The rule of Emperor Maximilian was blemished by constant conflict. On his arrival in 1864 with his wife, Empress Carlota of Mexico, daughter of King Leopold I of the Belgians, he found himself in the middle of a political struggle between the Conservatives who backed him and the opposing Liberals, headed by Benito Juárez. The two factions had set up parallel governments: the Conservatives in Mexico City controlling central Mexico and the Liberals in Veracruz. The Conservatives received funding from Europe, especially from Isabella II of Spain and Napoleon III of France; the Liberals found backing from United States Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, after the U.S. had finished its own Civil War in 1865.
The United States government viewed Emperor Maximilian as a French puppet, and did not regard his reign as the will of most Mexicans or see him as the legitimate leader of Mexico. They demanded the withdrawal of French forces, and France acceded. In 1867, the empire fell and Maximilian was executed at the orders of Benito Juárez, in the Cerro de las Campanas near Querétaro.
Maximilian proved to be too liberal for the conservatives, and too conservative for the liberals. He regarded Mexico as his destiny and made many contributions. Before his death, Maximilian adopted the grandsons of the first Mexican emperor, Agustín de Iturbide: Agustín de Iturbide y Green and Salvador de Iturbide y Marzán.
Role of France
Napoleon III had more ambitious goals than the recovery of France's debts. Heavily influenced by his wife Empress Eugenie, he was intent on reviving the Mexican monarchy. Prior to 1861 any interference in the affairs of Mexico by European powers would have been viewed as a challenge to the U.S., and no one wanted to provoke a conflict with them. In 1861 the U.S. was embroiled in its own conflict, the American Civil War, which made the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., powerless to intervene. Encouraged by Empress Eugenie, who saw herself as the champion of the Catholic Church in Mexico, Napoleon III took advantage of the situation.
Napoleon III saw the opportunity to make France the great modernizing influence in the Western Hemisphere, as well as enabling the country to capture the South American markets. To give him further encouragement, there was his half brother, the duc de Morny, who was the largest holder of Mexican bonds.
The Offering of the Mexican Crown by a Mexican delegation, Miramare Castle
- Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian born on 6 July, the second son of Archduke Franz Karl and his wife Sophie in Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna.
- Begins career in the Imperial and Royal Navy with the rank of lieutenant.
- The construction of his castle of Miramar near the Adriatic port of Trieste began.
- Ferdinand Max appointed the governor-general of the northern Italian provinces of Lombardy-Venetia. On 27 July marries the Princess Charlotte of Belgium in Brussels.
- On 19 April relieved of his post as governor-general. War breaks out with France and Piedmont-Sardinia.
- Napoleon III suggests Maximilian as a candidate for the throne of Mexico.
- In October a Mexican delegation arrives at Miramar to offer Maximilian and Charlotte the crown. Maximilian makes his acceptance conditional on a national plebiscite in his favor.
- On 14 April Maximilian and Charlotte leave Miramar on board the Austrian ship SMS Novara to sail to Mexico.
- End of the American Civil War; pressure placed on France to respect the Monroe Doctrine.
- Maximilian adopts Don Agustin and Don Salvador.
- Maximilian issues his Black Decree, condemning to death without trial more than eleven thousand Juarez supporters, thus inflaming the Mexican Resistance.
- Maximilian abolishes on November 30 the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico
- Napoleon III orders the withdrawal of French troops from Mexico. The Emperor Maximilian refuses to desert his Mexican supporters. Charlotte sails to Europe to plead for help, growing persecution mania robs her of her senses. Republican troops on the advance in Mexico. France and Mexico sign a series of treaties that allow France to seize the receipts of Mexican customs to pay for the French intervention.
- Maximilian and his Imperial troops are besieged in the city of Santiago de Querétaro. The city falls through betrayal after 72 days. On 19th of June, Emperor Maximilian and two loyalist generals are executed by a republican firing-squad on the Hill of the Bells.
- On 18 January the body of Maximilian laid to rest among his ancestors in the Imperial Crypt of the Capuchin Church in Vienna.