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The Death of Joachim Murat (Hardback)

1815 and the Unfortunate Fate of One of Napoleon's Marshals

Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic P&S History > By Century > 19th Century

By Jonathan North
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 8 colour illustrations, 8 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399058407
Published: 6th November 2023



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Joachim Murat, son of an innkeeper, had won his spurs as Napoleon’s finest cavalry general and then won his throne when, in 1808, Napoleon appointed him king of Naples. He loyally ran this strategic Italian kingdom with his wife, Napoleon’s sister Caroline, until, in 1814, with Napoleon beaten and in retreat towards ruin and exile, the royal couple chose to betray their imperial relation and dramatically switched sides.

This notorious betrayal won them temporary respite, but just a year later Murat engineered his own dramatic fall. A series of blunders took the cavalier king from thinking he had secured his dynasty to fleeing his kingdom. His native France did not welcome him, initially because Napoleon had not forgiven him, then, after Napoleon’s fall following Waterloo, because the restored Bourbons were offering a reward for Murat’s head. Fleeing again, fate brought him to Corsica where, welcomed at last, Murat turned to plotting the reversal in his fortunes he so felt he deserved.

Murat soon resolved to bet everything on a hare-brained plan to return to Naples as a conquering hero and king. His aim was to take a small band of followers, land near his capital, organise regime change and reclaim his throne. In September 1815, he set off with a small band of followers. What happened next forms the core of this part-tragic, part-ridiculous story and a lesson in how not to stage a coup. Just five days after landing in Calabria, King Joachim was hauled before a firing squad and executed.

There is a fine line in history between a fool and a hero. Had Murat succeeded then he would be lauded as daringly heroic but, alas, he failed, and his final adventure has been consigned to oblivion. This is unfortunate as the fall of Joachim Murat is the final act of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe as well as being a dramatic story in its own right. Based on research in the archives of Paris and Naples, Jonathan North’s book aims to throw light on the fate of the mightily fallen Murat and restore some history to a tale that, until now, lay smothered under two centuries of fable and neglect.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is excellent. Very well written and informative. The relationship between Napoleon and Murat is fascinating and it is explored thoroughly here. As is Murat’s fate, the reasons behind which are examined in detail here. An excellent addition for anyone who is interested in Napoleon and his Marshals.

NetGalley, Rebecca B

About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is a historian specialising in Napoleonic history. His publications include With Napoleon in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Faber du Faur; In the Legions of Napoleon: The Memoirs of a Polish Officer in Spain and Russia, 1808-1812; Napoleon’s Army in Russia: The Illustrated Memoirs of Albrecht Adam, 1812; With Napoleon’s Guard in Russia: The Memoirs of Major Vionnet, 1812; and Polish Eyewitnesses to Napoleon's 1812 Campaign.

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