Agustín de Iturbide – Emperor of Mexico

Iturbide Biography

Agustin de Iturbide was a Mexican military caudillo who was the leader of the conservative factions in the Mexican independence movement and emperor of Mexico.

Agustín de Iturbide

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Agustín de Iturbide was born on September 27, 1783 in Morelia, Mexico. As a young man he joined the Royalist army.

His defense of Valladolid against the revolutionary forces dealt a devastating blow to the insurgents, and gave him command of the military district of Guanajuato and Michoacán.

On May 19, 1822, he placed the crown on his own head and became Augustine I, Emperor of Mexico.

The initial revolt, led by Father Miguel Hidalgo, was liberally oriented, but it went far beyond South American liberals by including the mestizo (mixed blood) and Indian classes, giving it a touch of social revolution.

The creole aristocrats (white individuals born in America, descendants of Spaniards) defeated the rebels, but they themselves sought independence in a second phase, under the leadership of Agustín de Iturbide.

Military life and career

Augustine comes from a rich aristocratic family, unconditionally Catholic, of Basque descent.

He received his education at the seminary of Valladolid and dedicated his youth to administering one of his father’s haciendas (farms).

In 1805 he married Ana María Huarte, daughter of the provincial intendant (governor).

Iturbide received a commission in the royal militia and quickly gained fame for his daring actions during the campaigns against the liberal revolutionaries.

Employing imaginative stratagems and severe measures, he acquired a reputation for courage and toughness, winning several promotions.

In 1813 he held the rank of colonel, in command of the Celaya regiment, in addition to serving as military commander of the Guanajuato City Hall.

Two years later he was put in charge of the Ejército del Norte, whose jurisdiction included the municipalities of Valladolid and Guanajuato.

The “Liberator”

Iturbide was among the young Creole aristocrats who began to contemplate the possibility of separating from Spain in response to an 1820 military revolt that placed Spain under a liberal regime.

Iturbide was then in command of the royal forces that were persecuting Vicente Guerrero, one of the few liberal revolutionaries still in the countryside.

The two entered into negotiations, and Guerrero promised his support to his former adversary.

On February 24, 1821, Iturbide launched its own revolt by issuing the Plan de Iguala, also known as the Plan de la Triguarantina.

Its 23-article statement detailed a conservative program based on three guarantees: religion, independence and unity.

These terms indicated that Iturbide was dedicated to preserving the colonial system, simply by replacing the Creoles with Spaniards in government positions.

The Monarchy

It aspired to constitute Mexico into an independent monarchy, headed by a Bourbon prince, preserving class and Church privileges.

A large part of the Creole population joined Iturbide’s support. When Captain General Juan O’Donojú arrived to assume his duties as the new Spanish viceroy in Mexico a few months later, he found Iturbide in effective control of the country.

Lacking sufficient strength to challenge the Mexican leader’s ascendancy, the viceroy proposed negotiations.

The resulting Treaty of Córdoba confirmed Mexico’s independence under a Bourbon prince and stipulated that, pending the selection of a monarch, Mexico would be governed by a junta headed by Iturbide and including O’Donojú in its membership.

Iturbide, the “Liberator”, rode triumphantly to Mexico City at the head of his army on his thirty-eighth birthday, September 27, 1821.

Emperor of Mexico

When members of the Spanish royal family despised the Mexican throne offered, Creole sentiment turned to Iturbide’s investment with the honor.

On May 18, 1822, a sergeant in Iturbide’s own Celaya Regiment launched a “popular” movement to proclaim Emperor Iturbide.

The Liberator exhibited a certain degree of reluctance, but the next day the Congress, with tumultuous crowds of Iturbide’s adherents crossing the hall, formally selected him as emperor.

Iturbide was crowned as Emperor Augustine I on July 21, 1822, in the midst of an elaborate pomp.

The new monarch presented an imposing figure in his regal robes.

At 5 feet 10 inches, he was taller than his Mexican contemporaries, and his upright, military bearing and distant, aristocratic attitude added to the aura of imperial splendor.

Iturbide devoted considerable effort to creating an elaborate court, attempting to match the magnificence and pomp of European royalty.

He also strove to secure the traditional prerogatives of the Spanish crown, seeking to assert its right to appoint church officials as well as civil administrators.

Moreover, even before assuming the imperial title, he had begun preparations to extend Mexican sovereignty southward, and in December 1821 he had sent an army to Central America in a futile attempt at annexation.

The Monarch

Iturbide proved to be a tactless ruler, and his regime was characterized by constant disputes with the legislature, which challenged his efforts to concentrate power in his own hands.

After imprisoning several of the deputies, the Emperor dissolved the Congress on October 31, 1822.

Iturbide had already lost much of its initial popularity, and a rebellion soon broke out.

On March 19, 1823, Iturbide abdicated and soon after left for Europe, where he was alarmed by reports of an imminent Spanish expedition against Mexico.

Convinced that only he could save his land, he offered to “put his sword” at the disposal of the nation.

Interpreting this as an attempt to regain power, the Mexican Congress declared him a traitor and sentenced him to death.

Iturbide sailed to Mexico before learning of this decree and was arrested when he disembarked in Soto la Marina, in the province of Tamaulipas.

On July 19, 1824, the Liberator of Mexico, totally discredited by his actions while occupying the throne, was executed by a firing squad.

Summary of the life of Agustín Iturbide

Agustín de Iturbide enrolled in the Realist army, as a Creole. After serving as a second lieutenant in the provincial regiment, in 1806, he became a full lieutenant.

His fame in the military service grew exponentially. His bold attitude, gallant affability, unparalleled horsemanship skills and military prowess earned him recognition as “The Iron Dragon” of the Royalist army. He became a feared name for the Insurgents.

During the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla offered him a position with his revolutionary army, but Iturbide refused and instead promised to serve the Spanish cause.

He continued his service in the Royalist army.

During the war, he fought against General José María Morelos from 1810 to 1816 in his hometown, Valladolid.

As captain, Iturbide pursued the rebels and finally immobilized Albino Licéaga and Rayón. His heroic skills earned him another promotion as a colonel in 1813.

From 1813 to 1815, he became the main military opponent of Morelos, being in charge mainly of the military district of Guanajuato and Michoacán.

His persecution ended in 1815 when he successfully captured and executed Morelos.

In 1816, Iturbide faced serious charges of extortion and violence that led to his dismissal from the Royalist forces.

Iturbide, with the support of his auditor, successfully dropped all charges against him and was reinstated to military command in November 1820, as a colonel in the Royalist forces.

The movement

In the 1820’s, the Mexican independence movement faced a typical twist.

The conservatives advocated immediate independence that led Iturbide to assume a dominant role in the army, allying its reactionary force with the radical insurgents of Guerrero.

Convinced that Mexico’s independence would guarantee protection against the Republican side, Iturbide formed a coalition between the Mexican liberal insurgents, the landed gentry and the church.

He formed the Plan of Iguala which was based on three main factors: immediate independence from Spain, equality for Spaniards and Creoles, and the supremacy of Roman Catholicism and the prohibition of all other religions.

The plan gained popularity because it demanded independence without threatening social dissolution.

On August 24, 1821, Juan O’Donojú, the new representative of the Spanish king, signed the Treaty of Córdoba, recognizing the independence of New Spain, under the Bourbon dynasty.

The Emperor

In 1822, Iturbide was elected as the Emperor of the Mexican nation. His coronation took place on July 1, 1822, at the Mexico City Cathedral.

While Iturbide’s coronation rejoiced the Catholic clergy, the Republicans were upset. Congress proved to be their strongest opposition.

Despite his strong personality, Iturbide was mostly unable to establish order and stability in the country.

By December 1822, Iturbide’s opposition grew stronger under Santa Anna, who proposed the Plan de Veracruz, which called for the restitution of the old Constituent Congress.

On March 19, 1823, Iturbide abdicated and went first to Italy and then moved to England.

The following year, he returned to Mexico with his family without knowing that Congress had ordered his death. Although he was initially received with enthusiasm, he was later captured and executed.

Personal life and inheritance

He married Ana María Josefa Ramona de Huarte y Muñiz in 1805. Together, the couple was blessed with ten children.

Agustín was executed on July 19, 1824 by the firing squad.

After his execution, his body was buried.

It was abandoned by the parish church of Padilla until 1833 when the then president Santa Anna rehabilitated Iturbide transferring its remains to the capital with state honors.

On October 27, 1839, his remains were placed in an urn in the Chapel of San Felipe de Jesús in the Mexico City Cathedral

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