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Joachim Murat, who had to become a priest, he enlisted as soldier, he was promoted to general, married Caroline Bonaparte, became King of Naples.

Joachim Murat-Jordy was born in Labastide on March 25, 1767, he was the son of a tavern keeper who supplemented his earnings by managing the ecclesiastical benefits of a few churches. Joachim was initiated ecclesiastical career, so he was sent to study in the college of Cahors, then to the seminary of Toulouse. Here he was distinguished not so much for its religious aspirations but for the love of beautiful women, gambling, entertainment.

Being plagued by creditors left the seminary in 1787 and enlisted as a soldier in the Ardennes Hunters, being brave and educated soon he distinguished himself and passed in Regiment Cavalry Hunters. In 1789 he was expelled from the ranks of Hunters for insubordination and returned to the family home.

At the outbreak of the revolution he joined the Constitutional Guard of King Louis XVI, the Guard which had the task of guarding the king not yet formally ousted. But after just a month, won by the ideals of the revolution, he left the Guard and went into the revolutionary militias, denouncing the commander of his former comrades as royalist sympathizer.

He became an officer of the Hussars, and because his surname was incorrectly associated to a noble family with the same surname, changed it to Marat, that called to mind the famous revolutionary. With the end of the Jacobin republic and the fall of Robespierre he returned to his old surname.

He sided with Napoleon in winning a skirmish 40 guns in the riots of 13 Vendemiaire year IV of the revolution. As a result he was appointed general of brigade in 1796, beginning his brilliant military career.

He participated in the Italian campaign where he took part in the battles that led to the conquest of Lombardy, was the star of the Battle of Valeggio and the Battle of Bassano del Grappa where he defeated, with repeated cavalry charges, the Austrian army flanked by departments of Neapolitan army. In Milan, where the Bonaparte family had gathered, he knew Caroline, sister of Napoleon, who was conquered by this soldier of good looks, with easy eloquence, daring in battle.

Murat followed Napoleon in his Egyptian campaign where he distinguished himself for his courage and his ability as a commander, in 1799 he became commander of the Guard of the First Consul. He was a great driver of men, was the first to storm the enemy always followed faithfully by his knights. But it was not equipped with a particular skill in military strategy, the general Savary said about his behavior in battle: “… it would be better that he be provided with less courage and a little more than common sense.”

Carolina Bonaparte con i figli - by Wikipedia
Carolina Bonaparte con i figli – by Wikipedia

In February 1800 he married Caroline Bonaparte, making this a crucial step in your career, from a simple military to member of a family in a few years became, thanks to Napoleon, the most powerful in Europe.

In the same year he participated in the second campaign of Italy as General Lieutenant. He took Vercelli and Novara and headed for the Papal States to collide with the Neapolitan army. In 1801 he signed an armistice with the King of Naples and retired himself to Florence, where he lived with his wife and his son Achille born in January. He went to Milan contributed to the birth of the Cisalpine Republic and the Italian Republic, where Napoleon Bonaparte was as President. Also in Milan, was born to his second daughter Letizia (1802) and then Luciano (1803).

Back in Paris, the last daughter Luisa borned in 1805. Meanwhile Napoleon was proclaimed emperor and therefore the whole family enjoyed the benefits of this appointment, Murat became Prince empire.

That same year, a conflict broke out between France against Austria and Russia. Murat was in command of the cavalry and the vanguard of the French army in the campaign against Austria.

Murat nella battaglia di Abukir - by Wikipedia
Murat nella battaglia di Abukir – by Wikipedia

He advanced quickly, often anticipating Napoleon. Arrived in Vienna on Nov. 12, 1805 proceeded to cross the Danube on the last bridge still intact. Since the bridge was mined and defended by Austrian troops, to prevent the destruction, Murat with his staff, all dressed in parade uniform, he crossed the bridge with big smiles and shouting: “armistice, armistice”. The Austrian officers interdicted from such behavior did not have the courage to fire on the officers. Once over the bridge, Murat and his companions attacked by surprise the enemy soldiers with swords. Immediately the French avant-garde, who until then had remained hidden to the eye enemy, crossed the bridge defeating Austrian soldiers and saving the last bridge to Vienna.

In 1808 Napoleon appointed him King of Naples, as substitute of his brother Joseph Bonaparte, who had been assigned to the kingdom of Spain. In Naples he was received well by the people and by the local nobility. Immediately freed with a raid on the island of Capri occupied by the British. Then he concentrated his action in modernizing of the medieval Bourbon kingdom. He built a new road network: the bridge of “Salute”, by connecting via Toledo with the Royal Palace of Capodimonte, Via Posillipo, Via Bagnoli connecting Naples with the sea at Bagnoli, the portico of the Forum Joachim (then Piazza del Plebiscito).

Murat visita l'Albergo dei Poveri - by Wikipedia
Murat visita l’Albergo dei Poveri – by Wikipedia

He gave impetus to the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Founded the corps of engineers of Bridges and Roads (then College of Engineering). Introduced in the kingdom the Napoleonic Code and the divorce, he modernized the army, encouraged scientific studies and reopened the Academy Pontano.

The kingdom of Naples took in those years a modern look, the conscription of young people in the army, which at first had not been accepted, allowed the young people of the poorer and disadvantaged classes to redeem in the army, organized in a modern way and effective, so that they can beat valiantly alongside the French and Italian troops in the wars in Spain and Germany. He subverted the feudal system of land, forming a middle class agrarian. A bourgeoisie which soon became the hub of the modernization of the state.

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Statua Murat davanti Palazzo Reale – by Wikipedia: Raffaele Esposito 2007 CC BY SA 2.5

In 1810 Murat organized against the wishes of Napoleon, a military expedition to hunt Ferdinand of Bourbon from Sicily, where he was protected by the British troops. He made according to Scilla where he completed the concentration of his army before groped landing in Messina. After a few skirmishes in Sicily against the British who were deployed to protect the Bourbons, he left the project to invade the island.

In 1812, Napoleon began the Russian campaign. Joachim Murat, despite the affairs of the kingdom, would not miss the side of the Emperor in command of the Imperial Cavalry and some departments of the Neapolitan army, leaving his wife Caroline as support the government of the kingdom. After winning the battle of the Moscow River with the impetus of his knights he arrived in Moscow.

In the subsequent retreat of the imperial army defeated by “General Winter”, Napoleon headed for Paris, leaving the command to his trusted soldier Murat, who arrived in Poznan I leave the army to Eugene de Beauharnais to resume his place in Naples.

On the way back with the help of Caroline sought an agreement with the Austrians, trying to consolidate its position as the king of Naples, offering in exchange a treaty of alliance between Naples and Vienna, which was signed in 1814, in which Murat was confirmed the Kingdom of Naples, with the addition of Sicily that, at first, the Congress of Vienna ratified.

In March 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba landed in France to regain the throne. Joachim Murat not trusting that the Austrian left him on the Neapolitan throne alone, with his army crossed the Papal lands arriving in Bologna. He sent his ambassadors in Vienna to confirm his loyalty to the treaty, but the Austrians answered with a declaration of war and signed a treaty with King Ferdinand I of Sicily returning him Neapolitan throne.

Now Murat left Caroline and the children in Naples and went to France to get to the side of Napoleon, at the command of his cavalry, to fight the armies of anti-napoleonic alliance. But Napoleon mindful of his treachery with the treaty in Vienna which took sides against him, did not want him at his side and told him to stay in Provence. He later regret this decision because in Waterloo having him at his side, with his courage and his grip he had on his cavalry, he would have meant the almost certain victory of the French over their opponents.

Murat fled from southern France and traveled to Corsica with the intention to gather a landing force to regain his kingdom, in the meantime, his wife Caroline with her children had moved away from Naples, where the Bourbon had returned, and she had refugee in Trieste.

Fucilazione Murat - by Wikipedia
Fucilazione Murat – by Wikipedia

An expedition with 250 men under his command sailed from Ajaccio in six boats on September 28, 1815 but, due to a storm, and the betrayal of a commander, landed at Pizzo Calabro with just 30 men. He was easily overwhelmed by the local Bourbon forces and imprisoned in the castle of Aragon. Ferdinand I, anxious to get rid of his rival, appointed a military court at whose head was General Vito Nunziante, who condemned prisoner sentenced to death by firing squad.

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Sepoltura Murat: by Wikipedia: Alfredo Ledonne 2010 CC BY SA 4.0

Joachim Murat was executed on October 13, 1815 in Pizzo Calabro. With his usual courage refused to be blindfolded and asked to command the firing squad himself, died uttering the last words, “Sauvez ma face, Visez mon coeur, feu!” (Save my face, targeted to my heart, fire !). It was buried in a mass grave in the church of San Giorgio Matrice in Pizzo Calabro.

Caroline Bonaparte after she fled with the children in Trieste moved to Austria where, according to some sources, she remarried with General Francis Macdonald, former Minister of the Kingdom of Naples, from whom she had no children, then moved to Florence at the Palazzo Bonaparte. she died in 1839 and was buried in the Church of Tutti i Santi in Florence.

The first-born Achille went to live in the United States where he married Catherine Willis nephew of George Washington. Letizia was married to the Marquis Guido Taddeo Pepoli and had a son: Gioacchino Napoleone Pepoli. The third son Luciano went to his brother in the United States where he married, in 1848 he returned to France where his cousin Napoleon III appointed him senator and awarded him the title of prince. In 1860 , when Garibaldi with the expedition of the Thousand was near Naples , the crown of Naples was offered to Luciano Murat from some members of the establishment of Naples , Luciano , perhaps also recommended by his cousin emperor Napoleon III , took his time , and in practice he refused the crown with a letter which was made public . The last daughter Louise married the Count Giulio Rasponi and she had three children: Gioacchino, Achille and Letizia.