Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Letter by Empress Carlota

In The Life of Maximilian I, Late Emperor of Mexico (1868), Frederic Hall includes a moving portrayal of the tragic Empress Carlota, born Princess Charlotte of Belgium. She seems to have inherited the intelligence of her father, King Leopold I of the Belgians, the "Nestor of Europe," combined with the charity and devotion to duty of her mother, Louise-Marie, the "Holy Queen." Hall includes a touching letter addressed by Carlota to the prefect of Puebla, during her visit to the city on her birthday, June 7, 1864.

Señor Prefect:

It is very pleasing to me to find myself in Puebla, the first anniversary of my birthday which I have passed far from my old country. Such a day is for everybody one of reflection; and these days would be sad for me, if the care, attentions, and proofs of affection, of which I have been the object in this city, did not cause me to recollect that I am in my new country, among my people. Surrounded by friends, and accompanied by my dear husband, I have no time to be sad; and I give thanks to God because he has conducted me here, presenting unto him fervent prayers for the happiness of the country which is mine. United to Mexico long ago by sympathy, I am today united to it by stronger bonds, and at the same time sweeter- those of gratitude. I wish, Señor Prefect, that the poor of this city may participate in the pleasure which I have experienced among you.

I send you seven thousand dollars of my own private funds, which is to be dedicated to the rebuilding of the House of Charity, the ruinous state of which made me feel so sad yesterday: so that the unfortunate ones may return to inhabit it who found themselves deprived of shelter.

Señor Prefect, assure my compatriots of Puebla that they possess, and will always possess, my affections.



MadMonarchist said...

Great post! The suffering endured by Carlota could not have fallen on a less deserving person. She had so much hope for the future in Mexico, so much drive to turn things around and make it *the* success story of the Americas. Before parties she would study for hours so that she would know something about the interests of everyone she would meet. She gave generously to the poor, funded the building of hospitals, orphanages, poor houses and even sewed herself nightshirts for people in the hospital. She could also rough-it in ways that even the native ladies would never think of. She was a very capable regent when Max was absent and when he once worried about the republicans attacking while he was gone she wrote back (as only she could) that as long as she had a few hundred zouaves at her disposal she could deal with anything! She was awesome. She was always very sad that her and Max could have no children and the famous Mexican song written (by republicans) poked her in this sensitive spot as it was titled 'Adios Mama Carlota'. In a just world her avenue would not have been renamed and there would be a monument to her in every Mexican city.

May said...

I agree. This was truly one of the great missed opportunities in history. She was a very special person and, I think, still all too often under-appreciated. I once read an article that used her as a negative example of an empress- to be contrasted with Zita, which I thought was very unfair. The article said Carlota was "mad with ambition," etc., I think rather she was proud (in a good way) and full of high ideals and aspirations- ambition, so to speak, to do good, on a grand scale.

Lucy said...

What a generous, kind and thoughtful soul. She's also absolutely gorgeous. Thanks Matterhorn:)

MadMonarchist said...

I agree exactly. She was ambitious but she was ambitious to show what good her high ideals could accomplish. That's why both of them were so unhappy in Italy; because they were not allowed to rule as they saw fit. I certainly don't think she was power-hungry. Nothing in all her writings and those of the people who knew her would suggest that. She wanted to make a difference -simple as that.

Elisa said...

It's terrible how the royal couple were victims of the politics of the time.

Anonymous said...

I love these perspectives about Charlotte and Maximilian - two intelligent, grounded and well-meaning idealists who sought positive change, but betrayed by base, self-serving opportunists. I am currently writing about Charlotte so of course find these opinions very interesting and in tune with a lot of my own.
I know this is an old thread, but still, it holds up after a few years! -Elle-

Lord farquaad said...

I don’t understand, that despite the fact Carlota was queen Victoria’s cousin, Victoria never did anything to help her. It makes me wonder what there relationship was like, or if they even had a relationship. And if they did, then why didn’t Victoria help her? Just who the hell had the authority to put a queen in a mental asylum anyway? The whole ‘breakdown’ thing was likely exaggerated, used as an excuse to screw her over. I’m just curious as to who those people where at the time that did this.