“I had gone to him… in true despair”

My good friend JosefaVomJaaga has graciously allowed me to share her translation of an excerpt on Murat from Friedrich von Müller’s Erinnerungen aus den Kriegszeiten von (Memoirs of the Wartime of) 1806-1813. Müller (1779-1849) was a Bavarian statesman, and a friend of Goethe; he would eventually manage to persuade Napoleon to permit Weimar to retain its independence. In this excerpt, he describes his first meeting with Murat in the aftermath of Jena—and Murat’s reaction to a less-than-pleasant encounter with a lady of the court.

***

As soon as I arrived in Warsaw, I went to meet the Grand Duke of Berg, Murat, whom I had every reason to be indebted to for the generous welcome he had given me in Weimar on the first morning after the Battle of Jena, even before Napoleon had entered the city. At that time, in the midst of the horrors of looting, and when no counsel and help could be found anywhere, I had gone to him at the castle in true despair and had described our plight to him in vivid colours. Instead of briefly dismissing me, as an unappointed person not empowered by any authority, he responded to my suggestions with interest, spoke with great frankness about the latest developments in the war, and finally gave me a written appeal to Marshals Lannes and Augereau to prevent looting as far as possible and to give me guards for public buildings, for the bakeries, for the butchers and for other people who were indispensable to us in order to provide the most necessary necessities of life, thus remedying the most urgent evils of the moment. He told me then that shortly before, a lady-in-waiting of the Duchess had been with him, a native of Alsace, who had made the most passionate reproaches to him about the plundering and, in her agitation, had gone so far as to tell him how ashamed she was to be a Frenchwoman by birth, since the licentious behaviour of the French soldiers disgraced the name of France.

Nevertheless, he had tried to reassure this lady with chivalrous courtesy. Whenever I met him in Berlin and Posen, as now in Warsaw, he always received me in a friendly manner, but his first question was always: “What is the lady of the court in Weimar doing, who came at me so fiercely and made me listen to such passionate reproaches?”

There was something very gallant and open in Murat’s whole demeanour, even if it was vain and self-indulgent. He loved to render his beautiful figure even more conspicuous by the most colourful adornment, which bordered on the adventurous, but he always knew how to put something noble and obliging into his bearing and his words. I saw him several times in Warsaw in conversation with deputies of his new Grand Duchy from the most distinguished families and also had the opportunity to observe his engaging manner and the intelligent way in which he answered their addresses.

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