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.
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.
de Iturbide y Alvarez de Eulate married Doña Maria Josepha
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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.