1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Murat, Joachim

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MURAT, JOACHIM (1767–1815), king of Naples, younger son of an innkeeper at La Bastide-Fortuniére in the department of Lot, France, was born on the 25th of March 1767. Destined for the priesthood, he obtained a bursary at the college of Cahors, proceeding afterwards to the university of Toulouse, where he studied canon law. His vocation, however, was certainly not sacerdotal, and after dissipating his money he enlisted in a cavalry regiment. In 1789 he had attained the rank of maréchal der logis, but in 1790 he was dismissed the regiment for insubordination. After a period of idleness, he was enrolled, through the good offices of J. B. Cavaignac, in the new Constitutional Guard of Louis XVI. (1791). In Paris he gained a reputation for his good looks, his swaggering attitude, and the violence of his revolutionary sentiments. On the 30th of May 1792, the guard having been disbanded, he was appointed sub-lieutenant in the 21st Chasseurs a cheval, with which regiment he served in the Argonne and the Pyrénées, obtaining in the latter campaign the command of a squadron. After the 9th Thermidor, however, and the proscription of the Jacobins, with whom he had conspicuously identified himself, he fell under suspicion and was recalled from the front.

Returning to Paris (1795), he made the acquaintance of Napoleon Bonaparte, another young officer out of employment, who soon gained a complete ascendancy over his vain, ambitious and unstable nature. On the 13th Vendémiaire, when Bonaparte, commissioned by Barras, beat down with cannon the armed insurrection of the Paris sections against the Convention, Murat was his most active and courageous lieutenant, and was rewarded by the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 21st Chasseurs and the appointment of first aide de camp to General Bonaparte in Italy. In the first battles of the famous campaign of 1796 Murat so distinguished himself that he was chosen to carry the captured flags to Paris. He was promoted to be general of brigade, and returned to Italy in time to be of essential service to Bonaparte at Bassano, Corona and Fort St Giorgio, where he was wounded. He was then sent on a diplomatic mission to Genoa, but returned in time to be present at Rivoli. In the advance into Tirol in the summer of 1797 he commanded the vanguard, and by his passage of the Tagliamento hurried on the preliminaries of Leoben. In 1798 he was for a short time commandant at Rome, and then accompanied Bonaparte to Egypt. At the battle of the Pyramids he led his first famous cavalry charge, and so distinguished himself in Syria that he was made general of division (October, 1799). He returned to France with Bonaparte, and on the 18th Brumaire led into the orangery of Saint Cloud the sixty grenadiers whose appearance broke up the Council of Five Hundred. After the success of the coup d'état he was made commandant of the consular guard, and on the 20th of January 1800 he married Caroline Bonaparte, youngest sister of the first consul. He commanded the French cavalry at the battle of Marengo, and was afterwards made governor in the Cisalpine Republic. As commander of the army of observation in Tuscany he forced the Neapolitans to evacuate the Papal States and to accept the treaty of Florence (March 28, 1801). In January 1804 he was given the post of governor of Paris, and in this capacity appointed the military commission by which the duc d'Enghien was tried and shot (March 20); in May he was made marshal of the empire; in February 1805 he was made grand admiral, with the title of prince, and invested with the grand eagle of the Legion of Honour. He commanded the cavalry of the Grand Army in the German campaign of 1805, and was sc conspicuous at Austerlitz that Napoleon made him grand duke of Berg and Cleves (March 15, 1806). He commanded the cavalry at Jena, Eylau, and Friedland, and in 1808 was made general-in-chief of the French armies in Spain. He entered Madrid on the 25th of March, and on the 2nd of May suppressed an insurrection in the city. He did much to prepare the events which ended in the abdication of Charles IV. and Ferdinand VII. at Bayonne; but the hopes he had cherished of himself receiving the crown of Spain were disappointed. On the 1st of August, however, he was appointed by Napoleon to the throne of Naples, vacated by the transference of Joseph Bonaparte to Spain.

King Joachim Napoleon, as he styled himself, entered Naples in September, his handsome presence and open manner gaining him instantaneous popularity. Almost his first act as king was to attack Capri, which he wrested from the British; but, this done, he returned to Naples and devoted himself to establishing his kingship according to his ideas, a characteristic blend of the vulgarity of a parvenu with the essential principles of the Revolution. He dazzled the lazzaroni with the extravagant splendour of his costumes; he set up a sumptuous court, created a new nobility, nominated marshals; With an eye to the overthrow of his legitimate rival in Sicily, he organized a large army and even a fleet; but he also swept away the last relics of the efiete feudal system and took efficient measures for suppressing brigandage. From the first his relations with Napoleon were strained. The emperor upbraided him sarcastically for his “ monkey tricks ” (singeries); Murat ascribed to the deliberate ill-will of the French generals Who served with him, and even to Napoleon, the failure of his attack on Sicily in 1810. He resented his subordination to the emperor, and early began his pose as an Italian king by demanding the withdrawal of the French troops from Naples and naturalization as Neapolitans of all Frenchmen in the service of the state (1811). Napoleon, of course, met this demand with a curt refusal. A breach between the brother sin-law was only averted by the Russian campaign of 1812 and Napoleon's invitation to Murat to take command of the cavalry in the Grand Army. This was a call which appealed to all his strongest military instincts, and he obeyed it. During the disastrous retreat he showed his usual headstrong courage; but in the middle of December he suddenly. threw up his command and returned to Naples. The reason of this was the suspicion, which had been growing on him for two years past, that Napoleon was preparing for him the fate of the king of Holland, and that his own wife, Queen Caroline, was plotting with the emperor for his dethronement. To Marshal Davout, who pointed out to him that he was only king of Naples “by grace of the emperor and the blood of Frenchmen,” he replied that he was king of Naples as the emperor of Austria was emperor of Austria, and that he could do as he liked. He was, in fact, already dreaming of exchanging his position of a vassal king of the French Empire for that of a national Italian king. In the enthusiastic reception that awaited him on his return to Naples on the 4th of February there was nothing to dispel these illusions. All the Italian parties flocked round him, flattering and cajoling him: the patriots, because he seemed to .them loyal and glorious enough to assume the task of Italian unification; the partisans of the dispossessed princes, because they looked upon him as a convenient instrument and as simple enough to be made an easy dupe.

From this moment dates the importance of Murat in the history of Europe during the next few years. He at once, without consulting his minister of foreign affairs, dispatched Prince Cariati on a confidential mission to Vienna; if Austria would secure the renunciation of his rights by King Ferdinand and guarantee the possession of the kingdom of Naples to himself, he would place his army at her disposal and give up his claims to Sicily. Austria herself, however, had not as yet broken definitively with Napoleon, and before she openly joined the Grand Alliance, after the illusory congress of Prague, many things had happened to make Murat change his mind. He was offended by Napoleon's bitter letters and by tales of his slighting comments on himself; he was alarmed by the emperor's scarcely veiled threats; but after all he was a child of the Revolution and a born soldier, with all the soldier's instinct of loyalty to a great leader, and he grasped eagerly at any excuse for believing that Napoleon, in the event of victory, would maintain him on his throne. Then came the emperor's advance into Germany, supported as yet by his allies of the Rhenish Confederation. On the fatal field of Leipzig Murat once more fought on Napoleon's side, leading the French squadrons with all his old valour and dash. But this crowning catastrophe was too much for his wavering faith. On the evening of the 16th of October, the first day of the battle, Metternich found means to open a separate negotiation with him: Great Britain and Austria would, in the event of Murat's withdrawal from Napoleon's army and refusal to send reinforcements to the Viceroy of Italy, secure the cession -to him of Naples by King Ferdinand, guarantee him in its possession, and obtain for him further advantages in Italy. To accept the Austrian advances seemed now his only chance of continuing to be a king. At Erfurt he asked and obtained the emperor's leave to return to Naples; “our adieux,” he said, “were not over-cordial.”

He reached Naples on the 4th of November and at once informed the Austrian envoy of his wish to join the Allies, suggesting that the Papal States, with the exception of Rome and the surrounding district, should be made over to him as his reward. On the 31st of December Count Neipperg, afterwards the lover of the empress Marie Louise, arrived at Naples with powers to treat. The result was the signature, on the 11th of January 1814, of a treaty by which Austria guaranteed to Murat the throne of Naples and promised her good offices to secure the assent of the other Allies. Secret additional articles stipulated that Austria would use her good offices to secure the renunciation by Ferdinand of his rights to Naples, in return for an indemnity to hasten the conclusion of peace between Naples and Great Britain, and to augment the Neapolitan kingdom by territory embracing 400,000 souls at the expense of the states of the Church.

The project of the treaty having been communicated to Castlereagh, he replied by expressing the willingness of the British government to conclude an armistice with “the person exercising the government of Naples” (Jan. 22), and this was accordingly signed on the 3rd of February by Bentinck. It was clear that Great Britain had no intention of ultimately recognizing Murat's right to reign. As for Austria, she would be certain that Murat's own folly would, sooner or later, give her an opportunity for repudiating her engagements. For the present the Neapolitan alliance would be invaluable to the Allies for the purpose of putting an end to the French dominion in Italy. The plot was all but spoilt by the prince royal of Sicily, who in an order of the day announced to his soldiers that their legitimate sovereign had not renounced his rights to the throne of Naples (Feb. 20); from the Austrian point of view it was compromised by a proclamation issued by Bentinck at Leghorn on the 14th of March, in which he called on the Italians to rise in support of the “great cause of their fatherland.” From Dijon Castlereagh promptly wrote to Bentinck (April 3) to say that the proclamation of the prince of Sicily must be disavowed, and that if King Ferdinand did not behave properly Great Britain would recognize" Murat's title. A letter from Metternich to Marshal Bellegarde, of the same place and date, insisted that Bentinck's operations must be altered; the last thing that Austria desired was an Italian national rising. It was, indeed, by this time clear to the allied powers that Murat's ambition had o'erleaped the bounds set for them. “Murat, a-true son of the Revolution,” wrote Metternich, in the same letter, “did not hesitate to form projects of conquest when all his care should have been limited to simple calculations as to how to preserve his throne .... He dreamed of a partition of Italy between him and us .... When we refused to annex all Italy north of the Po, he saw that his calculations were wrong, but refused to abandon his ambitions. His attitude is most suspicious.” “Press the restoration of the grand-duke in Tuscany,” wrote Castlereagh to Bentinck; “ this is the true touchstone of Murat's intentions. We must not suffer him to carry out his plan of extended dominion; but neither must we break with him and 'so abandon Austria to his augmented intrigues.”

Meanwhile, Murat had formally broken with Napoleon, and on the 16th of January the French envoy quitted. Naples. But the treason by which he hoped to save his throne was to make its loss inevitable. He had betrayed Napoleon, only to be made the cat's-paw of the Allies. Great Britain, even when condescending to negotiate with him, had never recognized his title; she could afford to humour Austria by holding out hopes of ultimate recognition, in order to detach him from Napoleon; for Austria alone of the Allies was committed to him, and Castlereagh well knew that, when occasion should arise, her obligations would not be suffered to hamper her interests. With the downfall of Napoleon Murat's defection had served its turn; moreover, his equivocal conduct during the campaign in Italy[1] had blunted the edge of whatever gratitude the powers may have been disposed to feel; his ambition to unite all Italy south of the Po under his crown was manifest, and the statesmen responsible for the re-establishment of European order were little likely to do violence to their legitimist principles in order to maintain on his throne a revolutionary sovereign who was proving himself so potent a centre of national unrest.

At the very opening of the congress of Vienna Talleyrand, with astounding effrontery, affected not to know “the man” who had been casually referred to as “the king of Naples ”; and he made it the prime object of his policy in the weeks that followed to secure the repudiation by the powers of Murat's title, and the restoration of the Bourbon king. The powers, indeed, were very ready to accept at least the principle of this policy. “ Great Britain, ” wrote Castlereagh to Lord Liverpool on the 3rd of September from Geneva, “has no objection, but the reverse, to the restoration of the Bourbons in Naples.”[2] Prussia saw in Murat the protector of the malcontents in Italy.[3] Alexander I. of Russia had no sympathy for any champion of Liberalism in Italy save himself. Austria confessed “sub sigillo ” that she shared “ His Most Christian Majesty's Views as to the restoration of ancient dynasties.”[4] The main difficulties in the way were Austria's treaty obligations and the means by which the desired result was to be obtained.

Talleyrand knew well that Austria, in the long run, would break faith with Murat and prefer at docile Bourbon on the throne of Naples to this incalculable child of the Revolution; but he had his private reasons for desiring to “score off” Metternich, the continuance of whose quasidiplomatic liaison with Caroline Murat he rightly suspected. He proposed boldly that, since Austria, in view of the treaty of Jan. 11, 1814, was naturally reluctant to undertake the task, the restored Bourbon king of France should be empowered to restore the Bourbon king of Naples by French arms, thus reviving once more the ancient Habsburg-Bourbon rivalry for dominion in Italy.[5]

Metternich, with characteristic skill, took advantage of this situation at once to checkmate France and to dis embarrass Austria of its obligations to Murat. While secretly assuring Louis XVIII., through his confidant Blacas, that Austria was in favour of a Bourbon restoration in Naples, he formally intimated to Talleyrand that a French invasion of Italian soil would mean war with Austria.[6] To Murat, who had appealed to the treaty of 1814, and demanded a passage northward for the troops destined to oppose those of Louis XVIII., he explained that Austria, by her ultimatum to France, had already done all that was necessary, that any movement of the Neapolitan troops outside Naples would be a useless breach of the peace of Italy, and that it would be regarded as an attack on Austria and a rupture of the alliance. Murat's suspicions of Austrian sincerity were now confirmed;[7] he realized that there was no question now of his obtaining any extension of territory at the expense of the states of the Church, and that in the Italy as reconstructed at Vienna his own position would be intolerable. Thus the very motives which had led him to betray Napoleon now led him to break with Austria. He would secure his throne by proclaiming the cause of united Italy, chasing the Austrians from the peninsula, and establishing himself as a national king.

To contemporary observers in the best position to judge the enterprise seemed by no means hopeless. Lord William Bentinck, the commander of the English forces in Italy, wrote to Castlereagh[8] that, “having seen more of Italy,” he doubted whether the whole force of Austria would be able to expel Murat; “ he has said clearly that he will raise the whole of Italy; and there is not a doubt that under the standard of Italian independence the whole of Italy will rally.” This feeling, continued Bentinck, was due to the foolish and illiberal conduct of the restored sovereigns; the inhabitants of the states occupied by the Austrian troops were “ discontented to a man ”; even in Tuscany “ the same feeling and desire ” universally prevailed. All the provinces, moreover, were full of unemployed officers and soldiers who, in spite of Murat's treason, would rally to his standard, especially as he would certainly first put himself into communication with Napoleon in Elba; while, so far as Bentinck could hear of the disposition of the French army, it would be “ dangerous to assemble it anywhere or for any purpose.” The urgency of the danger was, then, fully realized by the powers even before Napoleon's return from Elba; for they were well aware of Murat's correspondence with him. On the first news of Napoleon's landing in France, the British government wrote to Wellington[9] that this event together with “the proofs of Murat's treachery ” had removed “all remaining scruples” on their part, and that they were now “ prepared to enter into a concert for his removal, ” adding that Murat should, in the event of his resigning peaceably, receive “ a pension and all consideration.” The rapid triumph ~of Napoleon, however, altered this tone. “ Bonaparte's successes have altered the situation, ” wrote Castlereagh to Wellington on the 24th, adding that Great Britain would enter into a treaty with Murat, if he would give guarantees “ by a certain. redistribution of his forces” and the like, and that in spite of Napoleon's success he would be “ true to Europe.” In a private letter enclosed Castlereagh suggested that Murat might send an auxiliary force to France, where “ his personal presence would be unseemly.”[10]

Clearly, had King Joachim played his cards well he had the game in his hands. But it was not in his nature to play them well. He should have made the most of the chastened temper of the Allies, either to secure favourable terms from them, or to hold them in play until Napoleon was ready to take the field. Butfhis head had been turned by the fiatteries of the “ patriots ”; he believed that all Italy would rally to his cause, and that alone he would be able to drive the "Germans” over the Alps, and thus, as king of united Italy, be in a position to treat on equal terms with Napoleon, should he prove victorious; and he determined to strike without delay. On the 23rd the news reached Metternich at Vienna that the Neapolitan troops were on the march to the frontier. The Allies at once decided to commission Austria to deal with Murat; in the event of whose defeat, Ferdinand'IV. was to be restored to Naples, on promising a general amnesty and giving guarantees for a “reasonable” system of government.[11]

Meanwhile, in Naples itself there were signs enough that Murat's popularity had disappeared. In Calabria the indiscriminate severity of General Manhés in suppressing brigandage had made the government hated; in the capital the general disaffection had led to rigorous policing, while conscripts had to be dragged in chains to join their regiments.[12] In these circumstances an outburst of national enthusiasm for King Joachim was hardly to be expected; and the campaign in- effect proved a complete fiasco. Rome and Bologna were, indeed, occupied without serious opposition; but on the rzth of April Murat's forces received a check from the advancing Austrians at Ferrara and on the and of May were completely routed at Tolentino. The Austrians advanced on Naples, when Ferdinand IV. was duly restored, while Queen Caroline and her children were deported to Trieste.

Murat himself escaped to France, where his offer of service was contemptuously refused by Napoleon. He bid for a while near Toulon, with a price upon his head; then, after Waterloo, refusing an asylum in England, he set out for Corsica (August). Here he was joined by a few rash spirits who urged him to attempt to recover his kingdom. Though Metternich offered to allow him to join his wife at Trieste and to secure him a dignified position and a pension, he preferred to risk all on a final throw for power. On the 28th of, September he sailed for Calabria with a flotilla of six vessels carrying some 250 armed men. Four of his ships were scattered by a storm; one deserted him at the last moment, and on the 8th of October he landed at Pizzo with only 30 companions. Of the popular enthusiasm for his cause which he had been led to expect there was less than no sign, and after a short and unequal contest he was taken prisoner by a captain named Trenta-Capilli, whose brother had been executed by General Manhes. He was imprisoned in the fort of Pizzo, and on the 13th of October 1815 was tried by court-martial, under a law of his own, for disturbing the public peace, and was sentenced to be shot in half an hour. After writing a touching letter of farewell to his wife and children, he bravely met his fate, and was buried at Pizzo.

Though much good may be said of Murat as a king sincerely anxious for the welfare of his adopted country, his most abiding title to fame is that of the most dashing cavalry leader of the age. As a man he was rash, hot-tempered and impetuously brave; he was adored by his troopers who followed their idol, the "golden eagle," into the most terrible fire and against the most terrible odds. Napoleon lived to regret his refusal to accept his services during the Hundred Days, declaring that Murat's presence at Waterloo would have given more-concentrated power to the cavalry charges and might possibly have changed defeat into victory.

By his wife Maria Annunciata Carolina Murat had two sons. The elder, Napoleon Achille Murat (1801–1847) during his father's reign prince royal of the Two Sicilies, emigrated about 1821 to America, and settled near Tallahassee, Florida, where in 1826-1838 he was postmaster. In 1826 he married a great-niece of Washington. He published Lettres d'un citoyen des Etats-Unis a un de ses amis d'Europe (Paris, 1830); Esquisse morale et politique des Etats-Unis (ibid. 1832); and Exposition des principes du gouvernement républicain tel qu'il a été perfectionné en Amérique (ibid. 1833). He died in Florida on-the 15th of April 1847.

The second son, Napoleon Lucien Charles Murat (1803–1878), who was created prince of Ponte Corvo in 1813, lived with his mother in Austria after 1815, and in 1824 started to join his brother in America, but was shipwrecked on the coast of Spain and held for a while a prisoner. Arriving in 1825, two years later he married in Baltimore a rich American, Georgina Frazer (d. 1879); but her fortune was lost, and for some years his wife supported herself and him by keeping a girls' school. After several abortive attempts to return to France, the revolution of 1848 at last gave him his opportunity. He was elected a member of the Constituent Assembly and of the Legislative Assembly (1849), was minister plenipotentiary at Turin from October 1849 to March 1850, and after the coup d'état of the 2nd of December 1851 was made a member of the consultative commission. On the proclamation of the Empire, he was recognized by Napoleon III. as a prince of the blood royal, with the title of Prince Murat, and, in addition to the payment of 2,000,000 fr. of debts, was given an income of 150,000 fr. As a member of the Senate he distinguished himself in 1861 by supporting the temporal power of the pope, but otherwise he played no conspicuous part. The fall of the Empire in September 1870 involved his retirement into private life. He died on the 10th of April 1878, leaving three sons and two daughters. (1) Joachim, Prince Murat (1834-1901), in 1854 married Maley Berthier, daughter of the Prince de Wagram, who bore him a son, Joachim (b. 1856), who succeeded him as head of the family, and two daughters, of whom the younger, Anna (b. 1863), became the wife of the Austrian minister Count Goluchowski. (2) Achille (1847-1895), married Princess Dadian of Mingrelia. (3) Louis (b. 1851), married in 1873 to the widowed Princess Eudoxia Orbeliani (née Somov), was for a time orderly officer to Charles XV. of Sweden. (4) Caroline (b. 1832), married in 1850 Baron Charles de Chassiron and in 1872 Mr John Garden (d. 1885). (5) Anna (b. 1841), married in 1865 Antoine de Noailles, duc de Mouchy.

{{EB1911 Fine Print|Authorities.-See A. Sorel, L'Europe et la revolution française (8 vols., 1885-1892) passim, but especially vol. viii. for Murat's policy after the 1812; Helfert, Joachim Murat, seine letzten Kämpfe und sein Ende (Vienna, 1878); G. Romano, Ricordi muratiani (Pavia, 1890); Correspondance de Joachim Murat, Juillet 1791-Juillet 1808, ed. A. Lumbroso (Milan, 1899); Count Murat, Murat, lieutenant de l'empereur en Espagne (Paris, 1897); Guardione, Gioacchino Murat in Italia (Palermo, 1899); M. H. Weil, Prince Eugène et Murat (5 vols., Paris, 1901-1904); Chavenon and Saint-Yves, Joachim Murat (Paris, 1905); Lumbroso, L'Agonia di un regno; Gioacchino Murat al Pizzo (Milan, 1904). See also the bibliography to Napoleon I. (W. A. P.) 

  1. He had contributed to the defeats of the Viceroy Prince Eugene in January and February 1814, but did not show any eagerness to press his victories to the advantage of the Allies, contenting himself with occupying the principality of Benevento.
  2. F.O. Vienna Congress, vii.
  3. Mem. of Hardenberg, F.O. Cong. Pruss. Arch. 20. Aug; 14–June 15.
  4. Metternich to Bombelles. Jan. 13, 1815, enclosed in Castlereagh to Liverpool of Jan. 25. F.O. Congr. Vienna, xi.
  5. Sorel, viii. 411 seq.
  6. Cf. a “ most secret " communication to be made to M. de Blacas (in Metternich to Bombelles, Vienna, Jan. 13, 1815). Murat's aggressive attitude and the unrest in Italy are largely due to the threatening attitude of France. . . . H.I.M. is not prepare to risk a rising of Italy under “the national flag.” How will France coerce Naples? By sending an army into Italy across our states, which would thus become infected with revolutionary views? '. . The emperor could not allow such an expedition. When Italy is settled—and we will not allow Murat to keep the Marches . . . he will lose prestige, and then . . . will be the time for Austria to give effect to the views which, all the time, she shares with His Most Christian Majesty.” (In Castlereagh to Liverpool, “ private, ” Jan. 25, 1815. Vienna Congr. xi.
  7. That they were fully justified is clear from the following extract from a letter of Metternich to Bombelles at Paris (dated Vienna, Jan. 13, 1815). “Whether Joachim or a Bourbon reigns at Na les is for us a very subordinate question .... When Europe is established on solid foundations the fate of Joachim will no longer be problematical, but do not let us risk destroying Austria and France and Europe, in order to solve this question at the worst moment it would be put on the tapis .... This is no business of the Congress, but let the Bourbon Powers declare that they maintain their claims." (in Castlereagh's private letter to Lord Liverpool, ]an. 15, r8x5, F.O. Vienna Congr. xi.)
  8. Letter dated Florence, Jan. 7, 1815. F.O. Vienna Congr. xi.
  9. F.O. Vienna Congr. xii., Draft to Wellington dated March 12.
  10. F.O. Vienna Congr. xii.
  11. Ibid. Wellington to Castlereagh, Vienna, March 25.
  12. F.O. Cong. xi.; Munster to Castlereagh, Naples, Jan. 22.