w w w. c a s a i m p e r i a l. o r g
Introduction

 

on Agustin de Iturbide, liberator and subsequently Emperor of Mexico originated from a noble family that had its roots in Navarre. The Iturbide family (sometimes referred to as Yturbide) were first mentioned in documents in the early part of 13th century and housed in the Basque Lands Archives. In 1440 the Iturbide family were ennobled by King Juan II of Aragon. Don Martin de Iturbide was Alcalde (roughly translated as Mayor) of the valley of Baztan in 1432 and exercised jurisdiction in the King’s name.

The Iturbide family continued to hold high office in the Basque lands from the 15th century onwards and many prominent members of the family are recorded in the archives of Pamplona. Don Juan de Iturbide and two of his sons fell as heroes at the battle of Lepanto in 1571.

Don Jose de Iturbide y Alvarez de Eulate married Doña Maria Josepha de Arregui y de Gastelu. Their son Don Jose Joaquin was born in January or February 1739 and baptised on February 6th. In 1766 he emigrated to Mexico and settled in the town of Valladolid (today Morelia).

By 1786 Don Jose Joaquin was a member of the municipal council and owner of a hacienda at Quirio. He married in 1772 Doña Maria Josepha de Aramburu y Carillo de Figueroa also of a noble family originating from Navarre and Biscaya.

On the 27th of September 1783 their son Agustin Cosme was born in the city of Valladolid (now Morelia). Don Agustin was educated at the college of San Nicolas and at the officer's academy. In 1797 he was commissioned second Lieutenant. In 1805 he married a Spanish noblewoman Doña Anna Maria Josepha de Huarte y Muniz, a grand daughter of the Marquis de Altamira and daughter of the powerful nobleman Isidro de Huarte, provincial Intendant of the district.

In 1806 Don Agustin was promoted full Lieutenant and in 1810 Captain. Between 1810 and 1816 Don Agustin distinguished himself in putting down various insurrections by rebels calling for the independence of Mexico. As a result of these successful actions he made a number of enemies.

The French revolution of 1789 led many of the inhabitants of New Spain to dream of independence. Events in war torn Europe only acted to nourish this dream. Following Napoleon’s coming to power in France and invasion of Spain, the Spanish King Carlos IV abdicated in favour of Ferdinand VII who in turn was forced to give way to Napoleon’s brother Joseph.

In Mexico a prominent lawyer, Primo de Verdad gave a speech in the assembly in which he said that a usurper had seized the throne of Spain and the people of New Spain should therefore govern themselves. His motion was thrown out but the movement toward independence had started in earnest. The mantle thrown down by Perdad was taken up by Father Miguel Hildago a parish priest of the town of Dolores. He and Captain Ignacio Allende instigated an uprising in Jalisco province in 1810.

Battles between the rebels and the government ensued. In 1811 the two forces met in battle at Puerte de Calderon and the rebels were routed. Hildago was taken prisoner and on July 30th 1811 he was shot before a firing squad. Following Hildago’s death, several rebels took up the cause but without much real success. The movement was largely leaderless until 1821 when Don Agustin, a royalist convert to the cause of independence took over.

In 1813 the viceroy General Felix Maria Calleja promoted Don Agustin to Colonel and made him commander of the newly created regiment of Celaya. In 1814 Don Agustin was made joint commander of the royalist forces that defeated the largest rebel army under Jose Maria Morelos at Puruaran.

In 1815 Don Agustin was made supreme commander of the armies of the north. Between 1816 and 1820, Don Agustin became increasingly sympathetic to the cause of independence for Mexico. In 1821 Don Agustin was promoted to supreme commander of all Mexican forces and by this time his forces had put down all but one of the rebels. However things were changing and Don Agustin’s sympathies for the cause of independence grew further still. In the same year he held talks with the only major rebel commander left in Mexico, Vicente Guerrero. Following these talks Don Agustin became convinced that independence was the only way Mexico could progress and accordingly drew up a draft plan called the Plan of Iguala which called for an independent Mexico albeit under King Ferdinand VII of Spain.

The major points of the plan of Iguala were known as the three guarantees, these being Religion, Independence and Union. A new army called The Army of the Three Guarantees was created in order to protect and implement the plan. Don Agustin was commander of this army.

The plan envisaged Mexico being an independent monarchy under the Spanish King or in the case of his refusal under another Prince of the House of Borbon. Should that prove impossible the throne of Mexico was to be offered to a member of another reigning catholic European dynasty. In the meantime Mexico would continue to be ruled by the viceroy but under the terms of the plan of Iguala and with the help of the army of the three guarantees commanded by Don Agustin.

King Ferdinand VII rejected the plan out of hand and immediately sent Juan O'Donoju as his viceroy (captain general) to Mexico. Don Juan’s brief was to come up with an alternative plan that more or less maintained the status quo.

Don Juan’s argument in favour of maintaining the status quo were dismissed and it became clear that changes would have to be made. The demand for independence had gathered momentum and could not now be reversed. Eventually after much negotiation Juan O'Donoju agreed to a treaty encompassing the plan of Iguala with almost no amendments. This treaty became known as the treaty of Cordoba.

When King Ferdinand of Spain heard of the compromise he was livid. He wrote to Don Juan rejecting it and while he agreed in this letter that he had given Don Juan a free hand he had not expected things to go as far and made it clear that he would not authorise Don Juan to sign it. Simultaneously the King rejected the offer of the crown of an independent Mexico and forbade any of his family from accepting the position.

The King’s protest was too late. Don Juan had accepted the treaty and even if he had not the move toward independence could not now be reversed. On the 27th of September 1821 Mexico was declared an independent State. There were many Mexicans who at the time of independence and out of gratitude to Don Agustin as liberator of Mexico suggested offering the vacant throne to him. Don Agustin however turned this offer down saying that he still recognised King Ferdinand VII as the monarch.

Over the next few months it became obvious that no suitable candidate from the house of Borbon could be persuaded to accept the throne so that the lobby for Don Agustin grew even stronger. On the night of the 18th of May 1822 a mass demonstration led by the regiment of Celaya, whose commander was Don Agustin, marched through the streets and demanded that their commander in chief accept the throne.

In later years Don Agustin's enemies claimed quite unjustly that he had instigated this demonstration himself to obtain the throne. However it is an undeniable fact that the highest commanders of the army wanted Don Agustin to accept the throne, as did the mass of the population of Mexico City and the country as a whole. As a result the congress was convened to discuss the possible candidatures for the throne of Mexico.

After a long and lively debate the congress proclaimed Don Agustin, Emperor of Mexico “by divine providence and by the congress of the nation”. Very few monarchs then or now could demonstrate such legitimate credentials. The Emperor was called to the throne not only by popular acclaim but also by the democratic vote of the congress.

The coronation of Don Agustin as Emperor and his wife Doña Ana Maria as Empress took place amid much pomp and circumstance on the 21st of July 1822 at the Cathedral of Mexico City. The Archbishop Fonte presided over the anointment of the Emperor who following Napoleon’s example actually crowned himself.

The Imperial court absorbed nearly all the Mexican nobles created by the Kings of Spain. The nobles as a class, almost without exception, voted in favour of Don Agustin as Emperor. As a result, the Marquis de Aguayo was appointed head of the Imperial Household, the Conde de Regla, was made chief ADC to the Emperor, the Marques de Salvatierre, Captain of the Imperial Guard. The Counts and Marquesses Valle de Orizaba, Jaral, Guardiola, Cadena, Uluapa, Torre Cosio, Rul, Agreda, Rayas, Penasco, Castaniza, Miraflores, Vivanco, Alamo and Tagle were all made officials of the new court.

Following the coronation of Don Agustin, political and financial instability continued to bedevil an independent Mexico. Don Agustin was accused of assuming too much power for himself. Interestingly these accusations were mostly levelled by individuals jealous of his position. His greatest critic was a man of great ambition Antonio Lopes de Santa Anna. Santa Anna was described by the then US President as “the shiftiest man he had ever met, an opportunist who loved power and the trappings of power”.

In the early spring of 1823 Don Agustin in response to criticism that he was responsible for much of the unrest in the country offered his abdication. On the 19th of March his abdication was accepted by his opponents in the government. Noting that his presence in Mexico would always serve as a focus for disturbances he said he would gladly leave the country if that would help ease the situation.

Both the army and the common people of Mexico protested at the abdication of the Emperor as they were still very much in his favour. However by that time the Emperors political opponents had gained the upper hand. Always jealous of the Emperors popularity and successes they missed no opportunity to criticize and censure him. After leaving Mexico the Emperor lived in Italy and later in England where he wrote his memoirs.

Despite his abdication and departure the situation in Mexico got a lot worse rather than better so that the Emperor saw his sacrifice as having been for nothing.

Reports coming from Mexico indicated that the country was fast falling into anarchy and that the populace, church and army were still behind the Emperor and that they viewed him as the only person capable of bringing peace and order to an independent Mexico.

A year after leaving, on the 11th of May 1824 the Emperor sailed from Southampton aboard the vessel Spring with his wife and two youngest children bound for Mexico. The ship landed at the town of Soto La Marina. Spies in England had betrayed news of the Emperors arrival to Santa Anna so that the new government commander of the eastern interior provinces Felipe Garza was waiting for him to arrest him.

The desperate politicians in power in Mexico City, having seen what had happened when Napoleon returned from Elba were terrified at the news of the Emperor’s imminent return and of the news spreading amongst the people and the army. They ordered that the Emperor be executed on arrival without trial on the pretext that he will have returned to Mexico without the permission of the government. Garza was to carry out the sentence at once and without delay.

So without even the vestige or pretence of a trial, the Emperor was arrested upon setting foot ashore and showing great courage and enormous dignity was placed before a firing squad of militia and promptly executed. More than a decade later in October 1838 his remains were buried in a state funeral at the Cathedral of Mexico City.

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