As he entered teens, Agustin de Iturbide enrolled himself in the royalist army, as a Criollo. After serving as a second lieutenant in the provincial regiment, in 1806, he became full lieutenant.
His fame in army service grew exponentially. His daring attitude, gallant mannerism, peerless horse-riding skills and military prowess gained him recognition as ‘The Iron Dragon’ of the royalist army. He became a feared name for the Insurgents.
During the outbreak of War of Independence in 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla offered him a post with his revolutionary army, but Iturbide refused and instead vowed to serve for the Spanish cause. He continued his service in the royalist army.
During the war, he fought against the general José María Morelos from 1810 to 1816 in his native city, Valladolid. Due to his tactful approach and horse-riding skills, he successfully defended the city and forced the insurgents to withdraw. His victory earned him the position of a captain.
As a captain, Iturbide chased the rebels, finally pinning down Albino Licéaga y Rayón. His heroic skills earned him yet another promotion as a colonel in 1813. From 1813 to 1815, he became the principal military opponent of Morelos, being chiefly in charge of the military district of Guanajuato and Michoacán. His pursuit ended in 1815 when he successfully captured and executed Morelos.
In 1816, Iturbide faced grave charges against extortion and violence that led to his removal from the royalist forces. He was reproached for being cruel to civilians and for his arbitrariness. Furthermore, he was accused of amassing large commercial holdings, and embezzling military funds.
Iturbide, through the support of his auditor, successfully annulled all charges against him and was reinstated to military command in November 1820, as colonel for the royalist forces.
In 1820s, the Mexican independence movement faced a typical round-about-turn. The conservatives advocated for an immediate independence which led Iturbide to assume a commanding role in the army, allying his reactionary force with Guerrero’s radical insurgents.
Having been convinced that independence for Mexico would guarantee protection against the republican side, Iturbide formed a coalition between the Mexican liberal insurgents, landed nobility and church.
Continue Reading Below
He formed the Plan of Iguala that rested on three major factors: immediate independence from Spain, equality for Spaniards and Creoles, and the supremacy of Roman Catholicism and a ban on all other religions. The plan gained popularity as 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 Bourbon dynasty.
In 1822, Iturbide was elected as the Emperor of the Mexican nation. His coronation was held on July 1, 1822, at the Mexico City Cathedral.
While Iturbide’s coronation was rejoiced by Catholic clergy, the republicans were displeased. Congress proved to be his 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 strong under Santa Anna who came up with the Plan de Veracruz, which called for the reinstatement of the old Constituent Congress.
On March 19, 1823, Iturbide abdicated and went first to Italy and later moved to England. Following year, he returned to Mexico with his family unaware that the Congress had directed the order for his death. Though he was enthusiastically received initially, he was later captured and executed.
Personal Life & Legacy
Agustin I married Ana María Josefa Ramona de Huarte y Muñiz in 1805. Together, the couple was blessed with ten children.
Agustin was executed on July 19, 1824 by the firing squad. Following his execution, his body was buried. It was abandoned by the parish church of Padilla until 1833 when then President Santa Anna rehabilitated Iturbide by transferring his 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 Jesus in Mexico City Cathedral