“Fortunately for the historian, the character of the King is rich enough, that it is not necessary to disguise his faults.”-Caroline Murat, to the Comte de Mosbourg, 1838
*Update–2 March 2021*
So this blog is a little over two years old now! It started off as just a way for me to share some random bits and pieces about Murat for no real purpose other than just wanting to share my interest in him with others. But as I’ve gotten deeper into my research and numerous ongoing translation/research projects, my ideas for the direction of the blog have taken a slightly different turn, especially now that I’ve been feeling so much more motivated with it over the past few months.
When Murat first captured my interest three-ish years ago, I was dismayed to find so little English-language material available on him. Obviously he isn’t as well known as Napoleon (especially outside of France), and just in general there isn’t a whole lot of material in English on Napoleon’s marshals–which is sad, because they’re a fascinating bunch. My sole saving grace was having studied enough French in high school to be able to start tackling Murat’s correspondence, steadily brushing up my French as I went; without that foundation, I probably would’ve just resigned myself to what little was available in English and left it at that. Which would’ve left me with a very incomplete and unsatisfactory picture of Murat.
So my goal with this blog for the foreseeable future will be to steadily turn it into an archive of English-language materials on Murat–some of which already exist in English, but most of which I’ll be translating from French. I’m also going to be working on building some index pages to organize my content here, in order to make things easier to find–a list of the memoirs I’ve posted excerpts from, and a list, by year, of the letters I’ve posted. (And if anyone has any suggestions for other things I might add, please let me know!)
I’ve still got a ton of material to work my way through, so I’m looking forward to continually expanding this blog into a thorough Murat archive.
Thanks to those of you who visit, and I hope you continue to enjoy the blog!
So, you might be wondering… Why Murat?
And the answer is: I don’t really know; it just kind of happened.
I randomly came across Stephen Talty’s The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Destroyed Napoleon’s Greatest Army one day in the library; it became my introduction both to Napoleonic history, and to Joachim Murat. And by the end of the book, I was hooked on both. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; I’ve always had a thing for flamboyant cavalry generals (the first historical figure I developed a keen interest in, as a kid, was Custer). There was something about Murat’s dash, his bravado, his over-the-top uniforms, and his utter contempt for danger, that drew me in. After finishing Talty’s book, I set about to learn as much as I could about the man.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many books on Murat in English, and my French is still a work in progress. But what I was able to find, only deepened my fascination, and made me want to find more.
What I found was a surprisingly complex figure far too often simplified by historians as a simple-minded swashbuckler in garish, custom-made uniforms. Napoleon himself struggled to square the seemingly contradictory parts of his brother-in-law’s unique personality, marveling that a man who could ride so nonchalantly into battle, hewing down everything in his path, could be repulsed by the idea of corporal punishments and executions, and could spontaneously burst into tears while reading letters from his wife and children during a campaign. His contemporaries regarded him as vain, ambitious, impulsive, hot-tempered, and rash; but also as kind-hearted, extremely sensitive, generous, and nearly always happy, a mischievous practical joker even after ascending the throne of Naples.
Murat was a flawed being—just like the rest of us—and ultimately met an unnecessarily tragic end. Delving into his personal correspondence, it was impossible for me not to be moved by the impassioned, often embittered letters he exchanged with Napoleon, or the affectionate (if occasionally sniping) letters to him from his wife, Caroline; his relationships with both might best be described as tempestuous.
In the course of putting my rusty French skills to use translating several of these letters, I ended up translating several hundred instead, and boning up on my French considerably. I intend to continue this work, while also working on research for what I hope will one day be a full-length biography of Murat.
My intention with this blog is to post random findings from my research, as well as translated letters/excerpts etc. And basically anything else related to Murat that I happen to come across. Along with occasional random snippets of non-Murat-related Napoleonica I find that amuse me. And, if I happen to connect with any fellow Napoleonic history buffs and/or fellow admirers of Murat along the way, even better.
Thanks for visiting the page, and I hope you enjoy.