The Saintly Pope Who Fed The Empress Gone Mad

May 25, 2017

Her audience with the pope was scheduled for September twenty-seventh at eleven o’clock. According to custom Charlotte had dressed in black, covering her hair in a veil of the same color, and for jewelry, she was wearing only pearls….

Photograph of Charlotte of Belgium, Empress of Mexico

Though glorious in her dark clothing, Charlotte was nervous and tense…. The pope rose…. Charlotte knelt to kiss his train, but he stopped her and held out his ring. As she leaned toward him, she whispered, “Holy Father, save me, I have been poisoned.”

The pope pretended not to have heard her….

The following day, the thirtieth of September…. [Charlotte] kelt before the fountain, scooped up water in her hands, and drank greedily. The she stood up and climbed back into the coach with an ever more distraught Madam del Barrio. “To the Vatican!” she cried….

“I want to see His Holiness right away.”…

Visit of Emperor Maximilian and his wife Charlotte of Mexico to Blessed Pope Pius IX.

The dignitary did not dare refuse, and slipped through the emblazoned door. Soon he returned, and silently led Charlotte into the office where Pius IX was indeed having his frugal meal. Charlotte barely greeted him, and instead rushed at the steaming cup of chocolate he had just sipped. She stuck her fingers into it and sucked them, whispering, “I am so hungry, but I don’t dare eat—they are all trying to poison me.”

The pope maintained enough self-control not to show his surprise. He rang and another cup was brought, which he himself filled with chocolate. “No, I only want to drink out of Your Holiness’s cup; if they know it is for me, they will put poison in it.”

Photograph of Bl. Pius IX

The pope let her finish his cup. On the desk, she spotted a silver goblet and grabbed it. “Give it to me, most Holy Father, so I can drink from it without being poisoned.”

With a gesture, Pius IX acquiesced.

Prince Michael of Greece, The Empress of Farewells: The Story of Charlotte, Empress of Mexico, trans. Vincent Aurora (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002), 293-4, 296-97.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 578




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