Following in the footsteps of Joachim Murat

Following the footsteps of Joachim Murat

Birthplace of a King, delve into history and encounter Joachim Murat, an iconic historical figure of Labastide-Murat.
The museum is currently closed. No reopening date is known.

The Murat Museum: A Place Steeped in History

Located in Labastide-Murat (Heart of the Causse), the Murat Museum is the original setting of the exceptional journey of a child from Lot who became a Marshal of the Empire and later the King of Naples.

The Murat Museum is one of the rare birthplaces of a Marshal of France that has remained unchanged for 200 years in a typical Quercy house. Joachim Murat’s parents ran an inn there, and the ground floor rooms have been preserved with their typical furniture. Murat’s role in the Napoleonic saga is depicted upstairs through numerous mementos and historical objects.

Officially recognized for its heritage value, the museum has been honored by the Ministry of Culture and Communication with the label ‘Maison des Illustres’ (House of the Illustrious), acknowledging its significance as a site of historical importance.

Joachim Murat’s Story (1767 – 1815)

Born on March 25, 1767, in Labastide Fortunière, later renamed Labastide-Murat in 1852 in honor of its illustrious son, Joachim Murat was the son of Pierre Murat and Jeanne Loubières. His parents ran a horse relay inn for travelers and pilgrims. His early experiences as a rider were honed in the bastide city. Since 1959, the former inn has transformed into the Murat Museum.

Initially, his mother aspired for him to receive a quality education and become a clergyman. He attended Saint-Michel College in Cahors (now Lycée Gambetta) and the Lazarists in Toulouse. However, in 1787, he enlisted in the army, revealing a preference for a military rather than religious vocation.

Subsequently, he embraced the ideals of the Revolution and represented the Department of Lot at the Festival of the Federation on July 14, 1790, in Paris. In 1792, the Republic was proclaimed, marking a pivotal moment in French history.

The First Encounter and Rise of Joachim Murat (1767 – 1815)

The initial meeting between Murat and Bonaparte took place in 1795 in Paris during one of the many revolutionary days. From this date onward, Murat became one of Bonaparte’s comrades-in-arms, accompanying him to Italy and Egypt. His actions were crucial in the success of Bonaparte’s coup d’État in 1799. In 1800, Murat married Caroline Bonaparte, one of the sisters of the First Consul. Napoleon established a new dynasty, and in 1804, he became Emperor of the French. Joachim and Caroline Murat became part of the imperial family.

Under the First Empire, Murat held various titles, including Prince of the Empire, Marshal, Grand Admiral of France, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves from 1806 to 1808, and King of Naples and the Two Sicilies from 1808 to 1815. Throughout Napoleon’s reign, Murat played a key role in maintaining the territorial gains of the French Revolution. He faced numerous European coalitions opposed to the Napoleonic Empire.

Leading the cavalry, Murat distinguished himself in significant military achievements at Austerlitz (1805), Jena (1806), Eylau (1807), and the Moskowa (1812). In 1806, Napoleon implemented the Continental System, prohibiting all trade with England. This decision led to the war in Spain and the Russian campaign, marking a tumultuous period in European history.

Joachim Murat: King of Naples in a Changing Europe (1808 – 1815)

In 1808, French troops, under Murat’s command, entered Spain. Quickly recognizing the likelihood of a Spanish uprising, Murat was cautious in his decisions but firm during the Madrid Revolt in May 1808.

Joachim and Caroline Murat became the King and Queen of Naples and the Two Sicilies in 1808. His governance was marked by profound reforms, including territorial development, the expansion of public education, social advancement facilitation, and financial recovery led by Murat’s compatriot and friend, Jean-Michel Agar, Count of Mosbourg.

Passionate patrons of the arts, Joachim and Caroline Murat brought artists to Naples and accelerated archaeological efforts in Pompeii and Herculaneum. When Murat was with Napoleon, Caroline served as regent, earning respect as a sovereign in her exercise of power.

In 1812-1813, the Russian Retreat provided the Allies with an opportunity to definitively end the Napoleonic Empire. During General Malet’s conspiracy, Napoleon headed for Paris, leaving Murat in command of the Grande Armée. Threatened by the British and Austrians, Murat left Russia for Naples in 1813. Eugene De Beauharnais, Napoleon’s son-in-law, assumed Murat’s military duties.

The King of Naples returned to fight alongside the Emperor at the battles of Dresden and Leipzig during the 1813 German campaign. The last meeting between Napoleon and Murat occurred in Erfurt in October 1813. They would not see each other again.

Murat’s final actions unfolded in Italy, caught between the strategic interests of England, Austria, and Napoleon. As King of Naples in the Napoleonic Empire, Murat attempted to maintain his sovereignty in a post-1789 Europe. In negotiations with the Allies, Murat sought to avoid irreversible choices regarding the territorial integrity of the Kingdom of Naples.

The campaign in France concluded with Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814 at Fontainebleau. The Emperor departed for the Island of Elba. Discreet contacts existed between the Island of Elba and Naples. In February-March 1815, the Emperor returned to France, marking the beginning of the Hundred Days.

The Tragic End of Joachim Murat (1815)

From that moment on, the fate of Murat was unfortunately and irrevocably sealed by his imminent death. A military commission was formed, condemning Murat to be executed. On October 13, 1815, facing the firing squad, with immense courage, Murat commanded the firing squad, exclaiming, “Soldiers, do your duty, aim for the heart but spare the face!”

Currently, Murat’s remains rest inside the Cathedral of Saint George in Pizzo, Italy. His friend Jean-Michel Agar, Count of Mosbourg, would write, “He knew how to conquer, he knew how to reign, he knew how to die.”

Biography compiled by Gérard Fénelon, from the Association of Friends of the Murat Museum – February 2021

Illustrations: Murat Museum © CCCLM or public domain