The final part of my translation of the introductory manuscript on Murat by his lifelong friend & former finance minister, Jean-Michel Agar, the Count of Mosbourg. In this last portion of what was to be the beginning of Mosbourg’s planned biography of Murat, Mosbourg explains his desire to dispel the myths surrounding Murat and to show the world the real man, flaws and all; but above all, to rehabilitate Murat’s reputation by using documents in his possession to counter the many lies and misunderstandings blackening Murat’s name in the years since his death . Translated from Murat: Lieutenant de l’Empereur en Espagne, 1808, published by Murat’s grandnephew, Joachim Joseph André, in 1897.
Thus the name of Murat has filled the world, it has resounded unceasingly for forty years with that of Napoleon, and yet Murat is not truly known even by his compatriots, even to the greatest number of his companions in arms. His story as it is found in the writings with which we are inundated, and as it spread among the people, is practically a fable or a romance. It appears that the imagination of our century also wanted to create a new Roland alongside another Charlemagne. We meet more people inclined to believe that his sword, like Durandal, could cut giants or rocks in two, than disposed to persuade themselves that he knew how to make himself loved through the sweet virtues of a good king, and that he applied himself in ten years, with constancy, to making the happiness of the peoples he governed.
I have the desire and I hope I have the means to completely undeceive public opinion by showing Murat as he was made by Nature, the chances of a neglected education, the disorderly movements of the French Revolution, and above all the example of Napoleon, whose exploits and genius exalted to passion the faculties of this ardent soul.
If I was only able to oppose narratives to narratives, if I had only testimonies to invoke, however numerous and respectable they might be, against the errors and calumnies I must combat, I would remain silent. When the lie invades history and opinion, it is only possible to dethrone it, in order to restore truth to its empire, by producing incontestable proofs and an evidence striking enough to capture all minds. So I shall not permit myself any assertion on these important and controversial facts without founding it on authentic documents. These are official writings emanating from the Emperor Napoleon, from the King of Naples, from their ministers, from their generals, or from foreign governments, which will refute the false facts, false conjectures or false interpretations with which the memory of Murat is so generally charged. It is not me who will be the organ of truth: I will be merely the introducer. I will limit myself to presenting it as it was done, as it was said by the actors in the story themselves, those personages whose authority and sincerity can be suspected all the less as by writing they acted, and often their writings are the same as their actions.
Such, however, in my eyes is the power of popular prejudices, that with all the means I believe myself to possess to dispel those which are attached to the name of Murat, I would fear to show little caution in facing them as a whole by the story of his life as I’ve known it, as I’ve seen it almost entirely. This story will be so different from the generally spread fables, it will shock so many already deeply-rooted opinions that it it will perhaps be rejected without sufficient attention to the proofs on which it will be supported. I therefore believe I must, in the interest of the truth itself, produce them gradually and with the necessary cares to make them welcome, but also with such a strength of demonstration that it will be impossible to doubt them henceforth.
The death of the Duke d’Enghien in 1804, the invasion of Spain by the armies of Napoleon, the war against Russia in 1812 and 1813, the forever deplorable alliance of Murat with Austria in 1814 and his untimely war against this same power in 1815; there you have the great events which have furnished the enemies of the King of Naples with the special pretexts for attacking him with violence and for attaching to his memory the most odious responsibilities either towards the Emperor Napoleon or towards France. Well, it is these events whose history I will not fear to invoke successively. By rectifying the errors which have obscured him, by refuting the falsehoods which have dishonored him, I will show that wrongs have been thrown at a monarch more unfortunate than guilty, which were not his own and of which he was not the cause.
Malevolence and audacity have been carried so far as to fabricate and give as a base to these unjust accusations a false letter attributed to Emperor Napoleon, although it is sufficient to read it attentively in order to judge it unworthy of his character and his genius; a false letter from Murat, although it contains an error of fact which could not belong to him, as well as crude absurdities which could not emanate from him, and finally a proclamation which was produced as having been published by the King of Naples against his brother-in-law, although he never said anything, signed anything, approved anything of the kind, and although this piece never appeared in the Moniteur des Deux-Siciles, from where it is pretended to have been sourced.
It seems to me impossible that these culpable maneuvers do not excite general indignation against those who have tried to deceive their contemporaries and posterity in this way.
The souls who have been forced to render justice to the King of Naples on such grave points, after having for so long condemned him in good faith, will undoubtedly be carried to examine the rest of his life with more circumspection; then it will be possible to hope for complete Memoirs of an attentive impartiality, instead of prejudices or distrust which, in the current state of opinion, would perhaps prevent them from being read or would make them consider as a series of interested apologies.
Determined by these considerations to clarify what concerns the King of Naples in the catastrophes of which I have spoken, I will attach myself to chronological order, and I will talk first about the generous efforts which Murat futilely made to save the Duke d’Enghien; I will then shown how the difficult mission imposed on the Grand Duke of Berg by Emperor Napoleon, the criminal discords of a corrupt court, and the furious uprising of a justly angry people, were carried out in Spain. Later, I will recount what this prince, who became King of Naples, did during the Russian campaign and during the upheavals that this fatal war brought about in the political constitution of Europe.
It will not be without pain that I will retrace the political crises in which I had to take some part in 1814 and 1815. I cannot praise the determinations that Murat embraced at these two periods of ruin, I who then fought them with all the energy of which I was capable and who since have seen so cruelly all the misfortunes with which my forebodings threatened him. But I will tell of the terrible struggle which arose in his soul between his duties as a Frenchman and his duties as King of Naples. I will tell of the deceptions which overtook his loyalty, the hopes that seduced him, the intentions which animated him, when he signed his disastrous alliance with Emperor Napoleon’s father-in-law. I will also tell of the torments which tore him apart, as long as he saw his flags flutter with the flags of the enemies of his country. It will be recognized, I dare to hope, that he had never been more French, more entirely devoted to his former general and to France, then at the moment when he entered into a coalition that seemed to call on him to save his brother-in-law, his subjects and himself, while it worked to break his crown like that of Napoleon.
I must fear that I will be accused of damaging the memory of the Emperor, when the sole object of my efforts is to obtain justice for that of the King of Naples. Nothing could be more ill-founded. No one is more imbued than I with respect for the one who carried the ascendancy of my country so high, and I will not be unfaithful to my old feelings by invoking the truth drawn from his own writings.
The glory of the greatest men does not allow us to attribute to them either the perfection, or the infallibility, which Providence has reserved for herself alone; but there are in the mistakes and errors of these extraordinary characters something which partakes in their greatness and seems to enhance it, by astonishing, by confounding the rest of men. Each one feels, each one says, that only they could falter thus. Who else, indeed, than this daring genius, would have dared to conceive the thought of conquering in a single day, by surprise, all the kingdoms of Spain and the Indies possessed by Charles IV? Who else would have tried to reach, in a single campaign, the icy capital of old Muscovy and the slopes of the Caspian Sea, leaving behind the uprisings of Spain, the hatred of Prussia, the conspiracy of Germany, the vacillating alliance of Austria, the armies of England in the Peninsula and its intrigues everywhere?
For a while the world had not been big enough to contain him; then he found the sight of those who did not see the stars beside the sun too weak and too short; then he regretted not being able, like Alexander, to have himself proclaimed the son of a god; so finally, as he has since said on Saint Helena, he dared to believe that he could act as Providence herself.
The Emperor nobly recognized his mistakes and even his wrongs. It is a trait of grandeur that should not be lacking; and those who dispute them, despite his declarations, seem to me to depress his glory rather than to raise it. As to those who believed they could lend him their genius by fabricating false pieces to attribute to him, they would have to suffer simultaneously his justice and indignation, if he could leave the tomb to reign again.
The King of Naples, for his part, was not exempt from doubt, nor from errors, nor from mistakes, and I do not pretend to conceal it: this is one more motive for which I attach myself to removing from his memory the calumnies which have wanted to blacken it.
Men who for a long time prostrated themselves before the power of Murat, did not fear to dispense upon him, since his death, the most unjust insults. He who never flattered him, he who never knew how to conceal any truth from him when he was on the throne, has the right to defend this unfortunate prince, when he has not even a tomb.
Ah! If the ungrateful earth which conceals his bones one day returns them to his birth country, one might, on the monument intended to cover this sacred deposit, engrave the following inscription, in the midst of the numerous names of the battles in which he unleashed his warrior genius:
NÉ A LA BASTIDE-FORTUNIÈRE, DÉPARTEMENT DU LOT,
LE 25 MARS 1767,
MORT AU PIZZO, LE 13 OCTOBRE 1815,
IL FUT SOLDAT,
MARÉCHAL DE L’EMPIRE FRANÇAIS,
PRINCE ET GRAND AMIRAL DE FRANCE,
GRAND-DUC DE BERG,
ROI DE NAPLES,
BEAU-FRÈRE DE L’EMPEREUR NAPOLÉON.
SA GLOIRE MILITAIRE IMMORTALISA,
EN ITALIE ET EN EGYPTE, SON NOM DE MURAT;
EN AUTRICHE, EN PRUSSE, EN POLOGNE,
SON TITRE DE GRAND-DUC DE BERG;
EN RUSSIE ET EN SAXE,
SON TITRE DE ROI DE NAPLES.
IL SUT VAINCRE, IL SUT RÉGNER,
IL SUT MOURIR.
–COMTE DE MOSBOURG