shoots rang out and Maximilian staggered backwards, falling to the ground. His
body lay where it fell, convulsed in its death agony. He died instantly, although
an officer stepped forward with a final shot at point blank range to ensure he
was dead. Next came the turn of two two of his companions, Miramon and Mejia -
who had been condemned to die with him, now led forward to face the same execution
squad. A few minutes later their crumpled bodies joined Maximilian's on the hard
caliche ground. Their last words were cries of "God save the Emperor".
The bodies were taken away. Maximilian had given precise instructions prior to
his death on how his body should be prepared and shipped back to Europe. His calm
preparations for death amazed his jailers, who had never seen a Hapsburg die before.
70 years before Maximilian's great-great aunt, the Hapsburg Queen of France, Marie
Antoinette, had also turned her thoughts to God and her historical legacy. In
the last days, and then the last hours, it was critical to think of how history
would remember you. The final moments of a Royal's life were the last chance for
a crowned head to sign humanity's guest book. Who will ever know Maximilian's
true last thoughts?
Seven ounces of gold did not preserve Maximilian's body intact for his mother's
last gaze. Somehow a bullet had gone astray - perhaps a man frightened at committing
regicide had turned his rifle barrel away - too suddenly for he hit Maximilian
in the eye. When the body was taken away the eye was replaced by a glass one and
the corpse was hung upside down to drain its fluids. When the embalmers were convinced
the body was mummified, it was placed, eyes open and garishly painted, in a coffin.
Maximilian's bloody shirt
Maximilian's mummy in his coffin