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The Man Who Would Be King: ‘Maximilian and Carlota’ recounts Mexico’s last European rulers

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


Brokenhearted, Maximilian considers abdication, but is urged by Carlota to stay and fight for what they have begun. Despite their decision to persevere without France, all that results is a difficult and protracted denouement. Carlota becomes mentally unstable, increasingly paranoid that she will be assassinated or poisoned. Her madness does not endear her to the European powers, including the Pope, whom she calls on for help. Maximilian returns to the military front, but he and his generals are captured by Juárez. Although personal escape is possible, he refuses to leave his men behind and is executed by firing squad.

McAllen notes that although Maximilian and Carlota had the best of intentions towards their adopted homeland, what they “did not anticipate was that the Mexican nation no longer remained open to discourse about its future or to interference by foreign countries … A modern Mexico had arrived.”

Young, naive and optimistic upon arrival, but broken and rejected in the end, I would still argue that Maximilian and Carlota rose above their roles as political pawns for Europe, in a small way succeeding in the “experiment” that was their moment in Mexican history.

Maximilian and Carlota: Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico

By M. M. McAllen Trinity University Press | $29.95 | 552 pp

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