second mexican empire

He spoke only in Spanish and gave his executioners a portion of gold not to shoot him in the head so that his mother could see his face. His last words were, “I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me. May my blood which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. Viva Mexico, viva la independencia!" Generals Miramón and Mejía were shot after him. Both died shouting, "Long live the Emperor.”

19 June 1867: The Emperor, along with two loyal generals, are executed by firing squad in Querétaro. His last words were:

“I forgive everyone, and I ask everyone to forgive me. May my blood which is about to be shed, be for the good of the country. ¡Viva México, viva la independencia!” 

The two generals - Miguel Miramón and Tomás Mejía - died shouting “¡Viva el emperador!

The Emperor’s execution caused much dismay to the many supporters of liberalism at the time. Victor Hugo and Giuseppe Garibaldi, well-known supporters of liberalism sent communications to Benito Juárez in order to plead for the Emperor’s life. Sadly, Juárez ignored these on the grounds that Mexicans perished during the civil war between the Imperial supporters and the Republicans.


The French Occupation of Mexico Part III — The Fall of Mexico

The Mexican victory against the French at Puebla was stunning, no one expected the outnumbered and outgunned Mexican Army and militia to defeat the professional French Army.  However the victory over France was very short lived.  After the Battle of Puebla, tens of thousands of French troops began to land in French controlled ports, reinforcing the French Army.  By 1863, the French were ready for another assault on Mexico City.

Once again the French were halted outside of the heavily fortified city of Puebla.  However this time the French, under a new commander named Gen. Elie Frederic Forey, took another approach rather than simply conducting a massive frontal assault.  The French surrounded Puebla, laying siege to the fortified city.  Cut off from supplies and reinforcements, the Mexicans slowly starved in their fortresses and trenches.  The French also brought along several siege guns with the intent of shelling the Mexicans into submission.

During the Siege of Puebla, a unit of 62 soldiers from the newly formed French Foreign Legion were tasked with guarding an inbound wagon train full of supplies for the siege.  On April 30th, 1863 the convoy was ambushed by 800 cavalry and 2,200 Mexican infantry.  In the battle that ensued the French were forced to take defensive positions at the Hacienda Camaron.  Surrounded, the French Legionnaires literally fought to the last bullet.  When out of bullets they fixed bayonets and fought hand to hand.  In the ensuing Battle of Camaron the Foreign Legion inflicted heavy casualties but were completely wiped out.  Of the 67 men, 43 were killed and the rest were wounded and captured.  In the meantime the wagon convoy made its way safely to Puebla.  Today the Battle of Camaron is celebrated as one of the defining moments of the French Foreign Legion.

After a two month siege the Mexican garrison at Puebla was forced to surrender.  This left the road to Mexico City open to the French.  Two weeks later President Juarez and his government fled the city, retreating to the distant town of Chihuahua, where the exiled government would remain for the rest of the war.  On the 7th of June, 1863 the French marched into Mexico City unopposed.  From there the army spread out, one by one capturing other important cities such as Guadalajara, Acapulco, Jalisco, Matzatlan, and Durango.  By 1864, the French controlled almost all of the country except the northern border regions along the Rio Grande and the southern most parts of the country.

With Mexico solidly in Napoleon III’s hands, Napoleon declared the country to be reformed into the Second Mexican Empire.  Napoleon himself did not become the new Emperor of Mexico, he was busy enough as Emperor of the Second French Empire.  Rather, he pressured a Austrian noble named Maximilian to become Emperor of Mexico.  Maximilian was brother to Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, and a descendant of the ancient House of Habsburg-Lorraine.  While technically Maximilian was the official head of state for Mexico, in reality Maximilian was a puppet ruler, and the French were unquestionably in charge.  The resulting Second Mexican Empire was thus a hodgepodge collection of French military men, Austrian nobles, and Mexican conservatives.  The new flag for the Second Mexican Empire reflected this, keeping the original green, white, and red color scheme as well as the Mexican serpent and eagle.  However the eagle was framed with the Habsburg seal.

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The Battle of Puebla (Spanish: Batalla de Puebla) (French: Bataille de Puebla) took place on 5 May 1862, near the city of Puebla during the French intervention in Mexico. The battle ended in a victory for the Mexican Army over the occupying French soldiers. The French eventually overran the Mexicans in subsequent battles, but the Mexican victory at Puebla against a much better equipped and larger French army provided a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and also helped slow the French army’s advance towards Mexico City. Approximately 12,000 soldiers participated in the battle, of whom 8,000 were French and 4,000 were Mexican. 462 French soldiers died in combat. Only 83 Mexican soldiers died in the battle.

The Mexican victory is celebrated yearly on the fifth of May. Its celebration is regional in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is celebrated as El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla).

There is some limited recognition of the holiday in other parts of the country. In the United States this holiday has evolved into the very popular Cinco de Mayo holiday, a celebration of Mexican heritage.

The 1858–60 Mexican civil war known as The Reform War had caused major distress throughout Mexico’s economy. When taking office as the elected president in 1861, Benito Juárez was forced to suspend payments of interest on foreign debts for a period of two years. At the end of October 1861 diplomats from Spain, France, and Britain met in London to form the Tripartite Alliance, with the main purpose of launching an allied invasion of Mexico, taking control of Veracruz, its major port, and forcing the Mexican government to negotiate terms for repaying its debts and for reparations for alleged harm to foreign citizens in Mexico. In December 1861, Spanish troops landed in Veracruz; British and French followed in early January. The allied forces occupied Veracruz and advanced to Orizaba. However, the Tripartite Alliance fell apart by early April 1862, when it became clear the French wanted to impose harsh demands on the Juarez government and provoke a war. The British and Spanish withdrew, leaving the French to march alone on Mexico City. Napoleon III wanted to set up a puppet Mexican regime.

The French expeditionary force at the time was led by General Charles de Lorencez. The battle came about by a misunderstanding of the French forces’ agreement to withdraw to the coast. When the Mexican Republic forces saw these French soldiers on the march, they took it that hostilities had recommenced and felt threatened. To add to the mounting concerns, it was discovered that political negotiations for the withdrawal had broken down. A vehement complaint was lodged by the Mexicans to General Lorencez who took the effrontery as a plan to assail his forces. Lorencez decided to hold up his withdrawal to the coast by occupying Orizaba instead, which prevented the Mexicans from being able to defend the passes between Orizaba and the landing port of Veracruz. The 33-year-old Mexican Commander General, Ignacio Zaragoza, fell back to Acultzingo Pass where he and his army were badly beaten in a skirmish with Lorencez’s forces on 28 April. Zaragoza retreated to Puebla which was heavily fortified – it had been held by the Mexican government since the Reform War. To its north stood the forts Loreto and Guadalupe on opposite hilltops. Zaragoza had a trench dug to join the forts via the saddle.

Lorencez was led to believe that the people of Puebla were friendly to the French, and that the Mexican Republican garrison which kept the people in line would be overrun by the population once he made a show of force. This would prove to be a serious miscalculation on Lorencez’s part. On 5 May 1862, against all advice, Lorencez decided to attack Puebla from the north. However, he started his attack a little too late in the day, using his artillery just before noon and by noon advancing his infantry. By the third attack the French required the full engagement of all their reserves. The French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the third infantry attack went unsupported. The Mexican forces and the Republican garrison both put up a stout defense and even took to the field to defend the positions between the hilltop forts.

As the French retreated from their final assault, Zaragoza had his cavalry attack them from the right and left while troops concealed along the road pivoted out to flank them. By 3 p.m. the daily rains had started, making a slippery slope of the battlefield. Lorencez withdrew to distant positions, counting 462 of his men killed against only 83 of the Mexicans. He waited a couple of days for Zaragoza to attack again, but Zaragoza held his ground. Lorencez then completely withdrew to Orizaba.

The Battle of Puebla was an inspirational event for wartime Mexico, and it provided a stunning revelation to the rest of the world which had largely expected a rapid victory for French arms.

Slowed by their loss at Puebla, the French forces retreated and regrouped, and the invasion continued after Napoleon III determinedly sent additional troops to Mexico. The French were eventually victorious, winning the Second Battle of Puebla on 17 May 1863 and pushing on to Mexico City. When the capital fell, Juárez’s government was forced into exile in the remote north.

With the backing of France, the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian became Emperor of Mexico in the short-lived Second Mexican Empire.

Benito Juárez • March 21, 1806 – July 18, 1872

Benito Juárez was born on March  21, 1806, in the Zapotec village of San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca. As president of Mexico, Juárez led the country through one of its most difficult periods. He’s remembered as the “Hero of the Americas.”

Juárez’s legacy is that of a nationalist and progressive reformer who resisted French occupation, overthrew the Second Mexican Empire, expropriated church lands, and subordinated the army to civilian control. His birthday, March 21, is a national holiday in Mexico.

Famous quote: “Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.” Meaning: “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”

A New Government

On 17 July 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez suspended interest payments to foreign countries, which infuriated Mexico’s major creditors: France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. In response, French Emperor Napoleon III organised the three countries into an invasion of Mexico, which they carried out in December 1861. A few months later, however, Spain and the UK realised that France planned to conquer Mexico, rather than simply force the country to pay its debts. In response, the two countries withdrew from the effort in April 1862, leaving France to fight on its own against Mexico. Shortly thereafter, on 5 May, France lost a significant battle near Puebla, an event that is still commemorated every year on 5 May (Cinco de Mayo). However, the next two years would see a nearly unbroken string of French victories.

One hundred fifty years ago, French troops entered Mexico City and soon captured it, allowing them to set up the Second Mexican Empire (the First Mexican Empire had been in power for the first two years of Mexico’s independence back in the 1820s). They chose an Austrian, Ferdinand Maximilian (who, as far as I can decipher from the insanely complicated Hapsburg family tree, was a cousin of the infamous Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination helped start World War I) as emperor, knowing that he could be controlled as necessary by Napoleon III.

Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, didn’t actually arrive in Mexico until the following spring. He was a semi-liberal figure who supported progressive (at least for the time) reforms, especially those concerning workers’ rights. On 3 October 1865, shortly after the other Mexican government (the one led by Benito Juárez that had been in place before the French, Spanish, and British arrived) and its supporters first started turning the tide of the war, Maximilian issued the Black Decree, which declared that any Mexican captured in the war would be immediately executed. Eighteen days later, this punishment was carried out on several high-ranking officials on Juárez’s side.

In 1865, everything started to go wrong for the Second Mexican Empire. When the United States Civil War ended in June, U.S. President Andrew Johnson sent 50,000 troops south to fight on the side of Juárez. The next year, Napoleon III, not wanting to tarnish relations with the United States, withdrew French forces from Mexico. With this new development, Juárez’s forces had no trouble sweeping through their opposition. On 15 May 1867, sensing that he could not win the war, Maximilian unsuccessfully attempted to escape. In a cruel twist of irony, his own Black Decree sentenced him to death. He was executed on 19 June, two days before the end of the war.


Flag of the Mexican Empire of Iturbide, the template for the modern Mexican flag with the eagle perched on a cactus. The crown on the eagle’s head symbolizes monarchy in Mexico.

The Mexican Empire(Spanish: Imperio Mexicano) was a short-lived monarchy and the first independent post-colonial state in Mexico. It was the only former colony of the Spanish Empire to establish a monarchy after independence and for a short time, together with the Empire of Brazil, it was one of two empires in the Americas. The First Mexican Empire was short-lived, lasting less than two years, and was ruled by only one emperor, Agustín I of Mexico, who reigned for less than eight months.

It existed from the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba and the declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire in September 1821 until the emperor’s abdication in March 1823 when the Provisional Government took the power and the First Mexican Republic was proclaimed in 1824. The first and only monarch of the state was Agustín de Iturbide, reigning as Agustín I of Mexico. The Second Mexican Empire was briefly established by the French in 1864.