Saturday 24 October

Castello di Miramare – Trieste (Italy, 1983)

Miramare is a 19th century castle on the Gulf of Trieste. It was built between 1856 and 1860 for Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Charlotte of Belgium.

The castle was designed by Carl Junker. Bizarrely, most of Carl Junker’s architectural career was focused on aqueducts and water supply systems, including a period working on the Suez Canal and figuring out the water supply for Vienna.

The Archduke didn’t get much time to enjoy his new abode. After becoming Emperor Maximilian I in 1864, he was invited by Napoleon III to establish a new pro-French monarchy in Mexico (yes, really), pitting himself against the Americans, Spanish and, well, Mexicans. When the French decided it was a battle they couldn’t win and withdrew their support, Ferdinand Maximilian was left high and dry. He was captured and executed by the Mexican Republican government in 1867.

Charlotte of Belgium, on the other hand, lived until 1927. She spent a large part of her life at Miramare in an extravagant form of house arrest. She was seen as both dangerous (for knowing a lot of things) and powerful (as a rich widow with royal heritage), and it suited all sides to keep this particular piece off the political chessboard.

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