The Last Emperor of Mexico
by Edward Shawcross
‘One of the most monstrous enterprises in the annals of international history,’ said Karl Marx. ‘A madness without parallel since Don Quixote,’ said a future French president. This is history’s judgement on the events surrounding the ill-fated reign of Maximilian of Mexico, the young Austrian archduke who in 1864 crossed the Atlantic to assume a faraway throne.
He had been convinced to do so by a duplicitous Napoleon III. Keen to spread his own interests abroad, the French emperor promised Maximilian a hero’s welcome, which he would ensure with his own mighty military support. Instead, Maximilian walked into a bloody guerrilla war — and with a headful of impractical ideals and a penchant for pomp and butterflies, the so-called new emperor was singularly unequipped for the task. The ensuing saga would feature the great world leaders of the day, popes, bandits and queens; intrigue, conspiracy and cut-throat statecraft, as Mexico became the pivotal battleground in the global balance of power, between Old Europe and the burgeoning force of the New World: American imperialism.
The Last Emperor of Mexico is the vivid history of this barely known, barely believable episode — a bloody tragedy of operatic proportions, and a vital debacle, the effects of which would be felt into the twentieth century and beyond.