“It was feared that he had gone mad”

Continuing with excerpts from the memoirs of Madame Cavaignac. This part delves more into the events of 1811, which was possibly Murat’s most difficult year on the throne of Naples, marking the lowest points not only in his relationship with Napoleon, but also with his wife Caroline. Madame Cavaignac, no fan of Caroline as illustrated by the excerpts in my previous posts, elaborates in this part on the rumors in 1811–which she insists are beyond dispute–of Caroline’s affair with Murat’s Minister of War Daure, leading to Murat attempting to mandate Neapolitan naturalization for all Frenchmen in the kingdom as a means of getting rid of not only Daure, but all the rest of the French faction that had formed around Caroline. The measure backfires, and the strain of these events takes a serious toll on Murat’s health. Refuting the conventional narrative of Caroline acting as a go-between to bridge the ever-widening political gap between Murat and Caroline, Madame Cavaignac claims that Caroline was actually exacerbating conflict between her husband and Napoleon, in hopes that the Emperor would strip Murat of his power.

(The first part of excerpts from Mme Cavaignac’s memoirs can be found here.)
(The second part can be found here.)

Source: Cavaignac, Marie Julie Olivier de Corancez, Les mémoires d’une inconnue, publié sur le manuscript original, 1780-1816, 1894. Pages 298-302.


Mme Murat, as I have said, did not like my husband, whom she found too often with hers.  The King, on arriving in Naples, had promised him a ministry, and he still delayed, out of one motive or another. The truth is that he feared the opposition and intrigues of the Queen, who, he told him one day, looked upon him with suspicion as a revolutionary for his ideas about women.  “But I would have thought,” my husband replied, “that this was a title from her who owed everything to the Revolution.” 

Saliceti had been dead for some time, and I no longer recall who had temporarily replaced him, when one day the King summoned my husband, told him that it must absolutely be him in charge of the police, over which he could only put a man about whom he was sure, and that this was why he wanted him in charge of it. This was not the portfolio had been promised him, nor one which suited him. However, annoyed with all the struggles between himself and M. de Mosbourg, he accepted and came to inform me of it, not sure if he was content or upset about it. The nomination should have been announced the following day; I cannot say by what intrigue it managed to be first pushed back, then prevented. The woman who enforced this still lives and passes for wise. As for myself, having viewed this ministry of the police with anxiety, I was, without saying a word about, greatly satisfied to see him lose it. 

In that year of 1811 there was great rumor and great scandal at Court. Whether more or less well informed, everyone knew or suspected a little; everyone recounted, denied, affirmed. Here is the story in a nutshell. Almost a fugitive from France, where he could not be employed as a result of commitments contracted and not discharged, in truth in the capacity of paymaster general, which it the government’s bankruptcy and not his own, not really knowing what to do, Daure arrived in Naples, highly recommended to the King and Queen. Soon pushed by her, he was Minister of War and of the Navy. He was the Queen’s lover: this, everyone knew; the husband alone was ignorant of it; but moreover he was her man, her agent, he served her in what one might call the crime of high treason, and very dark treason, not because it was high, but because it was the husband of her with whom he was involved who had welcomed him in his bad fortune and showered him with favours. Justly alarmed at the intrigues of the Queen who, not having been able to obtain from him everything to which she pretended, turned to Paris and was doing everything possible to embroil him with Napoleon and wrest power from him, Joachim conceived the plan of getting rid of the French who served in her intrigues, Daure, the Longchamps, Montrond, etc, and for this he had recourse to a general measure. He decreed that, in order to serve in the Kingdom of Naples, the French must obtain from him letters of naturalization, intending to refuse them to those he mistrusted. A true calculation of weakness; because if he did not dare take away their jobs—Daure was, as I have said, minister, Longchamps chamberlain, his wife lady of the palace, etc, etc—why would he dare refuse to naturalize them? This clumsy detour fooled no one, for, besides it being known for what purpose he was acting, it also had the great misfortune of depriving him, among the French, of all those who were worth something, none of them willing to consent to become a Neapolitan. Be that as it may, the Queen’s affiliates, seeing Joachim resolved to dispose of them, decided to leave, to cede to the storm. I have already said that the little country house in which we lived was opposite the King’s palace. The Longchamps came to bid me farewell, announcing themselves as disgraced courtiers, to which I did not reply. The wife asked me if she might not hope to glimpse the Queen from one of my windows. I conducted her to my sitting room and left her there alone and without affectation for several moments, believing she wanted it and did not want to ask me. I have since been told that she had a signal to give; which I don’t know, but would believe enough.

Joachim, partially delivered of those who gave him umbrage and with good reason, was already seeking some way to come to an arrangement with the French he wanted to keep, by exempting them from the condition he had just imposed himself, when one morning there arrived from Paris, via the Monitor, a decree from Napoleon, declaring that the French having conquered the kingdom of Naples were de facto and de jure citizens of the country, and had no need of having themselves naturalized there. This was a cruel blow for Murat, already ill and recently established at Capo di Monte for his health. I was to have a concert at home that very evening and canceled it without waiting for my husband, finding that music at a Frenchman’s that day would seem bravado to Joachim’s ears. He was then much to be pitied, Maghella the prefect of police, whom he made minister as a reward, having given him letters from the Queen and from Daure, which proved not only their intimacy, but the attempted efforts to convince Napoleon to remove his brother-in-law’s crown and give it to his sister. The disorder was at its height, the disunion, the almost public scenes. Murat, already suffering, had a hot fever; it was feared that he had gone mad. M. Baudus and one or two others intervened; the Queen wept a lot, explained what she could, and denied and attributed to the machinations of her enemies that which she could not explain. In short, the King, perhaps half-deluded, because he loved his wife, was made to understand that it was in the interests of his children not to go any further, to forget or pretend to, and everything would be restored as best it could.

On this occasion, Joachim said one day to my husband, speaking to him of his wife: “She is there, and me, I am here; we will speak no more of it.” Since then, I have had few opportunities to see the family in person, the Queen having left for Paris shortly afterwards and not having yet returned when I left Naples.


2 thoughts on ““It was feared that he had gone mad”

  1. Josefa vom Jaaga

    I find this mostly interesting because it allows an insight into what was talked and speculated about at court and among the French in Naples. Madame Cavaignac takes wild guesses from the things she sees, adds the usual court gossip, et voilà.


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