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Last Prince Of The Mexican Empire [Paperback]

C M Mayo
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 12 2010
The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is a sweeping historical novel of Mexico during the short, tragic, at times surreal, reign of Emperor Maximilian and his court. Even as the American Civil War raged north of the border, a clique of Mexican conservative exiles and clergy convinced Louis Napoleon to invade Mexico and install the Archduke of Austria, Maximilian von Habsburg, as Emperor. A year later, the childless Maximilian took custody of the two year old, half-American, Prince Agustín de Iturbide y Green, making the toddler the Heir Presumptive. Maximilian’s reluctance to return the child to his distraught parents, even as his empire began to fall, and the Empress Carlota descended into madness, ignited an international scandal.

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"A swashbuckling, riotous good time, befitting the fairy-tale promise of the opening sentence. There is intrigue, love, madness, fighting, dancing, all ornamented by many a sumptuous costume and lavish meal. But Mayo paints this vivid action with the delicate touch of a fine-haired brush."--The Austin-American Statesman "I have read a few sweeping historical novels that have remained inside of me forever. Tolstoy's War and Peace is one of those, Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities is another, Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago is another, and now The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire is another."--Mexico Connect "A stunning achievement, an inspired novel that steers clear of boring history lessons and instead zeroes in on the smallest epicenter -- Principe Agustin de Iturbide y Green -- to spiral out into a wondrous period, 1860s Mexico, a time of political possibility and unrest in which "persons who do not appear to share even a footprint's worth of common ground turn out to have destinies bound together in painful knots."--El Paso Times "Mayo - winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for her collection Sky Over El Nido - has conducted significant research to compile a story that is both grand yet intimate about a child who sparked an international scandal...The intriguing tale of the Prince of Mexico offers a fine historical lesson about why Maximilian's paternalistic adventure in a country that did not want him was doomed from the start." --Latin American Book Review "[A] rich historical novel... Political ambitions, the intrigues of the imperial court, and the relationship between countries at the height of European colonization all the drive the intricate plot of the novel, taking us on a dizzying journey from Washington to Veracruz to Paris and back to Mexico and the U.S... The evocative descriptions and ironic commentary on the relationship between cultures make this an enjoyable and important novel, particularly relevant for these times."--Literal: Latin American Voices "A fascinating historical account delivered in such sweeping, compelling prose as to ring more like literature than fact--and, fundamentally, one could say that it's both; it proves false that old Dorothy Parker adage about historical novels being neither novels nor history. This is an extensively researched and brilliantly organized book, combining geopolitics, international finance, military strategy, and, alas, the eternal struggle of a family, a child, and the human heart in the midst of it all...Mayo, who has lived in Mexico for many years and has written extensively about its history and culture, is the author of a travel memoir about Baja California, among other works. Her literary style is seasoned, intelligent, and wonderfully informed."--Multicultural Review "The story has plenty to lure the reader: banditry, kidnapping, hubris, madness; but it is a fine attention to detail, on both the factual and visceral levels, that distinguishes C.M. Mayo's first novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. Drawing from original research and a nuanced understanding of Mexico, Mayo relates one of Mexico's more fantastic historical episodes: Maximilian, an idealistic Austrian prince who, with French backing, is crowned emperor in 1864...Perceptive, and adept at imagining the peeves and wicked daydreams of people from all walks of life... "--THE PEOPLE'S GUIDE TO MEXICO Blog

About the Author

C. M. Mayo has been living in and writing about Mexico for many years. Her story collection, Sky Over El Nido, won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is also the author of a widely acclaimed travel memoir and is an avid translator and editor of contemporary Mexican literature.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating historical novel May 3 2009
By Myckyee
Format:Hardcover
Based on a true story, this novel describes the events surrounding Maximilian's time as emperor of Mexico in the 1860's. With his wife Carlotta, the emperor rules the unstable country amidst intrigues from Napoleon's military machine that have been sent to Mexico to keep the peace and support Maximilian. The military's biggest challenge is dealing with the Juarista's, rebel Mexican fighters trying to take back their country from the emperor and the French occupation.

Into this turbulence falls Augustin de Iturbide y Green, a baby born to Angelo de Iturbide, the son of a former Mexican ruler. With his wife, Alice Green, and extended family, Angelo tries to live a quiet life. But that doesn't last long as Maximilian, looking to provide himself with an heir arranges to adopt baby Augustin. Promising money and titles, Maximilian convinces Augustin's family leave for Paris where they will live in comfort. It is not long, however, before Alice and Angelo feel they've made a big mistake and attempt to get their son back.

I received this book through the LibraryThing early review programme based on the book's title and description. It sounded fascinating and it was, but there were a couple of things that bothered me. First, I was confused about who was on whose side and the subtleties of connections between characters escaped me. If I'd known a bit more about the history of that era, I think it would've helped a great deal. Another thing was the switching of perspectives between characters. We would have Alice's take on what was happening, then Pepa's (Angelo's sister), then Maximilian's and even little Augustin's. That was the worst part for me. I didn't like reading the story from the perspective of a toddler and didn't think it worked as a story device.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mexico's Legacy May 5 2009
By S. Agusto-Cox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
C.M. Mayo takes an in-depth look into one of Mexico's most turbulent times when its government was plagued by invaders (the Yankees and the French), in-fighting, and disease, like yellow fever.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire by C.M. Mayo and published by Unbridled Books is a historical novel that chronicles the short reign (about 3 years) of Maximilian, the undercurrent of political ambition, the clash of cultures, and internal familial machinations.

The novel opens in Washington, D.C., with Alice Green who meets and falls in love with Angelo de Iturbide, a secretary for the Mexican Legation. They marry and move to Mexico, where Alice (known as Alicia in Mexico) gives birth to their son, Agustín de Iturbide y Green. Leaving the Mexican shores, readers will journey across the Atlantic to Trieste, Italy, to meet Maximilian von Habsburg who reluctantly agrees to become the Emperor of Mexico. There are a number of nuances political and otherwise that can get confusing for readers unfamiliar with some of Mexico's history, but these instances are easily overcome as the story unfolds. It is clear from the use of multiple perspectives in this novel that the main character is not Maximilian, Agustin, Alice, Angelo, the Iturbides, the French invaders under Napoleon III, or the Republican upstarts led by Benito Juarez. The main "character" of this novel is Mexico and its future and how that future is shaped by all of these players, their decisions, and in some cases their indecision.

Mayo is an impeccable researcher and craftswoman who fleshes out historical figures in a way that remains true to their historical actions and creates characters who are well-rounded and memorable for readers. Her ability to juggle multiple points of view is unparalleled--from the perspective of Agustin's nanny to Maximilian himself.

One of the most captivating sections of the novel occurs between pages 147-153 in which Maximilian is preoccupied with matters of state and the Iturbide family's sudden breach of a contract with the emperor with regard to their son Agustin. Mayo weaves in Maximilian's frantic thoughts, rants, and arguments with his physical tossing about in his bed, as he mashes the pillow into submission, kicks off the sheets, and sits upright in bed as he determines the best course of action to save face and depict Mexico as a strong nation.

Readers will agree that her prose is poetic.

Overall, this epic novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, takes on a convoluted period in Mexico's history and the complicated families ruling or eager to rule in the mid-19th Century. Mayo does exceptionally well with multiple points of view, description, and character development to create a vivid dramatization. The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire would make a great book club selection and discussion.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Historical Fiction May 5 2009
By ReaderRabbit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed C. M. Mayo's historical fiction The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. The language was poetic and beautiful and I found myself lingering over this book rather than "gobbling it down." The characters were written with a sense of life and Mayo's style changed accurately with them. The ability to weave a story through the lens of so many social classes and personalities makes it all the more enjoyable to read. I especially enjoyed the differing perspectives on the political situation as it added great background knowledge.
This story follows a strange period of Mexican history, and tells the tale of the political maneuvering which occurred behind the scenes. I was rather unfamiliar with this historical period, but found that Mayo blended the events seamlessly into the story line. Like only the best historical fiction writers can Mayo introduced this period to me and ignited a new interest to learn more!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Emperor Next Door May 8 2009
By Joseph R. Furshong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
We spend many years in history classes and most of us end up retaining the major themes and facts of US history, some European major events and a smattering of the rest of the world's story. Of course the 1860s were tumultuous years in America with the Civil War occupying the main stage for five years. But, how many of us are aware that just across the Rio Grande, Mexico was going through a similar upheaval and that the events are fascinating.

C. M. Mayo relates an utterly absorbing story, putting faces, feelings and emotions into a intense, brief episode in Mexican History, when Archduke Maximilian I of Austria reigned as Emperor of Mexico for three years. This seemingly incongruous situation was the result of the bizarre intersection of European and Mexican politics. A group representing the conversative, monarchical movement in Mexico, took advantage of the chaos following the overthrow of Benito Juarez and with French support, offered the crown of Mexico to Maximilian, the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria.

The imposition of a European royal court upon the political structure of 19th century Mexico is an interesting story in itself and Mayo tells it well. But, the author narrows her focus further by putting at the center two year old Augustin Iturbide y Green, the "last prince of the Mexican Empire." The childless Maximilian and Carlota decided to identify an "heir presumptive" and in 1865 selected the grandson of Mexico's first "emperor" Augustin Iturbide, as a means to increase acceptance of the struggling monarchy. Young Augustin's parents, Angel Iturbide and his American wife, Alice Green, welcomed the proposed arrangement. In return for this designation, the new heir was to be raised in luxury, educated in the best schools in Europe and groomed to become Maximilian's successor and restore the fortunes of the Iturbide family. But, when the child is actually cut off from all contact with his parents, and his parents forced to leave Mexico, Alice Green Iturbide begins a relentless campaign to reclaim her son, a quest that takes her to the court of Louis Napoleon and to the Vatican. Her quest, and the efforts of Maximilian and Carlota to retain their tottering throne make a spellbinding conclusion to this truly fresh and well-crafted novel.

Satisfying historic fiction contains the best elements of any good novel: excellent writing, strong plot, conflict, believable characters and an interesting setting. C. M. Mayo has brought all of these elements together around an intriguing and completely mesmerizing story. The impact of the novel was very strong and that has led me to read some background articles, do further research and given me some ideas for my next trip to Mexico. Hat off to Ms Mayo for a job well done. I eagerly look forward to her next effort.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mexican History From A Different Slant June 28 2009
By Mark Mellon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For most Americans, drinking Tecate and Corona on Cinco de Mayo is the closest they get to remembering the French 19th-century adventure in Mexico when Napoleon III installed Maximilian as the short-lived, doomed emperor (the holiday celebrates one of the few outright Mexican military victories over the French). Readers curious to learn more about this ill-fated adventure can do so enjoyably by reading C. M. Mayo's novel about a little-known aspect of Maximilian's stay in Mexico: his adoption of the grandson of the first emperor of Mexico, Iturbide.

Mayo has a longstanding interest in Mexico (she has lived there for many years and is a renowned travel writer) and brings a deep fundamental knowledge of the nation, its history, and people to the novel. This is in addition to detailed, original research on her part that would do credit to an authoritative work of history. Fortunately, The Last Prince also works well as a novel. Mayo's characters are both believable and interesting. Her depiction of Maximilian's thought processes illustrate very well how a basically decent and intelligent man could bring himself to commit one blunder after another in both the private and public spheres. Other characters, including entirely fictional ones, are also brought vividly to life.

My only disappointment with the book is that the focus was primarily on domestic matters, the private lives of the characters, rather than on the dramatic events of Maximilian's reign. This is particularly true with respect one of the most tragic and pointless events of the whole sad story, the capture, trial, and execution of Maximilian by the Juaristas. This is only discussed in the book in retrospect. I understand that the chief theme of the novel was parental love for a child (especially the love of a mother) since The Last Prince deals primarily with the efforts of the Iturbides to recover their son after they were half-bribed, half-forced into handing him over to Maximilian. Still, a little more attention to the military and political aspects of events might have helped to portray the tremendous upheaval caused by Napoleon III's irresponsible meddling in Mexican affairs.

Despite this caveat, I nonetheless recommend this book to anyone looking for a reasonably good historical novel. The Last Prince should be of special interest to anyone interested in 19th Century European history or in Mexico in general.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible research, impressive feat of imagination Aug. 22 2010
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This novel recreates a period in the history of our southern neighbor that few Americans know much about. It centers around the tragic figure of Maximilian, a Habsburg prince who for three years tried to establish himself as "emperor of Mexico" backed by the French army. When the French withdrew, his support collapsed. He was captured by Republican forces and executed.

C.M. May has researched the period extensively and has an amazing ability to see through the eyes of her vast cast of characters. It includes princes and princesses, soldiers, servants, peasants, revolutionaries, diplomats and a small child, Augustin Iturbide, heir to a distinguished Mexican family stolen from his natural parents to be adopted by Maximilian.

I was enormously impressed by the author's ability to bring the period to life and the sheer ambition of this novel. She inhabits the skin of each of her many characters. This is a very impressive feat of imaginative historical reconstruction.
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