Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico
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Like his ancestor Marie Antoinette, Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico was a good person who was royally screwed over by circumstance.

He was a talented and idealistic golden boy of the Austrian House of Hapsburg.  The Hapsburgs were the Kennedys of nineteenth-century Europe: good looking, glamorous, and filthy rich.  They also supposedly suffered from a medieval curse, plagued by multiple assassinations, executions, a lovers’ suicide pact and rampant adultery.  Maximilian himself was rumored to be the bastard of his mother and his own cousin. 

If the Hapsburgs were the Kennedys of their time, Maximilian’s wife and second cousin Princess Charlotte of Belgium (better known as Empress Carlota of Mexico) was Jackie O.  She was a fashion icon and widely considered to be the most beautiful princess in Europe.  Despite rumors of infidelity on both sides (perhaps even an illegitimate baby on her part) most evidence confirms that they were passionately, even insanely in love.

In 1864, Napoleon III duped Maximilian into accepting the throne of the newly created Mexican Empire, a puppet government for France.  Maximilian was falsely led to believe that the Mexican people wanted him there.  In fact, most Mexicans saw him as a foreign invader and supported freedom fighter Benito Juarez.  To his credit, Maximilian declared freedom of religion, shortened the work day, forgave the dept of the peons, extended the vote to commoners, and abolished child labor, corporal punishment and indentured servitude.  He was an advocate of a limited constitutional monarchy and even offered his enemy Juarez the post of prime minister, which Juarez refused.

The Empire crumbled as the Juaristas gained force and Maximilian’s allies deserted.  The few who remained loyal begged him to flee, but Maximilian resolved to die with them if the final hour came.  Meanwhile Carlota set sail for Europe to rally support, only to descend into madness.

Meanwhile Maximilian and his generals were captured and sentenced to death by firing squad in 1867 against the pleas of international celebrities like Victor Hugo.  Juarez liked Maximilian, but condemned him as a warning to meddling foreign powers.  According to legend his last request was to hear Carlota’s favorite song, La Paloma one last time.  His last words were reportedly “Viva la Mexico” followed by “Poor Carlota!”

At Maximilian’s death, Carlotta’s already unstable mental health completely collapsed.  She believed that her husband was still alive and that she was still Empress of Mexico, talking to a doll she called “Max” until her dying day.

Maximilian and Carlota were portrayed by Brian Aherne and Bette Davis in the Academy Award-nominated film Juarez (1939).  He was also featured in a trashy romance novel called The Love of the Lion, which claims he was extremely well endowed.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Execution of Emperor Maximilian

The Execution of Emperor Maximilian is a series of paintings by Édouard Manet from 1867 to 1869, depicting the execution by firing squad of Emperor Maximilian I of the short-lived Second Mexican Empire. Manet produced three large oil paintings, a smaller oil sketch and a lithograph of the same subject. All five works were brought together for an exhibition in London and Mannheim in 1992–1993 and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2006.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Execution of Emperor Maximilian.