European Royalty: Italian States: Naples--Murat (1808-15)

Figure 1.--This is a detail of a painting hanging in the Royal Palace of Caserta, near Naples. It shows Joachim Murat, King of Naples, visiting the "Real Albergo dei Poveri" (Royal Poorhouse) about 1810. Since the 18th century this was an important charity institution in Naples. King Joachim Murat is probably visiting the adult people section, because we can see a mother with her naked son. We are unsure about the artist.

Joachim Murat was perhaps Napoleon's most dashing cavalry commanders. He was born (1767). Murat joined the French royal army just beforfe the Revolution as a mere cavalry trooper when he was only 20 years old. He first saw the rising General Napoleon Bonaparte when he was involved in the suppression of the Vendemaire coup. It was in Italy that Napoleon became a phenomenon. Winning promotion, Murat joined Bonaparte in Italy and was involved in the figting at Tagliamento (1796). Napoleon next conducted his Egyptian campaign. During the fighting, Napoleon awarded Murat a battlefield promotion to general of brigade. Murat commanded the French cavalry at Marengo to great affect in the defeat of the Austrians (1800). Marengo and successive events gave Napoleon control of Italy. Murat's skill and dash won him the admiration of the Emperor who by this time looked on him as one of his most trusted generals. The Emperor consented to the marriage with his suster, to Caroline Bonaparte. Bapoleon promoted him to marshal (1804). The Emperor made his brother Joseph King of Naples (1806). Murat became renounded for harassing retreating enemies, His intervention at Eylau against the Russians (1807), probably prevented the Emperor's defeat. Many military historians consuder this to be the high point of Murat's military career. Napoleon decided to give Joseph the Spanish crown. Murat who went to Spain to help establish Joseph, participated in the repression of the Madrid insurrection. His harsh action may have added fuel to the Spanish national uprising against the French. Murat gave up his military command in Spain because of poor health. The Emperor gave the kingdom of Naples to Murat who was through marriage a member of the family (1808). By all accounts he ruled Naples well. Murat was not able to spend much time in his new kingdom as he was at the Emperor's side as a key field commander during many of the Emperor's major battles, including invasion of Russia (1812-13). He fought at Ostronovo, Smolensk, Borodino and Vinkovo. He took command of the latter stage of disatrous retreat from Moscow. In his absence from Naples his wife ruled capably. They introduced many needed progressive reforms. After the retreat from Moscow, he returning to Naples. He then rejoined Bonaparte for the 1813 Campaign in Germany. He fought at Dresden, Wachau and Leipzig. By this time it was clear that Napoleon could not defeat the Allies. Murat betrayed the Empreor by negotiating with the Allies to save his own throne. But then he attempted to spport the Emperor during the 100 Days' Campaign by organizing a revolt in northern Italy. The attempt dailed and Npoleon lost at Waterloo. Murat attempted to restablish himself in Naples, but he was arrested and shot (1815).


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Created: 10:42 PM 6/3/2010
Last updated: 10:42 PM 6/3/2010