair, War of the French Intervention, and The Franco-Mexican War, was an invasion of Mexico by an expeditionary force sent by the Second French Empire, supported in the beginning by the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain...

. France, eager to turn Mexico into a satellite state
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

, searched for a suitable figurehead
Figurehead
A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration found at the prow of ships largely made between the 16th and 19th century.-History:Although earlier ships had often had some form of bow ornamentation A figurehead is a carved wooden decoration found at the prow of ships largely made between the 16th and...

 to serve as the nominal emperor of Mexico. Maximilian accepted the Mexican crown and the couple sailed for the New World. The imperial couple were crowned at the Catedral Metropolitana
Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City is the largest and oldest cathedral in the Americas and seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico. It is situated atop the former Aztec sacred precinct near the Templo Mayor on the northern side of the Plaza de la...

 in 1864 and chose as their seat Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

, making their home in the Neoclassical Castillo de Chapultepec. As Empress, Charlotte 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
Yucatán
Yucatán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Yucatán is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 106 municipalities and its capital city is Mérida....

 frontier, visiting the ruins of Uxmal
Uxmal
Uxmal was dominant from 875 to 900 CE. The site appears to have been the capital of a regional state in the Puuc region from 850-950 CE. The Maya dynasty expanded their dominion over their neighbors. This prominence didn't last long...

.

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, Charlotte returned to Europe, seeking assistance for her husband in Paris, Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, and finally in Rome from Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 Pius IX. Her efforts failed; she manifested symptoms of paranoia
Paranoia
Paranoia [] is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself...

, suffered a profound cognitive and emotional collapse, and never returned to Mexico.

Family



Charlotte and Maximilian had no children, but in 1865 the imperial couple adopted Agustín de Iturbide y Green
Agustín de Iturbide y Green
Don Agustín de Iturbide y Green, Prince of Iturbide was the grandson of Agustín de Iturbide, the first emperor of independent Mexico, and his consort Empress Ana María...

 and Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzán
Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzán
Don Salvador, Prince of Iturbide, also named Salvador de Iturbide y Marzán . was the second adopted son of Maximilian I of Mexico.-Family:...

 – grandsons of Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu
Agustín de Iturbide
Agustín Cosme Damián de Iturbide y Aramburu , also known as Augustine I of Mexico, was a Mexican army general who built a successful political and military coalition that was able to march into Mexico City on 27 September 1821, decisively ending the Mexican War of Independence...

, an earlier emperor of Mexico (r. 1822-23). They gave two-year-old Agustín the title of "His Highness, The Prince of Iturbide" —similar imperial titles were accorded to various members of the child's extended family—and intended to groom him as heir to the throne. The explosive events of 1867, however, dashed such hopes, and after he grew to adulthood, Agustín renounced all rights to the Mexican throne, served in the Mexican army, and eventually established himself as a professor at Georgetown University
Georgetown University
Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit, research university whose main campus is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Catholic university in the United States...

.

Rumors persist that, in 1866, Charlotte was having an affair with Belgian officer Colonel Alfred van der Smissen and that she gave birth to a son, Maxime Weygand
Maxime Weygand
Maxime Weygand was a French military commander in World War I and World War II.Weygand initially fought against the Germans during the invasion of France in 1940, but then surrendered to and collaborated with the Germans as part of the Vichy France regime.-Early years:Weygand was born in Brussels...

, 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 War I and II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.1

The empress dowager


President Benito Juárez
Benito Juárez
Benito Juárez born Benito Pablo Juárez García, was a Mexican lawyer and politician of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca who served five terms as president of Mexico: 1858–1861 as interim, 1861–1865, 1865–1867, 1867–1871 and 1871–1872...

 of the Republic of Mexico oversaw the execution of Maximilian in 1867. (His last words were reportedly of his absent wife: "Poor Carlota!"). The empire had collapsed after only three years. Carlota's mental state continued to be poor. Her brother Prince Philippe
Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders
align="right"|Prince Philippe of Belgium, Count of Flanders was the third born son of King Leopold I of the Belgians and his wife Louise d'Orléans . He was born at the Château de Laeken, near Brussels, Belgium...

, Count of Flanders
Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, had her examined by alienists (psychiatrists), who pronounced her insane. She spent the rest of her life in seclusion, first at Miramar Castle
Miramare
The Miramare Castle is a 19th century castle on the Gulf of Trieste near Trieste, northeastern Italy. It was built from 1856 to 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, later Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico, to a design by Carl...

 near Trieste
Trieste
Trieste is a city and seaport in northeastern Italy. It is situated towards the end of a narrow strip of land lying between the Adriatic Sea and Italy's border with Slovenia, which lies almost immediately south and east of the city...

, Italy, and then at the Castle of Bouchout in Meise
Meise
Meise is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Flemish Brabant. The municipality comprises the towns of Meise proper and Wolvertem , and, several smaller villages like Sint-Brixius-Rode, Oppem, Meusegem, Impde/Imde, Rossem, Westrode and quarters as Bouchout, Nerom and Slozen. As of...

, 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 Charlotte'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 King Leopold II
Leopold II of Belgium
Leopold II was the second king of the Belgians. Born in Brussels the second son of Leopold I and Louise-Marie of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the throne on 17 December 1865 and remained king until his death.Leopold is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free...

, who ensured that the money was used for his personal colonization of the Congo
Congo Free State
The Congo Free State was a large area in Central Africa which was privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians. Its origins lay in Leopold's attracting scientific, and humanitarian backing for a non-governmental organization, the Association internationale africaine...

.

Charlotte died of pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

 brought on by influenza
Influenza
Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae , that affects birds and mammals...

 at the Bouchout Castle
Bouchout Castle
Bouchout Castle is a castle in the Flemish town of Meise, Belgium. In the 12th century, this territory of the young Duchy of Brabant was strategically positioned between the County of Flanders and the Berthout family, lords of Grimbergen...

, in Meise
Meise
Meise is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Flemish Brabant. The municipality comprises the towns of Meise proper and Wolvertem , and, several smaller villages like Sint-Brixius-Rode, Oppem, Meusegem, Impde/Imde, Rossem, Westrode and quarters as Bouchout, Nerom and Slozen. As of...

, Belgium, on 19 January 1927, and is buried at the Church of Our Lady of Laeken
Church of Our Lady of Laeken
The Church of Our Lady of Laeken is a neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church in Laeken, Brussels. It was originally built in memory of Queen Louise-Marie, wife of King Leopold I to the design of architect Joseph Poelaert....

.

Titles and styles

  • 7 June 1840 – 27 July 1857: Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Belgium, Princess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Duchess in Saxony
  • 27 July 1857 – 10 April 1864: Her Imperial & Royal Highness Archduchess Charlotte of Austria, Princess Royal of Hungary and Bohemia
  • 10 April 1864 – 15 May 1867: Her Imperial Majesty The Empress of Mexico
  • 15 May 1867– 19 January 1927: Her Imperial Majesty Empress Charlotte of Mexico

Ancestry





In popular culture


Bette Davis
Bette Davis
Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress of film, television and theater. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional...

 portrayed the tragic empress in the 1939 film Juarez
Juarez (1939 film)
Juarez is a 1939 American historical drama film directed by William Dieterle. The screenplay by Aeneas MacKenzie, John Huston, and Wolfgang Reinhardt is based on the novel The Phantom Crown by Bertita Harding and the play Juarez and Maximilian by Franz Werfel.-Plot:The film focuses on the conflict...

, directed by William Dieterle. So did Medea de Novara in the four Mexican productions directed by Miguel Contreras Torres, Juárez y Maximiliano (1933), La Paloma (1937), The Mad Empress (1940) and Caballería del Imperio (1942).

Charlotte is also referenced in the first season of The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on the Columbia Broadcasting System from October 3, 1961, until June 1, 1966. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. It was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff....

in an episode titled "Empress Carlotta's Necklace."

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, which he wrote the screenplay for.

The musical Carlota, a serpentine crown (2009) by composer and scenarist Marcel Wick portrays Charlotte as a woman driven by ambition towards inevitable disaster.

Literature

  • 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




1 *The Crown of Mexico by Joan Haslip
Joan Haslip
Joan Haslip was an author of historical books, often focusing on European royalty. She was born in London and educated in London, Paris and Florence. Her first book, Out of Focus, appeared in 1931; among her other notable publications are Lady Hester Stanhope and Parnell...

, ISBN 0-03-086572-7
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