Letitia Murat, the eldest daughter of Joachim and Caroline, was born in Paris on 26 April 1802. If Joachim could be said to have a favorite child–and he obsessively doted on and spoiled them all–it would have been Letitia. Certainly she was his favorite correspondent. He wrote to her regularly during his absences, delighting in her educational progress and her growth as a person. Fortunately Letitia, unlike her mother Caroline, saved the letters Joachim wrote to her; forty of them were published in the Revue Napoléonienne, in two parts, in June and July of 1908. The existence of these letters enables us to view a very different side of Murat than the one with whom most students of the Napoleonic era are familiar.
The letters span from early 1807 through April 1814, and were written in Murat’s own hand rather than by a secretary. Though Murat, unsurprisingly, writes longer letters to his daughter as she grows older, the tone of the letters stays relatively unchanged over the years. They are written in Murat’s simple, almost childlike, yet occasionally flowery style; they are entirely in lowercase (and I will transcribe them accordingly). They are not always precisely dated; the spelling of Letitia’s name varies, sometimes even within the same letter. He nearly always refers to her with the formal vous, though an occasional tu appears. The language of emotion is omnipresent, as it typically is in Murat’s correspondence; the words tendresse, plaisir, and bonheur abound, as do his desires to see and embrace his family again. Many of the letters were written while Murat was away at war, though, not wanting to worry her, he rarely speaks of the campaigns themselves; “at your age,” he writes in 1812,”one should only experience sweet and tranquil feelings.” The question “When will I see you again?” arises frequently, as does his answer: “Soon, I hope.” His family is never far from his mind; he repeatedly states his desire to never have to leave them again.
Napoleon used to marvel (and laugh) at his ultra-sensitive brother-in-law’s tendency to weep while either writing to his family, or reading letters from them. It is easy to imagine Murat doing so in the course of writing some of these.
Source: Quarante lettres de Joachim Murat à sa fille Laetitia. Revue Napoléonienne, Vol 1, June 1908, pages 161-165. [The letters are published in two parts; both parts are available digitally on HathiTrust.org.]
my lovely letitia, i was deeply touched by your reproaches, you seemed upset to me, i want to be reconciled with you, write to me often. repeat to me always that you love your papa; and your papa will always respond to you that he cherishes you very tenderly. learn quickly to write, i will be very happy when i can read your character. love always mme de roquemont* who takes good care of you. tell achille that papa loves him and tell it also to lucien, embrace louise for me. i love you all and embrace you very tenderly. be good and make mama happy.
*Madame de Roquement was governess to the Murat children.
Headquarters of Finckenstein, 3 April 1807
i received, my beautiful and dear letitia, your lovely letter, it has given me the greatest pleasure. i admired the rapidity of your progress, and i was deeply touched that you lamented my absence. yes, we are fighting the enemy, and i will return to place on the prettiest head in the world the laurel leaves i will have gathered in poland. i ardently desire that the moment will be forthcoming, because i greatly desire to be closer to my charming family whom i love so much. i hope to embrace my dear letitia soon. tell mama that i love her; write me often, and give me your news each time. farewell, beautiful letitia, love papa well; consider that he is not happy far from his children, far from your good mama.
Finckenstein, 20 May 1807
i received your lovely letter, my beautiful and tender letitia. you are very kind for having thought of your papa, and for having written him such pretty things. i see your progress with pleasure; your tenderness makes me happy. i cannot wait to see you again, and to embrace you. farewell, my dear letitia, i embrace you; embrace lucien for me: tell him that i long for him to write me, so that i can send him letters as well.
Trianon, 21 October 1809
my dear letitia, i received your charming and great letter; it has given me much pleasure. madame de roquemont gives me your news often, it is all the more agreeable to me as she assures me that you are good and that you work hard. i am delighted with your progress. i’m sending you my gift for the first of the year. it has a been a long time since i left you and have been deprived of the happiness of embracing my children. i hope to soon be returned to the midst of them. my dear letitia, embrace lucien and louise for me, and tell achille that i love him.
i embrace you very tenderly.
your affectionate and tender father
Paris, 26 January 1810
my dear letitia, i received your letter: i always feel a new pleasure when i receive some news from my dear children whom i hope soon to embrace. i will definitely leave on the 30th and i will be in naples around the tenth. i’m very upset with the indisposition of lucien; i hope to find him cured. farewell, my beautiful letitia, be good always, apply yourself always and your papa will love you much. farewell, i embrace you with all my heart as well as lucien and louise.
Compiègne, 24 March 1810
my dear letitia, i’ve written to your brother and i’ve charged him to kiss you for me. i arrived here in good health, and that of the emperor is perfect, i know that your good mama is doing well, she stayed at strasbourg with the empress, and i flatter myself that i will see her again on the 28th. i will give you her news right away. i hope, my dear letitia, that you are still working a lot and that mama will be satisfied with your great progress. you know all the pleasure that it gives me myself. farewell, my lovely letitia, i kiss you from all my heart; and i will only be happy when i will be reunited with my dear and good children, to leave them no more. kiss achille, lucien, and louise for me.
your tender and good father,
Monday, 15 April 1810
my lovely and tender letitia, your charming letter made me very happy. ah! i too am much afflicted since being separated from my dear children, since i can no longer embrace my amiable letitia every morning, since i can no longer make my little visits; but her memory comes to console me and the good account made to me by mme de roquemont of your application contributes not a little to helping me bear all the pains that i feel from the separation of mama and of my dear children. farewell, my beautiful, my good loetitia, give me your news often, and believe in my tender attachment.
your very affectionate father
tell mme de roquement that i thank her for her exactitude in giving me your news.
At the royal camp of Piale, 11 July 1810
my dear loetitia, you forget me, because it has been a long time since i received a letter from you. write me quickly, tell me of your happiness upon your mother’s return.* it has been a very long time since i left you and it has been a very long time since i have been happy: can one be so far from his children?
farewell, my good and lovely loetitia, i am doing well; embrace your brothers and louise for me and tell them that i love them. tell achille that i haven’t received his response to my last letter. write to mama that i am well.
i embrace you very tenderly.
Your affectionate father
*Caroline had been in Paris and away from her children for nearly seven months at this point, both in preparation for the wedding of Napoleon to Marie-Louise, and to help the new Empress set up her household afterwards. She returned to Naples in early August. Joachim, meanwhile, was conducting his campaign against Sicily, which would not conclude until October.
At the camp of Piale, 20 July 1810
my lovely letitia, i received your very tender letter, i always feel a new pleasure in reading the expression of your sentiments for me. be always the same for your papa and you will always make him happy. i hope that you have already embraced mama; i would much like to be with her and my dear children, because it has been a long time since i left them. tell mama that i am doing well and that she should be without worry; it is the nicest weather in the world here; farewell, my dear loetitia, i embrace you with all my heart, as well as achille, lucien, and louise. give me news of mama often; i see with pleasure your progress in writing.
addio, amata, adorata mia loetitia.
In camp this 12th of September 1810
my dear loetitia, i wasn’t able to respond to you sooner. your letters are all very amiable, but your last one made me feel even more pleasure, i could notice in it more care, it was more of you, it seemed to me that you spoke to me while writing to me and the style of it charmed me. continue to apply yourself, you will appreciate one day the cares that you have given to your instruction. i accept with pleasure the offer that you make me of the painting that you are working on. i will always receive with pleasure anything that will come to me from my good loetitia. farewell, my daughter, i hope that mama is completely well and i share your happiness; soon we will all be reunited to leave each other no more. farewell, my dear and very good loetitia. i embrace you with all my heart; tell your mama that i am very unhappy to be separated from her and from you.
your affectionate father