10 – EPILOGUE
And so, Maximilian was shot. His body was clumsily embalmed (we can leave the unsavoury details out), and exhibited to Joe Public. Only after repeated requests from Vienna did Juárez let his prey go. He was returned home on the same ship that brought him to Mexico, the SMS Novara, received with great pomp in the harbour of Trieste, and brought to Vienna, where his remains now rest in the Imperial crypt.
Almonte died shortly after his Emperor, on May 13, 1869, as an exile in Paris.
Juárez didn’t enjoy his victory very long. He died of a heart attack on 22 July, 1872, beleaguered by his own generals who became unhappy with his government.
During the First Vatican Council, Pope Pius IX had himself declared infallible. It did nothing to stop the “risorgimento”: in 1870 the city of Rome was incorporated into the new Italian state. From that moment until his death eight years later the Pope refused to leave his Vatican. Every attempt of the Italian government to come to an understanding was met with his favourite answer: “non possumus”.
Bazaine was given the command of the Army of the Rhine during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. His view was more realistic than that of his monarch: “We are marching towards disaster”. After the war was lost, he was put forward as the scapegoat of the debacle. His death sentence was commuted to 20 years imprisonment. He escaped, and ended his life in poverty and solitude in Spain, where he was found dead in his lodgings on 20 September, 1888.
Napoleon also died in a strange bed. After losing the war with Prussia, he lost his crown, and went into exile in England. The Emperor died on 9 January 1873 under the hands of his surgeons during an attempt to break up a kidney stone.
His Empress Eugénie outlived him 47 long years of exile and mourning. Not only for her spouse, but also for their only son, the ‘Prince Impérial’, who was killed in a war with the Zulus. She died in 1920, and was entombed in the Imperial crypt of St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, which she had founded as a mausoleum for her husband and her son.
Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph I died just in time to be spared the sight of the downfall of his empire: he passed away on the 21st of November 1916, in the midst of the Great War, after a reign of 68 years.
When he came of age, the Prince of Iturbide, Maximilian’s heir apparent, renounced his claim to the throne and pursued a career in the Mexican army. Later he went to his mother’s home country, the U.S., where he worked as a professor of Spanish and French at Georgetown University. He died in 1925.
Poor mad Charlotte survived them all. She was brought back to Belgium, where she lived in the castle of Tervueren for 10 years, until it burned to the ground. “How beautiful it is” she exclaimed watching the flames. Her brother bought for her Bouchout Castle, where she lived the rest of her life. It was said that she used to cuddle a little doll she called “Max”.
She died on January 19, 1927, at the age of 86, and finally found peace in the Royal crypt at Laeken.
And with her disappeared the last actor in this tragedy of greed, ambition and folly.
©2010, M.S.F. Wick