Joachim Napoleon

@joachimnapoleon / joachimnapoleon.tumblr.com

Sarah//history nerd//mainly focused on the Napoleonic era now, but in general I love ancient/medieval/early-modern history. A bit obsessed with Murat.https://projectmurat.wordpress.com

“Her own particular handiwork”

Albert Espitalier's book Napoleon and King Murat provides an in-depth, well-researched and documented look at the events between Murat's return to Naples from the Russian campaign, and Murat's final defeat, leaving off right before Napoleon is about to face his own at Waterloo. The bulk of the book is devoted to the negotiations and vacillations of Murat in 1813, prior to his defection from Napoleon. The book is heavily biased against Murat and I don't necessarily agree with all of Espitalier's projections and assumptions. But, his take on Caroline's influence on the negotiations (presented below), is pretty well fleshed out, and even Caroline's own daughter Louise says her mother was more firm in her commitment to this affair than her father was (see here).

The politics of this whole mess are complex, so here's a brief who's-who of some of the names below that aren't as well-known:

Pérignon--Marshal of France Schinina--secretary to Neapolitan embassy in Vienna Mier--Austrian ambassador to Naples Durant--French ambassador to Naples Neipperg--Austrian general & diplomat sent to Naples by Metternich at the end of December 1813 to conclude negotiations... and future lover of Napoleon’s second wife, Marie-Louise Aberdeen--English ambassador to Austria Graham--secretary to Lord William Bentinck, who conducted negotiations with Murat for the English Gallo--Neapolitan foreign minister

It was, as we have seen, the Queen who, led to a sudden change of front by Schinina's report of the disasters that had taken place in the north [my note: this refers to the 1813 campaign], and urged on by Mier to enter into an alliance with Austria, resolved then and there upon a course of action which Leipzig and the Emperor's misfortunes only served to confirm. Anxious at all costs to preserve her husband's crown, Caroline from the very moment of his return urged her husband, whose own ideas made him a ready listener to her counsels, to cast in his lot with Austria. The testimony of Mier and Durant leaves no room for doubt regarding the part played by the Queen. On Neipperg's arrival she toiled and plotted with redoubled vigour. Even at that date we find Lord Aberdeen, who had been informed of the dispatch of an Austrian plenipotentiary to Naples, writing to Castlereagh telling him that Murat would probably put forward some high and mighty claims, but that the Queen, who managed everything, had written to Metternich saying that in the end he would do all that was required of him. During the negotiations that took place between the 1st and the 8th January, Caroline's attitude could not have been more characteristic. While she extended to Neipperg the most gracious of welcomes and did everything in her power to please him, she was present at all her husband's ministerial councils. Informing Durant that the treaty was on the point of being signed, Gallo said: "The King makes no doubt that France will recover herself and that she will always be a power to reckon with, but he feels that before she is able to re-establish her influence over the destinies of Italy and the throne Naples might be lost to him and to his children. The Queen herself is entirely of the same opinion." Her attitude towards Pérignon was no less significant. On the 6th January, when the Marshal was dining at the Palace, the Queen is reported to have said to him somewhat lightly that no doubt he was dining there for the last time. She was also present on the 14th when Pérignon called upon the King to explain his conduct. The Marshal addressed himself in terms of hot reproach to the King, who scarcely replied at all. Then, turning to the Queen, he cried: "And you, Madame, you, the Emperor's sister, if this fatal treaty is to be signed it will doubtless be against your wishes, and you will of course depart with the French army. Surely Napoleon's own sister will not remain here among his enemies. She will protest by her departure against a treaty which she strove to prevent." "Monsier le Maréchal," she replied, with a smile a little curtsy in her husband's direction, "you ought to know that a woman's duty is to obey her lord." And by continuing in this jesting tone she gave him to understand that the conversation had endured long enough. Durant remarks in the most positive fashion on the part played by the Queen in bringing the treaty to pass. "The Queen," he wrote on the 9th January, "is even more decided in the matter of the Austrian alliance than the King himself. She looks on it as her own particular handiwork." Nor is the testimony of the negotiators, who were eye-witnesses of her activities, any less convincing. Graham considered that it was she par excellence who directed the policy of Naples. As for Neipperg, he attached great importance to her intervention. "Her Majesty the Queen, convinced of the justice of our demands, gave them her warm support. The welfare of her kingdom and her subjects was her sole concern." Lastly, Mier himself judged her as follows: "The Queen is perfect. She has manifested on this occasion a greater strength of character than any one deemed she possessed."
Thus all who were witnesses of or actors in the treachery of the Court of Naples were of one unanimous opinion. The Frenchmen, Durant and Pérignon; the Austrians, Metternich, Mier, and Neipperg; the English, Graham and Aberdeen; all point with one accord to Caroline as the originator.

Source: Albert Espitalier, Napoleon and King Murat, 1998 edition, pages 367-369.