“He let us turn everything upside-down”

In this excerpt from Louise Murat’s memoirs, Louise reminisces about the idyllic moments when her parents, in between the endless stresses of ruling a kingdom, found relief by spending time with their children. She also recounts the antics of her older brothers, Achille and Lucien, whose rowdiness occasionally necessitated her father’s intervention.

***

Aside from the official dinners which we were nearly always obliged to attend, we were also very often, and on many occasions, called to come dine at the court. Sometimes we were alone there, but most often we were invited on Thursdays, because it was on Thursdays that the Council of Ministers was usually held, followed by a dinner which they all attended, and I believe that our Father judged our presence necessary on this day in order to ease the boredom and the fatigue caused by such grave occupations. Be that as it may, as soon as the coffee was taken, the guests, quite tired I think too, were gracefully dismissed, and we withdrew into the interior of the apartments until the time had come either to retire or go to the theatre.

These short after-dinners were the moments that we increasingly desired and that we saw arriving with the utmost joy. We found ourselves then alone, free, with our parents who, forgetting for a few moments the cares and worries of politics, abandoned themselves to the pleasures of a sweet intimacy, laughing, chatting with us and mingling with all our amusements.

One could hardly believe how happy my Father, especially, was in the midst of his children. When the reunion occurred at his place, he let us turn everything upside-down; everything served as our toys. The box containing the objects of the Freemasonry was particularly sought after by us: the little gavel, the embroidered apron enchanted us, but nevertheless didn’t occupy us nearly as much as the weapons he kept always gathered as trophies in the middle of his bedroom.

This magnificent trophy contained, in addition to the arms that he had borne at different periods of his military career, those which served him for the hunt and those which were dear to him as souvenirs of distant countries or of significant events in which he had taken part. He permitted us to touch them, to take them in hand, pointed out their beauty to us, and recounted to us, explained to us the origin of each of them. Quite often my brothers, while playing with the swords, pulled them out of the scabbard, and simulated fights, engaged in battles. I was the youngest, the slightest bit timid, and in this duel capacity, the punching bag for my elders; I was frightened, they attacked me, naked sword in hand; I became upset, I cried and ran to take refuge in the arms of my Father who, with a word, halted the assailants and, while scolding me kindly, sought to console me and to cure me of my childish frights. Poor Father! These familial scenes where he showed himself so good, so tender to us, are the last memories I conserve of him! These arms are, more or less, the only objects belonging to him that we have been able to save! I possess a portion of them which I consider to be the most precious things I have. Every time that I look at them, they recall to me, aside from the glory of my Father, the happy years of my childhood spent with him. Therefore save with care these venerated relics, my children, not only as a memory of the soldier, but still out of love for your mother, and for the price which she attaches to them.

***

From Souvenirs d’enfance d’une fille de Joachim Murat, by Louise Murat, pages 91-94.

2 thoughts on ““He let us turn everything upside-down”

  1. Josefa vom Jaaga

    I’m a whimp – this almost made me cry. Louise was about ten when her father was shot, right? I guess she never got over it.

    I feel like this is something historians, when judging events of the past, too often forget. These were real people, with real lives and real dreams and hopes. They loved and they cared and they did stupid things. Just like we do.

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    1. There’s nothing wrong with that! I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t shed some tears over poor Murat myself. That’s why I love delving into the personal stories like these, I agree with you that too often historians overlook the *humanity* of the people they write about. When it comes to Murat there is a tendency to focus on his exploits (and mistakes) on the battlefield and, of course, his defection from Napoleon, but his story is so much deeper than that. And at his core he really was such a good, soft-hearted family man, and that’s what makes his story all the more tragic and makes it resonate with me so deeply.

      Yes, Louise was only ten years old when she lost her father. It’s hard to even fathom how much heartbreak there must’ve been in that house in Trieste in the aftermath of them learning of his death, all four children were very attached to him.

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