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The Last Emperor of Mexico

Edward Shawcross

The extraordinary untold story of how a hubristic Archduke became the puppet Emperor of Mexico – with tragic consequences – by a dazzling young historian.

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Mexico, 19th June 1867. Dressed in black and carrying a crucifix, a tall blonde bearded man steps out of his carriage. As he turns to face the firing squad, his last words ring out under the cloudless sky: ‘Long live Mexico, long live independence.’

The execution of Ferdinand Maximilian is the climax of one of the most extraordinary stories in history. This young Austrian archduke was born into Europe’s most illustrious royal family, second in line to the Habsburg throne. Why did he die as the Emperor of Mexico, leaving his wife to descend into madness in a Belgian castle?

The answer is a tale of operatic proportions, sweeping across continents from the 1848 European revolutions to the civil wars in Mexico and the USA, pitting Old World against New, conservatives against radicals, monarchies against republics. Harbouring ambitions of a Latin American empire to halt American expansionism, Napoleon III of France installed these puppets to rule over a country riven by internal factions – with tragic consequences.

Marshalling an incredible range of sources to bring to life a cast of stranger-than-fiction characters, Edward Shawcross’ The Last Emperor of Mexico is historical storytelling at its finest: the definitive telling of the greatest tale you’ve never known.


After graduating from the University of Oxford, Edward Shawcross lived and worked in France, then South Korea and finally Colombia before returning to London where he completed a PhD at UCL. His research specialised on French imperialism in Latin America and the Mexican intellectual thought that underpinned the Second Mexican Empire.

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