Carlota of Mexico (also spelled Carlotta; sometimes rendered as Charlotte) (June 7, 1840 - January 19, 1927) was the wife of Maximilian of Mexico. Upon her husband's acceptance of the imperial throne in 1864, she became Empress of Mexico in a regime largely dependent on French troops under the orders of Napoleon III.
The only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians (1790-1865) by his second wife, Louise d'Orleans, Princess of France (1812-1850), Carlota of Mexico was born in Laeken, Belgium, as Her Royal Highness, Princess Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine. (Interestingly, "Charlotte" was named after her father's first wife, Princess Charlotte of Wales, only child of George IV of the United Kingdom and heiress to the British throne; she died a few hours after giving birth to a stillborn son.) The family was generally known as the "House of Saxe-Coburg", after the German duchy that was the homeland of Carlota's father, Belgium's first king, or as "the Wettins". She was a first-cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband Prince Albert.
Princess Charlotte of Belgium married Archduke Maximilian von Hapsburg, the idealistic younger brother of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, on July 27, 1857, at Brussels.
After Maximilian accepted the Mexican crown at the invitation of Napoleon III of France, the couple chose as their seat in Mexico City Chapultepec Palace, a neo-Gothic fantasy on a hilltop on the edge of the city. One of the important diplomatic missions during the empire was carried out by Carlota when she took a tour of Yucatán (including the ruins of Uxmal).
When Napoleon III withdrew his troops from Mexico and abandoned Maximilian to resist revolutionary forces by himself, Carlotta travelled to Europe, seeking assistance for her husband in Paris and Vienna and finally in Rome from the Pope. Her efforts failed, and she suffered a profound emotional collapse and never went back to Mexico. After the Mexicans executed her husband in 1867, her mental state deteriorated, and Carlota's brother, Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, placed her in the hands of doctors who promptly declared her insane. She spent the rest of her life in seclusion, first at Miramar Castle near Trieste, Italy, and then at the Château de Bouchout in Meise, Belgium. She died in Meise on January 19, 1927. Some say she believed herself still to be the Empress in Mexico City until her death.
Carlota had no children with Maximilian, but in 1865 the imperial couple adopted Agustín de Iturbide y Green and Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzan, grandsons of Agustín de Iturbide y Arámburu), an earlier "Emperor of Mexico" who reigned from 1822 until 1823. They gave two-year-old Agustín the title of "His Highness, the Prince of Iturbide" – similar imperial titles were accorded various members of the child's extended family – and intended to groom him as heir to the throne. The explosive events of 1867, however, dashed such hopes, and after he grew to adulthood, Agustín de Iturbide y Green renounced all rights to the defunct Mexican throne, served in the Mexican army, and eventually established himself as a university professor in Washington, D.C.
Some have made the claim that Carlota had an illegitimate child by Alfred, Baron Van der Smissens, a Belgian colonel, giving birth at Brussels January 21, 1867. (This birthdate would indicate that the empress was pregnant when she sailed to Europe in support of her embattled husband.) According to some sources this child grew up to be General (Louis) Maxime Weygand (1867-1965). Weygand refused to either confirm or deny the persistent rumor, and his parentage remains uncertain. Some sources identify his mother as an unknown Pole and his father as either Leopold II of Belgium (Carlota's brother) or Maximilian. However, André Castelot, a Belgian historian believed beyond doubt that Van der Smissens was indeed the father of General Weygand, but could not offer any proof.