“You can never know how attached to you I am”

Today–25 March–is the shared birthday of Joachim & Caroline Murat (in 1767 & 1782, respectively), so I’ve put together a little something to provide some insight into their relationship. There’s one period in particular during which an abundance of letters exists from Caroline to Joachim: their long separation(s) during most of 1810. Joachim and Caroline arrived in Paris in December of 1809; Joachim left Paris at the end of January 1810, but Caroline remained in Paris. When arrangements began to be made for Napoleon’s wedding to Marie-Louise of Austria, the Emperor chose Caroline to go out to meet the new Empress and accompany her back to France. Joachim briefly (and reluctantly) returned to Paris for the wedding, and then left again for Naples, where he was preparing to lead an expedition to capture Sicily and unite it to the throne of Naples. 

The Murats’ relationship had not been harmonious since Napoleon had put them on the throne of Naples in 1808. Joachim feared being relegated to a humiliating background role like the husbands of Caroline’s sisters, and did all he could to minimize his wife’s role in managing the kingdom’s affairs. But the Neapolitan court soon broke into pro-Italian and pro-French factions, with Joachim as the figurehead of the former, and Caroline, the latter. As Joachim found himself increasingly out of favor with Napoleon, Caroline (and her faction) gained more influence, which didn’t help to improve their relationship. 

During their brief stay in Paris together for Napoleon’s second wedding, however, a reconciliation occurred. Shortly after Joachim’s departure, Caroline was pregnant. Her letters to Joachim during this period are full of affection, but also anxiety over his Sicilian expedition, and gently-worded advice/guidance on various political matters. 

There are over sixty of these letters in Volume 8 of Murat’s published correspondence. This post is a compilation of choice excerpts from some of these letters. I wanted to showcase a little of everything here–not just the affection and sweetness, but also the politics, Caroline’s anxieties, Napoleon’s stubbornness (note how long it takes Caroline to actually get permission to leave Paris and return to Naples later on), the references to their children, and a touch of Caroline sniping at Joachim for his “unfairness”. And also, Caroline’s voice isn’t heard nearly enough in narratives about her life, which tend to revolve around her betrayal of her brother. These excerpts show a side to her with which most people are totally unfamiliar.


SourceLettres et documents pour servir à l’histoire de Joachim Murat, Vol 8.


Paris, 3 February 1810

My sorrow is very deep and I am very sad over your departure. I await your news with impatience and I hope that you will give it to me soon…. I am with the Emperor in order to not cry at finding myself far away from my children. Embrace them for me and think that there is someone at the Pavillon de Flore who is very attached to you and thinks of you often. 


Paris, 5 February 1810

I am very impatient to receive your news, it seems to me that you don’t hurry to give it to me…. I am still very sad at finding myself all alone and I envy your happiness at being with our children. Embrace them tenderly for me. The Emperor is always very good to me, he spoils me, he speaks to me often of you and seems surprised that we still don’t have your news. Write me very quickly.


Paris, 6 February 1810

I very much regret not being with you. I weep from sadness, you can never know how attached to you I am and all the happiness that I wish for you. If you go to the provinces, watch out for those wicked Calabrians. 


Paris, (7 or 8?) February 1810

We went to the ball at Princess Pauline’s yesterday and today to the hunt, the weather was very wet and the Emperor told me: “Ah well! The Lazarone forgets you, he no longer thinks of you, he is going to be very upset, because I’m marrying an Austrian.” But all this while laughing. I believe that since he is marrying an Austrian, you should not show any repugnance, because as it is neither you nor I who can decide it, that it is apparently his policy which gives him this counsel…. I hope that you will come back for the wedding and that you will bring me back to Naples to leave you no more. Embrace our children for me, don’t spoil Letitia and Achille too much, consider that children are not born for our pleasure but to make them happy. Do like me, I’ve often deprived myself of the pleasure of seeing them, for fear of spoiling them. 

Adieu, Naples; Naples, I miss you, as well as the beautiful terrace.


Paris, 12 February 1810

I am very sad. There is talk that I will make a great voyage. The Emperor desires that I go to Braunau to find the new Empress…. When everything is decided, I will send you an auditor to tell you the day of my departure and the time of my absence…. I write to Achille often, I hope that he makes a collection of my letters. Don’t take Letitia out too much, it will hurt Achille and Lucien.


Paris, 24 February 1810

The evening before yesterday, I had an accident that might have become a disaster, but was nothing more than a fright.

We were playing blind man’s buff in the Emperor’s apartments, when the hard and pointy forehead of Mme Duchatel came so unfortunately against my eye that the blow tripped me over. The Emperor supported me in his arms and prevented me from falling. The pain had been so bad that I gave a sharp cry and believed my eye was out of its socket. The Emperor, full of kindness, frightened for my situation, immediately called Ivan, who bathed my eye, put a poultice and a black blindfold on it, and soon I had the air of an invalid in the midst of the salon. The Emperor has showered me with attention, he came to see me, he has been anxious. Today, I have a great contusion, my eye is very black from extravasated blood, but I don’t have any pain. I am aggrieved to have to tell it to you, since you like Mme Duchatel, you find her to your tastes, but she has terribly pointy bones that hurt a lot. Indeed, the poor woman has been desolate to see me in this state by her fault.

Don’t be too worried about my accident. By the time you receive this letter, it won’t be visible anymore.


Paris, 27 February 1810

I strongly urge you to come for the wedding. Jérôme, the Viceroy [Eugène], Elisa, all the family will be reunited, your absence will have a bad effect and will greatly upset the Emperor. You know that I will be very glad to see you, but I assure you that it is your interest alone which makes me press you to come, because the Emperor will be very discontent. If, however, you have strong oppositions which will prevent you from making this journey, write to me secretly and if this occurs, write a charming letter to Emperor to excuse yourself. But I repeat to you, I regard your arrival for the wedding as a very useful thing to our interests. The Emperor is excessively occupied with his future, he speaks of it all the time and is almost in love with it. Everyone who was opposed to the marriage is now overjoyed. You know my good and my constant friendship for you; listen to the counsels of a friend who only desires your happiness. Show no more opposition which will turn to your detriment; your inclination for the Russian alliance will become suspect in the eyes of the Emperor, who wants us to think like him…. I am charged by the Emperor with the formation of the household of the new Empress. I work from morning to evening and my apartments are always full of visits from solicitors. I cannot express to you all the sorrows I had from the fear of being named superintendent of the Empress’s House, but I could not decide on it, because I would have needed to remain absent from Naples for two years and been deprived of the pleasure of seeing you as well as my children. The Emperor made me the most beautiful and kindest propositions and his intention was to elevate this position so much that it would not have been beneath the title of Queen…. You see that the Emperor wanted to do a very kind thing for me, but the separation I would’ve had from my family caused me too much pain, and without offending the Emperor, who always has a perfect kindness for me, I managed to see him forget this plan, because he perceived that it hurt me too much. The intention of the Emperor in fixing me with the new Empress for two years was to have her led as he desired and to prevent a crowd of people who think badly from surrounding her and showing her their bad feelings. 


Paris, 28 February 1810

I do not want to complain of you, but I hope that on my return you will spoil me so much that I won’t want to come back to Paris. Don’t be upset by this little jest and read the charming letter from Joseph that I’m sending you, and give to Achille and Letitia the letters their uncle wrote them. Embrace them for me. I am very happy at the idea of seeing you again soon.


Munich, 18 March 1810

I sighed at the description you gave me of your dinner with our dear children, and I am quite sure that you thought of me; my entire heart and soul go continually with and amidst you. I am charmed that Achille is satisfied with his electric machine; it seems that our dear Louise will still read before Lucien, but this is not astonishing: this poor little one is still too slow in his studies by some indisposition. 


Vitry-sur-Marne, 26 March 1810

Princess Pauline just wrote to me that you complain about me not writing you often; so you will never stop being unfair. I arrive very fatigued, very overwhelmed with matters and I often take away from my sleep in order to write you and yet you complain! I write you more letters than I receive from you. Adieu, I will be happy when you still stop being unfair, because your unfairness has always hurt me very much. I embrace you and love you very tenderly.


Compiègne, 18 April 1810

You have left, my dear friend, and I am very sad here. I hope that you will write me a little word before your departure from Paris and that you will promise to give me your news often along the road. Don’t leave me for a long time without your letters like on the first journey, and consider that when we are separated, we are happy to receive the news of those we love very tenderly.You know if you are dear to me and if I can part in thought for even a moment with the father of my children. You are going to see them, those dear children, speak to them of their mother and embrace them for me. At the moment of your departure I still wanted to tell you many things for them, but those moments are always cruel and make you lose everything you had in mind. Adieu, my dear friend, believe that I will write you often and that we will still have in common the displeasures as well as the happiness of life. 


Compiègne, 22 April 1810

I’m very afraid that you will not take Sicily, do not undertake this expedition if you are not sure to succeed…. The Emperor seems to me very well disposed towards you and he spoke to me about you a lot yesterday…. I am going to tell you also that I was penetrated with sorrow seeing you leave and especially penetrated by the kindness you had for me; you have never been like that and I admit that it filled me with tenderness, and it gave me the courage to ask you for what I want, without having the fear of you getting angry as you always did, which made want to ask you for nothing nor to owe you anything…. [the end of the letter is missing]


Compiègne, 26 April 1810

My very dear friend, I spoke to the Emperor about the licenses and he told me he was going to send them to you, which, I am sure, will give you great pleasure. I am leaving at five o’clock in the morning to go to Saint-Quentin; I will not be on the great voyage, because my health is not too good, having always the same hopes, I would be afraid of fatiguing myself. 


Paris, 4 May 1810

Yesterday, I was at Neuilly to dine with Paulette, I cannot tell you how sad I was to see once more the places which painfully reminded me of our children and you and our walks; it’s a very beautiful place and the weather was superb…. Adieu, my dear friend, my health is still faltering and I am anxious about your expedition, give me your news as quickly as possible and believe in a tenderness unbounded. Adieu, my friend. 


Paris, 6 May 1810

I will confess to you that I believe more than ever that I am pregnant, and my very sufferings prove it to me, I’m taking care of myself and I don’t want to expose myself to any fatigue which might do me harm…. Write to me soon and tell me exactly if you believe you will make Sicily expedition. This Sicily [expedition] worries me very much and I tremble at the idea of all the fatigues you are going to suffer.


Paris, 8 May 1810

I received your letter from the 27th which tells me of your arrival in Naples. I cannot tell you much good and bad it did me. My poor children! To see them in your arms asking you for their mother is an image that brings me to tears. My God! When we are once again reunited, we must not be separated anymore. You have found them so grown, charming, judge what they will appear to me after a longer absence. Embrace them for me, repeat to them that their mother will never be perfectly happy far from them, far from you. 


Paris, 11 May 1810

My dear friend, this latest separation seems more unbearable for me than the others. You were so good, so perfect to me in your last moments, that those proceedings touched me to tears and still penetrate me with tenderness. I confess to you that when you do justice to all my feelings for you, I am the happiest of women. Believe that my happiness, the happiness of my whole life, consists only of the happiness of the father of my children, of the one that I regard as my best friend. 


Morfontaine, 16 May 1810

My dear friend, I am here since yesterday and I confess to you that these places have given me a very agreeable sensation; it is here where we were united, this is where I began to have for you the feelings that I still retain, plus those added by esteem, habit, and good friendship. I would like to see you here with me, and I believe that my happiness would lack nothing, if we could join our dear children here.


Paris, 19 May 1810

I am very sensitive to all the care you are taking for my apartments; the idea that you are occupying yourself with them makes these cares all the more pleasant. You’ve been so good to me for some time that cannot express to you how sensitive I am to it. It is very sweet for me to take all the pleasures of my life and my happiness from you who I love very tenderly. You are right, we will be very happy, when we will be reunited, take care of your health…. Adieu, my friend, I embrace you from the bottom of my heart.


Paris, 31 May 1810

I desire so much to see you, to embrace you, I think unceasingly of all your fatigues, I fear also that your health might not sustain itself with this great heat, I fear so many things that I am always in a continual state of anxiety. Write to me at least as often as you are able and reflect how unhappy I am every time the estafette arrives without bringing me your letters.


Paris, 1 June 1810

My pregnancy advances, however I am not getting too fat and it is not very apparent, but I often have sicknesses that tire me greatly; I am of an unequaled impatience to return to Naples, it seems to me that I will be closer to you and that at least I will share in part your fatigues, your disagreements, your dangers and that I will have your news at each instant. The Emperor arrives today and I will ask him to leave in eight days, I can no longer remain here, I am bored, I am anxious, it is not living to exist like this. And my poor children! I have so great a need to embrace them!


Saint-Cloud, 6 June 1810

My dear friend, I hope to depart on the 30th, the fêtes will finish on the 25th, but the Emperor will not hear of me leaving before all the fêtes are finished; he fills me with kindness and is very good for you… I embrace you as I love you, which is to say, very tenderly.


Saint-Cloud, 16 June 1810

I have already sounded out the Emperor two or three times about my departure, but he always responds with an angry air: “To put yourself en route with this heat!” I haven’t dared to insist and I’m waiting for the fêtes to be terminated to beg him to permit me to go rejoin my children and to put myself closer to you. I hope he will grant it to me, because he is very good for both of us. I receive every day news of our children and it is a great compensation for such a cruel absence. I believed I would only be separated from them for one month and here are seven months elapsed. 


Rambouillet, 9 July 1810

My very dear friend, you are kindness itself to profit from all your free moments to give me your news and to calm my vivid worries; at last, you are able to cross, I make wishes for it to be with full success, but I still recommend prudence; reflect that your existence belongs to your wife and to your children…. 


Rambouillet, 18 July 1810

I was a little indisposed yesterday, I am better today, I count on taking leave of the Emperor tomorrow, and, if he grants it to me, I will depart the day after tomorrow. Adieu, my dear friend, I have an extreme desire to embrace you, I feel that I will only be happy and calm when I see you near me again; absence is too cruel a thing for two beings who truly love each other, and reunited to our children, what happiness could we envy? 


23 July 1810, 1 o’clock in the morning

My dear friend, I’m leaving in one hour. In twelve days I will embrace my children. I will arrive in Naples unannounced, because I want neither fêtes nor pleasures in your absence.


Caserta [Naples], 3 August 1810

I only have the time to tell you, my dear friend, that I have arrived in good health, that I am the happiest of mothers, that my happiness was not complete, not having you with me, but that I am already happier by the idea that I am nearer to you and that I will have your news more often. I found our children grown, beautified; in truth, we have nothing to complain of, we are at the height of happiness by possessing such a treasure. I don’t speak to you of their cries of joy, or of their tears, you can guess all of that. Oh! My friend! What a delicious moment! I will have the same when I see you again and then we will not have to complain about anything, since we will all be reunited. 


Unfortunately, the immediate aftermath to this series of hopeful and loving letters, is not a happy one. Caroline’s fifth (and final) pregnancy ended in a miscarriage in September. At that same time, Murat’s Sicilian expedition took a frustrating turn; his authority over the French troops participating in the expedition was undermined by orders sent from Napoleon to his generals, leading to their refusal to take part in the attempted (and ultimately abortive) crossing to Sicily. The expedition ended in failure and Murat returned to Naples deeply embittered. Over the next year, his relationship with Napoleon reached its lowest point–one could argue the lowest point it would reach up until its total rupture in 1814–and Caroline would find herself returning to Paris in 1811 to try to bridge the gap between her husband and her brother (again).


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