On 28 September, 1815, Murat made his fateful decision to reject the Austrian passports and offer of asylum brought to him by his former aide-de-camp, Francis Macirone, who had received them from Metternich; Murat was expected, under the designated terms, to abdicate and choose a name to live under as a private citizen (Caroline Murat was, by now, living in exile in Trieste as the Countess of Lipona, an anagram for Napoli—Naples). As he prepared to depart from Corisca with the small party that would accompany him on his final voyage to try to reclaim his kingdom, he wrote the following letter to Macirone, to explain his decision and justify the enterprise he was about to undertake. (Earlier that day, he had written Macirone a much shorter letter, accepting the passports).
Source: Francis Macirone, Interesting Facts Relating to the Fall and Death of Joachim Murat, King of Naples, 1817
Ajaccio, 28th September, 1815
Mr. Macirone, envoy of the allied powers to King Joachim. —My first letter of this day was dictated by the circumstances of the moment. It is now, however, a duty which I owe to myself–to truth–and to your noble frankness and sincerity, to acquaint you with my real intentions.
I value my liberty above every other blessing. Captivity and death are to me synonymous. What treatment can I expect from those powers who abandoned me for two months to the daggers of the assassins of Marseilles? I saved the Marquis de Rivière’s life–he was condemned to perish on the scaffold; I obtained his pardon from the emperor. Execrable truth! He instigated these wretches, he it was who set a price on my head!!!
Wandering in the woods, hidden in the mountains, I owe my life solely to the generous compassion which my misfortunes excited in the breasts of three French officers; they conveyed me to Corsica, at the imminent peril of their lives.
Wretches there are who assert, that I have taken away with me great treasures from Naples: do they not know that when I received the kingdom in exchange for my grand duchy of Berg, (which I possessed in virtue of a solemn treaty) I brought thither immense riches? All was expended for the improvement of my kingdom of Naples! Has the sovereign who has since been placed on that throne recognized any of its former features? Neither myself nor my family now possess decent means of subsistence.
I will not accept, Mr. Macirone, the conditions which you are charged to offer me. I perceive nothing in them, but an absolute abdication, on the mere condition that I shall be permitted to exist, but in eternal captivity, subjected to the arbitrary action of the laws under a despotic government. Is this moderation? Is this justice? Is this the regard–the respect due to an unfortunate monarch, who has been formally acknowledged by all Europe, and who in a very critical moment decided the campaign of 1814, in favor of these very powers, who, now contrary to their own interests, pursue him with the overwhelming might of their persecution?
It is a well known truth that I drove back the Austrians as far as the Po, only because I had been persuaded by dint of intrigue that they were preparing to attack me, though without the concurrence of England. I judged it necessary to advance my line of defense, and gain the people to my cause.
No one knows better than you, Mr. Macirone, and Lord Bentinck himself, that I made the fatal movement of retreat, only upon the declaration of that general, that he felt himself obliged to support the Austrians, since they had claimed his aid. You are well aware of the causes which produced the disorder and desertion in my fine army. False reports so artfully circulated of my death–of the landing of the English in Naples–the conduct of General Pignatelli Strongoli;–in fine, the treachery of some of my officers, who by their insinuations and example, succeeded with perfidious art to augment discouragement and desertion.
At this moment there does not exist a single individual of that army who is not sensible of his errors. I am going to join them–they burn with desire to see me at their head.–They, and every class of my well beloved subjects, have preserved to me their affections.
I have not abdicated. I have a right to recover my crown, if God gives me the force and the means. My presence on the throne of Naples could not now be a subject of dread. It could no longer be pretended that I corresponded with Napoleon, who is at St. Helena. Much to the contrary–both England and Austria might reap advantages from it, which they may in vain expect from the sovereign whom it has pleased them to put in my place.
I indulge in these details, Mr. Macirone, because it is to you that I am writing. Your conduct towards me, your reputation, and your name, give you claims to my candor and esteem.
You could not throw any obstacle in the way of my departure, though such might be your desire.
By the time you receive this letter, I shall be well advanced towards my destination. I shall either succeed, or terminate my misfortunes with my life. I have faced death a thousand and a thousand times in fighting for my country: shall I not be permitted to brave it once for myself? I tremble only for the fate of my family.
I shall ever remember with pleasure the noble and delicate manner in which you have fulfilled your mission to me. It forms an agreeable contrast with the gratuitously insolent and revolting behaviour of several other persons towards me, who neither possessed the powers nor consideration which you enjoy.
I have given orders that your papers may be returned to you. Whereupon, Mr. Macirone, I pray God to have you in his holy keeping.
One thought on ““Captivity and death are to me synonymous.””
Even if he’s being insincere (and I think he is; after all, he had really conspired with Napoleon and had really tried to play both sides, and he would soon find out how wrong he was about people’s attitude in Naples), I feel like he at that moment is convinced of what he says. It’s so painful; you want to just drag him away from that place and shout at him to open his eyes!
And I start to think that for many people at the time this was about personal freedom … though I am not sure if the despotic government of Austria would really have been worse for him than Napoleon’s despotism towards his family, and particularly him.
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