“So you have come to die with me?”

General Augustin Daniel Belliard, Murat’s close friend and former chief of staff, recounts being sent by Napoleon to Naples to aid King Joachim as he finds himself now at war with his recent ally, Austria. (Part 1 of 2)

Source: Mémoires du Comte Belliard, Vol I, 1842; pages 231-235.

***

Named, by the Emperor, extraordinary envoy and minister plenipotentiary to His Majesty the King of Naples, I left Paris on the 22nd of April 1815, to go to my destination.

(…)

Trumping the vigilance of the English who covered the gulf, I arrived in Naples on 9 May, at three o’clock in the afternoon. My first care was to go to the queen, with whom I found Jerome and Cardinal Fesch. On sighting me, she cried: “How did you get here? Ah, my dear Belliard, how happy I am to see you! Had you come but a month ago, what misfortunes you would have avoided! Murat has need of you. How happy he will be to have you with him! He is in a regrettable position. You must depart at once to go join him. Ah! Why didn’t you arrive before the king’s departure!”

The queen recounted to me all that had happened before the declaration of war: everything that Mosbourg and Gallo had done to prevent it. She told me the story of the events that had followed, and finally of the misfortunes of the battle of Tolentino.

H.M. told me of the measures she had taken to stop the Austrian column coming from Rome, to cover the different roads and assure the tranquility of the capital. The plazas, the forts had been provisioned and armed by her cares. She had sent all that she had of troops of the royal guard, all that were available in the depots: this body, around five thousand men, had been given to General Macdonald and led to San-Germano, to act according to circumstances. She had entrusted the Neapolitan national guard, which did with a great zeal and much devotion a very painful service.

Already the English had made propositions: Campbell wanted to enter into negotiations.

I told Her Majesty of my mission, of the Emperor’s orders, of his good dispositions for her and for the king.

I had nothing with me, all my effects remaining on board the frigate. The queen, to hasten my departure, gave me a carriage, some horses, linens, maps; and at ten o’clock in the evening I took leave of her to go join the king. The next day, I arrived at the Castel-di-Sangro at the same time as Murat. He met me with friendship and honored me with his confidence, which I looked to justify on every occasion. I suffered a cruel pain in finding him in such a critical position, because his army was not fighting in retreat, it was fleeing. He said to me as he embraced me: “Eh! Well, my brave Belliard, so you have come to die with me?”

I communicated to H.M. my instructions, I repeated to him what I had already told the queen. The king then wished to inform me of the motives that had determined him to attack the Austrians. He told me that he had been pushed by his counsellors and by the queen (in this he was not in accord with her); he had me follow on the map the movements of his army in Italy, which he told me had been forced to retire by the declaration of the English, threatening war if he didn’t retreat into his states: a perfidious declaration which must in any case plunge him from the throne; but such are the games of the English government.

The king spoke to me of the Italians, from whom he had not found all the support and aid that he should have expected. He recounted to me the events of the unfortunate campaign he had just made. In speaking of the battle of Tolentino, which he should have won, of the abandonment of his troops and of the lack of faith of several generals and officers, he had tears in his eyes.

***

4 thoughts on ““So you have come to die with me?”

    1. Yeah. I figure at this point he was just struggling to cope with the fact that everything was on the brink of collapsing around him because of his mistakes. I suppose it’s not entirely different from the way Napoleon dealt with his own downfall—blaming everyone else for being the cause of it. Lots of parallels between these two, right down to Murat trying to imitate Napoleon’s triumphant return from Elba with his own pitiful landing on the shores of Pizzo later on.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Josefa vom Jaaga

        It’s this ridiculous idea of “one strong man” doing things all on his own that Napoleon propagated, even after his own death. It’s the idea of the whole 19th century and the beginning of the 20th – and in this one regard, there truely is a direct line from Napoleon to Mussolini or Hitler or even Trump. This man can never be weak, must always be resourceful, courageous, decisive, and of course, victorious. He can only be defeated by treason, by someone stabbing him in the back; then he turns into the hero of a Greek tragedy.

        It’s Napoleon’s (and his time’s) narrative. It’s also the opposite side of the coin that has women as having to be virtuous, weak, kind and selfless. It’s why Caroline is maligned for being ambitious, or Josephine for being flirtatious (and ambitious!), or Marie Louise for being a bad mother (and ambitious). I do not blame Joachim for trying to cope with the facts like that, not at all; I guess it was the only way possible at the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: “He had nonetheless ceased to reign” – Project Murat

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