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main index    © Jeff Matthews  entry April 2008          

                 Everything is related to Naples                  
Number 4 in this series. Link to all items here.


Shape-Shifters, Boston Legal & the “other” Queen Caroline


This one just fell on me from deep space—Deep Space Nine, really. I was watching a rerun of that TV program the other day, and as the credits ran I was reminded of something that had occurred to me on other occasions. I wondered how many mangled pronunciations of his beautiful name the actor René Auberjonois has had to endure in his life, especially in his home town of New York City. (Yeah...uh... Mistuh ...uh... Uh-BIRD-yer-nose, ya wanna step oudda da cah, please?) Out of curiosity, I researched him a bit. He is an esteemed and accomplished stage and film actor. My first memory of him in a film was in the role of Lt. Father John Mulcahy in the 1970 Robert Altman film, M*A*S*H; TV fans know him also as Odo, the shape-shifter or “changeling” on Deep Space Nine (which ran from 1993-99) and as attorney Paul Lewiston in the currently popular series, Boston Legal. AND (!) for our purposes, it is interesting that his full name is René Murat Auberjonois; he is named for—and is a direct descendant, on his mother’s side, of—Joachim (in Italian, Gioacchino) Murat (the king of Naples in the very early 1800s) and the “other” Queen Caroline, Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister.

In Neapolitan history, when you say “Queen Caroline,” you generally mean Maria Carolina of Austria, the daughter of empress Maria Theresa; that Caroline married onto the throne of the Kingdom of Naples by marrying King Ferdinand, the oafish King Nasone, (a word that was a term of endearment as well as an augmentative of “nose”; thus, he was known as “King Shnozz”).

No, this time we mean Napoleon’s sister: Maria Annunziata Carolina Murat (née Bonaparte) (1782-1839). She was simply “Queen Caroline” of Naples during her short reign and was quite well-liked, as a matter of fact, as was her husband.

Like the rest of her siblings, she was born on the island of Corsica. In 1793, during the French Revolution, the family moved to France, where their fate became inextricably woven into that of their ambitious brother, the future emperor. In Paris, Caroline fell in love with Joachim Murat, one of her brother's generals; they were married in 1800. In 1808 when Murat was promoted to King of Naples (yes, he worked his way up from son of an inn-keeper!) by his brother-in-law, Caroline became queen consort.

             Gioacchino & Caroline

Interestingly, with the Napoleonic wars raging in northern Europe, Naples wasn’t a bad place at all to live in the years 1805-15. None of the horrors that had occurred in connection with the earlier Neapolitan Republic took place. This time, Napoleon just sent in the French army, at which point King Ferdinand IV with his own Caroline and the entire Bourbon court, army, and silverware moved to Sicily, no resistance and no questions asked. The new king in 1806 was Napoleon’s brother, Joseph, replaced by Murat two years later. That period of French rule in Naples is still benignly called “The Decade” by Neapolitan historians. The Napoleonic Code was instituted—a vast improvement over the earlier Divine Right of Shnozz; the arts and sciences were cultivated; and, at least in the south, it was a time of peace. Murat, himself—although a silly peacock when it came to designing his own uniforms—was as dashing a king as he had been a cavalry officer. And his wife was beautiful. They had four children together—two boys and two girls.

They had little more than six good years as king and queen in Naples, and then the tide turned, meaning that Napoleon was through—and with him, all of his relatives. After the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815, Murat tried to retake his old kingdom by a small-scale invasion on the Calabrian coast; he failed and was executed. His wife, Caroline, fled to Trieste, where she wrote some memoirs, styling herself as the “Countess of Lipona”—an obvious anagram of “Napoli.” (Better than “Anilop,” I suppose. On the other hand, “Alpion” isn’t bad, and it even recalls “perfidious Albion"! In any event, at that stage of her life she had a lot of time to play word games.)

Stories and rumors about Caroline are endless, including one that says she became Metternich’s lover (Metternich had brokered the Congress of Vienna in 1815, which had restored the Crowned Heads of Europe) in order to achieve a royal future for her son, Achille. (If it’s true, it didn’t work, Achille died in 1847 in Florida! The future Napoleon III, the later and only emperor of The Second French Empire, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte [1808-73], was the son of one of Caroline’s other brothers, Louis.) Whatever the rumors, even Caroline’s political enemies respected her. Tallyrand said that she had “…Cromwell’s head on the shoulders of a pretty woman.” (That doesn't mean that Caroline actually looked like Cromwell; it's a comment on her abilities.) Caroline died in Florence, Italy, in 1839.

 
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