Joachim Murat

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Portrait of Joachim Murat by François Gérard (1801). Murat's signature:
Signature Joachim Murat.PNG

Joachim Murat (born March 25, 1767 in the municipality of Labastide-Fortuniere, today Labastide-Murat , France , † October 13, 1815 in Pizzo , Calabria ) was a French cavalry officer who made a career in the service of Napoleon . He married Caroline Bonaparte and was therefore Napoleon's brother-in-law . In 1804 he became Maréchal d'Empire , 1805 French prince ( prince français ). He was from 1806 to 1808 as Joachim I Grand Duke of Berg , from 1808 to 1815 also as Joachim I (Italian: Gioacchino I ) King of Naples . When Napoleon's defeat became apparent in 1813, he changed fronts and went over to the camp of the anti-Napoleonic allies. At the time of the reign of the Hundred Days , he again stood by Napoleon's side. His attempt to regain his kingdom by landing in Italy failed. Then the victorious king caused him Ferdinand I summarily shot .

Early years

Joachim Murat was the son of an innkeeper in the province of Guyenne and, thanks to Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord , graduated from the College of Cahors. Then he was to be trained as a priest in Toulouse . He became Abbé , but had to leave the priesthood because of his dissolute life. After that, Murat joined a cavalry unit in the French army in 1787. He had to leave his regiment because of insubordination and served in the Guard constitutionelle of Louis XVI after the beginning of the French Revolution . In 1792 he was promoted to officer. Later he belonged as a sous lieutenant to the 13th e régiment de chasseurs à cheval (13th regiment of hunters on horseback). At times Murat was a supporter of the Jacobins . During this time he was promoted to captaincy . After the 9th Thermidor of the year II (1794) he was able to keep on duty. On the 13th Vendémiaire 1795 he defended the National Convention against opponents of the government in a key position under Napoleon : his squadron secured the transfer of the tactically extremely important artillery from the arsenal to the scene of action.

Career under Napoleon

This made Napoleon aware of him, in whose wake Murat rose. In 1796 he was involved in Napoleon Bonaparte's Italian campaign as his adjutant . During the Egyptian expedition he was able to record successes with the cavalry and was promoted to Général de division in 1799 . Murat supported Napoleon in the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII (November 9th 1799). He then became the commander of the consular guard . A year later, Murat's bond with Napoleon became even closer through his marriage to Napoleon's youngest sister, Caroline Bonaparte .

Joachim Murat, painted by François Gérard, around 1800–1810

Murat fought with Napoleon in Italy in 1801. He became governor of the Cisalpine Republic and expelled the Neapolitans from the Papal States . He then concluded an armistice with the King of the Two Sicilies . In 1804, Napoleon made him Maréchal d'Empire and Governor of Paris . In 1805 he was appointed Grand Admiral and Imperial Prince. On April 7th of the year King Friedrich Wilhelm III. from Prussia Murat with the Order of the Black Eagle . As commander-in-chief of the cavalry, he played a major role in the French victory over Austria and Prussia. Murat defeated the Austrians at Wertingen on October 8, 1805 and captured General Werneck with 16,000 men on October 18. Then he penetrated as far as Vienna on November 13 . On December 2, 1805, he had a share in the victory in the Battle of Austerlitz .

In 1805, Murat bought the Elysée Palace in Paris. His renovations there are still referred to by his name today, such as the Escalier Murat ("Murat staircase") and the Salon Murat . In 1808 he sold the palace to Emperor Napoleon I. Since then, the Elysée Palace has been owned by the state. In the Salon Murat since convenes President Georges Pompidou , the French Cabinet ( Conseil des Ministres ) .

Grand Duke of Berg

Collection cup with a portrait of Murat, Düsseldorf around 1806

On March 15, 1806, Emperor Napoleon I appointed him Duke of Berg and Kleve . On the basis of the Rhine Federation Act , Murat accepted the title of Grand Duke in the summer of 1806 . The Duchy of Berg and Kleve thereby advanced to a Grand Duchy. The capital of the new state was Düsseldorf , his residence was Schloss Benrath ; He had this painted on a large painting “The Rhine”. He hung the painting with three other river paintings ("The Nile", "The Tiber", "The Seine") in his Elysée Palace in the original ballroom (now called Salon Murat ), where it is still located today.

The Grand Duchy, formed from the former Prussian Duchy of Kleve and the Duchy of Berg, which was previously ruled by the Wittelsbachers , and other territories, was expanded several times in the following years to include additional territories. The Grand Duke himself very rarely stayed in his country. He was only present in Düsseldorf for about four months. Politically, he made little prominence; he only had a personal share in the numerous reforms. During the time of his reign he mostly continued to fight in the wars of the emperor.

War against Prussia and dispatch to Spain

Shooting of the insurgent
painting by Francisco de Goya
The insurgents were rounded up and shoton the hill of
Principe Pio on the night of May 2nd and 3rd.

In the war against Prussia of 1806 he was involved in the battles at Jena and Auerstedt (1806) and Preußisch-Eylau (1807) as commander of the cavalry corps. After the Peace of Tilsit, Murat was sent to Spain . He persuaded King Charles IV to travel to Bayonne, which led to the deposition of the House of Bourbons . He himself marched into Madrid with French troops on April 23, 1808 and bloodily crushed the Dos de Mayo uprising. A total of 400 Spaniards died in the crackdown on May 2nd and 3rd, 1808. Murat hoped in vain to be promoted to King of Spain. Instead, Napoleon made Joseph Bonaparte the new King of Spain.

King of Naples

Joachim Murat received the compensation on July 15, 1808: Napoleon installed him as King of Naples . Although he was proclaimed both Sicily to the king, but his rule was limited to the mainland because the island of Sicily protected by the English fleet in the hands of Ferdinand I was. His successor as Grand Duke von Berg was Napoléon Louis Bonaparte , Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Holland and Napoleon's nephew, under the imperial tutelage and reign of 1809 .

Joachim Murat arrived in Naples on September 6, 1808 to take power. His rule in Italy was judged to be good by contemporaries and by later historiography after centuries of mismanagement. Like his predecessor Joseph Bonaparte, he relied mainly on Italian officials and endeavored to keep the visible French influence as small as possible. Therefore, his reign was not viewed as foreign rule. During his time the establishment of a modern, functioning administration of the kingdom fell.

Campaigns 1812/13

Murat - contemporary engraving

Murat tried to pursue an independent policy, and there were sometimes conflicts with Napoleon. Nevertheless, he took part in the Russian campaign of 1812. His kingdom put a contingent of more than 10,000 men in the Grande Army . He himself was in command of the entire cavalry and fought almost constantly at the head of the army. After Napoleon left the army after the failure of the campaign, it was under Murat's command from December 5, 1812. On January 17, 1813 Murat handed over the supreme command to Eugène de Beauharnais and returned to Naples. This unauthorized act led to an annoyance between Napoleon and him. Nevertheless, Murat came back to the French army in August and successfully commanded the right wing of the French army in the Battle of Dresden in 1813, which led to the retreat of the Austrians. He also fought in the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig . There he led the 8,000-strong cavalry attack against the center of the allies at Güldengossa on October 14th .

Treason and death

Funerary monument in the Père Lachaise cemetery

After Napoleon's defeat in Leipzig, Murat left the French army. To save his own position, he signed a treaty with Austria on January 11, 1814, in which he undertook to support the Allies with an army of 30,000 men. In return, England and Austria guaranteed him his rule. In fact, he waged war against Eugène de Beauharnais as viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy . He thus actively contributed to Napoleon's defeat.

When it seemed that the Congress of Vienna was by no means ready to confirm Murat as king, he began to get in touch with Napoleon on Elba. After he had left the island and began to take power again in France, Murat occupied the Papal States in February 1815 and attacked the Austrian troops on March 30th. His army was defeated in two battles on April 12th near Ferrara and on May 2nd near Tolentino . Murat first fled to France. On August 25, 1815, he went to Corsica and gathered a small troop there. With six ships he went to Naples.

This attempt to save his throne and mobilize the people for independence failed. He was captured, sentenced to death and on 13 October 1815 in Pizzo in Calabria by order of the Bourbon king I. Ferdinand summarily shot . Before his execution , Murat called out to the firing squad: "Soldiers, aim at the heart, protect your face!" Although the body is believed to have been lost, Murat's coffin is believed to be in a crypt in the Chiesa di San Giorgio in Pizzo . A cenotaph dedicated to Murat, his wife Caroline and other descendants was erected in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris .

His widow Caroline Bonaparte (born March 25, 1782 in Ajaccio ) has lived as Countess of Lipona at the Villa Campo Marzo near Trieste and died on May 18, 1839 in Florence. Murat left two sons - Napoléon Achille Murat and Napoléon Lucien Murat - and two daughters.


His name is entered on the triumphal arch in Paris in the 24th column.


The Düsseldorf-born poet Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) describes the arrival of the new Grand Duke Joachim in Düsseldorf in 1806 and the billeting of a drum major from his troupe in his parents' house from his own experience in his work Ideas - the book Le Grand , contained in Heine's travel pictures. Part 2 (Hamburg 1827).

In the story Le Colonel Chabert (1832) by Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), Murat, as the superior field marshal, mistakenly declares his friend, the seriously wounded hero of the title, dead in the battle of Prussian Eylau (1807), thus solving his drama about the Recognition of his identity.


  • Mme Rolly: Life of Joachim Mürat . Rommerskirchen, Cologne 1816. Digitized edition of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Rudolf Goecke: The Grand Duchy of Berg under Joachim Murat, Napoleon I and Louis Napoleon 1806–1813 . Cologne 1877.
  • Joseph Alexander Freiherr von Helfert: Joachim Murat. His last fights and his end. Manz, Vienna 1878.
  • Jean Tulard : Murat . Fayard, 1999, ISBN 2-213-60372-3 .
  • Jean Tulard: Dictionnaire Napoleon . Fayard, 1999.
  • Marcel Dupont: Murat. Cavalier, Maréchal de France, Prince et Roi . Editions Copernic, Paris 1980, ISBN 2-85984-050-8 .
  • Jean Prieur: Murat et Caroline . Editions Fernand Lanore, Paris 1985, ISBN 2-85157-011-0 .
  • Frédéric Hulot : Murat. Mémoires du général Griois 1792–1822 . Editions du Grenadier, 2003.
  • Rudolf Goecke:  Joachim Murat . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 14, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1881, pp. 91-93.
  • Hartmut Sander:  Joachim Murat. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 10, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1974, ISBN 3-428-00191-5 , p. 433 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Charles Schmidt : The Grand Duchy of Berg 1806-1813. A study of French supremacy in Germany under Napoleon I (1905) . Ed .: Burkhard Dietz , Jörg Engelbrecht . Neustadt / Aisch 1999, ISBN 3-87707-535-5 (with contributions by Burkhard Dietz, Jörg Engelbrecht and Heinz-K. Junk; Bergische Forschungen, Vol. XXVII).
  • Services de l'Administration et de la Conservation des Résidences Présidentielles, Services photographiques de la Présidence de la République, Palais de l'Elysée (ed.): Palais de l'Elysée. Residence de la République . Paris (foreword by President Jacques Chirac).

Web links

Commons : Joachim Murat  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. List of the Knights of the Royal Prussian High Order of the Black Eagle . Decker, Berlin 1851, p. 51. ( digitized version )
  2. Naples  4). In: Heinrich August Pierer , Julius Löbe (Hrsg.): Universal Lexicon of the Present and the Past . 4th edition. tape 11 . Altenburg 1860, p. 729-753 ( ).
  3. ^ Giuliano Procacci: History of Italy and the Italians. Munich 1989, ISBN 978-3-406-33986-8 , p. 229.
  4. Le Moniteur universel of January 27, 1813: Le roi de Naples, étant indisposé, a dû quitter le commandement de l'armée qu'il a remis entre les mains du vice-roi. Ce dernier a plus d'habitude d'une grande administration. Il a la confiance entière de l'Empereur. ; German: The King of Naples, indisposed, had to give up command of the army, which he placed in the hands of the viceroy. The latter is more experienced in managing large affairs. He has the full confidence of the emperor. ; in: Jean Baptiste Adolphe Charras, "Histoire de la guerre de 1813 en Allemagne", Brockhaus, Leipzig 1866, p. 96; identical and with the date in a note by the editor Hanoteau at Caulaincourt, "Mémoires du général de Caulaincourt", Volume 2, Plon et Nourrit, Paris 1933, p. 395
  5. (Italian)
predecessor Office successor
Maximilian I. Joseph
Grand Duke of Kleve and Berg
Napoleon Bonaparte , from March 3, 1809 with the reign of Napoléon Louis Bonaparte
Joseph Bonaparte King of Naples
Ferdinand IV.