In the late 1860’s the royal families of Europe collaborated with the French in an ingenious plan to take over Mexico. They set up Maximilian von Hapsburg and his wife Carlóta as the Emperor and Empress of Mexico. In accepting this crown Maximilian bowed to the ambitions of his wife, a disturbed yet disturbingly beautiful woman. Unfortunately Maximilian was inept as a ruler and the whole adventure ended in disaster as the people of Mexico, led by Juarez, rose to overthrow him.
Told against a background of imperial splendour and ever increasing tension, this novel has three themes—the making of a girl into a woman, the making of a man into a doctor, and the making of a nation—developed through the stories of two young Americans, Dr. Andrew Lorimer and his sister Sally, and Pierre Franchet, a soldier in the French Expeditionary Corps.
The Cactus and the Crown, which was first published in 1962, is an exceptionally well-researched historical novel from Catherine Gavin, set during the beginnings of the Mexican nation, when Maximilian was Emperor and the guerrilla forces of Benito Juarez were fighting against French troops.