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Adios, Mama Carlota

17 June 2012

More evidence that history repeats itself, if only as metaphor.

Tropical Storm Carlota weakened into a tropical depression on Saturday after battering Mexico’s Pacific coast and killing at least two children whose house collapsed in a landslide…

It wasn’t the first time a furiously active, greatly feared Carlota came banging into our tropical shores, only to degrade into a depression, after getting a few people killed and leaving behind a mess…

And, in looking around for something snarky to use as a photo (I was going to use Bette Davis, as Carlota, going spectacularly nuts in the 1939 MGM “Juarez”, as Carlota did in 1867 — while calling on Pope Pius IX.

Allegedly, the only woman ever to spend the night in the Papal apartments (the Pope, who was in his mid 70s, spent the night in the Vatican telegraph office, trying to get in contact with her brother, the King of Belgium), Carlota was eventually judged to be incurably insane.

In 1879, Bouchout Castle in Miess, Belgium (now the National Botanic Garden of Belgium) became her home, or hospital or asylum.  Never well, physically or mentally, this photograph of Carlota, accompanied by a “lady-in-waiting” and the Castle’s majordomo, is one of the very rare portraits of the former Empress dating from after the Mexican fiasco (The only other one I have seen shows her on her deathbed, and I found a reference to one of Carlota seated in a wheelchair).

The photo is said to have been taken in 1882.  Although she was known to have shown signs of a physical and mental deterioration even when still in Mexico (I am not the only one who has concluded she was suffering from tertiary syphilis), Carlota was born in 1840, and the woman in the photo is more likely in her 70s than in her early 40s.  Also, although Carlota spent most of the last sixty years of her life too debilitated to get out of bed, someone would have seen to it that she owned decent clothing (she was, after all, a member of the royal family).  Carlota an her attendants, while not dressed fashionable, are in clothing styles of the World War I era.   I expect the author of the site (which somehow ties the history of the Americas to the Biblical prophesy and the “end times”)  which posted this photo made a guess as to the date … and so do it..  sometime after 1910, possibly as late as the 1920s.

Carlota lingered on , a ghostly presence in the castle, until her death, at the age of 86, on 19 January 1927.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anton Rigglesby permalink
    18 June 2012 1:25 pm

    Amazing, she made it all the way into the ‘twenties, the height of the Revolution. Too bad she suffered, would have been interesting to see what her thoughts might have been on the Revolution and everything from Emperor Max up til then.

  2. Hugo permalink
    19 June 2012 1:00 pm

    Egon Erwin Kisch in his book Descubrimientos en México points out the possibility that she was poisened with an indigenous herbal infusion. Others speculate that she was bipolar:

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