Childhood & Early Life
Joachim Murat was born on March 25, 1767, in La Bastide-Fortunière, France, to Pierre Murat and Jeanne Murat. His father was a prosperous innkeeper. Joachim had two younger brothers, Pierre and André.
His family wished for him to join the clergy, and accordingly, he received his early education from the parish priest.
At the age of 10, he was granted admission to the ‘College of Saint-Michel’ at Cahors, France. Thereafter, he joined the Lazarist seminary at Toulouse, France. But he soon departed from there as a result of bad behaviour.
In February 1787, he joined a cavalry regiment ‘Chasseurs des Ardennes’. In 1789, he had to resign from the cavalry regiment due to an infamous affair. Thereafter, he worked as an assistant to a shopkeeper at Saint-Ceré for some time.
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While still working at the shop, Joachim Murat began to make friends in political circles and by 1790, they helped him join the ‘National Guard’. On 14 July 1790, he was also chosen to represent his region in the ‘Fête of the Nation’.
In 1792, he joined the ‘Constitutional Guard’, but was forced to resign soon after. He freely voiced his patriotic opinions and with the aid of fellow Republicans, he managed to rejoin his former regiment and rapidly rose through the ranks to become a Corporal in April and Sergeant in May.
On October 5, 1795, during the ‘13 Vendémiaire’ of the ‘French Revolutionary Wars’, General Napoleon Bonaparte asked him to transport artillery from an outside suburb for the protection of the ‘French National Convention’ gathered in Paris. He efficiently managed to get the cannons into Paris, earning much praise from Napoleon.
He was soon promoted to the rank of ‘Colonel’ and continued to rise through the ranks in Napoleon’s army. Soon, he was one of Napoleon’s best officers and in 1796, he joined him on a military expedition to Northern Italy as his aide-de-camp. Very soon, he became a ‘Commander’ of the cavalry forces against Austrians who were trying to restore monarchy in France.
His bravery and skills helped cement Napoleon’s future as a leader of France and earned Murat the rank of a ‘General’.
In 1798, Napoleon asked him to join his Egyptian expedition. Some historians believe that this was in order to separate Murat from Napoleon’s sister, Caroline.
In 1799, during the Syrian leg of Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition, Murat was elevated to ‘Major General’ and was injured in the ‘Battle of Abukir’. He escaped to France with Napoleon and participated in the famous ‘coup d'état’ of ‘18 Brumaire’ that made Napoleon the ‘First Consul of France’.
In January 1800, he was promoted to ‘Commander of the Consular Guards’ and married Napoleon’s sister, Caroline, cementing his place in the new royal family.
In 1801, he was initiated into the ‘Freemason’ society at a Masonic Lodge in Milan and became a member of the ‘Napoleon’ Lodge in Paris.
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From 1804-06, as a result of his marriage to Napoleon’s sister and his bravery in Napoleon’s campaigns, he was bestowed with many noteworthy titles.
In May 1808, he led the French Army to victory in Madrid and on August 1, 1808, Napoleon made him ‘King of Naples’. He embraced his new role whole-heartedly; he had a lavish court and carried out many welfare reforms and even encouraged the unification of Italy for his personal gain.
Continuing on his journey within the ‘Freemason’ society, on October 27 1809, he became a ‘Grand Master’ and founded the ‘Grand Order of Naples’.
In 1812, he assisted Napoleon in his Russian Campaign, but his valiant efforts were largely unsuccessful as the Russians and their allies defeated Napoleon.
In 1813, Napoleon embarked on a German Campaign where he suffered heavy losses and a shameful defeat during the ‘Battle of Leipzig’. Murat managed to save his kingship by reaching an agreement with the Austrian Empire.
In 1814, he allied himself with Austria when Napoleon abdicated his position and went into exile. But France’s new king, Louis Louis XVIII, and the allied European powers wanted to remove him and return Naples to its rightful pre-Napoleonic rulers.
In March 1815, he declared war on Austria but was defeated in the ‘Battle of Tolentino’. He fled to Corsica and arrived at Pizzo port hoping to incite a rebellion in the town square. But he was promptly arrested, tried for treason and executed by a firing squad.
Awards & Achievements
In 1804, Napoleon awarded him the titles of ‘Marshal of France’ and ‘First Horseman of Europe’.
In 1805, Napoleon titled him ‘Prince of the Empire’.
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In 1806, he was appointed as the ‘Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves’.
On August 1, 1808 , he was crowned the ‘King of Naples’
His family name, Murat, is engraved on the famous French national monument ‘Arc de Triomphe’.
His statue is also seen on the Rue de Rivoli on the north side the Louvre in Paris.
Family & Personal Life
Joachim Murat married Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, Caroline, on January 20, 1800, at Mortefontaine and in Paris.
He had four children: sons, Achille Charles Louis and Napoléon-Lucien-Charles, and daughters Marie Letizia Josephine Annonciade and Louise Julie Caroline. His eldest son immigrated to the U.S. and the younger son lived in France, carrying on the princely title into future generations.
Joachim Murat was imprisoned in the ‘Castello di Pizzo’, Italy, and wrote many letters to his family before his death.
On October 13, 1815, he bravely faced death, refusing a blindfold and is said to have commanded his own execution. He asked the soldiers to fire straight at his heart and spare his face.
He is buried at the ‘Church of San Giorgio’ in Pizzo, Calabria, Italy.