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WOMEN IN HISTORY - CARLOTA OF MEXICO


Empress Carlota of Mexico - Restored and Colourised Portrait by the Photo Alchemist

Charlotte of Belgium (Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine; 7 June 1840 – 19 January 1927), known by the Spanish version of her name, Carlota, was by birth a Princess of Belgium and member of the House of Wettin in the branch of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (as such she was also styled Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess in Saxony).

original portrait before enhancement and colourisation

As the wife of Archduke Maximilian of Austria, Viceroy of Lombardy–Venetia and later Emperor of Mexico, she became Archduchess of Austria (in 1857) and Empress consort of Mexico (in 1864).


She was daughter, granddaughter, sister, sister in-law, cousin and wife of reigning or deposed sovereigns throughout Europe and Mexico.


Since the beginning of her marriage, she feuded with Empress Elisabeth in Vienna, and was glad when her husband was posted to Italy as Viceroy of Lombardy–Venetia.


At this time, he was selected by the Emperor Napoleon III as a figurehead for his proposed French Empire in Mexico, and Charlotte overcame her husband's doubts about the plan.


Maximilian and Charlotte (known by the Spanish Carlota) duly arrived to Mexico City in 1864, but their reign lasted a little over two years. She assisted her husband, who let her rule as regent during his absences from Mexico. When Emperor Napoleon III ordered the withdrawal of French military aid intended to support Maximilian, the situation of the Mexican imperial couple became untenable.


On her own initiative, Charlotte decided to go personally to Europe in order to attempt a final approach to Paris and the Vatican. She landed in France in August 1866, but suffered the successive refusals of both Emperor Napoleon III and Pope Pius IX. In Rome, the failure of her mission appeared to compromise her mental health to the point that an alienist doctor advocated the confinement of Charlotte in Miramare Castle. It was during her stay under house arrest that Emperor Maximilian was deposed and executed by Benito Juarez in June 1867.


Unaware that she was now a widow, Charlotte was brought back to Belgium and confined successively in the Pavilion de Tervueren (in 1867 and again during 1869–1879), the Palace of Laeken (during 1867–1869) and finally at Bouchout Castle in Meise (from 1879), where she remained for the next 48 years in a deleterious mental state, giving rise to much speculation ever since, before dying in 1927 aged 86.


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