Monday, October 24, 2011

Carlota and Zita

This is a good article as far as the lives of the holy Emperor Karl of Austria and his family are concerned, but I was rather hurt by the disparaging comparison of poor Carlota of Mexico with Empress Zita:
Carlota, born Princess Charlotte of Belgium, was nearly insane with ambition. Save for her insistence, poor Maximilian, a Romantic dreamer who wished nothing so much as to be able to dream forever, almost certainly would not have accepted the crown of Mexico when it was proffered. Carlota never had a child, or at least none by her husband. After Maximilian was shot the world saw little of her. Driven truly mad by the loss of the Mexican throne, she lived all the long decades of her remaining life in seclusion at one of her family’s chateaux in Belgium, still believing she was a reigning empress.
Coronation Hungary 1916

9 comments:

Jorge said...

I think I read this article about two years ago and found it quite interesting (especially when he refers to the Freemasons' involvement in the downfall of the Habsburg monarchy).
About the comparisons, the author makes quite clear that he considers Zita very different from Charlotte and Eugenie. Zita was the happy mother of eight children and gave a lesson to the world through her long years of widowhood. Charlotte lived a short period of her life as the empress of a beautiful country, but her dreams were violently crushed and she spent the rest of her life living almost as a ghost. Eugenie, finally, lost her throne and son, but she seems a woman who was determined to continue living her life despite all the tragedies. Of the three, I prefer Zita.

Matterhorn said...

That's fine, I just think the author doesn't do justice to Carlota's qualities. She was ambitious but my impression is that she was ambitious to do good, on a grand scale. She seemed troubled, but genuinely idealistic and desperate to do her best for Maximilian and Mexico. The author struck me as unnecessarily harsh and almost as though he were blaming her for things which were beyond her control (especially as the lack of heirs was probably Maximilian's responsibility, for instance).

Jorge said...

Oh, I understand. About Carlota, I have an ambivalent attitude about her. On one side she seems like a wonderfully inspired person, wanting to start over, to win a place in history. But on the other side, at what cost? She should have known better about the implicancies of the Mexican adventure. Latin American countries (except for one or two) were never stable countries during their early history (not even now!) and the risks of failure and disaster were great. She was too blind to see the catastrophe behind her dream.

Matterhorn said...

She was still very young at the time, probably not the most prudent. Also, even her father, Leopold I, who was known for his statesmanly wisdom, seemed to be optimistic about the idea at the beginning. Her grandmother, Marie-Amélie, however, seems to have had a much more realistic grasp of the situation. Marie-Amélie had terrible forebodings about the fate Maximilian and Carlota would meet in Mexico and tearfully told them, before they set out, that they would both be destroyed by the venture.

MadMonarchist said...

This is ridiculous. Ambition is not always bad. Her ambition was to show the world what she, and more Max, could do. She wanted to be useful, helpful, to accomplish something, which was not allowed in Austrian Italy where they pretty much just held parties that no one attended and were a rumber stamp for orders to the garrison. Her ambition was to make Mexico a better place, where the people were educated, peace and security prevailed and commerce was restored. I think education would have been her primary focus had things gone differently as she was very critical of the Church for the state she found Mexico in where the vast majority could neither read nor write -she was very indignant about that.

Most of all though, I don't care for the "no children by Maximilian" part. How many times must this be refuted? The evidence is crystal clear, there is simply no way she could have had a child by another man secretly. In all probability she had been made incapable of having children. I'm just really sick of that story.

Matterhorn said...

Thank you, MM, I was hoping you would come and weigh in. The author is free to prefer Zita, or whomever he wishes, but Carlota probably had more qualities in common with Zita than he gives her credit for.

Jorge said...

Carlota's intentions were surely the best, but her optimism blinded her. She was European, born in a civilized, well-organised country as Belgium. She probably knew Mexico was a chaotic country, but couldn't even imagine that "chaotic" was a soft description for what it really was. She was young, naive, well-intentioned and ambitious (who wouldn't have been ambitious?). The USA was also fearful that a prosperous monarchy would be an annoying contrast to its republican system, and helped Maximilian's enemies. In the end, it was an improvised adventure that should have been prepared in a more rigorous, realistic way.

Matterhorn said...

Yes, Leopold I himself gave some rigorous advice to his son-in-law, warning Maximilian not to be romantic or sentimental about the whole thing.

The example of her father founding a successful new dynasty probably contributed to Carlota's optimism, but as you say, Jorge, Belgium was a world apart from Mexico.

Jorge said...

Exactly, Europeans are used to live in an environment where things 'work'. You want to build a house in four months, you do it, and you do it well. That's not how things work in Latin America. Things work slowly, and many times the results are mediocre. I live in one of the few countries were things tend to 'work', but we are can't be compared to Europe or the US (that would be raising the standard too high). Just today I was reading a book about a Chilean economist who worked in the government during the 80s. His parents were German immigrants and they were a very devout Catholic family. When the mother first arrived here she was shocked to see the place her husband had found for the family to live. It was terribly primitive and poor (now they are a very wealthy and prominent family, but only after hard and long years of work). This shows that European people are used to other kind of standards.