“Everything announces a revolution”

Ten days after writing to Napoleon on the situation in Italy and imploring him to unify the country and grant its independence, Murat wrote to the Emperor once more. In the interim, he had not received a reply from Napoleon, who was ignoring his brother-in-law’s correspondence (again), believing that Murat was deliberately exaggerating the situation in Italy to further his own ends. Murat’s letter informs Napoleon that not only has he decided to put his army into motion in the absence of any instructions from the Emperor, but also dares to say that he is about to purchase muskets directly from the English to arm his new conscripts, since Napoleon has reneged on his promise to provide them himself. The breach between the two men is almost complete.


Source: Souvenirs d’enfance d’une fille de Joachim Murat, by Louise Murat, pages 156-158.

To His Majesty the Emperor

Naples, 23 November 1813


By my letter of the 12th [note: actually the 13th] of this month, I announced to Your Majesty that while awaiting your instructions, I was going to put my army in state to leave the kingdom; I have since announced to your minister of Foreign Relations, by my minister to Paris, that my troops were going to be put in motion; and that I had written to the governments of Rome, Tuscany, and MIlan in order to assure their subsistence. The first division will be united on 2 December in Rome, the second will be put en route, from the Abruzzes, from the 25th to the 30th to head towards Ancona; the third division and my guard will follow closely the movement of this latter. Sire, I had decided to await the formal requests of Your Majesty before sending the troops from my kingdom; but the Viceroy had been obliged to retire beyond the Adige; the enemy had thrown strong parties in the Valsavia, the Valcamonica, and I learned at the same time that the English had disembarked around three thousand men on the coast of Ravenna and had seized several batteries, but all the letters and the majority of the authorities of Italy announced the most vivid alarms and requested prompt support from me; and in Milan, the government was packing up and getting ready to leave the capital. In this state of things, I believed I shouldn’t hesitate to put my troops in motion; I could not expose myself to the reproaches of having let Italy be invaded by my inaction, and I preferred to incur that of having, so to speak, violated the imperial territory in order to come to the aid of the Viceroy. Yet I hope to receive from one moment to another some news from Your Majesty and to know in a positive manner your plan of campaign in Italy and the part that you desire that I take in it. 

The public spirit, which I painted to you as very bad, has not been ameliorated since my last letter; some incendiary proclamations were printed, not only in the provinces of my kingdom, but also in all the rest of Italy; and everything announces a revolution, without the presence of my troops who alone can stop the explosion. 

Sire, the departure of my army is going to leave my kingdom nearly without troops. I was going to raise ten thousand men who I could count on arming with the six thousand muskets  that Your Majesty had granted the Queen; but I learn that I can count on them no longer and that your authorization was just canceled, this puts me in the greatest embarrassment. I cannot make the levy without having arms to give to the new conscripts. Yet it is impossible for me to procure them in any other manner than by contraband, and I must declare to Your Majesty that I am going to employ every kind of means to procure them from the English by trade, because every other way is closed to me, having to give up having any from France, and  being unable in any respect to leave my kingdom entirely deprived of troops.

I dare to hope that this determination will not displease Your Majesty. I desire above all to know your intentions on the movement of my troops.

[Signed] Joachim NAPOLEON

5 thoughts on ““Everything announces a revolution”

  1. Josefa vom Jaaga

    Okay, this time, I really think he’s insincere. He cannot seriously have expected a reply from Napoleon to his letter from the 13th (even if he dates it back by a day ^_^) only ten days later. That would allow only five days for a courier from Naples to Paris – and zero time for Napoleon to actually think this huge proposal through.

    Do you know if he actually was in contact with Eugène at the time? Or with the vice-queen in Milan? Because I am unaware of any correspondence between them. The first thing I could find in Eugène’s correspondence is in December about an ADC from Naples trying to get through Eugène’s lines in order to negotiate with the Austrians (which Eugène’s men understandably refuse).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The events of the last three months leading up to Murat’s defection are… chaotic. I think one of my projects for 2021 will be putting together a timeline so I can understand them better myself. The book “Napoleon and King Murat” by Albert Espitalier is a great resource for this particular subject–even though the author viciously hates Murat and doesn’t even try to be objective when writing about him–and what I found in regard to the letter of 12 November 1813 is this:

      “He [Murat] went on to speak of his letter to the Emperor, adding that it was not his intention to wait for a reply before setting out. Within three days, he said, the troops would begin to move towards the frontiers, and at the first word from General Miollis he would march on the Po with all speed, because he feared that if the Austrians invaded Imperial territory and reached the heart of Italy, the blame would be laid at his own door.” (Pages 281-2 of my 1998 edition of this; it was originally published in 1912.)

      So you’re right about the lack of time for Napoleon to reply. I guess in this instance Joachim didn’t care. Napoleon did ignore other letters of Murat during this crucial period, and later said he had done so because there was no point in talking to “a madman.”

      I honestly don’t know if Murat was in communication with Eugène at this point, but he was corresponding with Elisa. He wrote her a rather remarkable letter on 15 December 1813 that I’ll quote in its entirety:

      “The time has come to make the fullest uses of the resources of Tuscany, and you must put a stop to the Tuscan tax-collectors and sending funds beyond the Apennines for purposes other than those of Tuscany. I have just informed General Miollis that I am taking over the command in all districts occupied by my troops, and I have given him instructions to receive no more orders from the Viceroy. Your Highness will readily perceive that I cannot possibly undertake the country’s defense unless I am to have all the civil and military authorities under my control. To Your Imperial Highness I shall never go beyond making requests, but I claim the right to dictate commands to the Governor of the Tuscan States. I beg that you will inform me whether Your Imperial Highness will consider yourself in a position to carry out such directions as I may be under the necessity of giving for the defense of Tuscany and to refrain from obeying the instructions of the Viceroy. Were any obstacles thrown in my way I should bring my army to an immediate halt and concern myself solely with the defense of my own territory.” (quoted from Espitalier’s book, page 295

      Napoleon obtained this particular letter (it doesn’t say if Elisa sent it on to him or if it was intercepted) and he wrote to her on 25 December saying:

      “No muskets must be given to the Neapolitans. The King’s ideas seem to me to be extravagant. On no account allow him to assume control of the civil government. If he comes with that intention, he had better recall his troops and remain in his own country. Do not give your consent to any tampering with the funds. If the King declares war upon us, it is not yet all over with France, and if any one could meditate so base an act of treason as that it would assuredly recoil on its author’s head. I rely on your firmness of character in this crisis. Let the King imprison you, let him slay you, but suffer no disloyalty to the nation.” (Espitalier, 299)

      Murat was days away from signing the treaty with Austria then, and Napoleon probably saw the writing on the wall.

      I haven’t come across correspondence from around the time of this letter between Murat & Eugène. This book is one of the only resources I’ve seen that has published letters of Murat from this period, since the 8 volumes of his letters published by Paul Le Breton only run up into mid 1810.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Josefa vom Jaaga

        Putting together a detailed timeline would be immensely helpful for sure! Good luck with that, and please let me know if I can be of help.

        As for Elisa, I found one brief exchange between her and Eugène in Eugène’s correspondance. On October 15, Elisa writes to “mon cher neveu” Eugène in order to place Tuscany’s soldiers at the disposal and under the command of the Viceroy, according to explicit orders from Napoleon. At that time, Eugène still holds the Isonzo but immediately after this Bavaria will switch sides and force him to retreat back to the Mincio. Eugène replies on the 20th basically stating that he will try to hold out as long as he can but everything depends on Napoleon gaining a big victory and to make peace.

        So, I assume it was Elisa who asked Napoleon what to make of Murat’s demands. After all, they directly contradicted Napoleon’s orders.


  2. Pingback: “They led him to his doom.” – Project Murat

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s