CHAPTER X. MAXIMILIAN AND MEXICO.
[Footnote 1: Much of the material of this chapter is taken from Victor Tissot's book of travels in Austria; the chapter on Maximilian as archduke and emperor I translated from advance-sheets, and it was published in the "Living Age" under the title "From Miramar to Queretaro." - E. W. L.]
Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, was born the same week that his cousin, the unfortunate son of Napoleon and Marie Louise, had died. He grew to manhood handsome, well educated, accomplished, and enterprising. He had the great gift of always making himself personally beloved. The navy was his profession, but his great desire was to be made viceroy of the (then) Austrian provinces of Italy. He felt sure that he could conciliate the Italians, and a great Italian statesman is reported to have said that it was well for Italian unity that his wish was never granted. His ideas were all liberal, and opposed to those of Metternich. His family mistrusted his political opinions, but the Italians, when brought into personal contact with him, soon learned to love him. They saw a great deal of him, for Trieste and Venice were at that period the naval stations of the Austrian Empire. He was, therefore, often in those places, and finally took up his residence in an earthly paradise upon the Adriatic, created by himself and called by him Miramar.
In June, 1857, when the Indian Mutiny was at its height, though tidings of it had not yet reached the western world, the Archduke Maximilian, whom the English royal family had never met, arrived at Windsor, and was hailed there as one who was soon to become a relative, for he was engaged to King Leopold's only daughter, the Princess Charlotte of Belgium.
The queen and her husband were charmed with Maximilian. "He is a young prince," writes Prince Albert, "of whom we hear nothing but good, and Charlotte's alliance with him will be one of the heart. May Heaven's blessing," he adds, "be upon a connection so happily begun, and in it may they both find their life's truest happiness!"
The queen also wrote to her uncle Leopold, -
"The archduke is charming, - so clever, natural, kind, and amiable; so English in his feelings and likings. With the exception of the mouth and chin, he is good looking, but I think one does not the least care for that, he is so very kind, clever, and pleasant. I wish you really joy, dearest uncle, at having got such a husband for dear Charlotte. I am sure he will make her happy, and do a great deal for Italy."
Prince Albert crossed over to Belgium for the wedding, and wrote to his wife: "Charlotte's whole being seems to have been warmed and unfolded by the love that is kindled in her heart. I have never seen so rapid a development in the space of one year. She appears to be happy and devoted to her husband with her whole soul, and eager to make herself worthy of her present position."
At the time of her marriage the princess had just entered her seventeenth year. The wedding-day was made a little family fete at Windsor, in spite of Prince Albert's absence. "The younger children," the queen writes to her husband, "are to have a half-holiday. Alice is to dine with us for the first time, in the evening. We shall drink the archduke's and the archduchess's healths, and I have ordered wine for our servants, and grog for our sailors, to do the same."
Maximilian had been round the world in his frigate, the "Novara;" he had travelled into Greece and Asia Minor, he had visited Spain, Portugal, and Sicily; he had been to Egypt and the Holy Land. He loved the ocean like a true sailor, and in 1856 he had taken up his residence at Trieste, to be near its shores. He would frequently go out alone in a light boat, even in rough weather, a dash of danger lending excitement to a struggle with the wind and waves.
One day in a storm his light craft had been borne like a feather round Cape Gignano. In a moment it lay at rest under the lee of the land. Maximilian landed, and found the spot so charming and the sea-view so superb that he resolved to build a little villa there for fishing. He bought the land at once, and began by setting out exotics, persuaded that the soil of such a spot would be favorable to tropical vegetation. A year later he brought his young bride to this favored spot, and with a golden wand transformed his bachelor's fishing-hut into the palace of an emperor.
At this period of his life, Maximilian (an author and a poet) was greatly interested in architecture. He drew the plans for an exquisite church (now one of the beauties of Vienna), and draughted with his own hand those for the grounds and castle of Miramar. The work was pushed on rapidly, yet in 1859, when Austria was forced to give up Lombardy, nothing at Miramar was complete except a fancy farm-house on one of the heights of the property. Maximilian, however, made his home there with his wife, and they found it so delightful that when at length the castle was ready for occupation, they lingered in the farmhouse, which they loved as their first home. It was a large Swiss chalet, covered with vines and honeysuckle, surrounded by groves of camellias and pyrus japonicas. How delicious life must have been to the husband and wife in this solitude, fragrant with flowers, vocal with the songs of birds, a glory of greenness round the house, the blue sky overhead, the glittering ocean at their feet, and holy love and loving kindness everywhere around them!
Maximilian's generosity rendered wealth indispensable to his complete happiness, for he loved to surround himself with artists, learned men, and men of letters. He paid them every kind of attention in his power, and did not omit those little gifts which are "the beads on memory's rosary."