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Carlota of Mexico

Carlota of Mexico (also spelled Carlotta; sometimes rendered as Charlotte) (June 7, 1840 - January 19, 1927) was the wife of Maximilian of Mexico and was proclaimed Empress of Mexico in the 1860s, in a regime largely dependant on French troops in Mexico under orders of Napoleon III.

- Carlota, Empress of Mexico -
A daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians (1790-1865) and his second wife, Louise d'Orleans, Princess of France (1812-1850), Carlota of Mexico was born in Laeken, Belgium, as Princess Marie Charlotte Amélie Auguste Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine. (Curiously, Charlotte was the name of her father's first wife, Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of George IV and heiress to the British throne; she died in childbirth, along with the son she bore.) The family's surname was probably Wettin, but was generally known as the House of Coburg, after the Germanic grand duchy that was the homeland of Carlota's father, Belgium's first king.

Princess Charlotte of Belgium married Archduke Maximilian von Hapsburg, the idealistic younger brother of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, on July 27, 1857, at Brussels.

After Maximilian accepted the Mexican crown at the invitation of Napoleon III of France, Carlota sailed to Mexico ahead of him, taking in a tour of Yucatan (including the ruins of Uxmal) before sailing to Veracruz and then traveling inland to Mexico City. The couple's seat in Mexico City was Chapultepec Palace, a little neo-Gothic fantasy on a hilltop on the edge of the city.

After Napoleon III withdrew his troops from Mexico and abandoned Maximilian to resist revolutionary forces by himself, Carlotta travelled to Europe, seeking assistance for her husband in Paris and Vienna and finally in Rome from the Pope. Her efforts failed, and she suffered a profound emotional collapse and never went back to Mexico. After the Mexicans executed her husband the following year, her mental state deteriorated, and Carlota's brother, Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, placed her into the hands of doctors who promptly declared her insane. She spent the rest of her life in seclusion in castles at Laeken, Belgium, and near Trieste, Italy. She died in Meise. Some say she believed herself still to be the Empress in Mexico City until her death.

Carlota had no children with Maximilian, but in 1865, the imperial couple did adopt Agustin de Iturbide y Green, grandson of an earlier "Emperor of Mexico", Agustin I (Agustine de Iturbide y Aramburu), a constitutional monarch who reigned from 1822 until 1823. They gave two-year-old Agustin the title of "His Highness Prince of Iturbide" -- similar royal titles were accorded various members of the child's extended family -- and intended to groom him as heir to the throne. The explosive events of 1867, however, dashed such hopes, and after he grew to adulthood, Agustin de Iturbide y Green renounced all rights to the defunct Mexican throne, served in the Mexican army, and eventually established himself as a university professor in Washington, D. C.

It also has been claimed that Carlota had an illegitimate child by Alfred, Baron Van der Smissens, a Belgian colonel, giving birth at Brussels January 21, 1867. (This birthdate would indicate that the former empress was pregnant when she sailed to Europe in support of her embattled husband.) According to some sources this child grew up to be General (Louis) Maxime Weygand (1867-1965). Weygand refused to either confirm or deny the persistant rumor, and his parentage remains uncertain. Some sources identify his mother as an unknown Pole and his father as either Leopold II (Carlota's brother) or Maximilian. However, an eminent Belgian historian believed beyond doubt that Van der Smissens was indeed the father of General Weygand.

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