I translated a couple amusing little letters exchanged between Murat & Eugène de Beauharnais recently as part of a longer write-up on their relationship in response to a query from a Tumblr friend of mine, so I figured I’d post them here as well.
In June of 1805, Napoleon made his stepson Eugène the Viceroy of Italy, a move which infuriated Murat, who had hoped to be considered for the position himself. Eugène was not yet twenty-four years old, and had no real administrative experience; Murat was fourteen years Eugène’s senior and had spent years commanding French forces in Italy; he had also served as governor of Paris by this point. Murat and his wife Caroline were increasingly resentful of the favors being shown to the Beauharnais children at what they considered their expense. According to Eugène’s sister Hortense, “Murat would not suffer a younger man to take precedence at court over him.”
A sulking Murat dragged his heels when it came to writing to congratulate his nephew-in-law on his new position, and went on to make some lame excuses as to why he hadn’t bothered to write sooner. This exchange is pretty emblematic of their correspondence in general, at least from what I’ve come across so far: teeming with insincere statements of affection, with some backhanded sniping sprinkled in for good measure.
Here are the two letters in full, from Volume 3 of Lettres et documents pour servir à l’histoire de Joachim Murat.
Murat to Eugène
17 July 1805
To H.I.H. the Prince Eugène, Viceroy of Italy
I have been informed, my dear Prince, that you have deigned to notice that I was a bit late in responding to the letter that you’d done me the honor of writing me upon my nomination to the dignity of Grand Admiral. May it be permitted to me to tell Y(our) S(erene) H(ighness) that I had thought myself able to dispense with replying to it, being able to take your letter myself for an answer to that which I had the honor to write to you through Madame Ruga. It contained sincere compliments on your promotion to the dignity of Arch-Chancellor of State, and recommendations for that beauty; purely a formal recommendation, would a pretty woman ever have need of one with you?
I sincerely applauded the choice that H(is) M(ajesty) made of Y(our) H(ighness) for Viceroy of Italy; I did not speak of it to you, having only learned about it through the gazettes. I had thought that the unequivocal feelings that I have always manifested for you, would have earned me a communication of this memorable circumstance of your career. Your silence has affected me, I was sensitive to such a reserve, and I must be sure of finding this Eugène good and sensitive, to determine myself to complain to him about himself.
Now, my dear Prince, I pray you to receive my congratulations; they are sincere since I am addressing them to you. Make the attractive country that you have been called to govern happy, I will always applaud your success and its happiness.
I pray Y(our) S(erene) H(ighness) to accept the assurance of my high consideration and my attachment.
Eugène to Murat
Milan, 28 July 1805
If Your Serene Highness was told that I had complained about the silence he had kept with me on the occasion of the new testimony of tenderness and kindness that I received from His Majesty, he was deceived. If I would have complained, it would be to Your Serene Highness himself that I would have addressed my complaints.
But if Your Highness was told that I was afflicted by his silence, he was told the truth. I admit to you, in this circumstance where I received from all parts congratulations that no letter of mine had provoked, it pained me to not find your name in the midst of all those who renewed to me their testimonies and expressions of attachment.
You thought I should have informed you of His Majesty’s act myself… I thank you for explaining to me the reason of your reserve. I have no right to complain, but deep down does Your Highness think that if all the favors he deserved, and which I wish for him, were to arrive for him, it would not suffice for me to have learned of them from the Journal officiel, to hasten to tell him how happy I was for him?
If Your Highness does not share my opinion in this regard, I hope at least that he will find in the frankess with which I expose it, further proof of the importance I attach to having no injury towards him.
Now that I have said all that I have believed necessary to my justification, receive, I pray you, all my thanks for the new expressions of friendship that I find with so much pleasure in your last letter. Your Serene Highness will do me the justice of believing that I respond to the sincerity of his sentiments by all the sincerity of mine.
Will H(er) I(imperial) H(ighness) the Princess Caroline kindly receive my respectful homage the the assurance of my distinguished sentiments?
2 thoughts on ““You have deigned to notice that I was a bit late…””
“but deep down does Your Highness think that if all the favors he deserved, and which I wish for him, were to arrive for him, it would not suffice for me to have learned of them from the Journal officiel, to hasten to tell him how happy I was for him?”
“Your Serene Highness will do me the justice of believing that I respond to the sincerity of his sentiments by all the sincerity of mine.”
What lovely thoughts !
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Thank you for this, Sarah! This whole exchange about who has to congratulate whom or inform the other one about wanting to be congratulated first is *so* kindergarten 😂. If Napoleon had known about it, I feel like the proper reaction would have been to send them both to bed early. “And no dessert for Marshal Murat and the viceroy!”
Murat’s letter sounds particularly haughty and stilted when compared to the next one in the “Lettres et documents…”. It’s to Felix Bacciochi, Elisa’s husband, and he simply calls him “tu”.
I guess by the time this happened, the family feud was already in full swing and the atmosphere pretty much poisoned. Every tiny thing was blown out of proportion. The first round of congratulations (or lack thereof) was due to both of the gentlemen becoming princes in February. And Eugène himself only sent his letter of congratulations to Murat on March 7, as he had been on the road to Milan since February 6. Murat then answered on April 12 but before had sent Madame Ruga with a letter to see Eugène in Milan. According to Madame Rémusat, Eugène had been in semi-disgrace due to flirting with Madame Duachtel, Napoleon’s mistress. Maybe Murat’s repeated remarks about pretty women did not sit well with Eugène under these circumstances?
Also funny: Eugène sent a copy of his letter to his sister Hortense who of course hurried to assure him that this was a perfect reaction and a perfect letter.