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Gibraltar Saluted ill-fated Emperor words | Reg Reynolds

In April 1864 Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria sailed aboard SMS Novara from Trieste to Veracruz to take up his role as Emperor of Mexico. Most reports of the voyage of the Austrian fleet state that Queen Victoria ordered the Gibraltar garrison to fire a salute to Maximilian’s passing ship. This was duly done but the Novara didn’t just pass Gibraltar she sailed in and anchored in the harbour. Governor of Gibraltar, General William Codrington, hosted a banquet for Maxamilian and his wife Charlotte, who was called Carlota by the Mexicans. In return the Governor and other Gibraltar dignitaries were treated to a banquet aboard the Novara. In his historical novel Noticias Del Imperio (News from the Empire) Fernando Del Paso portrays how he feels the scenario at Gibraltar would have gone. Although the book is a novel, Del Paso’s works have been described as “encyclopaedic”. As the Novara approached the Rock and received the salute from the Garrison, Del Paso has Maxamilian saying to his wife: “Do you see, do you see, Carlota? Perfidious Albion is paying us tribute.” Maximilian hands Carlota his binoculars saying, “Look the famous monkeys of Gibraltar are there. I told you already... how when the last monkey disappears, the English will abandon Gibraltar.“ “They will never leave,” aide said Don Joaquin. “They would start importing monkeys from

GIBRALTAR GIBRALTAR MAGAZINE MAGAZINE •• MAY MAY 2013 2013

One of the most bizarre stories of the European aristocracy was that of Ferdinand Maximilian Josef, an Austrian prince who Napoleon III installed as Emperor of Mexico...

Timbuktu.” Del Paso has Maxamilian and his entourage visiting the caves and the race track where he tells another aide, “You see, Sebastian, wherever the English go they take their grass, their delicious marmalades, their curries and their teas with them.” Undoubtedly Maxmilian enjoyed his time on the Rock and it is just as well because there were tough times ahead. The Novara docked at Veracruz on 21st May, 1864 and Maxamilian and Carlota were greeted with wild enthusiasm from the crowds. They then travelled to Mexico City which they had chosen to be their seat of rule. Maxamilian did have the backing of the conservatives and Napoleon III* [see note] but there was never peace during his short reign as Emperor. The Republicans under the leader-

ship of Benito Juarez maintained a constant state of warfare and it was only thanks to the French army that Maxamilian was able to remain in power. The youngish (he was only 31) Emperor and Empress did their best to appease the people. She organised parties and fund raisers for the poor while he lowered working hours, abolished child labour, forbade corporal punishment and decreed that peons could no longer be bought and sold for the price of their debt. Maxamilian and Carlota had no children of their own so they adopted two Mexican boys, grandsons of former Emperor Agustín de Iturbide. It was to no avail. In 1866 Napoleon III, in the face of Mexican and American opposition and with threats from Prussia at home, withdrew his troops. Carlota returned

Napoleon III urged Maxamilian to return to Europe but out of loyalty to his followers he refused and therefore signed his own death warrant

to Europe to try and gain support for her husband from Paris, Vienna and the Vatican but her efforts failed, she fell into a deep depression and never returned to Mexico. Napoleon III urged Maxamilian to return to Europe but out of loyalty to his followers he refused and therefore signed his own death warrant. Mexico City fell on 15th May, 1867. Maximilian tried to escape with the help of a loyal cavalry brigade but he was captured the next morning. Following a court-martial he was sentenced to death and on 19th June, 1867 he and two of his generals were executed by firing squad. Maxamilian faced death with bravery and spoke in Spanish to his executioners: “I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me. May my blood which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. Viva Mexico, viva la independencia!” The two Mexican generals died shouting “Long Live the Emperor.” Many of the crowned heads of Europe and prominent liberals such as Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi sent telegrams to Juarez pleading that the Emperor’s life be spared. Juarez, who liked Maxamilian as a person, refused because he wanted to send a message to Europe that Mexico would not tolerate any intervention from foreign powers. Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph was born at Vienna on 6th July, 1832 to Archduke Franz Karl and Sophie, a Bavarian princess of the House of Wittlesbach. He was a clever and likeable boy who enjoyed the arts, science and botany but he was also undisciplined and enjoyed playing pranks on his teachers and adult relatives. Maximilian joined the Navy aged 18 and threw himself into his career. By 1854, aged just 22, he was Commander-in-Chief of the Austrian Navy. He still held this post when, at the urging of Napoleon III and Mexican monarchists, he made the fateful decision to accept the title of Emperor of Mexico. After his execution Maxamilian’s body was embalmed and put on display. Later the Novara returned to Mexico to retrieve the body and this time, when the ship passed Gibraltar the Emperor lay in a coffin. The coffin was placed in the Imperial Crypt at Vienna on 18th January, 1868. n *Note: There were persistent rumours that Maxamilian was the illegitimate son of Napoleon II, but a majority of historians discredit this.

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The Gibraltar Magazine - May 2013  

Gibraltar's fabulous business and leisure magazine. Crammed full of great features from finance to football, from fashion to arts. Enjoy i...

The Gibraltar Magazine - May 2013  

Gibraltar's fabulous business and leisure magazine. Crammed full of great features from finance to football, from fashion to arts. Enjoy i...