By David Michael Newstead.
Maximilian I was Emperor of the Second Mexican Empire, which existed between 1864 and 1867. He was royalty by birth, belonging to the Habsburg family that ruled Austria and most of Europe for 500 years.
What does that have to do with Mexico, you might ask?
Sponsored by the French government, this young Austrian was put on the throne during a particularly complicated and turbulent time in Mexican history. Monarchist and Republican forces fought over the future of the country and, even at his best, Maximilian was always going to be an outsider.
Despite some successes, his regime didn’t last. With American assistance, the Republicans eventually gained the upper hand. The French withdrew their support, but Maximilian refused to abandon his forces. In 1867, he was captured and executed by firing squad at age 34, thus bringing an end to this unusual chapter in history.