Charlotte, empress of Mexico, princess of Belgium

BORN 7 Jun 1840, Laken - DIED 19 Jan 1927, Bouchoute (castle in Meise near Brussel)
BIRTH NAME Charlotte Amélie Auguste Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine
GRAVE LOCATION Brussel: Église Notre Dame de Laeken, Laeken (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

27/9/1866Audience of empress Charlotte with Pope Pio IX. The contents of their conversation weren't made public, but probably Pio IX refused her support for her husband Maximilian in Mexico. This removed her last hope of support from Europe for him and dealt her such a blow that she lost sanity. In the evening she attended a diner in which she claimed that somebody wanted to poison her. 
29/9/1866Pope Pio IX visits empress Charlotte. Two days before she hadvisited him and now he returned the visit. He had brought a cardinal with him because he was aware that Charlotte was mentally instable. Nothing special happened, allthough Charlotte remarked that she was convinced that Napoleon III's agents observed her in Rome. 
8/10/1866Philip Duke of Flanders visits Rome to fetch the empress Charlotte of Mexico. Pope Pio IX had sent Charlotte's family in Brussels a telegram that stated that she was mentally instable. A few days before she had burnt her hand when she took a piece of meat from a hot pan during a visit to an orphany. she thought that somebody was trying to poison her an only ate food that wasn't prepared for her. Philip, her brother, took her to Trieste. 


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]


• Aronson, Theo, De Coburgs van België, Becht, Amsterdam
• Haslip, Joan, Imperial Adventurer: Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, and his Empress, Cardinal, London, 1974

Charousek, Rezsö

Published: 20 May 2007
Last update: 01 Feb 2022