I’ve been wanting to translate the relatively short manuscript on Murat left behind by Murat’s childhood friend, the Count of Mosbourg, for a while now, so I’m going to start working my way through it and posting it bit by bit; it’ll be a nice break in between the ongoing translation of excerpts/correspondence from Louise Murat’s memoirs. First, some background info on it, partially re-posted from my Tumblr.
Mosbourg–or Jean-Michel Agar–was born in 1771, four years after Murat, and became, for a time, Murat’s schoolmate and boyhood companion. When Murat was elevated to the title of Grand Duke of Berg, Agar became his Minister of Finance, a post he would likewise take up in Naples when Murat was crowned king in 1808. His devotion to Murat was strong, and it was with the most profound and tearful regret that he resigned from Murat’s service in 1814 following his defection from Napoleon. But there was no animosity in the parting, and Mosbourg would continue to correspond with Caroline Murat in the years following her husband’s death. Late in his life, he conceived the project of writing a biography on Murat, in hopes of salvaging his friend’s by that point much-maligned reputation. He began compiling documents towards this end, and wrote to Caroline about his plan, in hopes of receiving her blessing (and her help in acquiring more documents useful to his purposes). His goal was not, he insisted, to cover up or excuse Murat’s mistakes, but simply to tell the truth:
In order to produce a lasting impression, it is with a complete frankness that one must speak. It is the whole truth, the truth alone that one must tell. I desire to have the certitude that my plan suits you, as well as your children. God forbid that I might wound your sensitivities; I would respect them by my silence if I could not satisfy them by my writing.
The onset of Mosbourg’s progress was slow due to the onset of illness. But Caroline was pleased with his plan, and sent him what documents she could. She agreed that all that was needed to clear her husband’s reputation was that the truth be told, particularly about the controversial, poorly-understood final two years of his reign, when he had briefly separated from Napoleon and joined the Allies and then attempted to rejoin Napoleon following his escape from Elba. She replied to Mosbourg’s letter on 4 September 1838:
I need to hope that your strength is no longer lacking to achieve the task you have wanted to undertake, and the success of which matters so much to the glory of my family. We understand, my children and I, what is the opinion in France, how it has been lost, what the means are of returning it; the spirit of your letter, in short…. I feel that in the current state of mind a general work on the life of the King, even if it had all the merits, would be of no circumstance and that the time to produce it will not have come until the events of which you speak have been treated advantageously. I believe also, as you, that just as good faith has been met with severity and injustice, so by reaction and out of honor will the truth be eagerly welcomed, and that the light being thrown on the facts of 1814 and 1815, the success of complete memoirs will have thereby been assured. Tell the whole truth, it alone can win a lasting trust; the heart of man has many contrasts, and it is often these apparently incompatible opposites which give to portraits the stamp of plausibility. Fortunately for his historian, the character of the King is rich enough that there is no need to disguise his faults. Like all passionate beings, the King had his weaknesses, but these, as you say, were always generous ones.
Caroline died in May of the following year. Though Mosbourg lived until 1844, his steadily declining health prevented him from seeing his plans through to fruition. He had compiled a great deal of correspondence, and left extensive notes and a brief biographical sketch of Murat, published in 1897 by Murat’s grandnephew, Joachim Joseph André, in Murat, Lieutenant de l’Empereur en Espagne, 1808 (from which derive the letters quoted above, as well as Mosbourg’s manuscript itself).