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Maximilian's Execution

1866 20 execution obverse1866 20 execution reverse

This $20 gold coin is beautifully engraved in contemporary script from 10:30 to 1:30 on the obverse “UNA DE LAS 5 MONEDAS QUE DIO MAXIMILIANO A LOS SOLDADOS QUE LO EJECUTARON” and from 1:30 to 4:30 “Queretaro Junio, 19, 1867”, translated as  “One of the five coins given by Maximilian to the soldiers who executed him, Querétaro, 19 June 1867”.

Firing squad

Photograph of the Mexican firing squad that executed Emperor Maximilian I, commanded by Colonel Palacios (right).

It is said that just before his execution Maximilian gave each member of the firing squad a $20 piece asking them not to shoot him in the face so that his mother may look upon him again. Although the firing squad were bribed not to shoot him in the head, apparently one did anyway.

Kent Ponterio”Highly Important 20 Pesos of Substantial Significance and Powerful Content”, in Ponterio & Associates 2009 Los Angeles ANA Auction Catalogue commented on this coin thus: “It is interesting to note that although there were seven members in the firing squad , the piece is engraved “ONE OF THE 5 MONIES GIVEN BY MAXIMILIAN TO THE SOLDIERS WHO EXECUTED HIM”. The remaining two officers would account for the shots fired killing generals Miguel Miramon and Tomas Mejia who were lined up and executed simultaneously with Maximilian. Contemporary photographs of the shirt Maximilian wore the day of his execution support this showing a total of four bullet holes, the fifth shot being that which struck his head”.

However, Ricardo de León TallavasRicardo de León Tallavas, An Ounce of Truth for Maximilian, Houston, 2011 notes that
(1) paintings of the times show clearly six riflemen plus an officer facing each one of the three people being shot, with a total of at least 24 military members involved.

Execution 2

 Execution 5


The only engraving that he found that supported the theory of five soldiers executing Maximilian appeared in the Harper’s Illustrated from New York dated 10 August 1867 (and incorrectly places Maximilian in the centre);

Execution 4
(2) an autopsy determined that six shots ended Maximilian’s life, one across the heart from left to right, two more in the abdomen and three shattering his groin. Clearly the soldiers had kept their promise as Maximilian’s head was intact, as the photograph of his corpse shows;

Maximilians corpse

(3) the inscription itself has a couple of grammatical flaws. Every word of the first line of the legend is capitalized as it is done in English and not in Spanish, and Queretaro lacks its accent, which leads one to believe that the engraving was more than likely not done in Mexico but rather somewhere else.