Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dr Konrad Ratz Event Today in the National Palace, Mexico City

Dr Konrad Ratz has translated a profoundly important work for understanding Maximilian's Mexican adventure and unfortunate end: The reports of the Prussian Ambassador to Mexico, Baron von Magnus, to Otto von Bismarck.

Those who are aficionados of the period will know that Baron Magnus was the only diplomat who witnessed Maximilian's execution in 1867.

Dr Ratz found Magnus's reports in the archives in Berlin and has translated them into Spanish as El ocaso del Imperio de Maximiliano visto por un diplomático prusiano: Los informes de Anton von Magnus a Otto von Bismarck, 1866-1867.

It has been published by Siglo Veintiuno Editors and there will be a formal presention TODAY at 17:00 hrs in the Biblioteca Homenaje a Benito Juárez, Palacio Nacional (free and open to the public).

Dr Ratz is also the editor and translator of several (yes several) other vital and paradigm-changing works, including Tras las huellas de un desconocido and Correspondencia inédita entre Maximiliano y Carlota.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Letter of Warning from Don Pedro Montezuma XV to Maximilian, 1864

Some people have written to me asking about the letter I quote in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, from Don Pedro Montzeuma XV, the sole legitimate descendant of the Aztec emperor, to Maximilian von Habsburg in 1864. Here is the excerpt in the novel-- my translation, edited:

French cannon have cowed some into submission; once tranquility reigns, however, there will rise up all of a sudden a terrible counter-revolution. . . Your Highness has been too precipitous in accepting the Mexican throne . . . Those who today form the regency are of the most impious stripe . . . depraved evildoers, usurpers, they rob the Treasury, they rob even the Holy Church . . . they will supplant Your Highness perhaps after a tragic end.

The actual letter is in Maximilian's archive, and a reprint can be ordered from the Austrian Staatsarchiv in Vienna. There is also a copy of this letter in the Library of Congress's Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko archive (box 117, chalked on spine, box 118, pages 25-37).

Here is the original excerpt with original spelling and accents:

Porque el canon frances los tiene a algunas amedrentados, mas despues cuando se crea que todo se halla sozegado, estallará de repente una contrarevolucion terrible. V.A. [Vuestra Alteza or, Your Highness] me permitirá le diga que es preciso usar de otros medios que yo conozco como Mexicano, que amo deveras a mi pays y a mis patricios para llegar al fin deseado, pero V.A. ha sido demasiado precipitado en acceptar la oferta al trono de Mexico. V.A. debe refleccionar bien antes de abandonar su patria, a donde se halla feliz y respectado, para emprender su marcha a un pays enteramente desconocido, y que desde 1812 no ha habido un Gobierno ni de hecho ni de derecho, y que tan solo se ha alimentado en una continua guerra interna causada por caudillos ambiciosos y sin principios de ninguna clase; y de manera alguna clasificados para hacer la felicidad de aquellos pueblos. Puedese decir sin escrupulo que los que compenen en el dia la regencia son la estirpe la mas desapiadada y entre ellos hay algunos, o casi todos, que por pruebas autenticas se pueden calificar de malhechores, de deprarados y usurpadores, que han estafado el tesoro publico robado la hacienda ageno, y hasta el culto divino; encadenando la libertad de todo ciudadano tanto Mexicano como estranjero, insultando del modo mas infame las banderas y representantes de todas las potencias estrangeras.

V.A. antes de aceptar cargo de tanto peso, deberia estar sastifecho ue son los pueblos que lo claman que de ellos espontaneamente ha nacido la exigencia que V.A. los Gobierne; y no de tan solo un pequeño numero de aspirantes que su deseo no es mas que la ambición; y que despues de fundada una Monarquia (en caso que asi suceda) ellos mismos sean los primeros que desaprueben al Estrangero que los Gobierna para entre ellos escoger el que mas convenga a sus miras de desolacion y rapiña suplantado a V.A. quiza despues de un tragico fin.

The letter goes on for some pages, and is signed PEDRO MONTEZUMA XV, 17 feb 1864, 116, Rua de meio, Porto

For more about the descendants of Moctzeuma (modern spelling of the name), try wikipedia. Not the best source, I know. I would very much appreciate any references.

One of the highest ranking ladies-in-waiting to Carlota was also a descendant of Moctezuma, Josefa Varela. She makes a couple of brief appearances in the novel. More about her anon.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Entrevistas en el Palacio Nacional


Some news re: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Today, October 18th @ 5 pm, I'm doing an unusual event for my book, the Spanish translation (beautifully translated by Agustín Cadena), El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano: a live interview by Bertha Hernández in Mexico City's National Palace (Palacio Nacional), as part of a series hosted by Random House Mandadori and SHCP about the historical novel of Mexico.

All events are free and open to the public.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 18, 2011, Interview - Entrevista en el Palacio Nacional

Light blogging here because I've been away from my files and also I'm racing against the clock to prepare my introduction to and the website for my translation of Francisco I. Madero's Spiritist Manual, which was originally published in 1911, (yes, long after the Second Empire / French Intervention), and will be published this November, on its centennial, as an e-book from Dancing Chiva. I'll be reading from and discussing this very unusual book on November 10th as part of the Author's Sala Reading Series in San Miguel de Allende. (Click here for my events page.)

As for the Second Empire / French Intervention, I'll be doing a formal interview about my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire / El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano and the original research behind it on October 18th in Mexico City's Palacio Nacional, as part of the series on historical fiction.

If you can't make that event, my talk at the Library of Congress is available here, and a reader's guide is available in both English and español.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Joan Haslip's The Crown of Mexico: Maximilian and His Empress Carlota

In the decades after the publication of Maximilian und Charlotte von Mexiko, Conte Corti's 1924 magnum opus, the first to rely on Maximilian's archives, several works covering the same period and personalities were published in English. The best of them is Joan Haslip's The Crown of Mexico: Maximilian and His Empress Carlota (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971).

From the dust jacket:



Joan Haslip is the daughter of the late George Ernest Haslip. M.D., the original planner of the British Health Service. She was educated privately in London and on the Continent and grew up in Florence. During the Second World War, she was editor in the Italian section of the European Service of the BBC. Miss Haslip has traveled extensively in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East and has lectured for the British Council in Italy and the Middle East. She is the author of Out of Focus, Lady Hester Stanhope, Parnell, Portrait of Pamela, Lucrezia Borgia, and The Lonely Empress.


Haslip died in Florence in 1994 at the age of 82. (Read an obituary here.)

Alas, I'm away from my files and shelves for the summer; I'll have more to say about this splendid book after Labor Day.

Next post: October 11, 2011.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Emperor's Little Pears by Maruja González

With each passing generation, whole cliff-sides worth of things and memories crumble away. Yet in 2011, many from the 1860s still survive. A friend from San Miguel de Allende, in fact one of the translators I most admire, Geoff Hargreaves, sent me this story by Maruja González (alas, untranslated). The author very kindly gave her permission for me to include it here on this blog. It is part of what she describes as a collection of family stories and anecdotes, nostalgia and criticisms, for-- my translation-- "at times I want to laugh, for you see, we are all, myself included, very provincial." It is a true story, a family story, and I am delighted to include it here not only because it made me smile, but because I believe it is representative of so many stories about Maximilian, many of which may never appear in print, but are still alive in Mexican families today.

For those who don't read Spanish: As part of his tours of his empire, in 1864, Maximilian visited San Miguel de Allende. He stayed in the house of the author's great grandparents, where a great banquet was prepared including, for dessert, a family recipe of little pears in syrup. Praised by Maximilian himself, the recipe was handed down until... one day... it was served to the author herself. I won't give away the ending! (For more about Maximilian's Mexican travels, see Ein Kaiser Unterwegs by Konrad Ratz and Amparo Gómez.)


LAS PERITAS DEL EMPERADOR

By Maruja González

…apreciamos en todo su valor los sacrificios que
Vuestras Majestades han hecho para venir a
regenerarnos; comprendemos la magnitud
de esta difícil pero gloriosa empresa…

Regidores del Ayuntamiento de San Miguel de Allende
a Maximiliano de Habsburgo en 1864
(Diario del Imperio)


Ya he hablado de lo anacrónicos que éramos y en muchos asuntos creo que seguimos siéndolo, es un mal del país y más aún de San Miguel y de mi familia aunque muchos nos creemos muy modernos y librepensadores. Qué se le va a hacer, las plumas se nos asoman a veces. Esta anacronía como forma de perduración, aunque inconsciente, se refleja en hechos de la vida cotidiana como hacer los pacholes en el metate o cerrar los ojos al salir del cine para que no nos de la gota serena que quién sabe qué será, también en el pensar, en el habla con modismos y palabras no solo pueblerinas sino arcaicas y, como ya he contado por ahí, en esa convivencia con los fantasmas añosos enredados en la trama de nuestra vida. Ya las nuevas generaciones se han librado de este lastre pero también han perdido aquella gracia tan provinciana que tenían las tías viejas (creo que yo ya ocupé el lugar de esas tías, pero sin gracia). Aún así, los jóvenes de ahora no se libran de oir de vez en cuando relatos qué, pasados por el tamiz del tiempo, han variado poco de una generación a otra.

Ahora voy a hablar de nuestra relación con Maximiliano de Habsburgo, (nótese que digo nuestra) sí, el merito Emperador austriaco que los mexicanos trajimos porque supuestamente no sabíamos gobernarnos (a lo mejor tenían razón los conservadores). Este honor que tuvimos los sanmigueleños de ser visitados por tan insigne personaje no se nos ha olvidado en más de siglo y medio de acontecido y cualquiera de mis familiares y otros paisanos entrados en años les podrán contar con gran orgullo la opinión que tuvo el Emperador al conocer la cripta de la Parroquia: patitieso y boquiabierto comentó con entusiasmo: ¡Esta cripta es digna de reyes! Yo no sé si el Archiduque austriaco era muy educado (que seguramente lo era, nomás faltaba, pero se excedió) o muy hipócrita, o adulador, para ganarse adeptos, o simplemente padecía de cataratas pero hay que visitar nuestra cripta para sospechar que alguno de estos padecimientos lo aquejaba.

Los festejos que se hicieron en San Miguel para recibir a tan importante personaje, que llegó a la una y media de la tarde del trece de septiembre de 1864, en su periplo para ser conocido y conocer sus nuevas posesiones, cuando iba de paso hacia Dolores Hidalgo a echar el Grito de Independencia (la primera conmemoración después de la arenga del Padre Hidalgo en 1810), fueron festejos muy fastuosos y todo mundo se alborotó para agasajarlo: repiques en todas las iglesias, multitudes vitoreándolo, un imponente Arco Triunfal de origen romano en la esquina de la Plaza, misa solemne, saraos, jamaicas populares, fuegos artificiales y cohetes, muchos cohetes porque esos sí nunca nos pueden faltar, los arcos romanos los dejamos de hacer pero sin el coheterío no podemos vivir, y siguieron con cuanto mitote se les ocurrió para el pobre Maximiliano que siempre estuvo muy enfermo y lo deben de haber acabado de amolar.

No sé por qué causa hospedaron a Su Majestad en la casa de mis tatarabuelos (de la familia Lambarri, en la esquina de San Francisco y Corregidora) y ahí se le hizo solemnísimo banquete con música y solistas y las señoras encopetadas lamentaron mucho la ausencia de la Emperatriz, Carlotita, como ya le decían de cariño. Todas estas señoras de la crema y nata de San Miguel se pulieron haciendo rebuscados manjares a cual más exquisito y lucidor. Una de mis tías tuvo a bien preparar unas peras en almíbar que encantaron al monarca, quien se volcó en elogios a tan maravilloso postre. Esta anécdota, como se comprenderá es otro de los orgullos de la familia junto al de la tía Tita, que componía poesías a la Virgen del Tepeyac y el de mi tía Lupe la cristera.

A mi hermana y a mí esa historia nos embobaba, era nuestro único contacto con la realeza aunque mediara un siglo entre nosotros y nos transportábamos a un cuento de hadas propio. –Un día de estos les voy a hacer las “Peritas del Emperador”—nos decía mamá y esperábamos y esperábamos y ese día tardaba en llegar. Tras muchos ruegos llegó el momento ansiado: --Hoy hay de postre “Peritas del Emperador”--.Ilusión, suspenso… Llegó a la mesa el platón con unas tristes peras de San Juan también nadando en un triste almíbar que tenían un sabor soso más triste aún. – ¿Y esto le ofrecieron a Maximiliano? -- Nos ganó una risa de no parar. Mamá se enfurruñó y nunca volvió a hacernos el cacareado platillo.

Ahora pienso que el pobre visitante real, que padecía una disentería galopante desde antes de llegar a México, debe haber estado harto de comilonas y la sencillez de las peritas le cayó muy bien al estómago y sí debe haber sido sincero en sus elogios. En los de la cripta, bueno…quizá tenga yo que ir de vuelta a visitarla uno de estos días a ver si me pasmo como el Emperador.


Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dancing Chiva's Maximiliana, Richard Salvucci on How Google Disrespected Mexican History, and Catherine Clinton on Mary Chestnut

This blog has been quiet lately because I've been preparing the launch this fall of several e-books, including a few works of Maximiliana, and the e-book of my novel in Spanish translation, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. (View the complete catalog here and watch my brief video about e-book cover design here.) My original intention with this blog, to share my research on (most) Tuesdays, remains firm, and to be sure, I still have many books and archives and individual documents to comment on-- so be sure to check back again next Tuesday.

This Tuesday, two notes in one. First, I'd like to recommend an article by Professor Richard Salvucci about the unfortunate fate of a very important archive of Mexican newspapers. It's news in itself, but in a broader sense, it illustrates the fragility of digital archives.

Second, a note about Mary Chesnut, author of a diary, first published posthumously in 1905 in a bowlderized version as A Diary from Dixie, and later in expanded and annotated editions, including the Penguin Classics edition introduced by Catherine Clinton. While Mary Chestnut had nothing to do with Mexico, as a writer of historical fiction, I needed to immerse myself in the vocabulary and syntax of the time. Some of my characters, most notably, the American mother of the prince and Mrs Yorke (mother of Sara Yorke Steveson), would have been contemporaries of Mary Chesnut, so hers was one of and certainly the most vivid of several memoirs I read, taking careful note, as might a poet. (As I like to say, a novel is a poem.) I had long planned to make a note about Chesnut's memoir in this blog but historian Catherine Clinton's splendid essay about her, "Queen Bee of the Confederacy," came out recently in the New York Times Opinionator, so, that covered, I warmly recommend that to you... and I'll move on to other subjects. Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Royalty: A Very Polite Inquiry Into Some Strangely Related Families by Jeremy Paxman

When I present my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, one of the inevitable questions I get is, how long did it take you to write it? It took over a decade, on-and-off, and according to my best calculations, full-time, about seven years. Why so long? Apart from actually writing it, I had to do the mountainous reading to even begin to make sense of 19th century Mexico and the French Intervention; extensive original archival research; and-- this is what surprised me the most-- get my head around the concept of royalty. And one reason it took me so long to get my head around the idea of royalty is that, for more time than I'd like to admit, I didn't realize that I needed to.

I grew up in California in the 60s and 70s, so of course, between school and the movies, I'd heard and read and seen all about the Kings and Queens of Europe, and especially, British royalty. Before our hero George Washington strode onto the colonial scene, there were the parade of Tudors, Henry VIII and those unfortunate wives, Elizabeth, and then a hop-skip-and-a-jump to wacky George III. Later, still culturally speaking very close to home, came Victoria and Albert; in the 20th century, that errant Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson (bless their pugs), and then of course, spanning my grandparents' latter lifetimes, my parents', and my own so far, Queen Elizabeth, always smilingly impeccable in her marshmallow-shaped hat du jour. Then came Princess Diana, her marriage, escapades, and horrifying early death. Now we have William and Kate gracing the covers of People and Hola... Never mind Americans: who on this planet isn't familiar with the British royal family?

My family background is party English but mostly Irish and Scottish with a strong tradition of, well, to put it politely, not taking royalty very seriously. In fact, my sister used to always make me laugh with jokes about the "Chuck and Di" show and, on seeing any photographs or TV on same, "Ah yes, that's why we had a revolution!" In sum, when I started my novel, I didn't think I had anything more to learn about royalty, other than the relevant dates and facts about Maximilian and Carlota, and I cannot say I felt even a shred of reverence for the institution. Alas, this was a woefully inadequate approach.

What a novel can do is give the reader the delight and the privilege of experiencing the world from someone else's point of view. Towards this end, the novelist need not ask for the reader's sympathy for the characters, but he or she does need to ask for, and earn, the reader's compassion. With a novel based on the true story of a pair of monarchs and their unlikely heir presumptive, how could I begin to construct believable characters without fully comprehending the point of view, the deeply rooted-feelings of people who were, in their blood and bones, monarchists?

And in working towards that comprehension, I believe the novelist needs to treat the characters, however imperfect they may be, with dignity for, if not, how can the reader be expected to feel the full impact of tragedy? A novel filled with nothing but snotty-silly cartoon characters is about as appetizing as a plate of sawdust. (Unless, of course, the plot, twisty puzzle, is the whole point. I don't write those kinds of novels and I don't read them either).

I don't want to write an essay here, just a blog post, so I'll wrap it up in a word: mystic. The monarch--- and by extension, all members of his or family-- play a mystic role in providing their countrymen a self of themselves. When Mexico, so briefly, was a monarchy for a second time under Maximilian von Habsburg, he and his Mexican supporters saw him as the living symbol of the nation and as such, more than a human being. In many of the histories of Mexico's Second Empire, the Empress Carlota's refusing to allow Maximilian to abdicate, even as their empire crumbled around them, is taken as evidence of her incipient madness. But I now believe, having immersed myself in reading and meditating on it for long, that given her education as not only the daughter of the King of the Belgians, but granddaughter of Louise Philippe of France, first cousin of Queen Victoria, and sister-in-law of the Kaiser Franz Josef, she understood the role, and understandably so, as far larger than her own, merely human life.

Then, shortly afterwards, Carlota did go mad, but that's another blog post.

One of the ways I found the beginnings of a path into understanding what was to me a very foreign point of view was reading contemporary British books about royalty. I'll be providing a list of those shortly. Among the most entertaining, and for me very helpful, was Jeremy Paxman's On Royalty, an affectionate, witty, and unusually perceptive meditation on the whys and wherefores of this peculiar but very human institution.

More anon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ciudad de México en tiempos de Maximiliano (Mexico City in the Time of Maximilian)

This now rare but fact-jammed book by Torcuato Luca de Tena, the distinguished Spanish journalist and literary writer who lived in Mexico, was published in 1989 by Planeta (ISBN, 968-406-217-6). Covering everything from Mexico City's pulquerías to its flower-sellers to Maximilian's sparkling palace balls, the sophistication of the theaters, the vital role of the acqueducts and surrounding lakes, the brief but influential visit of Spanish poet José Zorilla... in sum, it's a cornucopia of stories, and so well-larded with photos, illustrations, cartoons, maps, notes, and more, it is truly indispensable for anyone writing and researching this period.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Break

... until next Tuesday because of travel. Please check back again then.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

La Cara Oculta, Podcasting, Kindle and iBook


No blog post on research this week because I'm out of the office, in part to film an interview for Francisco Martin Moreno's program "La Cara Oculta" for TV Azteca (check out the on-line "Reader's Guide" / "Guía de lectura" to The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire for the basic story).

Another bit of business: the podcast page has been updated with substantially wider bandwidth.

Yet more business: readying the e-book (Kindle and iBook edition) of the Spanish translation, El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano. I hope to have news about this very soon. Currently the paperback edition is available in Spanish (a superb translation by Mexican novelist and poet Agustín Cadena) from Grijalbo Random House Mondadori.

Check in again next Tuesday: more books on the period, plus a story about pears.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rosedale, the Historic Estate in Washington DC

Pictured left is my pug dog, Picadou, a little tuckered out after her walk at Rosedale, when we were visiting just the other day. Rosedale plays an important part in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, because it was the family home of (prince) Agustín de Iturbide y Green's mother and, later, his home for many years, on and off, until it was sold in the early 20th century.

As I recount in the epilogue of my novel, "The Story of the Story or, An Epilogue by Way of Acknowledgements," when I first began researching the novel in the late 1990s, there was nothing-- and I mean absolutely nothing-- available on-line about Rosedale.

I found my way into the story by visitng the Historical Society of Washington DC, where I came upon the privately published and beautifully researched book by Louise Mann-Kenney, Rosedale: The Eighteenth Century Country Estate of General Uriah Forrest, Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C. (1989).

Some other relevant works include Historic Homes in Washington: Its Noted Men and Women by Mary S. Lockwood (NY: Belford Company, 1889); Cleveland Park, an Early Residential Neighborhood of the Nation's Capital by Grace Dunlop Peter and Joyce D. Southwick, and Old Georgetown on the Potomac by Henry Ridgely Evans, Washington DC 1933, which includes the author's personal memoir of his friendship with Agustín de Iturbide y Green, beginning as boys in Georgetown in the late 1860s.

Rosedale, Washington DC  Photo: C.M. Mayo
In addition, in the Historical Society of Washington DC's library and other Washingtonian libraries, I found several newspaper articles about Rosedale and the family, a few of which mentioned previously unknown details about the tangle with Maximilian von Habsburg.

[Pictured left is my snapshot taken in the winter of 2000, when Rosedale was still serving as a dormitory for the Youth for Understanding Foundation. It has since been painted a rich honey-yellow and is now a privately-owned residence within the Rosedale Conservancy.]

My research concluded a few years ago; no doubt these libraries have many new articles about Rosedale not listed here. There was a spate of publicity a decade ago, when Elián González, a Cuban boy whose custody was in dispute, found refuge at Rosedale, though, curiously, in not one of the many articles did I find any mention of Rosedale's history with another child whose custody was in dispute: Agustín de Iturbide y Green. (Really, I find that a headshaker.) Subsequently, a few years ago, Rosedale was in the local press again when a dedicated association of neighbors saved it and a small portion of the grounds-- now a community dog park-- from development. The Rosedale Conservancy-- the organization's website-- includes many photos and more information about Rosedale.

Herewith, a list of those older articles focussing on Rosedale:

+++In the Historical Society of Washington DC Library

November 16, 1947, "The President and Mrs Cleveland" by John Clagett Proctor, The Sunday Star

September 1, 1944, "Historic Landmarks of Cleveland Park," by John Clagett Proctor, The Sunday Star

And: a large map showing "Mrs Green" (which is Rosedale) on the Defences of Washington, Extract of Military Map of N.E. Virginia, War Department, 1865


+++In the Martin Luther King Library's Washintongtonia Room

*March 27, 1932, "A Relic of Antiquity," by Gilbert G. La Gorce, The Washington Post
This article is the most detailed. It claims that Alice Green was a youngest child, but this is incorrect (according to a Green family genealogy).

April 1933 (no date), "Phillips' Lease Famous Old Home" Washington Herald

March 23, 1941, "A Might-Have Been Empress Who Lives in Georgetown," by Jane McIlvane, Times-Herald
A very detailed article based on an interview with Agustín de Iturbide y Green's widow, Louise Kearney Iturbide. Erroneously states that upon their marriage in 1915 they lived in her family home, Quality Hill in Georgetown; in fact, the house was sold almost immediately after their marriage and they lived instead at the Pelham Apartments on P St NW, near Dupont Circle.

September 25, 1950 "Cleveland Park's Charm..." by George Kennedy, The Star
A mention with a little detail.

March 28, 1953, "Gen. Forrest's Home Unchaged in 160 years" by E.R. Noderrer, Times-Herald

August 19, 1958, "The Rambler... Visits his Favorite House" by George Kennedy, The Star
Another mention with a little detail.

Spring 1960, Cathedral's New property, Rosedale Estate, Associated with Capital';s Earliest History" by Elizabeth Coonley Faulkner, Cathedral Age


+++Georgetown Public Library's Peabody Room

A terrific resource-- here is where I sat down and read a first edition of Henry Ridgely Evans' memoir, Old Goergetown on the Potomac. They also have a complete collection of Evans' works-- he was a prolific writer, a 33rd Degree Mason, and an expert in magic and occult phenomena.




>>To listen to the podcast of my lecture at the Historical Society of Washington DC, click here.














Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On the Death of Maximilian: A rare Hungarian Newspaper Article from 1876


An eyewitness memoir by Dr Szender Ede, who served with the French in Mexico from 1865, and later had quite a bit to do with the aftermath, was published in a Hungarian newspaper in 1876, and has been translated into Spanish. Warning: it's not for the timid of stomach.

> You can read it here.

Yes, I hope to translate it into English soon.

Pictured left is my photo of Maximilian's temporary coffin, in Querétaro. You can see more of my photos from Querétaro here.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Carlota's Piano

So far readers have alerted me to a crystal flute, a saddle, a set of mirrors, and a diamond ring-- and now, Carlota's piano. A fun connection: writer John Randolph Bennett was writing to interview me about Dancing Chiva Literary Arts, my new venture in publishing, among other things, Maximiliana, and in his e-mail he wrote:

[When] I was a boy growing up in San Jose, CA, we used to buy sheet music as a store called Reid's Music. Somehow they had acquired Empress Carlotta's piano, and they displayed it on a dais in the center of their store. They called it the Empress Carlotta Grand. I remember it being ornate; it may have been painted a brassy gold. I think I got to play it once.

In response to further questioning:

"I just Googled 'Empress Carlotta Grande Piano' and found a listing in an auction house from 2010. This is how I remember the piano looking. Look at the golden color of that wood! Hard to imagine it sitting on a platform by the escalators in a big store in a shopping mall in San Jose."

Here's the result of that "google": M.S. Rau of New Orleans is offering the piano for sale for USD $225,000. From the on-line catalog:

Royal provenance and superior craftsmanship culminate in this highly important grand piano, owned by the Empress Carlota of Mexico and made by the famed London firm of Collard & Collard. The piano was given to the Empress by her brother-in-law, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, on the occasion of her 25th birthday in 1865.

The piano itself is a work of art. The body is crafted of luxurious birds-eye maple, polished to a sleek, smooth finish and complemented with scrolling gold gilt wood accents. Three shimmering gold gilt wood legs, hand-carved in the Rococo style, support the entire structure, which, despite its impressive size, seemingly floats in its space. Additional highlights include original ivory and ebony keys, original "certificate of authenticity" by Collard & Collard, and a plaque stating this magnificent instrument was a gift to the Empress.

This piano was housed in the Empress' private quarters in Chapultepec Castle, where she would often sit and play her favorite classical compositions. When the rule of the Empress and her husband, Emperor Maximillian I, ended in 1867, a few pieces of the castle's contents (including this piano) became the property of Mexican government officials.... CONTINUE READING


One of the very few liberties I took with historical facts in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, had to do, precisely, with this piano. For the chapter set in September of 1865, I wanted to introduce the two grandsons of the Emperor Iturbide, Salvador and Agustín (the prince of the novel's title), apart from their family, and show the strangeness of their having been brought into Maximilian's household. I set the scene for the two boys, one an adolescent, the other only 2 and 1/2, in Chapultepec Castle, the Imperial residence, where they come upon the piano. In fact, Salvador had already been taken to school in Paris-- but this was a small liberty, and worth taking for narrative integrity, I think. I also imagined the piano being dark--wrong I was! That will be corrected in the next edition.

I'll be on a brief blog vacation, so next the post will be on Tuesday April 19th.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doña Cordelia (Otilia) Jordan de Degollado


In 1923, shortly before the death of the ex-Empress Carlota in Belgium, a Mexican newspaper reporter (or perhaps a pair of them), tracked down the then elderly Doña Cordelia (Otilia) Jordan de Degollado, the American widow of the Mexican Empire's never-received ambassador to Washington. I found the newspaper clipping in the Joaquín and Mariano Degollado archive at the University of Texas, Austin. Here is my translation from the Spanish. (Alas, the article did not carry the reporter's name. It opens with mutliple subtitles, as it appears here.)


A Lady of Carlota's Court Tells How She Lived in Mexico

The sovereign is near death


Señora Cordelia Jordan de Degollado


Yesterday She Recalled the Times of the so-called Empire of Maximilian


—A VERY INTERESTING STORY—


During that Ephemeral Empire, this Lady was Maximilian's Ambassadress Near the White House

The rumors of the ex-empress Carlota's grave illness published in European newspapers and later, in the Mexican press, inspired us to interview a distinguished octogenarian resident in this capital who was a member of the court of Maximilian von Habsburg's ephemeral imperial government. We refer to the elderly Doña Cordelia Jordan, widow of Degollado, who lives in an apartment at number 41, Calle de Roma, in the Colonia Juárez, and that is where we arrived, accompanied by our photographer.

After inquiring with the concierge of this immense apartment building, we presented ourselves at the door that belongs to Degollado's widow and although at first the servants who attend her showed great reluctance in admitting us, we were finally able to obtain from the kindly señora some interesting stories about her life in the Court of the Emperor.

The apartment occupied by the widow of Degollado is soberly decorated and it seems there are furnishings, portraits and objects in the living room from that epoch of our history. The individuals in the large frames are clearly from those times; the ladies in their crinolines and luxurious dresses of taffeta, and the men in their Directory-style frock coats.

After we had a look around the small living room, where upon the table there were some elegant albums containing many antique portraits, we passed into the sitting room, where, in a wide chair, there reposed the elderly Señora Degollado.

She receives us with great kindness and invites us to sit down; her two "companions," two Mexican women dressed imppecably although with the modesty of our servants, pull up some chairs and immediately place themselves at the señora's side, while, from the little box very near the señora's feet, where it was sleeping when we arrived, a tiny chihuahua growls and threatens to bite us. Seated in her immense chair, the widow of Degollado still has some remains of her former grandeur: a fine wool poncho covers her legs and she wears a wide cream-colored and blue blouse, and, covering her white head, a delicate cap of Irish lace.

She apologizes for having not received us at first, explaining that since she lives alone, she was afraid we might rob her, as she has no more company than four servants and her housekeeper, Antonia, whom she treats with great affection. Antonia is the one who opened the door. Our distinguished interviewee explains that she has lost almost all her sight and furthermore, can no longer get up from her chair, since she suffered a serious fall some twenty years ago when, passing by in her buggy, her horse bolted, dragging her to the ground. She also tells us that in recent years she has suffered three serious episodes of pneumonia which brought her to the edge of the grave; finally, however, she has recovered, though the years have wrought havoc upon her.

SHE WAS AMBASSADRESS IN WASHINGTON

She herself tells us that she is American and was born in the state of Virginia, having married Mariano Degollado when he was just beginning his studies in a university near Washington. At that time the Jordan family lived near the university, which is how she met the young Degollado, with whom she first became friends. After a long engagement, they were married in a Catholic church in the same region. Afterwards, just after the Archduke Maximilian had been crowned Emperor, they came to Mexico and her husband directly participated in the historical developments in Mexico.

The señora tells us the story of this tragic episode in Mexico, using a clear English and very little Spanish, for, as she tells us, she doesn't speak that language well. In fact we noticed that she speaks to her servants in English and although they do not speak a word of that language, they manage to understand her.

Mariano Degollado soon became involved with the men of this government and his wife was named lady-in-waiting, while he became one of the Emperor's favorite chamberlains and, as she herself tells us, the Emperor came to have great affection for him.

REMINISCENCES OF THOSE TIMES

Bit by bit the estimable old lady begins to offer details and she tells us about some details of the life of the Court. We try to note everything that falls from her lips; it seems to us at times that history itself is speaking to us.

"Why did they kill Maximilian? Ah! I think they should not have done that. He was very good and Mexico lost the affection of the world."

Now and again the señora lets out an exclamation and it seems her deep set eyes will cloud with tears. Later she tells us that the Emperor cared very much and about others and he had a special concern to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. Carlota was the same, constantly making works of charity and in the Court there were rarely conversations about anything but some fiesta to help the less fortunate.

"I still remember very well the day we said goodbye to the Emperor, when he left for Querétaro. Those were very bitter days and since that time one could say we began to suffer great difficulties. We were truly devastated by the execution of Maximilian and his loyal generals. We could hardly believe it, and once we realized it was true, we had to emmigrate to Guatemala, where President Cerna had offered a place for all the refugees."

Then, Señora de Degollado tells us that during the Empire the city was better, more tranquil, cleaner, and the economic situation was better than it was in the years afterwards. "I don't mean to say it was better than it is now, not at all," she tells us, "because now, naturally, it has progressed very much. But there really was much more tranquility and everyone was content."

It was only some months after he had arrived in Mexico when Señor Degollado was named Imperial Ambassador to Washington, where he went, accompanied by his wife. Nevertheless, as Maximilian's government had not been recognized by that of the United States, the señora tells us that they were never received at the White House, having then departed for New York, to take charge of the Imperial Consulate of Mexico. They stayed there for some months, when they were recalled by the Emperor and, before leaving, delivered from the offices more than 20 thousand dollars in cash to a South American whose name Señora Degollado cannot recall. The fact is, very soon afterwards, that South Amerian disappeared with the 20 thousand dollars.

They continued in the Court until it was overthrown. There was a truly imperial luxury; the Empress Carlota tried to imprint upon the life of the Palace a most exaggerated luxury, similar to that of the European courts.

Later, in exile, Señor Degollado was named Governor of the Atlantic coast by the President of Guatemala, having stayed there for four years following Maximilian's execution. They were able to return to Mexico when President Juárez declared a general amnesty.

We ask Señora Jordan de Degollado what was her impression of Don Benito Juárez and if she could say anything about the men of that time; but she refused to speak about them, for she had never liked politics very much.

She also told us that she had been in Mexico for 50 years and although for much of that time she has been enclosed in her rooms, nonetheless, she knows about many episodes of our history. She has some family in the state of Virginia and never had children. Her nephews in the United States take care of her properties and periodically they send her some funds for her expenses. Her entire world in Mexico is limited to her servant Antonia, her four other servants and her "Chiquita," the little chihuahua, who, during our interview, never ceased to look at us with her shining eyes, as if wanting us to leave, for were were intruders.

Señora Degollado also told us about Señora Doña Guadalupe Orán, who is still living and who, with her and the Empress Carlota, are probably the last three ladies who remain from that ephemeral reign.

As recently as about ten years ago she received some letters from the Empress Carlota, but since then, she has had no news of her, only that which we announce in our visit, about her very delicate state of health.

Nothing impresses the senora Degollado anymore and we sincerely believe that she would have heard of the death of the Empress Carlota very naturally, for when she noted that both were about the same age, she added:

"Poor Carlota, she suffered very much."

We did not want to tire the elderly lady by bringing to mind such memories and so we thought it best to take our leave, and also say goodbye to Antonia, her kind and affectionate companion, as well as to "Chiquita," the loyal little dog that, with so much humilty, sleeps on her lap.

# # # To read the original version in Spanish, visit http://www.cmmayo.com/maximilian-cordelia-degollado.html

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brief Haitus until March 29


This blog is updated on Tuesdays but as I'll be traveling, the next post will be on Tuesday March 29th.

Still to come: more about Gillow in Rome; the Salm-Salms; Carlota's letters; the Carlota colony, and more.

P.S. To be alerted about events and news, join my mailing list for a free, brief and informative newsletter sent out 5 - 6 times per year. (I do not share my mailing list and as I use mailchimp, a leading e-mail service, you can instantly opt out at any time.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Miramar Castle or Il Castello di Miramare, Maximilian and Carlota's Residence in Trieste

Miramar Castle or Il Castello di Miramare, in Trieste, was Maximilian and Carlota's residence before coming to Mexico. It's a very curious place, and my own visit, back in 2003, as part of my research for my novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire / El último príncipe del Imperio Mexicano was enormously and, to me, surprisingly, valuable.

I wrote about the visit in an essay, "From Mexico to Miramar or, Across the Lake of Oblivion," that was published a few years later, in 2006, in The Massachusetts Review. I think of "From Mexico to Miramar" as "a nonfiction novela about a fairytale." As of last week, the CD, a professionally made recording of my reading of the essay, is back in stock at CDBaby.


More Miramar links:

Official website of Miramar Castle
(In English, Italian, French and German.)

The Treaty of Miramar

Photos from my visit to Miramar, winter 2003

In the brief trailer for my book in Spanish, there is a spectacular photo (not mine-- it's istock.com) of Maximilian's sphynx, a souvenir of his visit to Egypt, in front of the towers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Maximilien: Ópera historique en 3 actos et 9 tableaux

A couple of years ago, the late great Mexican art historian Don Ricardo Pérez Escamilla very generously gave me his copy of a rare French libretto and program of the opera performed in the Académie Nationale de Musique et de Danse, Maximilien (libretto by R.S. Hoffman; adapted from the work by Franz Werfel; French adapted version by Armand Lunel; music by Darius Milhaud). The libretto was published in 1931 in Vienna.

The cast of characters (my translation):

Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, Emperor of Mexico (Baritone)

Carlota, Empress of Mexico (Soprano)

Princess Agnes Salm-Salm (Mezzo)

Chancellor Stefan Herzfeld, childhood friend of Maximilian (Baritone)

Tomás Mejía, Mexican General serving the Monarchy (Tenor)

Colonel Miguel López (Tenor)

Francois Achille Bazaine, Marshal of France, Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Forces (Baritone)

Monsignor Pelagio Labastida, Cardinal of Mexico City and Puebla (Bass)

Three Mexican Republican generals reporting to Don Benito Juárez)
Porfirio Diaz (Bass)
Riva Palacio (Tenor)
Mariano Escobedo (Bass)

The Mayor (Basse)





CHORUSES

Indigenous People and Notables (Men)
Maximilian's Guests (Mixed)
The Crowd (Mixed)
Rebellious Soldiers, Indigenous People, etc. (Mixed)
The Delegantes of the Junta (2 tenors)
The Generals (2 tenors, 2 baritones)
Imperial Soldiers (Men)
The Crowd of Querétaro (Mixed)
Guards (2 tenors, 2 baritones)
An Officer and the Firing Squad - a Chaplain (Mute actors)
Republican Crowd (Mixed)



For more operas and musicals about Maximilian and Carlota, scroll down to the bottom of the Maximilian von Mexiko links page.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal by Thomas M. Settles

As the subtitle indicates, most of Thomas M. Settles' splendid biography of John Bankhead Magruder (1807 - 1871) is dedicated to a detailed examination of his role in the U.S. Civil War, specifically, his audacious if nonetheless inevitably doomed defense of Richmond, and later, Galveston. Though this part of the narrative does not have direct bearing on Mexican history, it informs the portrait of an unusually flamboyant Confederate who, in defeat, looked south to a future in Maximilian's Mexican Empire.

Based on three decades of archival research, this biography must have been a titanic task, for Magruder left no diary and many of his most important papers were lost in a San Francisco fire. Worse, he was much maligned during his lifetime, victim of both malicious gossip from his Confederate rivals and less than sympathetic Federals-- just the sort of thing to send a biographer down blind alleys. In addition, there were misunderstandings, as when earlier historians, in recounting what appeared to be a less-than honorable leave-taking from Washington DC at the start of the Civil War, confounded Magruder with a relative.

General John Bankhead Magruder was, as Settles convincingly argues-- backing every point with what sometimes seems a forest of footnotes-- a Civil War general whose tactical ingenuity and tenacity are deserving of far greater respect than he has been accorded. Most of the book details his early military career, from West Point to a garrison duty and recruiting at various army posts from the Carolinas to Maine, until, with the invasion of Mexico in the late 1840s, his fortuntes took a radical turn. Along with many of the men who would later play major roles in the U.S. Civil War-- Grant, Lee, and McClellan, among them-- Magruder distinguished himself in several major battles against the Mexicans. (Magruder's artillery was, in fact, the first to fire upon Chapultepec Castle.) Following the U.S.-Mexican War, Magruder served in California, where in Los Angeles, briefly, he ran a saloon.

He was on a visit to Europe when recalled to Washington DC in 1861, only a month before his native state of Virginia seceded. He had not wanted to leave the U.S. Army, but as "he could not fight against his own people," he resigned, calling it "the most unhappy moment of my life." He walked across the Potomac, offered his services to the Confederacy and, in short order, was reporting to Robert E. Lee.

Settle's treatment of Magruder's return to Mexico in 1865, in the final chapter, "Postwar Odyssey," is a relatively brief one; nonetheless, it is an important contribution to understanding the nature and role of the ex-Confederates in Maximilian's government.

At the end of the U.S. Civil War, General Magruder was one of several thousand ex-Confederates who pulled up stakes for Mexico. In 1865 the French Imperial Army, considered the greatest in the world, occupied most, if not all of Mexican territory, while the ex Archduke of Austria, Maximilian, a direct descendant of the King of Spain during the Conquest, reigned as Emperor. Though by the late summer and fall of 1865, when the ex-Confederates began arriving en masse, the French occupation was beginning to fray at the edges, Maximilian and his consort, Carlota, still presided over a court and elaborate palace balls and other festivities that were, to Americans at that time, considered the height of glamor. In the words of journalist William V. Wells, this was the "high noon" of the empire, when it was impossible for many to even imagine the catastrophe that would, in only a matter of months, befall the "cactus throne."

Some ex-Confederates came to Mexico because they could not bear living in a defeated South, others, because they had expected to participate in a dynamic plantation economy under the French-backed Maximilian (who, to entice the ex-Confederate colonists, proclaimed slavery legal in Mexico). But others, such as General Magruder, simply felt pushed out. As Settles writes:

"It must have been extremely difficult for so proud a man as John Bankhead Magruder to have signed the articles surrendering the Trans-Mississippi Department. But when the Federals began arresting and imprisoning high Confederate officials, he resolutely refused to submit to such personal humiliation. He was not eligible for the amnesty proclaimed by President Lincoln on December 8, 1863, or that proclaimed by Andrew Johnson on May 29, 1865"

Although I had spent several years researching Mexico's Second Empire under Maximilian for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, until recently, I was flummoxed as to the background of the author of the exceedingly rare English language memoir, Sketches of the Last Year of the Empire, Henry R. Magruder. It turns out he was the son of General John Bankhead Magruder and I now know, from Settles' biography, that father and son did not arrive in Mexico via the same route. General Magruder came down overland from Houston with General Shelby, while his wife, son Henry, and unmarried daughter, Kate Elizabeth, arrived via Veracruz, for they had come from Florence, Italy, where they had been residing for some years. As Settles explains,

"[B]ecause of the hardships of travel, uncomfortable living conditions, and extremes of climate found in the remote locales where magruder was stationed during his military career, [Mrs Magruder] found it more practical to live and raise her children in the comforts of Baltimore, where she could stay closer to family business interests. She remained there until 1850 when, as a consequence of [daughter] Isabella's ill health, she took her children to Europe. Mrs Magruder had relatives in Germany, but she moved to Italy, living briefly in Rome, then in Florence."

From Texas, not yet reunited with his family, Magruder headed straight down to Monterrey and then to Mexico City, arriving in the summer of 1865. Writes Settles:

"Magruder checked into a room on the first floor of the fashionable Iturbide Hotel, and there he received several distinguished visitors, including Matthew Fontaine Maury and his old friend Marshal Francois-Achille Bazaine, now in command of the imperial forces in Mexico. He also met with the British minister to Mexico, Sir Peter Campbell Scarlett, whose nephew, Lord Abinger, had married Magruder's niece, Helen Magruder, in Montreal several years earlier."

It appeared Magruder felt as at home as an American could be in Mexico City. He bought himself a new wardrobe, "'a cut-a-way suit of salt and pepper color, with a tall dove-colored hat and patent leather boots,' and then went to the palace of Montezuma [the Imperial Palace], which Scott's army had victoriously occupied eighteen years earlier."

Soon after a successful interview with Maximilian and Carlota, Magruder, now a naturalized Mexican citizen, was appointed head of Maximilian's Land Office of Colonization. The idea was to establish colonies along the main route inland from Veracruz to Mexico City, on land Juarez (under the Republic) had expropriated from the Church.

Settles covers the rapid collapse of the scheme along with Maximilian's government, and Magruder's return to the U.S. In 1867-- surprisingly, for memories of the Civil War remained fresh--- he attempted to set up a law office in New York City. His family had returned to Italy, but he remained in the U.S. to work the lecture circuit with a crowd-pleasing talk on Maximilian and Carlota. He was on that tour when, in a Houston hotel in 1871 he died of a stroke.

In sum, this is an important addition to the bibliography on Confederates in Mexico, and crucial reading for anyone who studies the U.S. Civil War, the U.S.-Mexico War, and / or Mexico's Second Empire. Highly recommended.

Next post: next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Confederates in Mexico: A Brief Bibliography

An exotic but enduring subject of interest among U.S. Civil War history aficionados is the role played by Confederates, such as Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury (pictured right), and later, a passel of ex-generals (Shelby, McGruder, and more), in lending, or perhaps I should say, attempting to lend prestige to Maximilian's monarchy in Mexico. After the surrender at Appomattox in 1865, an important number of ex-Confederates immigrated to Mexico, many (though not all) with the aim of establishing colonies. To war-weary ex-Confederates, Maximilian's Mexico might have appeared a delectable glass of water, but as quickly as if left out in the Mexican sun, it evaporated. In general, the ex-Confederates' stay south of the border was short, their attempts at establishing colonies intensely frustrating, and, ultimately, catastrophic, for by early 1866, Maximilian's government, bankrupt and demoralized, and having lost its French ally, was crumbling before the Juarista onslaught. Maximilian himself was captured, tried, and then executed by firing squad in June of 1867.

[Pictured right: General Joseph Shelby]

My own sense is that there is much still to be written about the ex-Confederates in Mexico, for so many of the historians of Mexico's Second Empire have lacked funding, or simply the wherewithal, to delve into the relevant Confederate archives, and vice versa--- it's nothing new that even otherwise beautifully educated Americans are more often than not woefully ignorant about Mexico and Mexican history, and, alas, the Spanish language. Serious research into the ex-Confederates in Mexico requires, at a minimum, three or more languages (Spanish and English, of course, plus French and German-- and the more German the better); deep knowledge of both Mexican politics, and Confederate politics, as well as culture, geography, terrain, mid-19th century farming practices, economics, and more. And not only all this: Mexico's Second Empire / French Intervention is an essentially transnational period, which is incomprehensible without an understanding of European and American geopolitics. Among the European actors in Mexico's French Intervention: France, of course, Austria and its dominions, Belgium, England, Spain, and-- vitally--the Vatican.

(Ay, not something to research just over a weekend! It took me more than seven years to research and write my novel about the true story of the half-American prince, Agustin de Iturbide y Green, in Maximilian's court, and I am still awed by the amount of research I could yet undertake... and I am so often tempted... )



To return to the point of this blog, which is to share my research, and so make it easier for other researchers to cover new ground:

Herewith, the major titles on the specific subject of Confederates and ex-Confederates in Mexico during the reign of Maximilian (and please leave a comment if you know of any title(s) I may have overlooked-- though, please note, with the exception of Stevenson, I am not including works that cover Maximilian and the Second Empire generally, or adventures not specifically about the Confederates, e.g., Blasio, Corti, Haslip, Niles, Pani, Ratz, Ridley, the Salm-Salms, et al. ):

Harmon, George D., "Confederate Migration to Mexico," The Hispanic American Historical Review (Nov., 1937)

Arthur, Anthony, General Shelby's March (Random House, 2010)
Note: This may be the most important recent addition to the literature on Confederates in Mexico. Alas, Arthur passed away in 2009. As soon as possible, I will make a note about this work on this blog.

Davis, Edwin Adams, Fallen Guidon: The Saga of Confederate General Jo Shelby's Expedition to Mexico (TAMU Press, 1995)

Edwards, John N., Shelby's Expedition to Mexico (Kansas City, 1872)
Note: the link is to a new edition, edited by Conger Beasely, Jr. (University of Arkansas, 2007)

Hanna, Alfred Jackson, "Role of Matthew Fontaine Maury in the Mexican Empire," An address before the annual meeting of the Virginia Historical society, January 17, 1947

Harter, Eugene C., The Lost Colony of the Confederacy (University of Mississippi Press, 1985)

McGruder, Henry R., Sketches of the Last Year of the Empire (London, 1868)
Note: The author was the son of General Magruder. The link is to my blog post about his book.

O'Flaherty, Daniel, General Jo Shelby (1954; reprint 2000)

Padgett, James A., ed., "Life of Alfred Mordecai in Mexico 1865-1866, as Told in His Letters to His Family (North Carolina Historical Review, April 1946 and January 1946)

Rister, Carl Cooke, "Carlotta, a Confederate Colony in Mexico" Journal of Southern History 11, February 1945

Mahoney, Harry Thayer and Majorie Locke Mahoney, Mexico and the Confederacy, 1860-1867 (San Francisco: Austin & Winfield, 1998),

Rolle, Andrew F., The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico (University of Oklahoma Press, 1965)

Ruiz Ramón Eduardo, ed., An American in Maximilian's Mexico, 1865-1866: The Diaries of William Marshall Anderson (San Marino, 1959)

Terrell, Alexander Watkins, From Texas to Mexico and the Court of Maximilian in 1865 (Dallas, 1933).

Settles, Thomas M., John Bankhead Magruder: A Military Reappraisal (LSU Press, 2009)

Stevenson, Sara Yorke, Maximilian in Mexico: A Woman's Reminiscences of French Intervention 1862-1867 (The Century Co., 1897)
(The link goes to my blog post about this wonderful and very richly detailed eyewitness memoir.)

Williams, Frances Leigh, Matthew Fontaine Maury: Scientist of the Sea (Rutgers University Press, 1963)




+++++++++++++

>>Finally, different as they are, the novel by Elizabeth Boatright Coker, The Grasshopper King (1981), and the movie The Undefeated (1969), starring John Wayne and Rock Hudson, both have to do with the saga of the Confederates in Mexico.

>>Confederate characters appear in Fernando del Paso's novel Noticias del Imperio and, fleetingly, in my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire.

>>For a general selected bibliography of the Second Empire, please visit my "Maximilian" page.



Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Monseñor Eulogio Gillow, the Iturbides, and the ex-Hacienda de Chautla



One of the most moving and curious things about having written a book about the 19th century is that, on many an occasion, I am reminded that it wasn't all that long ago. True, everyone alive in the 1860s is long dead, but there are many people alive today who knew people who knew those people*. I'm not yet 50, and I remember my great grandmother, who grew up in the house of her uncle, William Wirt Calkins, who fought in the U.S. Civil War and wrote the magnificent History of the 104th Illinois. Several descendants of the people upon whom I based the characters in my novel have written to me; I am more grateful and touched than I can say. And there are others, who are not related, but have shared letters, documents, photographs, books, and more. One, a Mexico City editor and historian, a relative of Monseñor Eulogio Gillow, lent me a copy of Gillow's rare and very illuminating memoir, which was published, alas, obscurely, in Spanish in 1921 in Los Angeles. I had never, in all my several years of researches and reading, come upon it. (Admittedly, in the last couple of years, the google searches have begun to yield far more fruit-- google and ye shall find. Also try www.abebooks.com, the used / antiquarian on-line bookselling mega-site.)

Monseñor Gillow

But first a bit of background about Monseñor Gillow. Some 10 years ago, when I began my research into Mexico's Second Empire/ French Intervention, I did not know who he was, so when, in the Matías Romero archive at Banco de México, I came upon his circa 1890 correpondence with Romero and Porfirio Díaz about then cavalary captain Agustín de Iturbide y Green, I assumed he was an American. Wrong I was.

Gillow was a powerful Mexican cleric, a close confidant of Porfirio Díaz, the then President /dictator (not overthrown until the Revolution of 1910). Whence the name Gillow? He was the son of Thomas Gillow, an English jeweler who had come to Mexico from Liverpool. Don Tomás, as he became known in Mexico, had first married the spectaculary wealthy Mexican Marchioness of Selva Nevada, and upon her death, married her daughter, his own stepdaughter, Mara Zavalza. It was from this second marriage that Euologio was born, and so it was that Eulogio inherited the vast Hacienda de San Antonio Chautla, then one of Mexico's most important estates.

Eulogio was educated in England, joined the Church, served in the Vatican as Pope Pius IX's personal aide, and then, having returned to Mexico, as Archbishop of Oaxaca.

His Memoir,
Reminencias del Ilmo y Rmo Sr Dr D Eulogio Gillow y Zabalza, arzobispo de Antiquera (Oaxaca), Los Angeles, California, 1921


The book has two chapters of special interest for anyone researching the Second Empire / French Intervention:

Chapter X, which recounts the Empress Carlota's mental breakdown in Rome in 1866, is something very unusual. I have not seen it quoted in any of the mountain of works I've read on the Second Empire-- tell me, readers, did I miss something?-- which is astonishing, for Gillow, a Mexican, was with the Pope at the time, a "camerero secreto supernumerario" (a secret supernumerary chamberlain-- that's my guess at the proper translation.)

Chapter XIX, pp. 202-207 recounts visits from Doña Alicia de Iturbide (the American mother of Agustín de Iturbide y Green) several anedcotes about the grandsons of the Emperor Iturbide, and how Doña Alicia came to to purchase an hacienda in the neighborhood. (And there is a description of that hacienda in Fanny Chambers Gooch's Face to Face with the Mexicans.)


The Ex-Hacienda de Chautla
Long an avid adopter of the latest agricultural technologies, in the late 1890s Monseñor Gillow determined to found an agricultural college on his hacienda; the lovely little English castle served as its headquarters. It was elaboraely furnished, and had a gallery with armor and uniforms of the Pope's Swiss Guards.

It was this wonderfully detailed article in MexConnect by Tony Burton that made me determined to go see the ex-Hacienda de Chautla for myself. And, last week, on the way back to Mexico City from Puebla (where I attended the book launch for Margarita López Cano's Ópera en la Puebla Imperial, I finally did.

It's just a hop off the road from Cholula. The property, drastically reduced after the Revolution, is now owned by the state of Puebla and has been turned into a family oriented trout fishing center. The little castle, terribly neglected, and used now as a cafeteria, is much prettier seen from a distance. I arrived too late to try the trout, but I can recommend the fresh air, and the views of the volcanoes.
*More about that in my article for beatrice.com, "What Connects You to the 1860s?"

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ópera y vida cotidiana en la Puebla Imperial, a new book by Margarita López Cano

Professor of history and opera expert Margarita López Cano has just brought out a fascinating new book, Ópera y vida cotidiana en la Puebla Imperial ("Opera and Daily Life in Imperial Puebla"), co-published by CONACULTA and the Secretary of Culture of the State of Puebla, as part of the "Colección Bicentenario 2010."

Puebla is that Mexican city made famous by the Cinco de Mayo, the temporary but devastating defeat of the invading French Imperial Army in 1862. One of Mexico's most splendid Spanish colonial cities, Puebla is strategically situated on the route inland from Veracruz; no power could rule from Mexico City without first controlling Puebla. The French did retake Puebla a year later, however, and then Mexico City; thus, only a year later than planned, by the spring of 1864, having been crowned Emperor and Empress of Mexico in Trieste, Maximilian and Carlota were en route.

The Second Empire has a rich and staggeringly diverse soundtrack (I've written up a full playlist, from Sawerthal to Chopin to French marching songs to nursery ditties, here), but European opera-- Verdi, Bellini, et al-- alien and modern as it must have sounded to so many Mexicans at the time, reigned supreme among the elite, favored as it was by Maximilian and his court.

From the back cover text of Margarita López Cano's book (and I will follow each paragraph with my translation for those of you who don't read Spanish):

A pesar de la guerra y los periodos de crísis, en la segunda mitad del convulso siglo XIX, y específicamente durante el llamado Segundo Imperio, la ópera cobró gran importancia dentro del contexto cultural. México llegó ser uno de los escenarios más importantes del continente americano en donde se presentaron las óperas de compositores italianos, franceses, alemanes, brasileños y mexicanos. El género llegó a ser un evento "obligado" dentro del protocolo de sucesos especiales y sus representaciones fueron imprescindibles para honrar a hombre destacados, dar la bienvenida a personajes importantes y conmemorar fecha y acontecimieintos relevantes.

[My translation: In spite of war and periods of crisis, in the second half of the tumultuous 19th century, and specifically the so-called Second Empire, opera took on great importance within the cultural context. Mexico became one of the most important venues on the American continent in which operas were presented by Italian, French, German, Brazilian and Mexican composers. The genre became a "must" event within the protocol of special events and its performances considered essential to honor outstanding men, offer a welcome to dignitaries, and to commemorate relevant dates and events.]

La ópera fue parte muy importante de la cultura de los poblanos en el Segundo Imperio. Las funciones operísticas fueron escenarios privilegiados donde la sociedad se clasificó jerárquicamente de acuerdo a su estatus socioeconómico y funcioné asimismo como un instrumento de identificación de preferencias, gustos, sensibilidades y percepciones. Asistir a una función de ópera constituyó una excelente ocasión para socializar de la clase elistista y refinada, una práctica erudita, como dice Michel de Certeau.

[My translation: Opera was a very important part of cultural life for Poblanos (residents of Puebla) during the Second Empire. Opera performances were an exclusive arena, where society was classified hierarchically in accord with socioeconomic status; they also served as an instrument by which people could express their identify by their preferences, tastes, sensibilities and perceptions. As Michel de Certeau says, for the elite and refined class, attending an opera, an erudite practice, constituted an excellent opportunity to socialize.]

En este libro, Margarita López Cano analiza la presencia de la ópera durante el imperio de Maximiliano en la urbe angelopolitana y nos brinda un cuadro vivo y aleccionador de la vida social y cultural de la época.

[My translation: In this book, Margarita López Cano analyzes the importance and nature of opera during Maximilian's empire in the greater Puebla metropolitan area and offers a vivid and instructive social and cultural portrait of the period.]


I was very fortunate to be able to attend the excellent presentation in Puebla on Monday, in which Professor López Cano played some video clips from operas by Verdi and Bellini. Though these were 20th century performances with stars such as Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland, they were nontheless examples of the very operas that had been performed in Imperial Puebla.

Two more examples I found on YouTube:

Song of Oscar in Verdi's "The Masked Ball"

Joan Sutherland in Bellini's "Norma"

A write-up of the book launch appeared in today's La Jornada.

P.S. Since 2001 Professor López Cano has hosted the radio show "Los secretos del canto" (Secrets of Song). Follow her on twitter @operaparatodos and her blog, Operaparatodos.

Next post next Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Matías Romero's Visit to Springfield in 1861

Mexican and U.S. history interlace in so many complex and surprising ways. Just this morning, while perusing the New York Times on my iPad, I happened upon "Lincoln's Mexican Visitor" by Willam Moss Wilson, about President Juárez's ambassador, Matías Romero, and his visit to President-elect Lincoln in 1861.

"Matias Romero arrived in Springfield, Ill. on the evening of Jan. 18, 1861. Though late in the day, he figured it would be easy to find a room in this sleepy midwestern town. But there were no rooms available at his first choice, the American Hotel, or anywhere else: all the hotels in town were full of friends, patronage seekers and the merely curious who had come to meet President-elect Lincoln... " READ MORE
To give you a little perspective, should you require it, 1861 was but a decade and a bit beyond the end of the US-Mexican War, in which Mexico lost vast swaths of its territory. Anyone who was or who intended to rule Mexico had to take into account the still voracious and increasingly powerful neighbor to its north. This was precisely the time when Louis Napoleon was beginning to cobble together the scheme that turned into the so-called "Mexican Expedition" and, with the blessing of the Catholic Church and a not-so-small group of Mexican monarchists, the placement-- in 1864-- of Maximilian von Habsburg upon the Mexican throne.

So: 1861. Matías Romero travels to Springfield. This was no small journey. It was a very savvy political investment, and in making it, Juárez may well have established a solid foundation for later successes, in no small part with the help of the post-Civil War United States, against the Mexican Empire.

William Moss Wilson's is a fascinating article, well worth reading.

P.S. One of the key figures working against the Mexican Empire, and for the reinstatement of the Mexican Republic, was John Bigelow, who served as U.S. Minister to France during and for a brief time after the U.S. Civil War. (He also happened to play a role in the story of "prince" Agustín de Iturbide y Green's American mother's attempts to get her son back from Maximilian--- the subject of my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, which is based closely on the true story.) Bigelow's papers, in the Mansucripts Division of the New York Public Library, are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in this period. Bigelow took meticulous note of his meetings with Louis Napoleon, Drouyn de Lhuys (the French Foreign Minister), Dr Evans (the American dentist who played go-between), and E. Gould Buffum, the Paris correspondent for the NY Herald, among others. And of course, there are copies of
Bigelow's official correspondence with Secretary of State Seward, as well.

As for Matías Romero's magnificent archive: it is at the Banco de México in Mexico City and can be consulted upon request. Click here for a PDF document by archivist Guadalupe Monroy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Resuming Next Week... Happy 2011


This blog will resume next Tuesday. It's been an extra long holiday... Good wishes for 2011!

Meanwhile, if you're happening upon this blog for the first time, be sure to check out the Maximilian page, with many links to on-line articles and books, photos, bibliographies, and much more.

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