I came upon a gem today–a book of published correspondence from the 1812 campaign, specifically a compilation of letters intercepted by the Russians, both from and to soldiers in the Grande Armée. You can find the book on HathiTrust here (it might not be viewable outside the US, but it’s probably elsewhere online as well). The book actually includes three letters from Murat, all written on the 11th of November, 1812. The first is to his wife, Caroline [a rarity indeed, since hardly any of his letters to her still exist!]; the others, to his oldest two children, Achille and Letitia. Here are my translations of them (as usual, any errors are my own).
Source: Léon Hennet & E. Martin, Lettres interceptées par les Russes durant le campagne de 1812, 1913.
11 November 1812
The King of Naples to the Queen
My dear Caroline, I’ve just received four estafettes* at once; they brought me only your letter of the 16th of October, I find it charming; I appreciate, as I must, everything tender it contains; you are good and sensitive to my pains, I no longer have the object that caused my melancholy, I have only our separation. A long absence is very painful for one with a sensitive soul; I have told you that since the 24th I have been accompanying the Emperor and that he has heaped kindnesses upon me. They are at their height, so I never felt their price more than when I learned of the event of the 23rd**; it is as inconceivable as it is ridiculous; how did it not occur to anyone to speak of the King of Rome? It was so natural, it was so in order! How much I felt that I loved the Emperor at that moment! How superior he showed himself to be at any event! How he showed himself to be a good husband, a good father, and a good sovereign. I was confirmed in the idea I had made of his good heart. All is calm, the scoundrels have paid with their heads for the dreadful crime of which they were guilty.
We are leaving shortly to take on Wittgenstein’s corps; the Emperor was on the point of sending me forward for a moment, I obeyed with pleasure; but it pained me to leave him, anyway I am very happy.
I would have liked or desired that, in the article on your Te Deum, my name had at least been mentioned and that you’d seemed to thank God for having preserved me! Farewell, my friend, I await the shirts you told me about. My health is perfect, I embrace you with all my heart. I still flatter myself that I’ll be able to embrace you this winter. But don’t let that prevent the work on my apartments. Caraffa will depart this even with a courier. He will bring you the work, it was impossible for me to send him sooner. I desire that he resumes his functions as first equerry. He hasn’t been able to accustom himself to the cold of this country.
*estafettes = dispatch riders
**Murat is referring to the attempted coup by General Malet that occurred in Paris on 23 October 1812. Malet, with the help of co-conspirators, spread the lie that Napoleon had died in Russia and tried to have a number of high-ranking officials of Napoleon’s government arrested before attempting to seize power. Malet’s scheme failed, he and his co-conspirators were arrested, and Malet and several others were executed by firing squad days later.
The King of Naples to his daughter Letitia-Josèphe
My good and beautiful Laetitia, I found your letter charming, it pains me to not be able to write you more often. If this deprives me of the happiness of receiving your pretty notes, your good mama gives me your news often, she tells me of your portrait. I fear that it will not resemble as well as the first one. You are still in the beautiful days; here we have snow and frost, everything announces to us a rigorous winter. We are getting closer, and when the winter quarters are taken, I hope to be able to be able to get away and embrace my good and tender children. How happy I will be to be able to find myself in their midst. Farewell, my dear Laetitia, your letters charm me, your love and that of your brothers charm my leisures and the torments of our separation. I can only be happy near the Queen, near you. I no longer feel my wound. Farewell, I embrace my good Louise and I thank her for the note she wrote on the envelope where [she] traced a few lines for me. Farewell, all yours, my daughter. To ti abbraccio di tutto il mio cuore [I embrace you with all my heart].
The King of Naples to his son Napoléon-Achille
My good Achille, here I am, a hundred leagues closer to my family. Here I am in Smolensk, where I’m writing to my children. I’m going to get even closer and I still hope to embrace them this winter. This idea consoles me and gives me the courage to bear our separation. Farewell, my friend, I am told the estafette is going to depart and I am leaving you. My health is perfect, embrace mama for me, speak to her of me, embrace Louise and believe in all my tenderness.