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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
In the dim vastness of a Belgian chateau, an 83-year-old woman, dying insane, is living in the memories of her resplendant past.
She does not see the green fields of Belgium, heavy with heat. Empress Carlotta, widow of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, sees only days of youth. To her the chateau is Mexico's royal palace. Her nurses and doctors are courtiers and gallants. Nearby young Maximilian, her emperor husband, is waiting and will come to her.
Carlotta has no knowledge of the days that followed that burning dawn in 1869 when Mexican rebels shot Maximilian against a wall. Since that day and through all her wanderings she has been stark mad.
During the War she fell into the hands of the Germans, but Wilhelm gave orders that she was not to be disturbed and she received everything to which she was accustomed.
King Albert of Belgium visited his aunt, the ex-Empress, last week. He was to her only a courtier in her halucinatory court.
The Empress Carlotta, known to the Habsburg Court as "Belgian Charlotte," is a sister of Leopold II, late king of the Belgians. She had influence in Vienna after marrying the Archduke Maximilian, brother of the late Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. It was on account of her meddlesomeness that the court hated her and was unmistakably relieved when she departed with her husband to rule Mexico, through the instrumentality of Napoleon III, Emperor of France.
Her estates are valued at $70,000,000 and will go to the Belgian Royal family at her death.
The movie Juarez is outstanding, if you dispense with Paul Muni's mummified title character and focus on the tragic Hapsburgs. Writes a reviewer:
Far more exciting dramatically is Bette Davis as Empress Carlotta, whose highly stylized descent into madness is a tour de force both for the actress and for director William Dieterle… The best performance is delivered by Brian Aherne, whose kindly, honorable Emperor Maximillian is less a despot than a misguided political pawn. When Aherne, about to be executed at Juarez' orders, requests that his favorite Mexican song "La Paloma" be played as he is led before the firing squad, audience sympathies are 100% in Maximilian's corner--which was not quite what the filmmakers intended.
The last scene, with Maximilian lying in his casket in a candle-filled chapel, goes off the POD-meter.