“You must calm a little your head, which gets hot so easily”

Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, returned home to her kingdom on the 3rd of August, 1810, after having been in Paris since December of the previous year. She was delighted to finally see her children again after such a long absence, but her reunion with her husband would take slightly longer; Joachim was leading what would be an ultimately unsuccessful campaign against Sicily at the time, and would not return to Naples for almost another two months.

Much had happened during Caroline’s absence from Naples. Her brother Napoleon had divorced the Empress Josephine, and married his second wife, Marie-Louise, daughter of Emperor Francis of Austria. Caroline had spent a large portion of her time in Paris helping to set up the new Empress’s household; the duration of her absence had given rise to rumors that Napoleon was hoping to break up her marriage with Joachim, with whom he was increasingly at odds. But Caroline remained devoted to Joachim, and, though their relationship had been rocky over the preceding years, they had managed to reconcile at some point prior to Napoleon’s wedding, and by the time Joachim left Paris to begin planning his Sicilian expedition, Caroline was pregnant again. Joachim would learn of her pregnancy—and her eventual miscarriage—during the course of his campaign. The Sicilian campaign itself proved to be a shambolic affair which only further increased tensions between Murat and Napoleon.

Two days after her long-awaited return to Naples, Caroline wrote her husband the following four separate letters throughout the day. They are a combination of effusiveness, sentimentality, and sober political counseling, as Caroline continues to worry about the rupture between her husband and brother, and what it might mean for their future prospects on the Neapolitan throne. The message/warning/subtle threats relayed to Joachim from Napoleon in the third letter, were recorded verbatim by Caroline at the time that the Emperor dictated them to her.

SourceLettres et documents pour servir à l’histoire de Joachim Murat, Vol. 8


Queen Caroline to her husband
Naples, 5 August 1810

My dear friend, although I didn’t sleep well this night and I still feel the effects of my journey, my health is good enough. I will receive this evening all the Court and I hope that this session, which is indispensable, will not fatigue me too much. I feel deep in my heart all the grief that you expressed to me in your last letter, and I share it. Don’t let yourself be defeated by the difficulties and by the discouragement of the people around you.[1] If you see the expedition is impossible, come back to me, you will have had the pleasure of saving Corfou for the Emperor and it will be a great advantage that you have withdrawn. Don’t aggrieve yourself, see what you must do for our good and for that of the Kingdom, and be sure that everyone will approve what you will have decided.

Naples is very tranquil and our children are doing marvelously; all that is lacking to my happiness is the power to kiss you and to give you, myself, tokens of my tenderness. I recommend that you date your letters, which are almost never dated.

I love you and hope to see you soon.



Queen Caroline to her husband
Naples, 5 August 1810

My dear friend, I’m coming to see Madame de Lavello, who is in despair over the departure of her husband, she was all in tears and threw herself at my feet, begging me to ask you to name another minister to Petersburg[2] and not to send her husband who has already left, but there is still time to recall him, she explained to me that she is not able to accompany him, because she is ill, and that it would be cruel for them to be separated and to live so far apart. They are not rich and this mission will occasion to Lavello expenses outside of their revenues. Moreover, his wife fears that at his age he does anything to displease you and that he does not represent as it would suit you. Lavello is actually quite young and has a light head to behave as wisely as he would need to in a Court so watchful and so difficult. By separating them thus, we will make the misfortune of both, and your service will not be well done. I ask you as a favor for them to revoke your nomination and to make another. If Lavello has accepted, it is that he does not dare refuse you, but he has been very afflicted by his nomination. I advocate this affair to you as it truly interests me for the grief it causes these two young people. Farewell, my friend, I kiss you.


[P.S.] Your letters are no longer dated, I beg you not to forget it anymore.


Queen Caroline to her husband
Naples, 5 August 1810

My dear friend, I’m searching everywhere for an officer who can carry this letter to you, and especially to burn it, if he is attacked by brigands. I will be very upset it you cannot receive it, because I hope that it will calm you, and I desire that you pay attention to all that I say, that you see a little in the present, and that you don’t torment yourself, like you always do, in the future.

I saw the Emperor at the moment of my departure as he charged me, as I told you yesterday, with many expressions of friendship for you. The affair of Holland[3] made me fear for us, I’ve expressed my worries to you. He responded to me: “I love the King, I am very happy with the attachment you have proven to me during these seven months, so I will not look to cause you pain. But however, I desire that you will speak to the King frankly, and that you will tell him what my intentions are. Here is what I desire of him: that he favors French commerce, and that it not be as in the time of Queen Caroline [ed. note: wife of King Ferdinand, in Sicily at this time]. If I have put a King from my family in Naples, it is not so that my commerce worsens from when I had an enemy there. I want, above all, to do what is right for France. If I have conquered some kingdoms, it is so France can benefit from them, and if I don’t obtain that which I desire, then I will be obliged to reunite these kingdoms to France. This is what I will do to Spain and the other states if they don’t want to enter into my system. I also desire that my troops not be commanded by Neapolitan generals, because the French don’t like that. I want all the French in your states to be well treated. I also want the King to treat you well,” and he added several things relative to that. I told him that I was happy and content and that you were very good to me, and that if there might have been some little things between you and me, they were just passing things that did not merit his attention, and that I begged him not to occupy himself with them further. He responded to me, “that it touched him more than I believed, because strangers saw the case that was made of him by the manner in which I was treated, and that everything was known.” I should not have spoken to you of that, and I assure you that I haven’t had any intention of seeing myself telling it to you, but I wanted to prove to you how susceptible the Emperor is, and how the slightest thing can make him angry. He is very irritable at this point in time. So I give you good advice: it is to pass the many small things, in order to obtain thereafter the greater ones, and for us to maintain his friendship.

What is your goal? It is to maintain yourself where you are and to conserve the Kingdom, that we must do as he desires, and not anger him, when he asks something, because he is the stronger and you cannot do anything against him. Perhaps one day, he will calm down and then you will be able to return to all your rights. You will obtain more in making these sacrifices than in irritating him. For example, he makes a request for the textiles of France; give it to him on the spot, let him say that the Kingdom of Naples is the only one which contents him. Moreover, he has said that in order to obtain the textiles, he would give the cotton. Monsieur de Champagny has also told me this. Consent to what he wants this object, and you can ask him at the same time what he had hoped for the cotton, without making it a condition. In this manner you will please the Emperor and obtain some advantages. In doing what the Emperor asks, it is possible that you deprive yourself of resources and that you impoverish yourself, but at least you save the Kingdom, and if afterwards you were reduced to leaving it, that is when you will not be able to hold it, and then you will have no reproach to make yourself in the face of your children. All of Europe is crushed under the yoke of France. Joseph himself won’t be able to hold on for a long time, the Emperor complains about him a lot, because all the French speak badly of him, and he cannot make them happy. Louis has lost everything. Jerome has received fifteen thousand men that he is obligated to nourish, and it is impossible that he can last more than six months.[4] All the other states are equally tormented. So you see that you are still the least badly treated, I beseech you to accommodate yourself to the situation you find yourself in, to suffering, to not give cause for any complain; one day perhaps you will collect the fruit of your patience.

Having said to the Emperor that he must not compare us to Holland, and that we always focused on doing what could please him, he told me: “That is true, I am not displeased with the King of Naples as with the King of Holland; but the King says always that he does what I want, and yet he sometimes passes me orders, and often in the important ones, he does not consult me: for example for Lucien[5], he did very badly in giving him money and a vessel, because perhaps he can be taken by the English, which would be a very great inconvenience for me. He should’ve consulted my intentions. He complains ceaselessly of the lack of money, and he gives it to my enemies, for I regard such as Lucien who never wanted to do anything I desired.”

Having said to the Emperor that it was very difficult as King to govern and to undertake nothing, when the Minister of War wrote to him that he would be removed from the command of the army, if he undertook to descend on Sicily with less than fifteen thousand men, and that this menace had caused you the most grief, he said to me: “How! He gets angry about that, I have always regarded, and I still regard, Murat as a general in my army, and I make no difference, when I give orders to my minister. I’ve prevented him from descending on Sicily unless fifteen thousand men are gathered; he writes in June that all is ready, that he is going to cross and I know from he himself that he doesn’t have fifteen thousand men for disembarkation. Knowing that the English are strong in Sicily, and knowing the audacity of the King, I did not want to expose him to being taken by the English. If the expedition did not succeed, it is on me that it would be borne, and I do not want to be regarded as the author of a bad enterprise, for it is on my account that we will put all of this.”

I am, perhaps, the cause of these observations of the Emperor, because having shown to the Emperor some letters where you had said to me that all was ready, that in two days you will be in Messina, and that you will not delay in writing to me from Palermo, the Emperor, who knew your position and knew that you couldn’t begin anything yet, lacking sufficient means, was obligated to write you to not attempt the crossing with less than fifteen thousand men, in order to not expose his army and because he believed that you only listened to your bravery. If you hadn’t written that you were going to try the crossing, the Emperor could’ve believed in the expedition, but he was filled with dread by the idea that you were going to quickly.

I am upset about the expedition now. I confess that I often believed you to be in Sicily. How were you able to announce to the Emperor, and how did you believe that the English wouldn’t fortify it? Everyone in Paris believe you had disembarked in Sicily, and are delighted, but it is better to retrace your steps, and postpone it for another time, than to expose yourself and your army. Since there are so many obstacles now, take courage, come back to us, I will try to console you for the troubles you have suffered.

As far as Fouché is concerned, he was only disgraced because, without the admission of the Emperor, he had undertaken a negotiation with the British, and that things were already far enough advanced when the Emperor became aware of it, and then he did not want to give up the letters of Lord Wellesley and he has kept or burnt them. The Emperor told me that he only complained about him for overstepping his powers, and that his wrongs were those of a minister in his functions, and that you could receive him, if he wants to come there.

Arriving here, I found everyone hurrying to do that which could please me. I have been sensitive to all the orders that you’ve given for that, and they have been executed as you’ve ordered. But I’m not disposed to accept anything, neither the fêtes, nor the police reports, or anything that is proposed to me. I’ve refused them all. My intention is to not meddle here in anything but that which can be agreeable to you, and I don’t want to give rise to rumors that I came here in order to govern during your absence and to meddle in the affairs of administration. I want to prove to you that I returned to show you how much I am attached to you. I hope that there will be no more people looking to trouble you, by making you believe that I occupy myself with intrigues, that I’m making a party, and that I’m looking to enter the Council of State. Those who tell you such things have their reasons.

I’m coming to see my apartments. I find them charming, also the terrace. The Grand Marshal did not leave me ignorant of all the kind care that you’ve taken to make me satisfied. I was very grateful, and I have a great pleasure in telling you so. Here I am in the midst of my children, and the only thing lacking in my happiness now is to see you with me. Come back as soon as you can. We can be happy, but in order for that, we need to be content with what we have, you must calm a little your head, which gets hot so easily, and await, with more patience than you have until now, the moment where we will be more tranquil and more independent. The happiness of our interior will compensate us for our many pains, and you will find with me, with our children, and from all those who sincerely love us, enjoyments worth all the others. All I tell you there, my dear friend, is dictated by the desire I have to see you happy, and you know that my happiness can not exist without yours.

My pregnancy goes very well, and I don’t feel anything moving yet. I had, however, a little suffering from the jolts of the road. I’m not writing to you myself, because I started to bathe upon arriving in Naples, so I’m dictating my letter. My nerves are a little bad, but be calm, my health is good, and I hope that tomorrow I will not feel tired anymore from the trip.

Write me every day now, and assure me that you are not exposing yourself. I recommend it to you for me and for our dear children.

The Emperor and Empress asked me at my departure to give you their kindest regards.

Farewell, my dear friend, I kiss you and I love you with all my heart.

I kiss you as I love you.



Queen Caroline to her husband
Naples, 5 August 1810

I wanted to see the officer who is charged with delivering my letter to you, so that he can give you, himself, some news of my health. Since he isn’t leaving until midnight, I still have time to write you this little note. My children are leaving my place, I was surrounded by packages they had started unpacking, it was a game and a noise not to be heard, they are truly charming, and have spoken to me much of you, and they all desire you to come back very quickly.

Farewell, my dear friend, I kiss you for me and for our children.



[1] Napoleon had intended for Murat’s Sicilian expedition to be nothing but a long-term diversion, to keep British forces in Sicily tied up and therefore unable to reinforce their army in Spain. However, for whatever reason, he did not make this known to Murat, who still very much intended to make a serious attempt to capture Sicily and reunite it to Naples. To make sure that Murat didn’t go too far with this endeavor, Napoleon made sure that the French generals taking part in this affair were under orders not to take part in the crossing if it was judged too risky. Murat was increasingly aware that he was being undermined, and from time to time his anger over the situation boiled over in letters to Caroline. When Murat finally called the expedition off in September, Napoleon tore into his brother-in-law, and claimed it had been his (Napoleon’s) intention that Sicily be captured, and that his objective was not met. On Saint Helena, however, he admitted he had never meant for it to be captured, that if he had he would’ve given Murat a much stronger force for the purpose, and that it was merely meant to divert British forces from Spain.

[2] Murat ended up being prohibited by Napoleon from sending ambassadors either to St. Petersburg or Vienna. Napoleon was irritated by Joachim’s attempt to do so, which he viewed as an inappropriate assertion of independence from a kingdom that Napoleon regarded as only a satellite of France and therefore in no need of its own ambassadors to foreign courts.

[3] Napoleon’s second-youngest brother, Louis, had been essentially run out of his kingdom of Holland in July of 1810 after defying his brother’s will one time too many. Napoleon annexed Holland to France, sending in Marshal Oudinot’s forces to take over, as Louis fled to Austria.

[4] Caroline refers to Joseph’s struggles as the embattled King of Spain, and Jerome’s as King of Westphalia.

[5] Living in a sort of self-imposed exile in Italy after distancing himself from Napoleon and refusing his brother’s demand to marry a Spanish Bourbon princess, Lucien finally wrote to Murat requesting money and a ship to transport him to America. Murat happily granted the request, without bothering to ask Napoleon’s permission. Lucien was indeed captured by the British, who eventually permitted him to live as a private citizen in England.

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