Portrait of Princess Charlotte of Belgium (1840-1927), c.1845-46 (cat no 311b) @ Sotheby’s New York [Part 2]

January 10, 2014 § 1 Comment

Charlotte Belgium 1845 Winterhalter

Portrait of Princess Charlotte of Belgium (1840-1927), c.1845-46 (cat no 311b) @ Sotheby’s New York [Part 2]

The tragic story of Princess Charlotte of Belgium is only too well known to relate within these pages, but it would suffice to say that she was the only daughter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians, and his second wife, Princess Louise-Marie d’Orléans, the eldest daughter of Louis-Philippe, King of the French. She was a beautiful and intelligent child, especially favoured by her cousin, Queen Victoria of England. After the premature death of her mother in 1850, Charlotte’s education and upbringing was supervised by her grandmother, Marie-Amélie, Queen of the French, now living in exile in England.

Leopold I realised his political and dynastic ambitions by arranging in 1857 Charlotte’s marriage to Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, a brother of the Emperor Franz-Joseph. The same year Maximilian was appointed Viceroy of Lombardy and Venetia, then under the Austrian control, and Charlotte did much social, welfare, and charitable work to alleviate the anti-Austrian sentiment of the local populace.

In 1864 the political and diplomatic manoeuvring of Napoléon III brought Maximilian the crown of Mexico. Charlotte dutifully followed her husband to the New World, where she was instrumental in establishing a proper court, and where once again she endeared herself to the local populace through her philanthropy, charitable works, and frequent visits to the poorer areas of the newly-created Empire.

As the social and political situation in Mexico worsened, Charlotte famously travelled in 1867 to France to demand military and financial assistance from Napoléon III. During the interview with the Emperor, she suffered a nervous and mental breakdown, from which she never recovered. Pronounced clinically insane, Charlotte spent the next sixty years of her life being cared for by her Belgian relatives, and dying in 1927 a few months short of her 87th birthday.

To be continued…

© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg, 2014

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