Join us for the launch of The Last Emperor of Mexico by Edward Shawcross. Edward will be joined in conversation by fellow Faber historian Matthew Green, author of Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain. Expect butterflies, balls and bullets.
‘One of the most monstrous enterprises in the annals of international history,’ said Karl Marx. ‘
A madness without parallel since Don Quixote,’ said a future French president.
This is history’s judgement on the events surrounding the ill-fated reign of Maximilian of Mexico, the young Austrian archduke who in 1864 crossed the Atlantic to assume a faraway throne, all detailed in Edward Shawcross’ new book, The Last Emperor of Mexico.
Maximilian was convinced to take the Mexican crown so by a duplicitous Napoleon III. Keen to spread his own interests abroad, the French emperor promised Maximilian a hero’s welcome, which he would ensure with his own mighty military support. Instead, Maximilian walked into a bloody guerrilla war — and with a headful of impractical ideals and a penchant for pomp and butterflies, the so-called new emperor was singularly unequipped for the task.
The ensuing saga would feature the great world leaders of the day, popes, bandits and queens; intrigue, conspiracy and cut-throat statecraft, as Mexico became the pivotal battleground in the global balance of power, between Old Europe and the burgeoning force of the New World: American imperialism.
The Last Emperor of Mexico is the vivid history of this barely known, barely believable episode — a bloody tragedy of operatic proportions, and a vital debacle, the effects of which would be felt into the twentieth century and beyond.
‘The jaw-dropping tale of Mexico’s Habsburg emperor is told with brio and narrative punch. This is a page-turning history of imperial hubris and nemesis, deceit and delusion, love and betrayal on a grand scale, written in an easy, lucid style.’ Sunday Times
‘Edward Shawcross’s entertaining history explores one of the most reckless political and military adventures of the 19th century . . . the attempt in the 1860s to establish a monarchy in Mexico under Maximilian, the Habsburg archduke who was the brother of Franz Joseph, emperor of Austria. . . A superbly entertaining and well-researched account that sets a new standard for histories of the doomed escapade.’ Financial Times
After graduating from the University of Oxford, Edward Shawcross lived and worked in France, then South Korea and finally Colombia before returning to London where he completed a PhD at UCL. His research specialised on French imperialism in Latin America and the Mexican intellectual thought that underpinned the Second Mexican Empire.
Dr Matthew Green is a historian, writer and broadcaster with a doctorate from Oxford University. He has appeared in documentaries on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, and has written historical features for the Guardian and Financial Times. He is the founder of Unreal City Audio, which produces immersive tours of London as live events, podcasts and apps. He is the author of London: A Travel Guide Through Time and Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain.