Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko archive in the Library of Congress

There was a period in the summer and fall of 1866 when Maximilian was seriously considering abdicating. Actually, "waffling" would be more apt. The Empress Carlota having left Mexico for Europe in July to plead with Louis Napoleon for more money, the Mexican Imperial Treasury drier than a sun-bleached bone, and the Juaristas ever-stronger, Maximilian--- and his French advisors, as well as some of his close friends--- saw no way out but to abdicate. On the other hand, his wife, and many of his most ardent conservative supporters viewed abdication as so dishonorable as to be unthinkable.

That October, Maximilian, still undecided, went so far as to pack up his archive and have it loaded onto the ship for Europe. Only his corpse made it on board, several months later--- but that's another story. Today his papers are in the Haus, Hof, und Staasarchiv in Vienna, Austria. A partial copy of this substantial archive was made in 1929 for the Library of Congress in Washington DC. (Missing, notably, is the files of correspondence with the Iturbide family.) To hear more about this archive and what I learned from it about the Maximilian and the Iturbide family, listen in to this podcast, from my lecture at the Library of Congress back in July of last year.

One of the things that most fascinated me was seeing the handwriting. Of course many letters were simply transcribed by secretaries (there are scads of official reports and bread-and-butter letters), but many are in Maximilian's hand (wildly, nearly illegibly arabesque), as well as Carlota's (school girl perfect), General Bazaine's (rapid, vigorous), and Father Fischer's (cramped, jagged, intense).

P.S. I aim to post a more detailed note about the archive in the Library of Congress on the Maximilian page soon. For anyone who wants to look it up at the Library of Congress, note that it is listed under the German title, "Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko."

Next post next Tuesday.

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