Louise Murat includes in her memoirs six letters written by her father between 1813 through his defection from Napoleon (the last letter in this series, from immediately after his treaty with Austria was signed, can be read here from Jean Tulard’s biography of Murat). The following letter is the first in the series, addressed by Murat to Empress Marie-Louise, prior to the 1813 campaign. There is still considerable tension between Murat and Napoleon at the time of this letter as a result of Napoleon’s excoriations of Murat–both in private letters and publicly via the Moniteur–for leaving the army during the retreat from Russia without the Emperor’s permission. Murat is hoping Marie-Louise will act as an intermediary between himself and Napoleon. His feelings are conflicted; he wants to take the field with Napoleon, yet worries about leaving Naples vulnerable in his army’s absence. At the same time, feeling increasingly pessimistic of the future of the Empire, Murat is now in the midst of negotiations with Austria–their ciphered offer will be delivered to him as he is en route to join Napoleon for the coming war. Not having the cipher key with him, he will send the letter on to Naples, and continue on his way to fight alongside the Emperor for one final campaign.
Source: Souvenirs d’enfance d’une fille de Joachim Murat, by Louise Murat, pages 144-147.
Portici, 11 May 1813
To Her Majesty the Empress and Queen
Madame, Your Majesty has been kind enough to inform me by telegraph and by the intermediary of the Prince Borghese of the departure of the Emperor for the army. I was far from Naples when this information arrived here; it was transmitted to me in Taranto. Such a circumstance alone could delay, Madame, the thanks that I owe to Your Majesty for her attention full of kindness, and the cost of which I feel. Although the news of the Emperor’s return to the army was not unexpected by me, I was not able to learn of it without an emotion vivid and profound. We are going to fight, and I will not fight; the Emperor is going to brave new dangers and I will not be called to share in them. These ideas agitate and afflict my heart; they besiege me as a soldier, as a devoted friend of my old general, and as a loyal ally of the head of the Empire. Yet I cannot dissimulate to myself, and I’ve had to say to the Emperor myself that my presence is necessary in Naples. I would have betrayed him by using other language. It would have been dangerous to delude him on the state of Italy or the thousand intrigues and thousand passions keeping spirits in motion. Already perhaps, many disorders would have taken place if it were not known that I am here, with an army ready to go anywhere it might be needed to make the rights of the Emperor and the interests of the Empire respected. Distancing myself, or distancing my troops, this would be, I have the most intimate conviction, to lose not only my kingdom, but also the rest of the peninsula. The desire that I had to make war must be ceded to such high circumstances, and the certitude that, nowhere, would I be able to serve the Emperor more usefully than in the post where I am, must console me for not being beside him. But nothing can ease the anxiety into which I’ve been delivered by the dispositions manifested by the Emperor in my regard since my return to Naples.
In several circumstances, he has expressed sentiments unfavorable towards me; he has taken measures of mistrust that were meant to wound me; he has addressed to me demands which he knew were impossible for me to satisfy. He has not given me any explanations that I’ve requested from him; he has not granted me any of the facilities of which I had need in order to procure arms and horses in France intended for his service; he hasn’t communicated any of his views to me; he has furnished me no instruction on the conduct to take in Italy. If I knew less of the Emperor’s genius and the extreme attention with which he rules all affairs himself, I might believe that, in the Cabinet of the Tuilleries, everything has been directed by my enemies, with the intention of causing me difficulties and preparing griefs against me, in order to assert them at other times. Such relations are distressing; I must add that it is impossible for me to lie about them entirely to my subjects, which alarms the most loyal ones, emboldens the ill-intentioned, and gives hope to our common enemies.
I dare to beseech you, Madame, to assist in putting an end to such an unpleasant state of things. It is up to Your Majesty, to enlighten the Emperor who is misled on the state of Italy, and to restore in him the trust that I believe to have acquired the right to claim by twenty years of vibrant service and by a devotion that even unjust practices could never alter.
May the Emperor deign to explain himself, may he make his intentions known clearly and completely; I would employ my efforts to fulfill them, but his isolated dispositions, which seem to foreshadow other successive dispositions and which, tending continuously to weaken me, expose me to staying here in the impotence of facing our enemies; dispositions which are consequently compromising both to my glory and to my States, which can only provoke on my part just representations, at the same time that they sustain the painful incertitude that I suffer over the sentiments of the Emperor.
Custodian of the Imperial Government, occupied with the happiness of France and the great interests of Europe, Your Majesty would not disdain to give some cares to the objects to which the fate of Italy is attached, which form such an important part of the Empire and on which depend my happiness as well as that of my family. It would be my pleasure, Madame, it would be the pleasure of the Queen and my children to recognize in Your Majesty new titles to our gratitude and to the affection that you have inspired in us.
[Signed] Joachim NAPOLEON