1902 Encyclopedia > Joachim Murat

Joachim Murat
French soldier and king of Naples
(1768-1815)




MURAT, JOACHIM (1768-1815), king of Naples and a celebrated French cavalry leader, was, according to most accounts, the younger son of an innkeeper at Bastide Fortuniere in the department of Lot, France, and was born in 1768, but by his own account Ills father was a well-to-do farmer in that village. This is most probably the truth, as after being educated at a seminary at Cahors he was entered at the university of Toulouse, where he studied canon law. He was intended for the priesthood, but led a reckless life ; and after spending all his money he enlisted in a cavalry regiment. He had attained the rank of " marechal des logic " in 1789, and was the recognized leader of the young soldiers from his great prowess in all athletics and feats of daring. His influence was so great and so prejudicial to authority that he received unlimited leave of absence in 1790. In November 1791 he was elected by the department of Lot a member of the garde constitutionelle of the king. In May 1792 the garde was disbanded, but Murat had shown such military qualities and such advanced principles that he was at once appointed a sub-lieutenant in the chasseurs-h-cheval, and on the outbreak of war aide-de-camp to General Huh. He was rapidly promoted to be captain and major in the 21st chasseurs, but after Thermidor found himself looked upon with suspicion on account of his former advanced republican sentiments. He was recalled from the front, and happened to be wandering about Paris in the spring and summer of 1795, like another unemployed officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose acquaintance he made, and whose friendship he won. When Bonaparte was requested by Barras to undertake the defence of the convention in Vendemiaire 1795 he at once called Murat to his side and commissioned him to bring up from Sevres the artillery with which the sections were shot down. His services on this occasion were recognized by his receiving 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, Montenotte, Ceva, Dego, and Mondovi, Murat so greatly distinguished himself that he was chosen to carry the flags taken from the enemy 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 and Corona and Fort St Georges, where he was wounded. He then was sent on a diplomatic mission to Genoa, but returned in time to be present at Rivoli. In the advance into Tyrol in the summer of 1797 he commanded the vanguard, and by his passage of the Tagliamento hurried on the preliminaries of Leoben. In 1798 lie 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 lie was made general of division. 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. He was, after the success of the coup d'etat, made commandant of the consular guard, and in .January 1800 married Marie Annonciade Caroline Bonaparte, the 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. Eie was made a marshal of France in 1804 ; he was titular governor of Paris, was invested with the grand eagle of the Legion of Honour, and appointed grand admiral of France with the title of prince in 1805. He commanded the cavalry of the grand army in the German campaign of 1805, and was so conspicuous at Austerlitz that Napoleon made him grand-duke of Berg and Cleves. 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 25th March, and did much to hurry on the Spanish policy of Napoleon. The inhabitants of Madrid showed their hatred for the French by murdering on 2d May all the isolated or wounded Frenchmen they could find. Murat vigorously put down the riot, but not cruelly, for only 158 Spaniards fell to 500 Frenchmen; and he hoped for the throne of Spain as his reward. But the throne of Spain was given to Joseph Bonaparte, and Murat received Joseph's former kingdom of Naples.





King Joachim Napoleon, as he called himself, entered Naples in September 1808, and soon won great popularity by his handsome presence and his gaiety of manner. He took Capri from the English, and organized a Neapolitan army of 80,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry. But his attention was not confined to military matters ; he effected other great reforms in finally abolishing all relics of feudalism and putting down brigandism. Unfortunately much injustice was done by General Manhes in this last reform, which seriously affected Murat's popularity in Calabria. He was not present at Aspern or Wagram, but once more commanded the cavalry of the grand army in the Russian campaign of 1812. He manifested his usual headlong valour in the disastrous retreat, but, being offended by Napoleon, he suddenly threw up. his command and left for Naples. He then began an intrigue with Austria. Whether it was that he hoped to escape from a doubtful cause or that he was really offended by Napoleon's preference for Eugene Beauharnais is not known, but in March 1813 he sent Prince Cariati to Vienna to declare that he would surrender his claims to Sicily if Austria would guarantee Naples to him. In January 1814 the alliance with Austria was declared by Murat's seizing the principality of Benevento, while Austria promised him Ancona for a force of 30,000 men. At the congress of Vienna his independence was attacked by Talleyrand, who was his personal enemy, and it was as much from distrust of Austria as anything else that he declared in March 1815 that he intended to restore the unity and independence of Italy. He had hoped that Lord William Bentinck, the English general, would have supported him, but in vain. The Austrians steadily advanced, and on 2d May he suffered a disastrous defeat at the battle of Tolentino. With difficulty he escaped, and reached France on 27th May. He offered his sword to Napoleon, who indignantly refused his offer, and he then hid in seclusion near Toulon with a price upon his head. After Waterloo he was refused an asylum in England, and went to Corsica, where he was joined by a few rash spirits, who urged him to strike another blow for his kingdom of Naples. He refused an offer of asylum from Metternich, and started with six ships. By a great mistake he landed in Calabria, where he was hated for the cruelty of Manhes, on 6th October ; his ships deserted him, and he was taken prisoner by a captain named Trenta-Capilli, whose brother had been executed by Manhes. He was imprisoned in the fort of Pizzo, and on 13th 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.

As a king much good can be said of him ; by his valour he had risen from nothing to royalty, and instead of being careless of the good of his adopted country he showed himself a truly wise king. As a general he was the most, dashing cavalry leader of the age, and, as he himself said, his presence at Waterloo would have given more concentrated power to the French cavalry charges, and possibly success. 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.

For the life of Murat and his rule in Naples consult Vie de Joachim Murat, by M* *, 1815 ; Memo?* sulla condotta politica c militare tenuta da Gioacchino Murat, 1815 ; Gioaceltino Murat, o Stories del Beanie di Napoli dal 1800 at 1815, Milan, 1839 ; Campagnes des Autrichiens centre Murat en, 1815, by y* * C* * de Br., Brussels, 1821 ; and particularly Freiherr von Ilelfert, Joachim Murat, seine letzten Keimpfe and seine Ende, Vienna, 1878. For his daring attempt in 1815 and his death see A. de Beauchamp, Catastrophe de Murat, 1815 ; Francis Macirone, Interesting facts relating to the fall and death of Joachim Murat, King of Saple.s, London, 1817 ; P. Colletta, Poehi fatti su Gioaeehino Murat, Naples, 1820, correcting Macirone, and translated by L. Gallois, Paris, 1823 ; Galvani, Memoires sur les Evenements gui out precede la mort de Joachim, roi des Deux &cites, Paris, 1843 ; and Jean de la Rocca, he Rot Murat et ses dcrnicrs fours, from the papers of AI ultedo, who accompanied the king, Paris, 1858. (H. M. S.)







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