Joachim Murat

Joachim Murat
Joachim Murat
King of Naples
Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves
Reign 1 August 1808 – 3 May 1815
Predecessor Joseph Bonaparte
Successor Ferdinand IV
Spouse Caroline Bonaparte
Prince Achille Murat
Princess Marie Letizia Murat
Prince Napoleon Lucien Charles Murat
Princess Louise Julie Caroline Murat
House House of Murat
Father Pierre Murat-Jordy
Mother Jeanne Loubières
Born 25 March 1767
La Bastide (Lot), France
Died 13 October 1815(1815-10-13) (aged 48)
Pizzo di Calabria, Kingdom of Naples
Burial Mass grave beneath the Church of Saint George Martyr, Pizzo di Calabria, Italy

Joachim-Napoléon Murat (born Joachim Murat; Italian: Gioacchino Napoleone Murat; 25 March 1767 – 13 October 1815), Marshal of France and Grand Admiral or Admiral of France, 1st Prince Murat, was Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808 and then King of Naples from 1808 to 1815. He received his titles in part by being the brother-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte, through marriage to Napoleon's youngest sister, Caroline Bonaparte. He was noted as a daring and charismatic cavalry officer as well as a flamboyant dresser and was known as 'the Dandy King'.


Early life

Joachim Murat was born 25 March 1767, in La Bastide-Fortunière,[1] (renamed Labastide-Murat after its renowned citizen), in the Lot department of France, in the former province of Guyenne, to Pierre Murat-Jordy, (d. 27 July 1799), an affluent farmer and an innkeeper,[2] and his wife Jeanne Loubières (La Bastide Fortunière, b.1722 – La Bastide Fortunière, d. 11 March 1806), daughter of Pierre Loubières and of his wife Jeanne Viellescazes. His father was the son of Guillaume Murat (1692 – 1754) and wife Marguerite Herbeil (– 1755), paternal grandson of Pierre Murat, born in 1634, and wife Catherine Badourès, who died in 1697, and maternal grandson of Bertrand Herbeil and wife Anne Roques.

His parents intended he pursue a career in the church, and was taught by the parish priest, after which he won a place at the College of Saint-Michel at Cahors when he was ten years old. He then entered seminary of the Lazarists at Toulouse, but when a regiment of cavalry passed through the city in 1787, he ran away from seminary and enlisted on 23 February 1787 in the Chasseurs des Ardennes, which the following year became known as the Chasseurs de Champagne, also known as the 12th Chasseurs. In 1789, an affair forced him to resign, and he returned to his family, becoming a clerk to a haberdasher at Saint-Ceré.[3]

By 1790, he had joined the National Guard and when the Fête of the Republic was organized on 14 July 1790, the Canton of Montaucon sent Murat as its representative. At that point, he managed to get himself reinstated into his old regiment. Part of the 12th Chasseurs had been sent to Montmédy as to protect the royal family on its flight to Varennes, making it necessary to for the regiment to defend its honor and loyalty to the Republic; Murat and the regiment's adjutant made a speech to the assembly at Toul to that effect.[4] In 1792, he joined the Constitutional Guard, but left it that same year; his departure was attributed to various causes, including his constant quarreling and dueling, although he claimed he left to avoid punishment for being absent without leave.[5]

An ardent Republican, Murat wrote to his brother in 1791, saying he was very preoccupied with revolutionary affairs, and would sooner die than cease to be a patriot. Upon his departure from the Constitutional Guard, he reported to the Committee of Surveillance of the Constitutional Assembly that the Guard was guilty of treason, and that his Lieutenant Colonel, a man named Descours, had encouraged him to serve in the émigré army of Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé, then stationed in Koblenz.[6] this garnered for him the support of the Republicans, for he rejoined his former regiment and was promoted to Corporal in April of that year, and to Sergeant in May.[7] By 19 November 1792, he was 25 years old and elated at his latest promotion. As a sous-lieutenant, he thought, his family must recognize that he had no great tendency for the priesthood, and was hoping to prove that he had not been wrong in wishing to be a soldier. One of the Ministers had accused him of being an aristocrat, confusing him with the noble family of Murat d'Auvergne, an accusation that continued to haunt him for the next several years.[8]

13 Vendémiaire

In the autumn of 1795, three years after King Louis XVI of France was deposed, royalist and counter-revolutionaries organised an armed uprising. On 3 October, General Napoleon Bonaparte, who was stationed in Paris, was named commander of the French National Convention's defending forces. This constitutional convention, after a long period of emergency rule, was striving to establish a more stable and permanent government in the uncertain period after the Reign of Terror. Bonaparte tasked Murat with the gathering of artillery from a suburb outside the control of the government's forces. Murat managed to take the cannons of the Camp des Sablons and transport them to the centre of Paris while avoiding the rioters. The use of these cannons on 4 October allowed Bonaparte to save the members of the National Convention.[9] For this success Joachim Murat was made chef de brigade (colonel) and thereafter remained one of Napoleon's best officers.

Italian and Egyptian campaigns

Murat portrait, by Baron Gérard

In 1796, with the situation in the capital and government apparently stabilised and the war going poorly (See also: French Revolutionary Wars), Napoleon lobbied to join the armies attempting to secure the revolution against the invading monarchist forces. Murat then went with Bonaparte to northern Italy, initially as his aide-de-camp, and was later named commander of the cavalry during the many campaigns against the Austrians and their allies. These forces were waging war on France and seeking to restore a monarchy in revolutionary France. His valour and his daring cavalry charges later earned him the rank of général in these important campaigns, the battles of which became famous as Bonaparte constantly used speed of maneuver to fend off and eventually defeat individually superior opposing armies closing in on the French forces from several directions. Thus, Murat's skills in no small part helped establish Bonaparte's legendary fame and enhance his popularity with the French people.

Murat commanded the cavalry of the French Egyptian expedition of 1798, again under Bonaparte. The expedition's strategic goal was to threaten Britain's rich holdings in India. (Some had been taken from France during the Seven Years' War). However, the overall effort ended prematurely because of lack of logistical support with the defeat of the French fleet due to British sea power (See: Battle of the Nile). After the sea battle, Napoleon led his troops on land toward Europe (via Palestine and thence Ottoman Turkey), but was recalled by the Directory (at least in part) as it feared an invasion by Britain. Abbé Sieyès also saw Bonaparte as an ally against a resurgent Jacobin movement, and so the expeditionary army was turned over to a subordinate.

The remaining non-military expedition staff officers, including Murat, and Bonaparte returned to France, eluding various British fleets in five frigates. A short while later, Murat played an important, even pivotal, role in Bonaparte's 'coup within a coup' of 18 Brumaire (9 November 1799) when Napoleon first assumed national power. Along with two others (including Director Abbé Sieyès), Napoleon Bonaparte set aside the five-man directory government, establishing the three-man French Consulate government.

Murat married Caroline Bonaparte in a civil ceremony on 20 January 1800 at Mortefontaine (Plailly?) and religiously on 4 January 1802 in Paris, thus becoming a son-in-law of Letizia Ramolino as well as brother-in-law to Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon I of France, Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte, Pauline Bonaparte and Jérôme Bonaparte.

Napoleonic wars

Marshal Murat, the most famous of many daring and charismatic French cavalry commanders of the era, leads a charge at the Battle of Jena, 14 October 1806.

Napoleon made Murat a Marshal of France on 18 May 1804, and also granted him the title of "First Horseman of Europe". He was created Prince of the Empire in 1805, appointed Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves on 15 March 1806 and held this title until 1 August 1808 when he was named King of Naples and Sicily. He was in charge of the French Army in Madrid when the popular 2nd May uprising that started the Peninsular War happened.

Murat was equally useful in Napoleon's invasion of Russia (1812), and in the Battle of Leipzig (1813). However, after France's defeat at Leipzig, Murat reached an agreement with the Austrian Empire in order to save his own throne.

During the Hundred Days, he realized that the European powers, meeting as the Congress of Vienna, had the intention to remove him and return the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily to its pre-Napoleonic rulers. Murat deserted his new allies, and, after issuing a proclamation to the Italian patriots in Rimini, moved north to fight against the Austrians in the Neapolitan War to strengthen his rule in Italy by military means. He was defeated by Frederick Bianchi, a general of Francis I of Austria, in the Battle of Tolentino (2–3 May 1815).

Murat met a fearless death, taking the shots standing and unblindfolded.

He fled to Corsica after Napoleon's fall. During an attempt to regain Naples through an insurrection in Calabria by announcing a rebellion at the town square he was attacked by an old woman blaming him for the loss of her son, the incident sparking attention he was arrested by the forces of the legitimate King, Ferdinand IV of Naples, and was eventually executed by firing squad at the Castello di Pizzo, (Calabria).

When the fatal moment arrived, Murat walked with a firm step to the place of execution, as calm, as unmoved, as if he had been going to an ordinary review. He would not accept a chair, nor suffer his eyes to be bound. "I have braved death (said he) too often to fear it." He stood upright, proudly and undauntedly, with his countenance towards the soldiers; and when all was ready, he kissed a cameo on which the head of his wife was engraved, and gave the word — thus,

« Soldats ! Faites votre devoir ! Droit au cœur mais épargnez le visage. Feu ! »

"Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face. Fire!"

[citation needed]

Murat is memorialised by a grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery though it is claimed he is not actually buried there but that his body was lost or destroyed after his execution.[citation needed] Others[who?] say he was buried in a church in Pizzo making the removal of his body possible later on.


Murat and Caroline had four children:


Marshal Murat's grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery

He had a brother named Pierre Murat (La Bastide-Fortunière, 27 November 1748 – La Bastide-Fortunière, 8 October 1792), who married at La Bastide-Fortunière on 26 February 1783 Louise d'Astorg (La Bastide-Fortunière, 23 October 1762 – 31 May 1832), daughter of Aymeric d'Astorg, born in 1721, and wife Marie Alanyou, paternal granddaughter of Antoine d'Astorg, born 18 November 1676, and wife Marie de Mary (4 May 1686 – 7 October 1727) and maternal granddaughter of Jean Alanyou and wife Louise de Valon.

Pierre and Louise were the parents of Marie Louise, Pierre Adrien (d.1805), Radegonde, Thomas Joachim and Marie Antoinette Murat, whom Emperor Napoleon I arranged to marry Charles, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen; Karl III and Marie were the parents of Charles Anthony, Prince of Hohenzollern from whom descended Stephanie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen Queen of Portugal; her brother Carol I of Romania and Carol I nephew Albert I of Belgium.

Another descendant of note is great-great-great-grandson and Star Trek icon René Auberjonois.

In Popular Culture

Murat was portrayed by English actor Peter Bowles in the 1974 mini-series Napoleon and Love.

In the 1941 Errol Flynn movie They Died With Their Boots On, a fictional account of the life of George Armstrong Custer, Murat is credited with being Custer's role model.


  1. ^ Chavanon, Jules and Georges Saint-Yves, Joachim Murat (1767–1815), (Libraire Hachette, 1905), 4.
  2. ^ Ramsey Weston Phipps. Armies of the First French Republic. London: Greenwood Publishers, 1926, vol. 1, p. 146-147.
  3. ^ Phipps, p. 146
  4. ^ Phipps, p. 146.
  5. ^ Phipps, p. 147.
  6. ^ Phipps, p. 147.
  7. ^ Phipps, p. 147.
  8. ^ Phipps, pp. 148-49.
  9. ^ Connelly, pp. 20-21.


  • Bonar, Hugh S. (Jr.), Joachim Murat : lieutenant of the Emperor, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850 (University of Florida), Articles relatifs totalement ou partiellement à la période 1795-1815, Proceedings 1989.
  • Chavanon, Jules and Georges Saint-Yves, Joachim Murat (1767–1815), Libraire Hachette, 1905.
  • Connelly, Owen, Blundering to Glory: Napoleon's Military Campaigns, Scholarly Resources Imprint, 1987.
  • Phipps, Ramsey Weston. Armies of the First French Republic. London: Greenwood Publishers, 1926, vol. 1.

Further reading

  • Potocka-Wąsowiczowa, Anna z Tyszkiewiczów. Wspomnienia naocznego świadka. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1965.

External links

Joachim Murat
House of Murat
Born: 25 March 1767 Died: 13 October 1815
Regnal titles
New title Grand Duke of Berg
Title next held by
Napoleon Louis Bonaparte
Preceded by
Joseph I
King of Naples
Succeeded by
Ferdinand IV
French nobility
of the First French Empire
New title Prince Murat Succeeded by
Achille, Prince Murat

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