During the war, France wanted to create its own friendly government in Mexico to have more influence in the region. The French chose an Austrian archduke named Maximilian, the younger brother of the Hapsburg emperor, as the head of the Second Mexican Empire. Maximilian, or Maximiliano, only ruled for three years (1864-1867), but was able to gain the support of the natives in that short time in power. According to Enrique Krauze, a leading figure on Mexican history,

[Maximiliano] did not come to be emperor of the Conservatives but of all the Mexicans.

The conservatives in Mexico at the time preferred a monarchy and thus came to embrace Maximiliano for reforming legal codes and dismissing corrupt officials. Maximiliano even set up a council to restore land that was stolen to their legal owners, which the Juarez administration never did. Maximiliano enforced most of the Liberal reforms and offered Benito Juarez a truce to end the war that would have made him his prime minister.

Maybe Mexico’s history would have been different had Maximiliano I of México not been executed in 1867 after he alienated his conservative allies. Just how different it would have been is anyone’s guess.

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