While remaining aboard the merchant vessel which had borne him to the bay of Cannes following his defeat at Tolentino, Murat wrote not only to Napoleon, whose orders he restlessly awaited, but also to his good friend Joseph Fouché. In this letter, he reiterates much of what he has told the Emperor regarding his failed campaign against the Austrians and ensuing flight from Naples, but also includes some pleas for Fouché to urge Napoleon to give his family asylum, and to spurn Murat himself if his brother-in-law’s presence might hamper Napoleon’s peace negotiations.
Source: Louise Murat, Souvenirs d’enfance d’une fille de Joachim Murat, pages 231-234.
Murat to the Duke of Otranto (Joseph Fouché)
From the Gulf of Cannes, 25 May 1815
My dear cousin,
All is lost, except the honor and courage of this still French soul, which will be able to render me superior to all the weight of my misfortune. A letter from Prince Joseph, which spoke to me in the name of the Emperor, made me take in forty-eight hours the determination of beginning an operation which was so important to combine with His Majesty; but I was told to move quickly to the Alps, I had to believe this movement was useful and I put my army on the march.
I constantly beat the enemy who, more numerous, always outflanked me. He was at the gates of the capital when I beat him near Tolentino. The infamous Nugent, was doing everything in his power to make my States rebel and to make my soldiers desert; he also brought corruption among my subjects, when I fought on the the border. I lost twenty thousand men in forty-eight hours by desertion. This defection put the King and his kingdom at the mercy of his enemy. However, the English threatened to burn the city and announced Ferdinand of Sicily in two days, whereas the Austrians announced on their part that they would treat only with the generals or some representatives of the nation, or lastly with the King, if he wanted to abdicate and render himself prisoner in Austria with the Queen and his children.
Without army, without hope of aid on the part of France, and dealing with implacable enemies, I ordered the Queen to treat with the English about her return and that of my children, and I resolved to throw myself into Gaeta. The generals, ministers, everyone here thought to save me, and Naples saw me still, in this state of distress, with enthusiasm. Not a single village had ceased to be loyal, and the consternation was general. Twice I tried to arrive in Gaeta, and twice I was prevented from doing so by the English who blocked the place tightly. I was however in a fisherman’s barque; finally, after two days of rest on the island of Ischia, I see a merchant vessel pass, I request a place from him, he receives me on board and, in three days, I am brought to this same bay which received the Emperor three months ago. The Queen and my children have obtained transfer to France by the English who believe me in Gaeta. I have made my situation known to the Emperor by (…) I begged him to make every sacrifice in order to keep the peace; today, I am making him the same prayer. I am begging him to receive my wife and my children; I am begging him to reject me if my presence might frustrate his negotiations; in the name of the friendship that you have for your country, for him and for me, urge him to smother all the feelings that he might still harbor for me, to sacrifice them for his good Frenchmen. I would tear my life away the day I found out that, yielding to his friendship for me, the Emperor had been able to compromise the peace of his country. Tell him I have enough strength of soul to bear anything. May the Emperor and France be happy, may they give asylum to my family, may my friends keep me in their esteem, and may my destiny be accomplished! Yet, if you cannot avoid war, I fly to the army, I run to avenge myself on a perjuring enemy, who was not afraid to dishonor a Princess by pursuing her son-in-law who, twice, restored her States.
Adieu my dear cousin, I am counting on your friendship. Preserve the memory of a man whom you still esteem, defend his memory against calumny. I await the orders of the Emperor. Your unfailing friend.
My secretary will give you all the details; respond right away, I will count the minutes.