Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The Last day of Murat

The Calabrians were to try him on the charge of exciting to civil war 
*this model is on offer on Ebay 7 euros including post, its 54mm on wooden plinth. I can take that off if you want(
Casa di Gioacchino Murat

and appearing in arms against the King of the Two Sicilies. The court was composed in part of officers who owed him (below Via Murat in Bari.Many cities have a Via Murat in Italy) their promotion. Murat refused to plead before them
or to make any defence. On one accusation only, which was not brought against him, but which he thought was in the minds of the Bourbons who now sought his death, he spoke strongly. ' I had nothing to do/ he protested, ' with the tragedy of the Duke d'Enghien, which King Ferdinand wishes to avenge on me. I call God, before whom I am about to appear, to witness that I speak the truth.' We may believe that he spoke in good faith. There were two sittings, at ten in the morning and at four in the afternoon, when the evidence of various witnesses was taken. At the second sitting the court unanimously found the prisoner guilty, and sentenced him to be shot in the courtyard of the castle within an hour. When he heard the sentence, which was read to him in the room used as his prison, he asked to be allowed to write a last letter to his family. This was what he wrote : ' MY DEAR CAROLINE, My last hour is come. In a few minutes I shall have ceased to live ; in a few minutes you will no longer have a husband. Never forget me; my life has not been stained with any injustice. Adieu my Achille, adieu my Letitia, adieu my Lucien, adieu my Louise j show the world that you are worthy of me. I leave you without a kingdom and without resources, in the midst of my many enemies ; show yourselves superior to misfortune, think of what you are and what you have been, and God will bless you. Do not speak ill of my memory. I declare that my greatest sorrow in the last moments of my life is to die far from my children.' He enclosed a lock of his hair in the letter and handed it to one of the Neapolitan officers. While he had been writing it the cure of Pizzo, Canon Masdea, a venerable man of seventy years, had entered the room. Murat rose and greeted the priest, who asked him if he remembered meeting him and giving him an alms for the poor and money for the repairs of his church when he visited Pizzo two years before ? Murat replied that he remembered the incident. ' Sire,' said Canon Masdea, ' I have come to ask you for a far more important favour.' Murat asked what could he do in his actual position, and the priest then said he wished him to confess. Murat refused, but in a way that showed Masdea he was thinking that what was asked for was an admission that he had been justly sentenced to death. ' Sire,' said the priest, ' I am not speaking of a judicial confession, but of a sacramental confession to reconcile you with God, before whom you are going to appear at the end of the next quarter of an hour.' ' Ah, yes. I am ready, but how can it be done in so short a time ? ' asked the prisoner. At this moment the officer who was to command the firing-party intervened, and said there was no time to spare. Five minutes of the quarter were gone already. Masdea turned to him and said that the quarter of an hour must not even begin till he had given his penitent absolution, that no power on earth would prevent him from doing his duty, and that if he were interfered with he would appeal to God against such treatment. The officer was evidently impressed and retired. Turning to Murat Masdea continued, ' I am here for your sake. Do not fear anything.' The prisoner offered him a chair and sat down beside him, but he had hardly begun his confession when he fell on his knees. It is unlikely that he had observed any religious practices for years. The armies of the Empire had neither chaplains nor church parades. But face to face with death he had returned to long-neglected observances, and, in the light of stern reality before him, felt the reality of his early beliefs. It is easy to cast doubt on a death-bed repentance. But a man placed as Murat was had no motive for playing a part. Those who share the faith of the good priest of Pizzo will see in the soldier king's act of penitence a grace given, museo di pizzo - PIZZO CALABRO - inserita il 21-Mar-08 perhaps, in reward for such charitable acts as that of which Masdea had reminded him. Even those who hold other forms of Christian belief may recognize in Murat's humble acknowledgment of his misdeeds an act at least as honour- able to him as the intrepidity with which he met his doom.

As he rose from his knees after receiving absolution, 
resignation was added to his habitual courage. ' Now let 
us go,' he said, ' and God's will be done ! ' Masdea asked 
him to state in writing that he meant to die as a Christian. 
Murat hesitated. A vague suspicion of some use that 
might be made of the paper by his political enemies flashed 
across his mind. ' Do you mean to dishonour me after my 
death ? ' Masdea replied that on the contrary he wished 
to have evidence to confound those who would misrepresent 
him. Murat took up the pen with which he had written 
his last letter, and wrote on a piece of paper, ' Je meurs en 
bon chretien' signed it, and handed it to the priest saying, 
for the second time, ' Let us go, and God's will be done ! ' 

Outside in the narrow courtyard of the castle the firing- 
party was mustering, twelve men, commanded by a sergeant. 
Presently the officer who was to carry out the execution 
entered and bade Murat follow him. He said farewell to 
Masdea and walked out with a firm step. 

He faced the firing-party, refusing either to have his eyes 
bandaged or to turn his back to them. ' Soldiers/ he said, 
' do your duty. Fire at the heart, but spare the face.' 
He stood unflinching and smiling while the musket-barrels 
were levelled, and as the volley rang out he fell on his face 
without even a groan. Six bullets had struck him in the 
chest, and one in the right cheek. The same evening his 
body was placed in a plain coffin and buried in the common 
grave of the churchyard of Pizzo. 1 camere agriturismo a tropea

1 A horrible story was circulated some years later to the effect that 
Murat's head was cut off and sent to Naples that Ferdinand and his 
court might gloat over the destruction of their enemy. M. de Sassenay 
(Les Dernier s Mois du Rot Murat) examines all the evidence and rejects 
it as a fiction. He points out that all contemporary writers, even those 
most hostile to the Bourbons, say nothing of it. It is a malicious inven- 
tion of a later time. 

So ended a career that is one of the romances of history. 
In the noblest sense of the word Murat was no hero. But 
he had the courage both of action and of endurance in a high 
degree. His last act is enough to prove this, even without 
the record of his exploits on fifty battlefields. His reckless 
daring, his faculty of inspiring it in others, his rapid grasp 
of the possibilities of the moment amid the danger and 
confusion of the fight, and his swift decision and unhesitating 
action, made him a great cavalry leader. But he was not 
a great general in the sense of being fitted to plan and 
conduct the co-ordinated movements of armies in a cam- 
paign, and even as a cavalry leader this lack of strategic 
insight led him into errors. 

As King of Naples he was a popular ruler, and the people 
he governed were the better for his rule. As a man his 
faults lie on the surface. His character was marred by 
almost puerile vanity ; he was led into weak following of 
the easier of two courses by his self-seeking ambition ; 
and he again and again showed a want of balanced judgment 
and a liability to be dominated by the impulse of the 
moment. The best side of his character was the kindly 
part of his nature. In days when men had been steeled 
against pity by war and revolution there was no cruelty in 

Strange as it may seem, this thorough soldier, whose 
orders on the battlefield often meant swift death to hundreds 
and prolonged suffering to hundreds more, shrank with 
horror from the idea of killing a fellow man. Agar tells 
how more than once he said to him at Naples, ' What gives 
me the most heartfelt satisfaction when I think of my 
military career is, that I have never seen a man fall killed 
by my hand. Doubtless it is possible that hi firing a pistol- 
shot at enemies who attacked me, or whom I was pursuing, 
I may have wounded some one, even mortally ; but if so 
I knew nothing of it. If a man had ever fallen dead before 
me by my act, the picture of it would always be before me, 
and would pursue me to the grave.' This was why, as he 
led his most famous charges, the diamond-hilted sabre 

remained in its scabbard.

No comments:

Post a Comment