Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico

Maximilian I (German: Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen, Spanish: Fernando Maximiliano José María de Habsburgo-Lorena; 6 July 1832 – 19 June 1867) was an Austrian archduke who reigned as the only Emperor of the Second Mexican Empire from 10 April 1864 until his execution on 19 June 1867. A younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, Maximilian had a distinguished career as commander-in-chief of the Imperial Austrian Navy.

France, together with Spain and the United Kingdom, had invaded Mexico in the winter of 1861 to pressure the Mexican government into settling its debts with the three powers after Mexico had announced a suspension on debt repayment; the Spanish and British both withdrew the following year after negotiating agreements with the Mexican government and realising the true intention of the French, who sought to conquer the country. Seeking to legitimize French rule, Emperor Napoleon III invited Maximilian to establish a new pro-French Mexican monarchy. With the support of the French army and a group of Conservative Party monarchists hostile to the Liberal Party administration of President Benito Juárez, Maximilian accepted the crown of Mexico on 10 April 1864.

The Empire managed to gain the diplomatic recognition of several European powers, including Russia, Austria, and Prussia. The United States, however, continued to recognize Juárez as the legal president of Mexico and saw the French invasion as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine, but was unable to intervene due to their ongoing civil war. Maximilian never completely defeated the Mexican Republic; Republican forces led by Juárez continued to be active during Maximilian's rule. With the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the United States began providing more explicit aid to Juárez's forces. Matters worsened for Maximilian after French armies withdrew from Mexico in 1866 in part due to needing to deal with matters closer to home. The Empire collapsed without French aid, and Maximilian was captured and executed by the restored Republican government in 1867. (This placeholder text has been temporarily reproduced from Wikipedia and will be replaced with our own text soon.) 

Coat of Arms of the Second Mexican Empire under Maximilian of Habsburg. Unknown artist. 19th century. Oil on canvas. 154 x 41 cm. Credit: Museo de Historia Mexicana.

Reception of Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota into Mexico City. The Imperial couple passes through a procession of triumphal arches erected in their honor, while the crowds salute their new Emperor. Credit: Mediateca INAH.

The 150th anniversary of Maximilian’s death was recently commemorated in Mexico City. An invitation with the arms of the Second Mexican Empire (above) was published in Mexican newspapers. The mass was presided by the current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.


10 April 1864 – 19 June 1867


The planned coronation at the Catedral Metropolitana of Mexico City never took place due to constant political instability.


Objects in our Collection

Monogrammed plate, 1860s  

Silverplated dish made for Emperor Maximilian of Mexico by Christofle of Paris. Engraved with the Emperor's monogram. 

Trumeau Mirror, 1860s  

Trumeau mirror with a painting depicting the departure of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico from Miramare Castle, 1860s.