“I owe it to myself not to deviate”

Nearly two months after writing to Empress Marie-Louise with the hope that she would be willing to mediate between himself and Napoleon, Murat wrote the following letter directly to the Emperor himself. The Allies were on the verge of moving against the French once more; Napoleon had requested Murat to send troops to support him. But Murat continued to burn with resentment over the harsh letters addressed to him and Caroline by Napoleon following Murat’s return from Russia earlier that year, as well as the Emperor’s humiliation of him in the Moniteur (these documents are quoted here). He cannot help but mention these grievances now; that of his failed Sicilian campaign likewise resurrects itself, and he subtly (and boldly) suggests that Napoleon’s “policy” was the reason it failed. He bristles at the idea of Eugène de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy, commanding Murat’s Neapolitan troops. Though reluctant to leave Naples vulnerable by removing his forces from the kingdom, he nevertheless expresses his eagerness to serve the Emperor in the field once more, at the head of his own troops.


Source: Souvenirs d’enfance d’une fille de Joachim Murat, by Louise Murat, pages 147-151.

Naples, 4 July 1813

To His Majesty the Emperor

Sire, Your Majesty has requested from me troops for the army of the Adige, via his Minister of Foreign Affairs, via the Viceroy of Italy, and via the Minister of War of France. You have invited me at the same time to threaten Sicily by armaments on land and sea. Today, your Minister to Naples makes representations for me to lead via Bologna eight battalions of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and a train of fourteen pieces of foot or horse artillery.

Sire, I have done everything possible and I have made enormous expenses in order to accomplish your intentions relative to Sicily. My entire navy was armed, and if your policy had approved that I employ in this respect the forces that I might have brought there, perhaps I would not have made a vain threat. As to sending troops to the Adige, I have constantly responded and I am going to respond again: that under the terms of the treaties and in the situation the Kingdom finds itself, I have no obligation to add anything to the contingents I have already furnished; that, in the current circumstances, I could not let troops leave the Kingdom without marching myself at their head; that if Italy is attacked or threatened, I am ready to bring myself with twenty-five or thirty thousand men anywhere Your Majesty will judge that my services might be useful. My determinations, Sire, are unwavering, and I hope that they will obtain the approbation of Your Majesty because I believe them commanded by the honor which cannot bend, and by the interests of Your Majesty, to which those of my Kingdom are inseparable.

I owe it to myself not to deviate, because after the name of the Viceroy was employed to humiliate me by an offensive parallel, I cannot properly put Neapolitans under his orders, notwithstanding my particular sentiments of esteem and friendship for him. I owe it to Your Majesty because I have the conviction that by dividing my forces, by separating them from me, by altering the opinion that might have been conceived, I would destroy a powerful guarantee of the tranquility of Italy, whereas employing them en masse and as appropriate, I might crush your enemies everywhere. I owe it to my troops who suffer and are disorganized when they are disseminated, and who shed rivers of blood at Lutzen, at Vurtchen, without one deigning to name them. I owe it lastly to the Neapolitan nation which grows weary and discouraged by seeing, after incredible efforts to create a military State, that the barely-trained troops are dispersed, dissipated, disappeared without either any increase in strength or glory for the State. It is thus that already twenty thousand men have been lost in Spain, in Poland, in Germany.

I know that Your Majesty assumes wrongs of me, and perhaps I did express sometimes with energy the pain that I suffered from the injustices of which I saw myself the object; but, Sire, the memory of all that you have done for me, the attachment that I have devoted to you, the feelings that I owe to France, have unceasingly filled my soul; and my most ardent wishes have always been to reappear before your enemies as your Lieutenant, as a French warrior and as King of a nation in which I strive to inspire the military spirit with which you have inspired France. However, if I had the happiness of rendering some services to the Emperor and to the Empire, may Your Majesty deign to remember them and to reread the letter that he wrote me upon my return to Naples, that which he wrote to the Queen, the article that he had inserted into the Moniteur… may he think of his absolute silence after such writings, and may he judge how strong must be, in the heart of a King, in the heart of a soldier which has never patiently suffered the least offense, an attachment which so many cruel treatments cannot alter. He could only suffer them from one he was accustomed to consider as a father, and whom it grieved him not to see happy.

Return thus, Sire, return to a trust founded on twenty years of hardships and fidelity. This is the oldest and most devoted of your Lieutenants, this is your sister, these are your nephews who solicit your heart and who solicit it, I am not afraid to say it, in the name of your dearest interests; because it is not good that Europe believes that Your Majesty can detach from him a friend such as me, and this is, however, what our common enemies endeavor to spread in a hundred different ways, it is this that they want to accredit, by the most absurd interpretations, inventions, and conjectures, within even my capital.

Think, Sire, that I consider my honor interested to lead myself the Neapolitan troops who must fight for you, and that I might terminate the noble career that I have traversed under your auspices by losing throne and life, but not by sacrificing honor. Write me, Sire, that you accept my offers, and your enemies will see me on the field of battle worthy of you, worthy of me!

[Signed] Joachim NAPOLEON


2 thoughts on ““I owe it to myself not to deviate”

  1. Karen Ronan

    Napoleon’s letters are nowhere near as eloquent as Murat’s (understatement). People who got close to Napoleon usually paid a price.


  2. Pingback: “This first spark of revolt might become a general inferno” – Project Murat

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