Archduke Maximilian of Austria, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, King Leopold I of the Belgians, King Louis Philippe of the French, King Pedro V of Portugal, Kingdom of the Belgians, Princess Charlotte of Belgium, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
Charlotte of Belgium (Marie Charlotte Amélie Augustine Victoire Clémentine Léopoldine of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; June 7, 1840 – January 19, 1927), better known under the name Charlotte, was the daughter of King Leopold I of Belgium and Princess Louise of Orléans. Her first name pays homage to the late Princess Charlotte of Wales, her father’s first wife.
She was also later known by the Spanish version of her name, Carlota, was by birth a Princess of Belgium and member of the House of Wettin in the branch of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (as such she was also styled Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess in Saxony).
Her mother was was the eldest daughter of the future Louis-Philippe I, King of the French, and of his wife Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies.
Through her mother, Charlotte was a granddaughter of King Louis Philippe I of the French and Maria Amalia of the Two Sicilies, and through her father, she was a first-cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; thanks to these relations, and in addition to regular stays in the city of Ostend in the summer, Charlotte spent long holidays with her maternal grandparents in the French royal residences and at her cousin’s in Windsor Castle.
As a child, she had a religious and bourgeoisie education thanks to the part played by her mother and her aunt, Princess Adélaïde of Orléans, to whom she was very close.
In her youth, Charlotte resembled her mother, and was noted as being a beauty possessing delicate features. This, combined with her status as the only daughter of the King of the Belgians, made her a desirable match.
In 1856, as she was preparing to celebrate her sixteenth birthday, two suitors sought her hand: Prince Georg of Saxony (who was quickly rejected) and King Pedro V of Portugal. The latter was the favorite candidate of both Queen Victoria and King Leopold I.
By personal choice, and under the influence of Madame d’Hulst (who affirmed that at the Portuguese court no priest would understand her), Charlotte declined the offer of marriage with King Pedro V. She explained: “As for Pedro, it is a throne, it is true, I would be Queen and Majesty but what is that, the crowns nowadays are heavy burdens and how one regrets later to have yielded to such crazy considerations”.
In the month of May 1856, Charlotte met in Brussels with Archduke Maximilian of Austria, younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. She was immediately charmed by this prince who was eight years her senior. Reportedly she stated: “it will be him that I will marry”.
Her father left Charlotte the choice of her future husband; as she testified in a letter addressed to her grandmother Maria Amalia: “He wrote me the most impartial letter, putting before my eyes the advantages of one and the other without wanting to influence me in any way”.
As for Leopold I, he wrote to his future son-in-law: “You won in May […] all my confidence and my benevolence. I also noticed that my little girl shared these dispositions; however it was my duty to proceed with precaution”. Charlotte declared: “If, as it is in question, the Archduke was invested with the Viceroyalty of Italy, that would be charming, that’s all I want”. The official engagement was celebrated on December 23, 1856.
Archduke Maximilian of Austria was born on July 6, 1832 in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, capital of the Austrian Empire. He was baptized the following day as Ferdinand Maximilian Josef Maria. The first name honored his godfather and paternal uncle, Emperor Ferdinand I, and the second honored his maternal grandfather, Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria.
His father was Archduke Franz Charles, the second surviving son of Emperor Franz I, during whose reign he was born. Maximilian was thus a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a female-line cadet branch of the House of Habsburg. His mother was Princess Sophie of Bavaria, a member of the House of Wittelsbach.
Charlotte appeared elated by the prospect of her marriage to Maximilian, praising a fiancé for whom she envisioned an exceptional destiny. Maximilian appeared less enthusiastic when negotiating the dowry of his bride. The Archduke said of his fiancée: “She’s short, I’m tall, which must be.
She’s brunette, I’m blonde, which is good too. She is very intelligent, which is a bit annoying, but I will undoubtedly get over it”. The marriage ceremony was celebrated on July 27, 1857 at the Royal Palace of Brussels. This alliance with the House of Habsburg-Lorraine enhanced the legitimacy of the recently established Kingdom of the Belgians.