Traces of a life: Maximilian of Mexico


His tragic failure as Emperor of Mexico has assured Maximilian a special place in the historical consciousness of posterity.

In his native city of Vienna there is a monument to Maximilian outside the parish church in Hietzing, the quarter bordering the western edge of the park at Schönbrunn, in Vienna’s thirteenth municipal district. Unveiled in 1871, it was erected after his death by the corporation of Hietzing (at that time still independent of the city of Vienna) in remembrance of the archduke as a patron and supporter of the local community.
Maximilian had a special relationship with Hietzing. In 1850 a piece of land on the west side of the park at Schönbrunn was placed at his disposal. Soon afterwards he had a private residence erected there which came to be known as the Villa Maxing. Today the part of the district bordering the west side of the park at Schönbrunn is still called Maxing, thus preserving Maximilian’s memory.
Maximilian’s residence was a villa-type edifice in ‘Alpine’ style – or what passed for it at the time. It was a rustic lodge, constructed predominantly of wood, with balconies running all around the building together with window shutters and broad shingle roofs that distantly recalled the architectural traditions of the Alpine regions. A typical feature of this picturesque-style building was its profusion of viewing turrets, ornate gables and rustic interior décor. The latter included a drinking parlour and a gentlemen’s room which was opulently decorated with hunting trophies and guns. A not unaccomplished dilettante architect, Maximilian himself had a hand in the designing of the villa.
The villa was surrounded by a botanic or Alpine garden that was immediately adjacent to the Tyrolean Garden in the park at Schönbrunn. Later on Maximilian gifted the park to the municipality of Hietzing with the proviso that it was to be made accessible to the public. The villa was later also sold to the municipality but demolished in 1955, having been deemed ruinous and unworthy of preservation. Today only the foundations remain. The weather vane which once topped one of the villa’s turrets is today on display in the local district museum.
There is a small museum devoted to Maximilian of Mexico at Hardegg in Lower Austria (near the Thaya-Auen National Park) housed in a memorial room in Hardegg castle.
A room devoted to Maximilian’s activities in the Imperial-Royal Navy at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum in Vienna commemorates this ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful brother of the emperor.
The most impressive place connected with Maximilian of Mexico is Miramare, the palace he built near Trieste.

Martin Mutschlechner