Sunday 18 November 2012
Franconi the circus-rider
Murat was something of a snappy dresser and his taste for outlandish uniforms was probably only equalled by that of his chum Prince Poniatowski. Once when he turned up in a brand new outfit the Emperor told him to go away and put on his uniform as he looked liked “Franconi the circus-rider”. He wasn’t all that popular with the other marshals either and quarrelled in turn with Ney, Lannes and Davout. Lannes described him as “a scoundrel in a pantomime dress with plumes like a dancing dog” – so no love lost there then.
During the Hundred Days Murat was preoccupied with trying to save his throne from the Austrians (imagine if he had led the cavalry at Waterloo!) but was defeated, captured and then shot by firing squad in October 1815. His last words were reputedly “Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face. Fire!”