Cover image for The Empress of Farewells : the story of Charlotte, Empress of Mexico
The Empress of Farewells : the story of Charlotte, Empress of Mexico
Michel, Prince of Greece, 1939-
Uniform Title:
Impératrice des adieux. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
420 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F1233.M45 M5313 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



As full of drama as any opera, "The Empress of Farewells" tells the story of Charlotte, daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium. Dazzlingly beautiful and gravely intelligent, she fell in love with Archduke Maximilian of Austria, brother of Habsburg emperor Franz Josef. Drawing on previously unpublished documents, Prince Michael answers some of these questions for the very first time. The result is a compelling, historically illuminating portrait of a remarkable woman.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The recent death of Princess Margaret, sister of the British queen, once again reminded us that royal lives often make for sad stories. And here is another sad tale, that of Empress Carlotta of Mexico. Born Princess Charlotte, she was the beautiful daughter of Leopold I, the first king of an independent Belgium. She married Archduke Maximilian, the handsome younger brother of Austrian emperor Francis Joseph. Maximilian was made the emperor of Mexico as a result of an ill-advised and ill-fated incursion onto Mexican soil and into Mexican politics by France's emperor, Napoleon III. As the puppet regime began to falter, Empress Carlotta returned to Europe to garner support for her husband; instead, she plunged into insanity. The author, himself of royal heritage, tells the story with a decidedly popular touch, almost as if he were writing a romance novel. --Brad Hooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

If there were a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction award for royal biographies, this would surely be a contender. The daughter of Leopold I of Belgium and his French wife, Queen Louise, the bright and beautiful Charlotte (1840-1927) could have had her pick of Europe's eligible royal bachelors. Unfortunately, she settled on Archduke Maximilian, who, as the younger brother of Austrian emperor Francis-Joseph, had no hope of inheriting a throne. So he took up Napoleon III's offer to rule Mexico, a decision that proved to be both his and his wife's undoing. Armed with reams of personal documents and previously unpublished papers, as well as a storyteller's gift for detail, Prince Michael (author of 14 books, including Crown Jewels of Europe) highlights not only the political intrigue that threatened mid-19th-century Mexico but the romantic intrigue that threatened the royal marriage and, ultimately, Charlotte's psyche. Max took frequent trips, writing his wife maudlin "I miss you" letters as soon as he was gone. Yet once he returned home, he took refuge in his separate bedroom. Their final separation occurred when Charlotte sailed to Europe to rally support for imperial Mexico facing rebellion. En route to Rome to plead the cause with the Pope, she began a descent into insanity from which she never fully recovered. Meanwhile, her husband was captured and assassinated by rebel forces. Prince Michael has his dramatic pacing down, but his inability to answer key questions Was Charlotte driven mad by poison or by her husband's lousy treatment of her? Was he gay? detracts a bit from an otherwise unforgettable story. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Prince Michael's 15th book (others include Crown Jewels of Europe and Living with Ghosts), this biography of Charlotte (1840-1927), daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium, is a real page-turner; it would be difficult to create a fictitious character with a life as incredible. Raised at the Belgian court, related to most of Europe's monarchs, and married to Archduke Maximilian of Austria, Charlotte was groomed to be a queen. But once Italian unification ended their viceroyalty of Lombardy-Venetia, Max and Charlotte were left without a throne until Napoleon III, with the help of England, Spain, and the Vatican, set up an empire in Mexico. It turned out to be a tragic undertaking: after republican Benito Ju rez recaptured Mexico (with solid U.S. support) in 1867, Max was executed by firing squad, and beautiful, intelligent Charlotte went mad, living the last 60 years of her life insane. This book sheds light on many questions about Charlotte's life, her perplexing relationship with her husband, and the fate of her fortune. A major drawback is the lack of footnotes and formal bibliography (although the author does mention sources in a general way at the end), and a lineage chart would have been helpful in deciphering the royals. Nevertheless, this compelling biography is recommended for all public libraries. Ruth K. Baacke, Highland Mills, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.