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"Through the eyes of..." The Death of Murat (2)

The North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal
, printed in Boston by Wells and Lilly, was founded in 1815 and was probably the best-known American journal of the 19th century until the founding of The Atlantic Monthly in 1857. In May, 1816, (Volume 3, Issue 7) The North American Review printed the following piece of correspondence about the execution of Murat.

[This passage is related to the entry in the Around Naples encyclopedia on Murat and another account of his death.]


Death of Murat

I have lately received, from a friend in Italy, the following relation of the landing of Murat in Calabria. An account of this event has appeared in the newspapers; but there are many particulars in the inclosed paper, that give a lively impression of the catastrophe which terminated the career of the ex-king of Naples. Murat, like Ney, furnishes an instance, that great military talents may exist, in connexion with the greatest want of discretion, character and consistency, in political affairs. The (details of this transaction will not diminish the reputation of the Calabrians, for being one of the most fanatical and ferocious people in Europe.           

[signed] C.

To the Editor.

Account of the landing and arrest of Joachim Mural with his suite, at Pizzo in Calabria.

On the 8th October, 1815, there appeared on this coast a coasting vessel and a row-boat, under French colours, about a gun-shot from the usual landing place for boats. They were no sooner seen on shore, than there disembarked about thirty persons, who immediately began shouting, “Long live King Joachim, long live King Murat.” The news of these shouts on the beach, having shortly reached the town, the people were astonished, and would not believe it.       

However, Murat quickly arrived at the Maria gate, near the entrance of a large square in the town, with his followers. Murat himself then cried out, “Long live King Joachim, long live King Mural,” and all his suite joined him in those exclamations. He then advanced to a place where a guard of Legionaries (Militia) was mounted, and on his approach addressed them thus, “My brave Legionaries;" while his suite recommenced their shouts of Long live King Joachim, but not one of the town repeated the same. They remained surprised and frightened, not knowing what to make of this their unexpected appearance.

Murat not finding himself seconded, turned to Gen. Franceschi and said, “There are none but Brigands here, let us proceed to Monteleone,” and speaking to the Legionaries said, “Follow me,” but they did not obey him. He immediately pushed on for Monteleone. In the meanwhile the people terrified, began to retire to their houses, and shut up their shops. But about a quarter of an hour after, they resolved to follow and arrest him, and shortly coming up with him and his suite, began and kept up a continual fire of musketry. Murat and suite then finding they could not get to Monteleone, determined to return to the beach where they had disembarked, but in such confusion and consternation, they nearly broke their necks in their retreat.

They were closely followed by the people, constantly firing upon them. Murat was the first to reach the place of his landing, but for his misfortune, he neither found the vessel or the boat, they having hauled off on hearing the first firing. He however found a small boat, got in, and endeavoured to put off amidst the shots which were poured on him, but did not succeed. Seeing, at length, one of his Captains fall dead, he lost courage, and several of the populace having got possession of the boat, they dragged him on shore, abusing him as one of the most infamous malefactors.

In this manner they arrested him and his suite, who were almost all wounded, either from the muskets or by the sabre. Murat was unhurt; not that he did not defend himself with great bravery, pistol in hand. It would have excited compassion in any feeling person, to see him and his companions covered with blood, suffering from the abuse and cruelty of the enraged populace. They maltreated Murat particularly, by spitting, and giving him blows in the face, slaps on the cheeks, stripping off his epaulettes and cross, tearing his uniform, striking him in the face with his hat, from which they took fifteen diamonds of great value. One fellow had the impudence to slap him with one of his own shoes another actually tore away his mustaches, and wrapt them in some paper as a trophy. All the others were treated nearly in the same manner, except one officer who was not wounded. The pen cannot express the treatment they met with on their way to the prison. The women crying out against Murat, “ Vengeance, kill him, murder him.”

To relate the whole would fill a volume. At length they were brought to the gaol, wounded and exhausted. The people would have them confined in a small and offensive room, but Murat made some resistance and refused to go in; at last he was obliged to yield to force, and was, with the others, shut up in a dungeon, where they confine the worst of delinquents and banditti, very much bruised, and almost naked. Any one present must have pitied them, particularly Murat.

The agent of the Duke del Infantado (a Spanish nobleman) sent them shirts, coats and breeches, with every thing necessary to clothe themselves, because their clothes had been torn from their backs, and rent to pieces by the fury of the populace. Murat finding himself thus secured, was very dispirited, and asked if there was either an Austrian or English Vice-Consul here? A person came immediately to my house, saying Murat wanted me, arid having hesitated to go, he sent a second time. In fine, I went, and presenting myself at the bar of the cell, Murat said to me, “You are the English Vice-Consul,” I answered yes, and added, “You, Signor, are Gen. Murat ?“

He replied, saying, “Signor Consul, do you know me ?" I answered no. To this, Murat spoke to me. in the following words: “I am King Joachim, and have claims on the kingdom of Naples.” He likewise said, “I have a passport from the Allied Powers, to go to Trieste to join my family.” He desired the officer to let me see it, but I did not, as the officer refused. He then told me his passport was sent from Paris, signed by Prince Metternich and Lord Stuart, the English minister at Paris, under the name of the Count de Laparal. He added, that he should now put himself under my protection, with these words: “If I had had a dagger when I was arrested, I would have destroyed myself.”

I asked the object of his landing here. He answered, that it was only to procure a larger vessel to proceed to Trieste. I then inquired from whence he came, he replied, from Corsica, but lastly from Ajaccio, and that he left that place on the 28th September. I said, “How could you be in Corsica, when there are French troops there?" He answered, it is true, but the King of France had never taken part against me, nor had ever issued orders to arrest my person. Therefore, assist me, as I am not dead yet."

He then exclaimed, “I, who have subjugated Europe, to be now shut up in this dungeon !“
I answered, “You have done every thing to ruin yourself.”
“How ?“
"Because you ran about crying, long live King Joachim, Long live Murat."
He replied, “it was not me, but some of my people.” 
One of them, who was near the bar, spoke the following words to his face: “Was it not thou who shouted long live King Joachim, and now thou deniest it ?“

He then desired me to procure him a little water, which was immediately brought him, when a peasant, who was on guard, cried out, “Will you likewise have, like the Holy God, a little poison and vinegar ?“ These circumstances seem almost incredible, but they are nevertheless true.

They say Rona Romana remained on board the vessel. Murat’s company was comprised of two Generals, two Commissaries of War, and several officers, with nineteen or twenty soldiers. There were found on them several proclamations, seducing the people, and other papers which confirmed that his intention in coming here was to promote a revolution; and if Murat had reached Monteleone at this moment, half the population of the two provinces would have gone over to him. Gen. Nunziante is since arrived here, and has provided Murat and his associates with every thing necessary. Murat he also treats well. This is a succinct and true account of what has happened, and on which you may depend, having been myself an occular witness to the whole.


PIZZO, OCTOBER 15, 1815.

The following is a brief account of the unfortunate end of Joachim Murat.

On Thursday last (the 12th instant) arrived an Estafette from Naples, and another at 9 o’clock, directed to Marshal Nunziante, with orders to assemble a Military Commission to try Murat. They immediately began to call the witnesses to depose what Murat had said on his arrival in this place. In the mean time the commission, was formed, consisting of Marshal Nunziante, a Lieutenant-Colonel and Captain, with the Procurator General of Monteleone. The suite of Murat was then placed in close confinement, and he was left in a room with a guard upon him. An hour before the reading of the sentence; he knew the commission was sitting, and through me, desired to speak with General Nunziante, but he was informed he was not then present. Murat impatient, wrote a note to the said General, but it was not received, it being intimated to him, that no letter could be admitted.

At length the process finished, not more than twelve hours having elapsed, as the Estafettes arrived in the evening of the 12th, and it was terminated at 9 o’clock in the morning of the 13th. By the decision of the Procurator General, he was condemned to die, which sentence was agreed to by the votes of the whole commission. It was then read to him by one of those who composed the said commission, on which he exclaimed, “How does Ferdinand IVth wish my death? What have I done? It displeases me much to find the violence with which the Court of Naples has treated this affair.”

A confessor then entered the apartment, and exhorted him to confess; but Murat answered him, “My sins are so heavy, that none but God himself can pardon them.” At least, said the confessor, make some confession; he seemed much affected—The confessor again pressed it, in order to do away what might be said. He then took a pen, and wrote in the last moments of his life, “I have lived a Christian, and die a true Christian.” He desired a pair of scissors, to cut off some hair to be sent to his wife, but it was not permitted.

The time for putting the sentence into execution being elapsed, (orders from Naples not to exceed a quarter of an hour after it was passed) he was told to move towards the place destined for his execution, in the same prison, and coming out of the room, a Neapolitan Officer gave him a handkerchief to blind himself, but he refused it.

Arrived at the destined spot, with an intrepid countenance, turning immediately his face to the soldiers, and placing his hand upon his breast, he gave the word “Fire.” They fired twelve shots at his breast, which killed him instantaneously, and three in the head after he fell. His body was placed in a rough wooden box and carried to the Church, without a bier or any religious ceremony, on the shoulders of six soldiers, accompanied by fifteen or twenty others, and buried in a pit where they throw the most despicable felons. The trial of this unfortunate man has been similar to that of the most infamous brigands. This is a correct account of the miserable end of Joachim Murat. The populace, not sufficiently satiated, dug up Murat’s body, and attempted to burn it; upon the interference of a respectable magistrate, they shot him, and consumed their bodies together. Ferdinand has pardoned all Murat’s suite.—This act does him honour.

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