The Death of Murat

I am currently researching the last six months of Joachim Murat’s life. In 1815, as Napoleon escaped from Elba, King Joachim of Naples (former Jacobin, French marshal, king of Naples) launched an ambitious plan to conquer and unite Italy. Ambitious, but also doomed to failure. The Austrian military machine, professional, solid, reliable and deployed to ensure that northern Italy remained a Hapsburg sphere of influence, easily swept Murat’s inexperienced army before it. Murat fled to his palace at Caserta and then on to Naples before taking ship in May 1815. He had hoped to head to Gaeta but soon turned to France, arriving in Cannes and writing to his imperial brother-in-law in Paris in the hope he would be allowed to join Napoleon’s army then preparing to relaunch the Napoleonic wars. But Napoleon ignored him and went off to be beaten at Waterloo.

Murat, after nearly succumbing to the White Terror in the south, slipped away to Corsica where he raised a small army and contemplated a return to Naples hoping, perhaps, that his own 100 Days would be more successful. He set off in late September but his armada was scattered and he came ashore at Pizzo in Calabria in October 1815. There he was captured, detained, tried and executed.

I’m researching first-hand accounts of these various adventures in the hope of turning it all into a short book. There’s a real sense of drama, desperation even, as a deposed king gambles everything to win it all back. I’m thinking of calling it How not to Stage a Coup.

For now I have published little on this footnote to the history of glorious Naples. It is the translation of an account by one of Murat’s valets, Armand-Victor Blanchard, of the final months and sad fate of his master and it has been published on the wonderful Project Murat website.