Joachim Murat was like many of those who rose into high ranks of the Empire, from humble origins. He was to become dashing cavalry commander, Marshall of France and King of Naples, but also much more.
Joachim Murat was not only known of his kingdom of Naples and Sicily (freed when Joseph took crown of Spain with disastrous consequences, development which Murat played significant part in), but he was also King of Berg and Cleves until 1808, small kingdom in what now lies in German territory.
Starting as ordinary cavalry officer, albeit very brave in combat, Murat was struck by fortune and his career took a rapid path of development and splendour when he became member of Napoleons extended family, by marrying his sister Caroline Bonaparte. Being part of Napoleonic dynasty, his loyalty to the Emperor was absolute – until he gained crown of Naples, and disaster of Russian campaign. Seeing that the Emperor was not infallible, he de facto deserted his post in later stage during Russian campaign, to secure his own affairs and family future in Naples.
His loyalty to Napoleon wavered further after bitter arguments to a point of secret court intrigue and negotiations with England through Austria. When English finally would have agreed his terms concerning kingdom of Naples, Murat had change of heart and once more stood by the Emperor in the field that became the Battle of Nations. This ws short-lived spur of loyalty though and rather weird double play ensued, where Murat kept changing alliances – and alienating both friends and enemies in the progress.
Interestingly, while book is very fast paced, almost down to becoming a list of events instead of narrative, ample light is shed to the character of Murat, and the decaying development of the relations during long years of war. Throughout the book it is brought forward how Murat reacted to all things with temper and emotional outbursts. Letters exchanged between the Emperor and Murat show how his mental state shifted from unearthly devotion, down to childlike arguments and outright deception.
Notable exception was the field of battle, his familiar domain where he could show personal courage and charge in front of his cavalry any enemy that dared to oppose him. Murat’s ambitions over Naples over Bourbon family turned dramatically sour, and forced him in exile.
He was captured in Naples after his yet another attempt to restore his kingdom and condemned for treason. Joachim Murat met his end on a front of firing squad, but did not waver even then.
Overall, book is very interesting read even if it feels at times more like chronology that attempts to sum up events in less pages than they deserve.