Life Before 1859
In 1852 Maximilian married Maria Amelia, the Princess of Brazil. This marriage was endorsed by all parties and was rooted from a personal attraction. This marriage also made Maximilian a distant heir to the Brazilian throne.
Life in Brazil
Maximilian had been an outspoken critic of his brother's stance during the 1848 Liberal Revolutions and possessed a liberal worldview. This caused his brother to propose he find a home outside the Empire, as it was politically undesirably to posses such opinions. Maximilian, perhaps influenced by his desire for adventure and love of botany, chose to settle in Brazil along with his new bride in 1854.
While in Brazil he went on several expeditions to the interior. He became fast friends with the Brazilian Emperor, who shared his political ideas. Maximilian was also influential in the Brazilian navy, and accepted a commission within it from 1854-1858. Maximilian became an abolitionist while in Brazil.
Establishing the Mexican Empire
Invitation & The Reform War
In 1859 a group of Mexican nobles, in the midst of the Reform War, approached Maximilian and offered him the Mexican throne. Maximilian, having grown bored of Brazil and his isolation, decided to accept. Pedro II, as a gesture of support, allowed a squadron of the Brazillian Navy to accompany Maximilian and to help him combat the liberal opposition.
Upon his arrival in Mexico City and subsequent coronation, Maximilian was shocked by the living conditions of the average Mexican. However, these concerns were secondary to subduing the liberal rebel government in Veracruz. Maximilian's decision to create a naval blockade of the city cut off the rebellion's supplies. Veracruz surrendered to the conservative general Miguel Miramon in 1860. Maximilian offered an amnesty to all captured liberal leaders. Liberal Guerrillas would remain active in the countryside for years afterward.
Writing the Constitution and Appointing Juarez
While negotiating for an amnesty for Liberal partisans, Maximilian met Benito Juarez for the first time. Both men liked each other on a personal level, and shared many political philosophies. Juarez had led the liberal state from Veracruz, and many conservatives argued for his execution. Maximilian decided otherwise.
Maximilian and Juarez drafted together a new Mexican constitution, mirroring that of Great Britain. This new constitution allowed the military to retain political power at the expense of the church. The liberals were contented with the decline in church authority; the conservatives, the military not among them, were infuriated. Excabberating the situation further was Maximilian's appointing Juarez to the position of Prime Minister in 1863, which he would retain until 1889.
Maximilian's new government instituted liberal reforms such as cancelling all debts over 10 pesos, restricting working hours, and outlawing child labour and corporal punishment. To the dismay of Conservatives, Maximilian instituted land reforms, reinstituted communal property, extended the right to vote beyond the land owning classes and granted religious freedom within Mexico.
These reforms were unpopular amongst the conservative nobles to the point of inciting revolt. An assassination attempt against Maximilian was foiled in 1865. Conservatives attempted to storm and seize the palace soon thereafter, only to be defeated by the loyalist military.
Shortly thereafter Spain and France signed treaties with Mexico in which Maximilian agreed to repay Mexico's substansive debts. However, the war had effectively ruined Mexico's economy. Maximilian began allowing Europeans to settle in Mexico. This, alongside new liberal reforms, created a strong tax base with which to begin repaying Mexico's debt.
Modernization & Alliance with Brazil
With Mexico's economy slowly recovering, Maximilian became a champion of projects to build telegraph lines and railroads within Mexico. He also proposed the construction of a more modern navy.
Maximilian established close ties with Pedro II of Brazil. During the looming potential conflict between Brazil and Britain, Maximilian sided with Pedro. When Pedro severed relations between Brazil and Britain in 1865 Maximilian did also. The British thus became concerned that the debts owed to them by Mexico might not be repaid.
In 1866 the British apologized to Pedro II and restored diplomatic contact. With this the contact between Mexico and Britain was also re-established. Maximilian made good on his word and began repaying foreign debts. Maximilian and Pedro remained close, and ushered in a time of prosperity for both their nations.
In 1888, when republicans threatened to overthrow the Brazilian monarchy, Maximilian sent aid to the monarchists. This helped the monarchy remain an institution in Brazil.
In 1889, Maximilian contracted influenza and died quite suddenly. His 20 year old son Pedro, named after the emperor of Brazil, assumed the throne.