Until 1864 Prussian interest in Mexico was occasional and indifferently cordial. But in that year Ferdinand Maximilian von Habsburg took up the Mexican crown, and Otto von Bismarck, prime minister of Prussia, perceived that Mexican affairs were related to his own plans for German unification. Bismarck was always seeking an opportunity to humiliate the French emperor Napoleon III, under whose auspices Maximilian had come to Mexico.1 More important, the Prussian wanted to make impossible the political and military recovery of Austria after the Italian war of 1859. It was well known that Emperor Francis Joseph, harassed by movements of nationalism and separatism, despaired of ruling his empire and often considered abdication. In that eventuality, the succession of his brother Maximilian was widely assumed.2 Bismarck was not prepared, however, to tolerate Maximilian as readily in Vienna as in Mexico City. He could not risk any kind of leadership in Austria that might revitalize the Habsburg monarchy and stymie his ambitions for Prussia. He came to view Maximilian as a threat to his statesmanship in Europe; consequently, it will be seen that his policy in Mexico was that Maximilian not survive the crash of his empire.

History has not been kind to the memory of the Emperor Maximilian. His record in Mexico was one of almost unrelieved catastrophe, and he is often dismissed as a visionary fool. Before he came to the New World, however, he was known as an able, imaginative, and resolute prince, indeed as the natural superior of his brother, Francis Joseph. From their earliest childhood the emperor and Maximilian regarded themselves as rivals, and the passage of the years only intensified this sibling jealousy. Probably to get him out of Vienna, the emperor appointed Maximilian to a succession of critical positions. As Rear-Admiral in the Austrian navy he accomplished a substantial improvement of the fleet. As governor of Lombardy-Venetia in 1857 he advocated home rule in the provinces, representative institutions, a native army, and the dissolution of the secret police. In one of his dispatches he told his brother emphatically that Lombardy should be ceded to the Italian nationalists so that Austria could direct German affairs more effectively. Francis Joseph rejected this counsel and later accused his brother of intrigue with the Piedmontese diplomat Camillo Cavour.3 Just before his departure for Mexico Maximilian publicly supported a program of greater autonomy for Hungary and, encountering the usual opposition, liquidated his personal investment in Hungarian state bonds as a sign of his lack of confidence in his brother’s leadership. Francis Joseph then required Maximilian to renounce his claim on the Austrian succession.4 It is probable, however, that Maximilian regarded the Mexican enterprise as temporary, rather than as the culmination of his career, and that he intended to experiment with federal government in Mexico to prove its applicability to Habsburg Europe.5

If Maximilian had lived to solve the problem of nationalism in federal or in commonwealth terms, German unification might have been achieved under an Austrian instead of a Prussian aegis. With Lombardy pruned away and with Hungary mollified, the Austrian army could have been more effectively deployed for victory over Prussia’s troops in July 1866 at Sadowa or later. Without these areas, moreover, Austria would have appeared a more purely “German” power and perhaps could have rallied the other German states who disliked Prussian militarism but who hitherto had expected little better of Austrian cosmopolitanism. Finally, there was the possibility that Maximilian as Austrian emperor might have allied with France against Prussia. Such a coalition could have reversed the decision of the battle of Sadowa in Austria’s favor. Francis Joseph, on the other hand, did not favor such a coalition because of his dynastic reservations about the “parvenu” Napoleon III.

Bismarck never allowed these possibilities to be put to the test. He worked against Maximilian through his representative in Mexico City. In January 1866, Bismarck appointed Anton von Magnus the new Prussian minister to Maximilian’s court. The appointment touched off considerable comment in Mexico City because Prussia had hitherto not recognized the new empire. Bismarck had permitted Magnus’ predecessors to serve under credentials made out to President Benito Juárez, and he had not formally revised these even when Maximilian and his retinue arrived at Veracruz in May 1864.6 This policy could neither be forgiven nor mistaken as an oversight, since Bismarck let it be known in all the Prussian embassies that he considered the Mexican empire a blunder of which even “the French feel conscious.”7 Consequently, though Magnus reached the capital directly, he was denied an audience with the emperor for more than two weeks. Maximilian was reported to be at his summer palace and his ministers in an uproar over the dissolution of the cabinet. In the meantime, informed gossips were predicting a deficit by the end of 1866 of ninety million pesos, and a Mexican official confessed to Magnus that a reform plan then pending could not yield better than thirty-two million pesos. In any ease, whatever taxes were collected would as likely end in the pockets of brigands as in the national treasury. The feebleness of the army amazed the Prussian minister; in his dispatches he described it as unable to patrol the roads or hold the few towns which it was lucky enough to capture.8 In individual officers, Magnus noted, there was a certain hard, cruel initiative. In a dispatch to Bismarck he mentioned the counter-guerilla leader, Chevalier Dupin, as particularly ruthless. But Maximilian had recently dismissed Dupin.9

The Prussian minister soon established himself in the German community of the capital. Among the German residents were merchants, importers, and professional men, all of them afraid of imperial financial reform, which could mean a heavier tax burden. Although they demanded preferential treatment under any new program, they had been unable to gain the emperor’s ear. Baron Eduard Lago, the Austrian minister, was the natural spokesman for German interests in Mexico, but he was also accredited by a sovereign who was the emperor’s brother. For family and sentimental reasons Lago kept quiet about the German merchants’ aims. Magnus, in contrast, promised to bring their brief before Maximilian’s court. The merchants in turn suggested to the Prussian government that he be raised to the rank of full ambassador.10

Through these merchants Magnus met Marshal François Bazaine, the French expeditionary commander, and had a particularly informative conversation with him. For a soldier of a power whose relations with Prussia were already straining, Bazaine was extraordinarily indiscreet. His patriotism had almost vanished in personal ambition; his Mexican bride had borne him a child, and he had visions of becoming a dictator and establishing his own dynasty without Maximilian or any other foreign interventionist. Bazaine disclosed that Napoleon III was ready to withdraw the French forces from Mexico, although he himself did not agree with the policy and wanted the evacuation delayed. In the meantime, the marshal said, he intended secretly to “negotiate” the withdrawal of the troops with the United States. Magnus believed that Bazaine would propose to quarantine the French forces under American auspices or that he would surrender them to the United States outright, hoping that the United States would acknowledge him as president of Mexico in gratitude.11

The Prussian minister found this information immediately useful. Maximilian finally granted him an audience on March 2, 1866, but he showed no signs of cordiality. Addressing the emperor in German, Magnus found at once that Maximilian would reply to his questions only in Spanish, a language in which the Prussian minister was not at home. Maximilian complained that Bismarck had long snubbed him. He moved on to other objections to Prussian policy so rapidly that Magnus asked that a secretary keep a record of their remarks. One was accordingly admitted, but his account of the conversation was not released on the grounds that it was incomplete. When the sputtering Prussian was finally able to disclose the story of Bazaine’s intrigue, Maximilian became more cordial and remained so until their leave-taking. The next day the official journal gave no notice of the baron’s reception, ordinarily a breach of diplomatic etiquette and, as his German colleagues believed, a grave insult to the Prussian minister. Magnus assured Bismarck that such was not Maximilian’s intention. What seemed an offensive omission was really an attempt to maintain the strictest secrecy regarding their meeting.12

No doubt Maximilian had earlier suspected the French would abandon him, although until then he had not known exactly how Bazaine would profit from his duplicity. As it turned out, Maximilian used this information and other intelligence to demand from Napoleon III the dismissal of the marshal. In the meantime he conceived an everdeepening but unwarranted gratitude to the Prussian minister, persisting in the fatuous belief that Napoleon III could be talked out of his treachery. Whatever final decision was rendered in Paris would make no difference because, as Magnus observed, Maximilian would rely on Prussia to support his government.13 On March 7 Magnus reported that Maximilian had named some liberals to his cabinet at the expense of clerical-conservative politicians.14 Although the conservative faction had originally invited the Habsburg prince to Mexico, Maximilian may have hoped to please Bismarck by breaking with his earlier supporters. Magnus did not interpret the nominations in this light in his dispatches, perhaps feeling that Bismarck’s dislike of political Catholics was too well known to make such comment necessary.

During the ensuing months the friendship of Maximilian and the Prussian minister ripened, distressing other diplomats in the Mexican capital. Dr. Ernst Schmit, attaché to the Austrian minister, noted that Magnus and the emperor’s confessor, Father Augustin Fischer, together exerted the strongest influence at the Mexican court.15 Maximilian dispatched an emissary, General Juan Nepomuceno Almonte, to Berlin, and though he lacked official credentials his purposes worried the French and their clients. The Danish king, whom Magnus believed to be working at the behest of the French government, awarded Maximilian the Order of the Elephant.16 Bismarck, now genuinely interested in the Mexican venture and not to be outdone, sent him the Order of the Black Eagle. The emperor was said to have been “impressed and affected,” stories of his reaction appearing even in the European press.17 Some German reporters declared that Magnus was soon to be raised to ambassador, though Bismarck himself, despite his representative’s none too discreet hints, was not so sure. Magnus told his government he was prepared to accept this promotion even without a salary increase.18

In the middle of July 1866 the emperor’s consort, Carlotta, suddenly left for France from Veracruz on a mission to dissuade Napoleon III from withdrawing the French army from Mexico. The French minister in Mexico, like the whole diplomatic corps, was surprised by the empress’ departure. Maximilian, Magnus wrote, suspected that French perfidy would defeat even Carlotta’s persuasiveness and, for that matter, thought that his Austrian kinsmen were not to be trusted either. Both France and Austria put ships of their flag at Carlotta’s service, but she did not board the French ship until its crew ran up the Mexican flag.19 Magnus sought to give Carlotta a letter of recommendation to the Prussian ambassador in Paris. At the same time he tried to warn Bismarck of Carlotta’s sailing. Nevertheless, he completely failed to make any contact with the empress, and his dispatches to Berlin were held up by the French. They reached Bismarck only after being given to the Italian minister, Marchese Curtopassi, who agreed to transmit them to Count Usedom, the Prussian minister at Florence.20

Exactly what Magnus had to say will never be known, but upon her arrival at St. Nazaire Carlotta wrote to Maximilian in a memorandum dated September 8, 1866, that “Prussia is the key to the Mexican problem.” Just before landing she had learned that the new French foreign minister, the Marquis de Lavalette, had sounded Bismarck about “an oriental empire” which the two countries might establish for mutual profit under Prince Carl von Hohenzollern. Carlotta was shocked to realize that the Prussians were as cold to her husband’s interests as the French.21 That she had ever believed otherwise seems to have been due largely to Magnus’ blandishments.

While Carlotta wandered through Europe, vainly seeking aid for her husband, the situation for Maximilian worsened in Mexico. When he attempted to collect taxes with military force, his troops encountered resistance everywhere, and their sorties touched off retaliatory action by bandit companies. Magnus believed that it was partly recognition of this fact which moved Maximilian to prepare his departure for Europe.22 Fully as important, however, was the news, arriving in the first week of August, that the Austrian army had been defeated by the Prussians at the Battle of Sadowa. With this defeat the Austrian state system tottered. The imperial constitution had to be revised. Francis Joseph contemplated abdication. Maximilian told Magnus that he stood ready to succeed his brother and with that aim in mind would send an emissary, General José López Uraga, bearing compliments to the Prussian king. Maximilian declared that he had wished openly for a Prussian victory in the war against Austria. “Germany,” he told Magnus, “will be nothing until she is named Prussia.” He criticized Francis Joseph for permitting nepotism and snobbery to sap the morale of his troops. Austria’s trouble, he said, was that “princes and counts become generals merely because they are princes and counts.”23 Magnus thought it significant that the Mexican court did not celebrate the birthday of the Austrian emperor (August 18), or formally receive his brother’s minister, Baron Lago, in Chapultepec Castle on that day.24

More and more frequently the emperor received Prussians, both civilian and military, at court and promoted Prussians to permanent rank in the Mexican army, to the chagrin of the Austrians and the alarm of the French.25 These promotions were of distinct advantage to Prussia because the officers were military observers whom the French had allowed to be accredited to Bazaine’s army.26 As the French probably suspected, the chief of the Prussian General Staff, Helmuth von Moltke, used his own men to infiltrate the armies of potential opponents. The official explanation of the presence of these observers in Mexico and many more serving with the Foreign Legion was that they had fallen foul of a superior officer, had fought a duel with him, and for their effrontery had been sentenced to expiatory service overseas.27 In time these officers would be rehabilitated and called home. There they reported the weaknesses of the enemy, their observations being incorporated into pamphlets such as the notorious “Art of Fighting the French” by Prince Karl Friedrich of Prussia. Although Bazaine was willing to wink at this scandal, his subordinate officers were outraged and, according to one of them, totally demoralized on this account.28 That the situation persisted so long was the fault of Maximilian. Once the Prussian observers were enrolled in his understaffed army, they were more difficult to remove than would have been officers of a power with no legitimate interests to defend in Mexico. Maximilian had saved the game for Moltke.

Yet Moltke’s chief, Bismarck, did not feel in any way obligated to the Mexican emperor. He would neither help ease Maximilian’s predicament in Mexico nor further his prospects in Austria.29 In the autumn of 1866 the emperor’s personal physician, Dr. Lembeder, told him that he could not survive another year in the high altitude of Mexico City. The commander of the Austrian hussars insisted that, in any case, the capital was indefensible against Juárez and the republicans. The emperor’s Austrian privy councillor, Stefan Herzfeld, sounded the same alarms. He finally wrung from Maximilian permission to rent a ship in New Orleans to take the imperial party out of the country. Baron Magnus, having heard of the emperor’s plans, called at the palace to denounce the doctor, the officer, and the privy councillor as “politically inexperienced.” He warned Maximilian that his departure would be mistaken for cowardice and would damage his claim to the Austrian succession, though the other three men argued that it was imperative that Maximilian make an appearance in Europe.30 Even if the capital were taken, Magnus pointed out, the enemy would not dare harm a prince related to almost all the crowned houses of Europe and befriended by Prussia. Maximilian evidently believed him, because he cancelled the order for the American ship and dismissed Dr. Lembeder, alleging “disrespect to his person.”31 Thereupon many foreign officers left the expeditionary force and bought passage to Europe. Magnus facilitated their departure and encouraged still other officers to follow their example.32 Apparently Maximilian never suspected Magnus’ double game.

As the imperial army disintegrated the republicans consolidated their hold on the eastern coast and made communications between the capital and Veracruz almost impossible. Even if Magnus had not been there to give him bad advice, it was no longer certain that the emperor could break through to the sea. Bazaine offered a large escort force to cut a passage to the coast, but Maximilian declined for fear of being kidnapped by the French commander and ransomed to one of the republican generals. During December 1866, an American squadron arrived unexpectedly at Veracruz. Its commander, General William T. Sherman, offered the Mexican government six thousand men to patrol the country after the French had left and until Maximilian had time to prepare a dignified withdrawal. There was some reason to fear the treachery of Marshal Bazaine but none to doubt that the Americans could have given the emperor his freedom. Nevertheless, Magnus persuaded Maximilian to reject the American offer by warning the emperor that the American government would require the cession of some northern provinces as their price for aid. The American consul, Marcus Otterburg, denied that there were any conditions attached to the American offer. The emperor, however, refused to believe him.33 Maximilian’s failure to seek the protection of the United States sealed his fate.

By February 1867 the capital was imperiled, most of the country having fallen to the republicans. Maximilian decided to move his forces north into the interior. He selected Querétaro for his headquarters. The town was an excellent choice for sallies into the hill country, though it put him farther away from Veracruz and possible escape. In light of the emperor’s subsequent defeat and execution, the choice of Querétaro seems suspect. It has usually been attributed to Teodosio Lares, the clerical-conservative president of the last imperial ministry,34 but at least one observer, the Austrian Ernst Schmit, stated that Magnus chose the place.35 The Prussian minister admitted to Bismarck that, in case of a reverse, retreat from the town might be impossible, but he also hailed Maximilian as a new Cortés, who had burned his ships behind him. Magnus advised Maximilian to leave the foreign auxiliaries behind in Mexico City, where he himself remained, so that the emperor might demonstrate his confidence in the native soldiery and emerge as a truly national leader.36

The population of Querétaro was enthusiastically imperialist, so the emperor found it easy to recruit towmsmen into his ranks. He could not find them enough food, however, and the soldiers soon complained about the burro meat which they were being fed. Desertion took its toll, some French infantrymen giving a craven example to the Mexican amateurs. One French officer surrendered to the besieging republican general, Mariano Escobedo, with more than a hundred of his men. The imperialists attempted several sorties but were always pushed back over the walls. Escobedo’s cavalry hacked the stragglers to death. Maximilian’s troops were easy prey because they had no boots and wore flimsy sandals. By May, an epidemic of typhus was raging through the town, impossible to control because few medical supplies were at hand. His officers blamed Maximilian; one of them, Miguel López, commander of the Empress’ Regiment, allowed some of the enemy into the town. The emperor was taken prisoner by Escobedo’s forces. Escobedo admitted that Maximilian had given him a good fight and was more embarrassed than glad to have the defeated sovereign on his hands.37 Neither Juárez nor his marshals wanted blood at that time.

At first the emperor was confined in the subterranean morgue of a Capuchin monastery. Feeling sorry for him, Escobedo ordered his removal upstairs to a monk’s cell. The new apartment had several windows, was carelessly guarded, and was unlighted at night. Escape would perhaps have been not too difficult. Maximilian was lodged with two Mexican supporters, Generals Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía, and a Prussian member of his staff, Prince Felix Salm-Salm. Salm believed their situation offered an excellent opportunity for flight; Maximilian seemed ready to risk it. Shortly before the appointed time, however, the emperor received a letter from Magnus telling him to beware a traitor among his closest confidants. The Prussian minister said he had discovered that this person was in the pay of Juárez and had been instructed to encourage an attempt at escape in which Maximilian would be shot in the attempt, so as to spare Juárez an embarrassing and unprecedented public trial. The republican leader would then deplore the accident and assert that he had intended to pardon the emperor, said the Prussian minister. Maximilian had no means of determining the validity of Magnus’ disclosure. But he had already been once betrayed in Querétaro, and he succumbed to the pleas of Miramón’s wife, who insisted that her husband, weakened by typhus, could not survive the escape. The plans were then dropped.38

The charges brought against Maximilian owed less to the convictions of Juárez than to the prejudices of the younger and more hot-blooded republican officers. He was to be tried for inciting rebellion against the constitutional regime and for condemning all captured republicans to immediate execution without trial. The emperor insisted that he was not responsible for the latter decree, which had been promulgated over the signature of one of his generals. He denied that he was any more a rebel than Juárez himself, because several of the powers had recognized the monarchy as the true government of Mexico. The military judges were not interested in the defense; all of them lacked any legal qualifications, and some were illiterate. From his prison Maximilian charged Magnus to hire two of the best lawyers in the capital to petition Juárez for a trial by a national congress and, though he regarded his fate as predetermined, he requested the Prussian to lead the diplomatic corps in a direct representation to Juárez at San Luis Potosí.39 Though Magnus could hardly refuse, he later prevented any real pressure from being put upon the republican leader.

At that time the capital was closely pressed by vanguard units of the army of General Porfirio Díaz. His subordinate at the barricade, General Tabera, arranged with Magnus that three carriages might pass through to the north with the idea that they would hold those diplomats who wanted to go to San Luis Potosí, the representatives of Prussia, Belgium, Italy, and Austria. The last, Baron Lago, was infuriated by Tabera’s orders but soon reconciled himself to making the trip with a reduced retinue. At the appointed time, however, Baron Magnus arrived with three coaches, carrying himself, his staff, and his trunks. Under the terms of Tabera’s permit, the Prussian party alone could clear the barrier. Hooricks of Belgium unceremoniously jumped aboard, but the enraged Lago was left behind and arrived at Querétaro too late to help Maximilian. Subsequently Lago questioned General Díaz about this affair, and Díaz denied having put any limit on travelers to San Luis Potosí. The Austrians naturally suspected foul play between Magnus and Tabera.40

Magnus traveled to San Luis Potosí by way of Querétaro. There he spoke with the imprisoned emperor, who commended his efforts but wondered why the other diplomats had not supported him. Maximilian gave the Prussian a Mexican decoration. The guard around the prison had been greatly enlarged, and a soldier was now posted day and night in his room. After the court-martial the prisoner regarded his impending execution with equanimity. He did not seem to concern himself with the postponement which Magnus promised to win from Juárez.41

The Prussian reported one last attempt at escape, this time at the urging of Prince Salm’s remarkable wife. The princess was a former circus bareback rider and a distant relative of President Andrew Johnson. Before Magnus resumed his journey, she asked him to countersign two checks drawn by Maximilian on a European bank and intended for use in bribing his guards. Magnus actually signed them but then tore away his signature, stating that he dared not compromise his government. Without the endorsement of a great power Princess Salm’s checks were rejected by the emperor’s jailers.42

On June 12, 1867 Magnus finally arrived in San Luis Potosí. He was alone when he confronted Juárez, because Lago and the other ministers did not get beyond Querétaro. Juárez was not to be swayed. He agreed to postpone but would not prevent the emperor’s execution. While the possibility of last-minute clemency, admittedly, had never been strong, Magnus did not help matters by coming alone and insisting that he spoke, not in his official capacity, but only as a private individual. Juárez tried to draw him out, asking whether Prussia would undertake to remove Maximilian to Europe and promise to keep him there. Magnus gave his personal assurances but proposed that they await formal authorization from Bismarck.43

That authorization was never forthcoming. It would have been entirely inconsistent with the policy Prussia had hitherto followed. That Magnus had offered even a limited personal guarantee for Maximilian’s life was strange enough and suggests that the minister was momentarily confused by Juárez, that in fact he had learned something which he believed could alter Bismarck’s policy. At their last meeting, the emperor had made no further references to the Austrian succession. He assured Magnus that if he won a pardon, he would return to Europe and immediately enroll in the Prussian army, and he had even drafted a letter to the Prussian crown prince asking him for a commission. Thinking that war with France was imminent, he chafed to fight against Napoleon III, whom he now called his enemy. In recognition of his services, he trusted that Bismarck would help him to a crown in Poland, which was to be restored to her independence. The Prussian prime minister dismissed the suggestion, though Maximilian would have been less dangerous to Prussian policy in Warsaw than in Vienna. This consideration, combined with a few qualms of conscience, moved Magnus to guarantee the emperor’s future good behavior.44

Maximilian went to his death by a firing squad on June 19, 1867. At the end of the summer Bismarck recalled Magnus,45 who left much bitterness and recrimination behind him. Princess Salm denounced his “bunglings” and charged him with the failure of all her stratagems.46 She was of course quite right to point out his responsibility but wrong to mistake it for bungling. In doing so, she showed that she understood neither Bismarck nor his man in Mexico.


Bismarck also wanted to break the Monroe Doctrine, which he dismissed as “a piece of international impertinence.” See Percy F. Martin, Maximilian in Mexico (London, 1914), 416.


The son of Francis Joseph, Crown Prince Rudolf, was only ten years old when Maximilian was shot in 1867.


H. Montgomery Hyde, Mexican Empire, The History of Maximilian and Carlotta of Mexico (London, 1946), 88.


Daniel Dawson, The Mexican Adventure (London, 1935), 354-355 describes Maximilian’s renunciation of the Austrian succession. Maximilian’s rivalry with Francis Joseph and its relation to Italian and Hungarian policy are discussed in Montgomery Hyde, 80-84; 104.


Magnus to Bismarck, April 8, 1866, No. 16 Confidential and December 9, 1866, No. 39, MNT291. The dispatches of Magnus are part of the collection “Archives of the German Embassy” in the National Archives, Washington, D. C. The code T291 designates a part of the collection which also contains miscellaneous papers of other diplomats. All of the documents cited in this article are to be found under the subheading Magnus Nachlass within section T291.


Magnus to Bismarck, February 9, 1866, No. 2.


Martin, Maximilian, 49.


Magnus to Bismarck, February 27, 1866, No. 6.


Magnus to Bismarck, February 9, 1866, No. 4.


Magnus to Bismarck, March 3, 1866, Nov. 9.


Magnus to Bismarck, February 27, 1866, No. 8.


Magnus to Bismarck, March 3, 1866, No. 9.


Magnus to Bismarck, March 3, 1866, No. 10.


Magnus to Bismarck, March 7, 1866, No. 12.


Ernst Schmit von Tavera, Die mexikanische Kaisertragödie (Wien, 1903), 13.


Magnus to Bismarck, April 8, 1866, No. 17.


Magnus to Bismarck, April 28, 1866, No. 18.


Magnus to Bismarck, April 30, 1866, No. 20. Magnus repeatedly requests a promotion throughout this correspondence. Aside from the dictates of Prussian policy, this ambition must have made him even more prone to double-deal with Maximilian.


Magnus to Bismarck, July 28, 1866, No. 22.


Magnus to Bismarck, July 9, 1866, No. 21.


Political Memoire, September 8, 1866, no number. It is possible that Maximilian never saw this memoire, as subsequently he was not clearly told of Carlotta’s mental breakdown. At any rate, he continued to trust in Magnus and Bismarck.


Magnus to Bismarck, August 9 and 28, 1866, Nos. 25, 26. Montgomery-Hyde states that Maximilian suffered from frequent stomach pains and dysentery during the summer of 1866. This condition might have helped determine his decision. See Montgomery Hyde, Mexican Empire, 237.


Magnus to Bismarck, September 9, 1866, No. 28.


Magnus to Bismarck, September 9, 1866, No. 29.


Magnus to Bismarck, September 28, 1866, No. 30.


Magnus to Bismarck, October 9, 1866, No. 31 Confidential.


Sara Yorke Stevenson, Maximilian in Mexico (New York, 1899), 262.


Ralph Roeder, Juárez and his Mexico (New York, 1947), II, 478.


Bismarck to Magnus, November 20, 1866, No. 13. In this dispatch Bismarck tells Magnus that the property of Prussian citizens living in Mexico will be protected against all factions, but that the government of King William will support Maximilian only to the extent of his holdings in Prussian banks. Apparently these were not to be surrendered in the event of a victory by Benito Juárez. The cautious tone of the dispatch is significant in view of the numerous professions of friendship given the prime minister by the Mexican emperor.


Magnus to Bismarck, October 28, 1866, No. 32.


Magnus to Bismarck, November 10, 1866, No. 34.


Felix Salm-Salm, My Dairy in Mexico, with Leaves from the Diary of Princess Salm-Salm (London, 1868), II, 11. Salm says that the foreign officers did not trust Magnus, “as the Baron was rather inclined to act as he pleased and to appropriate the merit to himself which was due to others.”


Magnus to Bismarck, December 9, 1866, No. 39. The Prussian minister in Washington told Magnus that the United States would require a territorial cession.


Montgomery Hyde, Mexican Empire, 252.


Schmit von Tavera, Die mexikanische Kaisertragödie, 13-14.


Magnus to Bismarck, August 19, 1867, no number.


Magnus to Bismarck, August 19, 1867, no number.


Magnus to Bismarck, June 15, 1867, no number, San Luis Potosí.


Magnus to Bismarck, June 9, 1867, no number.


Schmit von Tavera, Die mexikanische Kaisertragödie, 54-62.


Magnus to Bismarck, August 17, 1867, no number, San Luis Potosí.


Egon Corti states that Lago later countersigned one of Princess Salm’s checks when he finally arrived in Querétaro. But then he changed his mind and allowed one of his diplomatic colleagues to cut off his signature with a pair of scissors. At that time Magnus had already left Querétaro on his way north to San Luis Potosí. Perhaps Lago, in removing his signature, was following the precedent of his Prussian associate Magnus. Egon Corti, Maximilian and Charlotte of Mexico (New York, 1928), II, 813. Compare Magnus to Bismarck, August 17, 1867, no number, San Luis Potosí.


Magnus to Bismarck, August 15, 1867, no number.


Magnus to Bismarck, August 17, 1867, no number, San Luis Potosí.


Bismarck to Magnus, July 29, 1867, No. 30. Bismarck mentions fever contracted in San Luis Potosí as the reason for Magnus’ recall; but, curiously, he orders the minister to protract his return journey and to go by way of Washington. See Magnus to Bismarck, August 21, 1867, no number, San Luis Potosí.


Salm, My Diary, II, 10, 58.

Author notes


The author is Assistant Professor of History at Boston University.