Georgetown University's Imperial Prince

"Taft Tosses Ball: Officiates at the Opening Game of the Season," The Washington Post, 15 Apr 1910: 2.

Georgetown University has some pretty prestigious professors. But did you know the school once had an imperial prince on their staff? Don Agustin de Iturbide y Green, with a name as weighty as the Infanta, taught Spanish and French at Georgetown near the end of the 19th century. How did Don Agustin, the heir to two emperors, end up in elbow pads? It’s sort of a long story, which takes us from Georgetown to Mexico to France and back.

The Rosedale estate in Georgetown was the grand home of Alice Green, granddaughter of Revolutionary War General Uriah Forrest and great-granddaughter of Maryland Governor George Plater.[1] This belle was basically American royalty, which was great for when she married Don Angel Maria de Iturbide y Huarte, the exiled prince of the Mexican imperial line and a student at Georgetown University. By the time the lovebirds met and wed, Angel’s father, Agustin the First, had been deposed and executed.[2]  Although Alice’s husband and their son, Agustin, had a technical claim to the throne, few suspected that Agustin I’s nine-month rule would bring his descendants anything.

The French emperor, Napoleon III, and the Austrian imperial house, the Hapsburgs, got together with the Mexican Congress in 1863 and decided the country should be put in the hands of a divine ruler. Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian was sent ‘south of the border’ to become Maximillian the First (which, as with Agustin, “the First” was a pretty unfortunate presumption). The Mexican people were just as displeased with this Austrian intrusion as they had been with Spanish rule. Good ole Max figured the Mexican people would be happier with one little concession: Alice and Angel’s bright little boy, who had the good manners to be of Mexican descent.

Little Agustin was by this time two years old and the family was living in Mexico City.  Maximillian I and the remnants of the Iturbide house lobbied the parents intensely.[3] They were eventually talked into giving the child over to be adopted by Maximillian and his wife Carlotta, receiving in exchange a sizable pension. Mme. Alice Green had supposed little Agustin would not be taken from her till he was at least “old enough to be sent to Europe to be educated.” However, the Iturbide family was suddenly and forcibly exiled from Mexico. [3]

What Alice Green did next was recounted several times in newspapers as a tragic and romantic tale. This “lady of great beauty and strong intellect” high-tailed it back to Mexico City, outpacing the tear-splattered letters she’d sent ahead.[4] When in Mexico City, this “thorough United States republican” received official word from the palace that she would be taken to see her son. “Unsuspecting deceit,” she entered the imperial carriage. When “the American mother” realized it was taking her out of the city, the “woman of much beauty of person and great dignity of manner” threw herself dramatically out of the carriage and refused to move.[5] Sadly, the desperate maneuver  didn’t work out and the “charming and accomplished woman” was ejected from Mexico.[2]

Alice Green went next to William H. Seward, the U.S. secretary of state. Though the U.S. could do nothing  – since Alice and Angel had both signed legally binding documents and because the country had the slight distraction of the Civil War going on – Seward suggested that Green go to Paris and appeal directly to Carlotta and the French Emperor.[6]

The results were not what Alice Green hoped. Napoleon III had no time for her and Carlotta reputedly treated our American heroine with abominable rudeness:

Carlotta received Alice Green coldly, not even inviting her to be seated. The American mother, feeling herself the equal of the almost fugitive intruder on Mexico, frankly sat down beside her on a sofa, and they had it out with singular self-control on both sides. Each assured the other that she was considerably changed. Carlotta patronizingly told Alice Green that she had done the latter great honor in consenting to the interview, and that the mother of young Augustin [sic] should not make her regret it.[2]

And so poor Mme. Alice Green Iturbide failed in her quest to recover her child.

Luckily for her, however, the whole Mexican emperor thing didn’t really work out for Maximillian. In 1867, two years after he adopted little Agustin, Maximillian I was overthrown and executed. Since deposed dead emperors don’t really need heirs, the child was returned to Alice Green, now widowed, at Rosedale.

Educated in the U.S. and abroad, Agustin de Iturbide y Green enjoyed “all the social advantages given to an imperial prince” for the rest of his life, except for this brief period when he was imprisoned in Mexico for 14 months after insulting the Mexican President. Oops.

Agustin eventually made his way back to Rosedale and to Georgetown where he married twice, became a professor, and died in 1925 after suffering a nervous breakdown. This Mexican-American prince died childless, and the ‘claim to the throne of Iturbide’ passed to relatives in another line.[7] Easy come, easy go!

Footnotes

  1. ^ “Agustin De Iturbide Y Green“ FindAGrave.com. Accessed Jan 2015.
  2. a, b, c  “Alice Green Iturbide: Death of a Washington Woman Who Was Famous in History: Sad, Romantic Story Retold: Cruelly Separated From Her Son, Who Was Adopted by Maximillian and Made heir to the Mexican Throne- A Mother’s Love Triumphs.” The Washington Post (1877-1922) [Washington, D.C] 30 Jan 1892: 5.
  3. a, b “Maximillian’s Heir,” Evening star. (Washington, D.C.), 23 June 1866. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  4. ^ “Prince Augustin Yturbide: Most of His Life Spent in Washington, His Recent Troubles.”The morning call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), 23 June 1890. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  5. ^ “Mme. Yturbide and Son: A Pathetic Story of Maternal Anguish and Regret: A Grandson of the Empereor Yturbide, Adopted by Maximillian and Carlotta- A Mother’s Tribulations- United at Last.” The new North-west. (Deer Lodge, Mont.), 19 Feb. 1886. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  6. ^ “In Ancient Georgetown: Prominent Residents of the City in Years Long Gone By.” The times. (Washington [D.C.]), 26 Aug. 1900. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
  7. ^ “Don Agustin,” CasaImperial.org. Accessed Jan 2015.