Among the many things Murat inherited from Joseph Bonaparte upon replacing him as King of Naples in the summer of 1808 was the Order of the Two Sicilies, which Joseph had established in February. Generous by nature, Murat was soon enthusiastically doling out the decoration (pictured above, via eMedals) with reckless abandon. While some of Murat’s intended recipients were renowned figures in the Empire, such as Marshal Lannes and future Marshal Poniatowski, others were considerably less deserving, and it was not long before Napoleon made his feelings on the subject known to Murat in his typical blunt fashion.
-Napoleon to Murat, 27 November 1808
It is ridiculous, for example, that you have given the decoration of the Two Sicilies to the archbishops and bishops, en masse; it doesn’t make sense, and converts this decoration into a species of uniform; this is debasing it and missing your goal. You might, if you are content with all your archbishops and bishops, name them individually; but to say in a decree: “All the archbishops of our kingdom, who have taken or have been called upon to take the oath of loyalty in our hands, are made Commanders of our Royal Order of the Two Sicilies, etc,” to do such a thing, is to have no idea of government.
-Napoleon to the Comte de Champagny (Minister of Foreign Relations), 24 January 1809
The King of Naples sends the decorations of the Order of the Two Sicilies to everyone without my permission: not only is this supremely ridiculous, but it displeases me infinitely.
-Murat to Napoleon, 14 February 1809
The ambassador from Naples in Paris has reported to me that he learned from Your Majesty’s Minister of Foreign Relations that you did not want to accept the Order of Two Sicilies, saying that you should have been the first one decorated with it. Sire, the ambassador from Naples, on receiving it, was charged with asking for your Majesty’s orders to bring it to you in Spain; he waited in vain for permission; the decorations which were worn in Holland, Westphalia and Lucca were in the name of King Joseph, as well as that which was addressed to Your Majesty. In refusing it, Your Majesty only humiliates the Neapolitan nation. I will make sure that this refusal has no influence on the feelings of gratitude and love that she owes you. I must, however, tell Your Majesty that it will greatly influence the hopes of patriots and other malcontents.
Not to be deterred, Murat continued handing out his beloved Order to all and sundry, leading to the following missive from his wife a year later.
-Caroline Murat to her husband, 27 February 1810
I warn you that is viewed badly in Paris that you give your order to everyone, that many people make jokes about it, poor Brunet and others who deserve it, do not receive it, whereas you give it to this Lostanges, who, at the time of my wedding, took pleasure, being from your country, to spout a host of unpleasant and insulting things about you and your family. Nevermind the little cross, but why give him the grand cordon? Maret’s secretary told me also that he awaits your order; M. de Monaco also asks me for the cross that you promised him, and Princess Pauline told me that you had promised them to her whole household and that she was waiting for them. This is all you see anymore in Paris and your order runs the streets.
[The first two excerpts are from Volume 18 of the Correspondance de Napoléon Ier; the third and fourth excerpts are from Volume 7 & 8, respectively, of Lettres et documents pour servir de l’histoire à Joachim Murat.]