Charlotte, empress of Mexico, princess of Belgium

BORN 7 Jun 1840, Laken - DIED 19 Jan 1927, Bouchoute (castle in Meise near Brussel)
REAL NAME Charlotte Amélie Auguste Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine
GRAVE LOCATION Brussel: Onze-Lieve Vrouwekerk, Laken (Crypt)

Charlotte, often called Carlotta, was the only daughter of the first Belgian king, Leopold I. Her mother was Louise d'Orléans, a daughter of king Louis Philippe of France. She was named after Leopold's first wife Charlotte, the daughter of George IV of England.

In 1857 she married Maximilian of Austria, a younger brother of emperor Francis Joseph. When he accepted the crown of Mexico she became empress. In 1864 they left for Mexico, but after the French troops left Mexico the imperial couple was soon threathened by a rebellion. They refused to give op the throne and Carlotta left for Europe to ask for help.

When she spoke to Napoleon III and empress Eugénie on August 11th, 1866 suddenly some refreshments were brought in. Carlotta refused to drink them, perhaps because she was surrprised, but it is also possible that she thought the emperor might want to poison her. Napoleon felt guilty about the situation in Mexico but told her that he could do nothing for her husband. Two days later she came again and this time she shouted curses to members of Napoleon's government. On August 21th, Napoleon formally refused to keep the French troops in Mexico.

Carlotta now travelled to Rome to ask the pope to force Napoleon III to help her. After she met Pope Pio IX on August 27th, she said at dinner that somebody wanted to poison her. On August 30th she drank water from a fountain to be sure that she wouldn't be poisoned. She wrote a farewell letter to Maximilian on October 1st, because she was sure she would be killed. The pope even allowed the confused empress to spend a night at the Vatican, where normally no woman was allowed to sleep.

A week later she was picked up by her brother. Her madness was permanent and she was put away in Bouchoute Castle in Meise, just north of Brussels. Her husband was executed in Mexico in 1867. Carlotta insisted on calling herself empress of Mexico for the rest of her long life.

• Husband: Maximilian of Austria, emperor of Mexico (1857-1867)

Related persons
• was painted by Winterhalter, Franz Xaver


The graves of prince Louis-Philippe, princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold Emmanuel in the crypt of the Notre-Dame in Laeken, Brussels.
Picture by Androom (28 Apr 2007)


The grave of princess Charlotte in the crypt of the Notre-Dame in Laeken, Brussels.
Picture by Androom (28 Apr 2007)


Charlotte, empress of Mexico. [Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division]


• Haslip, Joan, Imperial Adventurer: Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, and his Empress, Cardinal, London, 1974

Charousek, Rezsö

Published: 20 May 2007
Last update: 14 Sep 2008