Joachim-Napoléon Murat, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, King of Naples and Sicily, 1st Prince Murat (Highness) (born Joachim Murat) (Italian: Gioacchino Napoleone Murat) (March 25, 1767 – October 13, 1815), Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, Marshal of France, was King of Naples and Sicily from 1808 to 1815. He received his titles in part by being the brother-in-law of Napoleon Bonaparte, through marriage to Napoleon's youngest sister, Caroline Bonaparte.
Joachim Murat was born March 25, 1767, in La Bastide-Fortunière, France, later renamed La Bastide-Murat, to Pierre Murat-Jordy (1721 – 27 July 1799), an innkeeper, and his wife Jeanne Loubières (La Bastide Fortunière, 1722 – La Bastide Fortunière, 11 March 1806), daughter of Pierre Loubières and wife Jeanne Viellescazes.
Murat enlisted in the cavalry at the age of 20. In 1791, he joined the King's Constitutional Guard, but left it soon for the regular army. In 1792 he became an officer. He was a staunch supporter of the notorious revolutionary Jacobin Jean-Paul Marat, and thus believed in a philosophy championing a strong centralized government in the form of a republic. In the war-torn, troubled times in the autumn of 175, three years after the French King was deposed, royalist and counter-revolutionaries organized an armed uprising. On October 3, Général Napoleon Bonaparte—at the time a relative unknown, was in the right place at the right time (he was stationed in Paris), for he was named commander of the three-year old French National Convention's defending forces. Napoleon tasked Captain Murat with the gathering of some artillery from a remote suburb outside the control of the government's forces. This difficult task, completed barely in time, was a contribution that became a historical turning point.
The ruthless use of these cannon on October 4 allowed Napoleon to save the members of the National Convention who were the target of the armed and organized mob. This constitutional convention, after an overly long period of emergency rule, was finally striving to establish a more stable and permanent government in the very uncertain period after the Reign of Terror. This desperate effort led to Napoleon's political rise (as a Barras supporter) from a little known Brigadier (General) of Artillery.
Murat managed to take the cannons of the Camp des Sablons and almost miraculously transport them 'in time' to the heart of Paris while avoiding the rioters, thus ensuring the success of the repression and the transition to power of the Directory. Barras became the most powerful of the directors as a result of his control of the military, with Napoleon as his iron-fisted advisor backed up by officers like Murat. For this success Joachim Murat was made chef de brigade (colonel) and thereafter remained one of Napoleon's best officers.
In 1796 with the situation in the capital and government apparently stabilized and the war going poorly (See also: French Revolutionary Wars), Napoleon lobbied to join the armies attempting to secure the revolution against the invading monarchist forces. Murat then went with Bonaparte to northern Italy, initially as his aide-de-camp, and was later named commander of the cavalry during the many campaigns against the Austrians and their allies. These forces were waging war on France and seeking to restore a Monarchy in Revolutionary France. His valour and his daring cavalry charges later earned him the rank of général in these important campaigns, the battles of which became famous as Napoleon constantly used speed of maneuver to fend off and eventually defeat individually superior opposing armies closing in on the French forces from several directions. Thus, Murat's skills in no small part helped establish Napoleon's legendary fame as a general's general, and enhance his popularity with the French people.
Of the three field armies staving off the Monarchists, Napoleon's worst-equipped and worst-supplied forces alone managed to remain undefeated during the 1796-1798 time frame. When he finally mounted an offensive against the last continental opponent, Austria, from the south, the latter sued for peace, leaving only Britain to contest the revolutionary ideas of the French Republic.
Murat commanded the cavalry of the French Egyptian expedition of 1798, again under Napoleon. The expedition's strategic goal was to threaten Britain's rich holdings in India. (Some had been taken from France during the Seven Years' War). However, the overall effort ended prematurely due to lack of logistical support with the defeat of the French fleet due to British sea power (See: Battle of the Nile). After the sea battle, Napoleon led his troops on land toward Europe (via Palestine and thence Ottoman Turkey), but was recalled by the Directory (at least in part) as it feared an invasion by Britain. Abbé Sieyès also saw Napoleon as an ally against a resurgent Jacobin movement, and so the expeditionary army was turned over to a subordinate.
The remaining non-military expedition staff officers, including Murat, and Napoleon returned to France, fleeing and somehow eluding various British fleets in five frigates. A short while later, Murat played an important, even pivotal, role in Bonaparte's 'coup within a coup' of 18 Brumaire (9 November) 1799 when Napoleon first assumed national power. Along with two others (including Director Abbé Sieyès), Napoleon set aside the five-man directory government, establishing the three-man French Consulate government.
Murat married Caroline Bonaparte civilly on January 20, 1800 at Mortefontaine (Plailly?) and religiously on January 4, 1802 in Paris, thus becoming a son-in-law of Letizia Ramolino as well as brother-in-law to Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon I of France, Lucien Bonaparte, Elisa Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte, Pauline Bonaparte and Jérôme Bonaparte.
His brother-in-law Napoleon made him a Marshal of France on May 18, 1804. Napoleon also granted him the title of "First Horseman of Europe". He was created Prince of the Empire in 1805, appointed Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves on March 15, 1806 and held this title till August 1, 1808. He was named King of Naples and Sicily on August 1, 1808.
Murat was equally useful in Napoleon's invasion of Russia (1812), and in the Battle of Leipzig (1813). However, after France's defeat at Leipzig, Murat reached an agreement with the Austrian Empire in order to save his own throne.
During the Hundred Days, he realized that the European Powers, meeting as the Congress of Vienna, had the intention to remove him and give back the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily to its pre-Napoleonic rulers. Murat deserted his new allies, and, after issuing a proclamation to the Italian patriots in Rimini, moved north to fight against the Austrians in the Neapolitan War to strengthen his rule in Italy by military means. He was defeated by Frederick Bianchi, a general of Francis I of Austria, in the Battle of Tolentino (May 2 - May 3, 1815).
Marshal Murat's grave in Père Lachaise Cemetery.
He fled to Corsica after Napoleon's fall. During an attempt to regain Naples through an insurrection in Calabria, he was arrested by the forces of his rival, Ferdinand IV of Naples, and was eventually executed by firing squad at the Castello di Pizzo, Calabria.
- "When the fatal moment arrived, Murat walked with a firm step to the place of execution, as calm, as unmoved, as if he had been going to an ordinary review. He would not accept a chair, nor suffer his eyes to be bound. "I have braved death (said he) too often to fear it." He stood upright, proudly and undauntedly, with his countenance towards the soldiers; and when all was ready, he kissed a cornelian on which the head of his wife was engraved, and gave the word — thus, "Save my face — aim for the chest — fire!""
Murat is buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery.