or: The Phantom Crown.

In Which the Doomed Imperador Maximiliano and his Beautiful Wife Carlotta (with the help of the Wily Emperor of the French) attempt to establish an Enlightened Monarchy in the land of Mexico.

The period of the French Intervention in Mexico offers great opportunities for the Wargamer, no matter what his inclinations: There were battles, skirmishes, ambushes, and sieges; guerilla and contra-guerilla actions; colorfully-uniformed troops abound, as well as peasant militias and scruffy bandidos; Mexican, French, British, Spanish, Austrian, Hungarian, Belgian, American, and Confederate troops all played their parts. Soldiers-of-Fortune abounded, and troops changed allegiance frequently. (If the history is not enough, the possibilities for 'what-if' scenarios boggles the mind!)

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Suffice it to say that Napoleon III, using Mexican financial instability as a pretense, and wishing to both increase his influence in the New World and to lessen that of the USA, invaded Mexico and attempted to install Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Archduke of Austria, as Emperor. He was supported by Mexican conservatives, but faced opposition from the established Government and liberals. Volunteers from Austria and Belgium supported the Mexican Crown, and adventurers from the world over came to take part.

The diplomatic sphere was in a rather precarious balance: The USA was involved in it's own Civil War, and was reluctant to give the European Powers any reason/excuse to intervene or to recognize the Confederacy: The Imperial Regime was generally popular with the European powers, but they were all too aware that the USA would not stand for a foreign-imposed monarchy on their border once their affairs were in order. A waiting game was the result...

The Republican forces of President Benito Juárez suffered initial setbacks, and were driven far to the north, but anti-Imperial guerillos/bandidos roamed the countryside freely, and the Imperials controlled very little that they did not actively garrison. The guerilla war became exceedingly brutal, with any town that aided either side subject to terrible reprisals from the other.

The war soon became unpopular in France, where it was viewed as a needless expense, and Napoleon began withdrawing troops, which were to be replaced by native Mexican Imperial units, augmented by some foreign volunteers who would remain.

The Juáristas regained territory, and their forces grew.

When the American Civil War ended, the USA applied diplomatic pressure on France to remove her troops. American volunteers came south in droves to fight for one side or the other, and stores of surplus weapons made their way to the Juáristas. (There was even an unofficial raid by US troops on a Mexican armoury to prevent the weapons falling into Imperial hands once the French left.)

Finally, el Imperador Maximiliano was captured by Republican forces, and was executed by firing squad. His wife Carlotta lived on for many years in Europe, hopelessly insane...

For more details you would do well to read Maximilian and Carlotta: The Grand Opera.

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Occasionally updated by Tim Peterson