An Ausonian Tale: the Kingdom of Naples in the XIX century

the Kingdom of Naples in the XIX century


Sauvez ma face!”


Gioacchino Murat, King of Naples

Reggia di Portici, near Naples, 2 March 1815 3.43 am
“My lord…the news that you were expecting…”
“Sire” whispered the private secretary of Joachim Murat, King of Naples, from behind the heavy oak door of the royal bedroom. “Sire… - my lord, you asked to be awoken if some news came… Sire…” The voice was steadily becoming louder now, and followed by knocking from the despairing secretary.
After a couple of minutes a voice boomed from inside: “Who the hell dares to disturb my sleep!? – Am I a servant, to be roused in the middle of the night?” “But sire, you said…” came the weak answer of the secretary, who was opening the door. Seeing him Joachim calmed down: “Oh, it’s you Gennaro[ii], come inside, pray tell me what happened - I hope it’s something of the utmost importance.”
“Sire, the Eagle has landed, the Emperor is back to France!”
“What?... And you tell it like this? We don’t have a moment to lose!” The King almost jumped away from the bed, and such was his hurry and excitement, that he didn’t notice that his foot had become tangled up in some piece of clothing, that had been discarded on the floor by a “close acquaintance of him”[iii] some hours before.
Murat staggered - “Sire, be caref…”, the advice of the good Gennaro came too late to be useful - the king, still not completely awake, flailed about for an instant, before crashing ruinously upon a richly engraved night table[iv].
Gennaro rushed to help his King, and saw that his face was already covered in blood.
Sauvez ma face[v]”,was all that the great man could whisper, before his eyes rolled back and he lost conscience.


i- This was the usual residence of Murat, when he was King of Naples (
ii- Invented character, Gennaro is a very common name in Naples
iii- A ballerina from the San Carlo Theatre
iv- This is the POD, quite obviously. See the bedchamber of Joachim here: http://cir.campania.beniculturali.i...ntesco/la-camera-da-letto-di-gioacchino-murat
v- In OTL this were his last words before being executed after being captured by the Bourbons: “Sauvez ma face, visez mon cœur, feu!” (spare my face, aim to the heart, Fire!) – he was vain but brave to the very end…
Last edited:
[FONT=&quot]PART I La Ginestra[/FONT]

Carolina Murat-Bonaparte, Queen of Naples,
in traditional neapolitan costume.

Qui su l'arida schiena
Del formidabil monte
Sterminator Vesevo,
La qual null'altro allegra arbor nè fiore,
Tuoi cespi solitari intorno spargi,
Odorata ginestra,
Contenta dei deserti.

E la possanza
Qui con giusta misura
Anco estimar potrà dell'uman seme,
Cui la dura nutrice, ov'ei men teme,
Con lieve moto in un momento annulla
In parte, e può con moti
Poco men lievi ancor subitamente
Annichilare in tutto.
Dipinte in queste rive
Son dell'umana gente
Le magnifiche sorti e progressive.
E tu, lenta ginestra,
Che di selve odorate
Queste campagne dispogliate adorni,
Anche tu presto alla crudel possanza
Soccomberai del sotterraneo foco,
Che ritornando al loco
Già noto, stenderà l'avaro lembo
Su tue molli foreste. E piegherai
Sotto il fascio mortal non renitente
Il tuo capo innocente:
Ma non piegato insino allora indarno
Codardamente supplicando innanzi
Al futuro oppressor; ma non eretto
Con forsennato orgoglio inver le stelle,
Nè sul deserto, dove
E la sede e i natali
Non per voler ma per fortuna avesti;
Ma più saggia, ma tanto
Meno inferma dell'uom, quanto le frali
Tue stirpi non credesti
O dal fato o da te fatte immortali.

Giacomo Leopardi, canto XXXIV, 1836 [1]


Unfortunately the face of the king could not be saved, the force of his fall had caused the wood of the night table to break, and a splinter had cut open the left side of his once handsome face almost from chin to temple, it was almost a miracle that the eye had been spared.
Murat drifted between wake and unconsciousness for the next four days, and would need almost a month to recuperate his full physical health.
The blow had been very strong indeed, and had caused a concussion, but after the first days of apprehension, it became clear that no permanent damage had been wrought to the brain, and slowly Joachim could manage to return to his duties as king.

It is not an easy task for the historian to exactly reconstructs the events of those first weeks of March 1815, nor is it clear what were those plans that Joachim was so anxious to set in movement as soon as he knew about the return of Napoleon to France.

The most accredited hypothesis, supported by the military buildup[ii] of the last months before the accident and by the sudden cooling of the relations with Austria, is that Murat had in mind a surprise strike at the Austrian possessions in northern Italy, hoping to conquer them using Napoleon as a distraction for the Great Powers. Seeing as the return of Napoleon lasted about one hundred days and the bloody way in which his adventure ended on the fields of Flanders[iii] there are few doubts that this attempt would have spelled disaster for King Joachim and his reign.

The survival of the dynasty and the independence of the reign was thus probably saved by the prompt and shrewd actions of the queen.
Carolina Murat-Bonaparte didn’t let herself lose the calm, when, on the morning of the 3 March she was informed [iv] of the accident and the incapacitation of her husband. She immediately took the helm of the Kingdom of Naples, and acted in order to avoid the catastrophe that she could see looming on her State and family.

Acting in close cooperation with the war minister, Lt. Gen. Francesco Cetteo Macdonald [v], she reopened diplomatic channels of communication with Austria, trying the powerful neighbor to confirm the alliance of January 1814 and trying to pressure Klemens von Metternich[vi] to have the Murat family recognized as the legitimated ruler of Naples. As a goodwill gesture, Macdonald ordered the immediate withdrawal of Neapolitan forces from the Marche. Carolina was also fast to declare that Naples was ready to renounce any claims on the Papal States and on Sicily.

All this concessions were, however, not enough to be admitted to the Vienna Congress. Instead there went the representative of the Bourbon King in Sicily, supported by the United Kingdom, and legitimate ruler of Naples too.
Metternich however could only bring himself to give a plead of “taking into account the factual situation, when discussing the question of sovereignty in southern Italy”.
Those words didn’t bode well for the future of the realm, but they were also the best that could be had, given the situation.

In the first days of April, while armies all over Europe where mobilizing for the final and decisive struggle between Bonaparte and the Legitimist Powers in Naples the situation was tense. Joachim was now well, apart from his partial disfigurement, and the court expected a crisis with the queen and Macdonald, who had apparently foiled all his plans.
The crisis however wouldn’t materialize, it appeared clear that the trauma had left the king a changed man. He appeared to be more introverted and reflexive than before and lost no time to uphold all the decisions taken by the Carolina, praising her in public as a woman worthy of one of the great roman matronas described by Livy.

He went even further, and on April the 13 declared war to Napoleon. A chiefly symbolic declaration, it was meant to show his definitive detachment from Napoleon and his acceptance of the new order.
Joachim proposed to lead himself his army against France, but this was refused out of hand by the allies, who could maybe find a use for the 35.000 men that Murat promised, but surely didn’t want them to pass through their poorly defended rear areas while Napoleon was still roaming free and undefeated.
At his continued insistence they consented to let 4000 men of the Guardia Reale (3000 light infantry and 1000 heavy cavalry) under general Pignatelli-Strongoli join the Austrian army[vii].

With this contribution the reputation of Naples as an anti-Napoleon state was reinforced and thus the final act of the Congress of Vienna, notwithstanding the protests of the Bourbons of Sicily, didn’t include any explicit provision on the restoration of Ferdinand IV on the throne of Naples, implicitly recognizing Murat as a legitimate ruler and leaving the final definition of Italian questions to a future convention that would draw the borders “on the basis of the principles of legitimation and equity”.
This could have been a more than satisfactory solution for King Joachim, at least the betrayal of his benefactor had ensured the survival of his reign, a last bastion of the revolution in a world where the reaction seemed to have won a decisive and final victory.
However the Congress was also occasion for a secret agreement between Austria, United kingdom and Sicily, that was aimed at subverting and destroying that last remnant…

i- A masterpiece of Italian romantical poetry, this very long poem, of which I inserted an excerpt talks about the Ginestra, a flower that grows on the slopes of the Vesuvius, using it as a symbol for the situation of Man in front of nature and eternity and to satirize the positivist approach that saw progress as something inevitable in history. Here I use it as a metaphor of the flectar non frangar attitude that the kingdom of Naples will have to keep if it is to survive.
For a complete English translation see: (but be advised it’s very long, I used the first and last lines).

ii- He had been in the process of raising another division (the IV) of about 9000 infantry.
iii- Maybe not Waterloo, as there may be already some butterflies, but something really similar.
iv- As she was at the time living in a private palace of hers in Naples.
v- Her lover. [and in otl future morganatic husband]
vi- A former lover of hers. [otl]
vii-They would be stationed on the Rhine frontier and never see real combat.
Last edited:
a great start
hope you keep going until the end

Thank you for your kind comment! I have a rough outline for the risorgimento periodo, until the seventies of the xix century. However fleshing it out, researching and writing it down will need time, and I have also to study for the university, so probably I won't be able to update daily, but I hope that I will steadily keep going on.

I hope my English wasn't too awful as I am a native Italian speaker, and I am now living in Germany, so I might mix up a bit the languages, so please correct me if I make too big mistakes!

July 1815, somewhere off the Ionian coast of calabria

“By the deep sixteen - and a half fifteen”
The night was at his darkest moment, the outline of the rocky coast barely distinguishable from the almost starless sky and the wine dark sea.
“By the mark thirteen – and a half twelve” “Boy, we are indeed nearing the shallows, I must be more alert than ever, wouldn’t want to get the sloop beached on my watch, the Captain would give me a hell of a keelhauling” thought Midshipman Herville, stirring from his rigid position and pacing the quarterdeck, trying to dispel his sleepiness.
“By the deep twelve - and a quarter less eleven”
the droning of the leadsman was almost hypnotic - “By the mark ten”
“Mr. Herville, sir, we reached the shallows” “Very well mr. Gabble, drop anchor and fetch the captain”
“Aye, Aye sir”. Herville could relax slightly, for he had done his part, and soon could defer to the authority of the Captain. Meanwhile on the deck of HMS Hyacinth an orderly chaos was unfolding, and in a couple of minute the 18-gun Ship-Sloop wallowed at anchor exactly where it was expected to be.

The bell rang the sixth bell of the middle watch [ii] and five minutes after the voice of the lookout rang clear: “Light ashore! It reapeats… it’s a signal!” A series of one, five and finally three flashes of light came from somewhere on the shore. “Answer the signal” was the order of John Appelby, Master and Commander, captain of HMS Hyacinth.

Not half an hour had passed, when three small coastal fishing boats, after being hailed, and having given the correct password, had come to the lee of the Sloop. The mission was going perfectly according to the plan, and there was no sign of detection from the damned Jacobins, not that they would have dared challenging a Ship of His Majesty while she was resupplying from local fishers…
And indeed baskets full with fish and fruit were being hoisted from the boats in the Sloop. However it would have been more interesting to take a closer look at the content of some heavy boxes and barrels that came from the British vessel to the boats.
Had somebody opened them, he would have found muskets, bayonets and many pounds of black powder, enough to arm hundreds brave Calabresi, still loyal to their rightful King, Ferdinand.
“Our job here is done, they will give hell to that impostor… Give the order, Mr. Hervill!”, the voice of the captain sounded clear and calm in the night. “Anchor aweigh men! Smartly now, get her into the wind!”
‘a Maronn’ v’accumpagna!”[iii] cried one of the “fishermen”, as his deeply laden boat started tracing back his way to the apparently deserted coast.
Soon the breeze was again filling the sheets of HMS Hyacinth, and the Sloop could return to her basis in the Ionian islands.
I - I love Patrick o' Brian!
II - If I am correct it should be about 3.00am
III - Calabrese dialect: “May the Lady guide you”
Last edited:
Musical appetizer

[An update is coming, with musings by the king, the fires of rebellion, and a cabinet meeting]


Here sung by Peppe Barra and his "NCCP - New popular chant company"

"A lu suone d'ê grancasce
viva viva 'o populo vascie,
a lu suono d'î tammurielli
so' risuorte 'i puverielle.
A lu suono d'ê campane
viva viva 'i pupulane,
a lu suono d'î viulini
morte a li giaccubbine!
Sona sona
sona Carmagnola
sona li cunsiglie
viva 'o rre cu la famiglia."

An attempted translation, not easy because this is in dialect and I am not very fluent in it:
"At the sound of drums
Long live the people of the slums
At the sound of tambourines
Rise again the pauper kins
At the sound of violins
Death to Jacobins!
Play play
Play the Carmagnola[ii]
Play the assembly
Long live the King and Royal Family!"

The song has other stanzas too, in which they talk about how they will "kick liberty in the ass" and how the princess Eleonora Pimentel[iii], who used to dance in great palaces now dances (hung) in Piazza Mercato at Naples.
i - The Sanfedisti song had been sung by Cardinal Ruffo's "Esercito della Santa Fede" [Army of the Holy Faith] when toppling the Parthenopean Republic of 1799. Its menacing lines were heard again all over the Kingdom in august 1815.
ii - La Carmagnole, famous song of the French revolution, here used for sarcasm.
iii - Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel was a very interesting member of Neapolitan enlightment circles and had been one of the chief personalities of the 1799 revolution and was executed by the Bourbons, who considered void her titles
Last edited:
[Here comes the update!
BTW I feel a bit lonely on this thread :) is anyone reading it? Do you have comments? Questions? Criticism? Nitpicking? Doubts? Cries of "this is more ASB than Luxemburg launching a successful operation Sealion"? Really, any kind of feedback would be really appreciated!]

Palazzo Reale, Naples, 18 August 1815

It was a bright late summer day, and Joachim Murat was in his study in the Palazzo Reale of Naples, looking out of the window at the intricate patterns drawn by the seagulls’ flight. It was surely a relaxing sight, it remembered him of the ballets and ballerinas he was so fond of, but it also inspired him to think, and his mind went back to the events of the last months...

The news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo and his exile at St.Helena vindicated in the eyes of the King his choice of not declaring war to Austria.
That this decision had been practically force upon him by his wife, mattered little.
Once he would have been furious at this interference, and would have opposed it, if only to remark that he was the sovereign, not his wife or her courtiers.

But he now felt to be a different man.

He had risked his life so many times as a cavalry officer, and was used to pain, but the hit that he took that fateful night had nonetheless changed him.

The immobility the medics had forced upon him for three full weeks had left him only one thing to do, something he wasn’t used to at all: reflection.

He had plenty of time to think of causes and consequences, moving armies as if on an invisible checkerboard, and he soon came to the conclusion that what he was preparing, his ambitious and oh so cunning plan, would be much more likely to end with his neck in a noose than with his head being crowned with the Iron Crown of Italy.

Now, by acting with cold blood and showing to the world how harmless and cooperative Naples wanted to be, he had staved off catastrophe. The Congress of Vienna hadn’t been a complete success, but at least he was still in Naples and not fighting alone against the combined armies of all Europe.

Joachim was interrupted from these and similar thoughts by his secretary, Gennaro Cafosso, who reminded him that he had a Cabinet meeting to attend to, as dire news had been coming from the provinces in the last days.

The situation in the Realm was apparently not at all as peaceful as he expected.

On the contrary. Briganti bands, thought to have been destroyed by the bloody campaigns of general Manhès[ii] only a couple of years before, were again roaming the countryside and making any form of movement and commerce very risky. The situation was especially serious in the Abruzzi province and near the border with the Papal States.

This was not all however: it appeared that whole parts of the Realm had descended into chaos and open insurrection. Contact with important cities like Reggio had been all but lost, and it was to be assumed that all of Calabria and Basilicata, the poorest regions of the Kingdom (and those nearest to the mischievous influence of the Bourbons in Sicily), had taken arms against their rightful King.
The dispatches that reached the capital were sketchy and often contradictory, but on the whole they offered a quite distressful picture.

On the 15th of August, day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the bells rang, as usual, everywhere, from Naples to the tiniest village, what was not usual was the effects of this sound. Riots started in many places and, at the rallying cry of “Viva Maria! Morte ai giaccubbine![iii]” angry mobs assaulted government buildings and attacked government officials and known Murat sympathizers, often killing them and their families in an orgy of savagery that seemed to have no rational cause, nor to stop at anything.

In Naples and Bari actually there had been only minor disorders, the urban populace of these cities were still in love with their King, who was so near to their picturesque and passionate character. They were also starting to enjoy the effects of his reforms, especially the start of something resembling sanitation in the sprawling slums of Naples and the working opportunities in the army or in the building projects of the new administration.

In other parts of the country the “Guardie Civiche”[iv] or the army managed to quickly take control of the situation, and after swiftly executing the ringleaders bring back calm to most areas.

In Calabria and Basilicata however the angry mobs proved to be surprisingly well armed, and soon big Briganti groups came down from their mountain strongholds and often managed to storm the Guardia Civica barracks.
More than half of those two provinces were under complete control of the insurgents, who were also often quite well led and organized.

It was clear to Murat and his ministers that a foreign power had to be behind all this, most probably the Bourbons, who had never given up on their claims over Naples.
Intelligence sources hinted also at the hand of the United Kingdom, as there had been reports of very suspect British naval activity near the Calbrese coasts in the last months.

Interior Minister Giuseppe Zurlo was the first to speak after the sobering analysis of the reports:

“We have to act, your Majesty, and act fast, or the whole country will end up in flames. If the insurgent numbers are somewhere near to what is being reported, I am concerned that if we don’t crush them immediately, they will be able to march on Naples and I am not sure of the reliability of some of our troops…”

“Be careful with what you say, sir” Almost shouted the Minister of war, General Macdonald “I won’t stand to the slandering of soldiers that have fought with our King at the Moscova and have left their blood on the fields of half Europe! ”

“General, I was referring to the latest recruits, and I didn’t mean offence, but as a minister of Interior I have a duty of being aware of all threats to the security of the state, however remote they may be.
With all due respect, remind the fate of the Repubblica Partenopea just fifteen years ago!
If we are not careful we might soon all end up hanging at Piazza Mercato.”

“Mr. Zurlo” interjected the King “This is not the moment for self doubt, I know very well the threat of such uprisings, having been in Spain as you all know. If only they would came marching to Naples! By Jove! My Hussars would kick them all the way back to their beloved tyrants in Sicily! I am afraid they want be so stupid unfortunately: we have to prepare for a long and costly campaign, but we will prevail, we will give those ignorant fools only a choice to do: What they prefer? Musket, cold steel or a thick rope?”

i - I might change this, if someone has an idea for an alternate battle location in Belgium, obviously the result wouldn’t change, but maybe some butterflies have already started flapping.
ii - Charles Antoine Mahnès, French general, fought the Briganti in the Kingdom of Naples with brutal yet effective tactics (proscriptions lists, informers, capillary stationing of gendarmes and soldiers on the territory, killing everybody who brought even a scrap of bread in the fields, in order to cut supplies to the roaming bands) between 1809 and 1811.
iii - “Hail Mary! Death to the Jacobins!”
iv - “Civic Guards” they were a sort of cross between police and national guard
I'm reading this. Where are butterflies?
I am not sure about what you mean: are you referring to my note on the location of the battle of waterloo? Well I have Napoleon losing because I don't want to destabilise European history too much and I don't think I changed something essential to the outcome of the Belgian campaign. However with more Austrian forces, due to not having to fight in Italy too maybe the respective positions of the armies changed and the decisive battle happened somewhere else than at Waterloo.

If you mean what has already changed from OTL, well Murat is still alive and has a kingdom, as at the congress of Vienna it was decided that he was not so important or dangerous to require an armed intervention. However the Bourbons, supported by England, have stirred a legistimist uprising in the deep south of Italy. In the next update (a couple of days away I am afraid) we will see the Austrians getting mixed into it too: maybe they can provoke Joachim to do something rash? Also the Sicilians could be tempted to "restore order" in what they still claim as their rightful possessions.
Order of Battle of the Neapolitan Army in 1815

Order of Battle of the Neapolitan Army in 1815

Guardia Reale (Royal Guard):
1) Infantry division: 1 Grenadier Regiment; 2 Veliti (light infantry) regiments; 1 Voltigeurs Regiment;


2) Cavalry Division: 1 Guardia del Corpo (lifeguard) company; 1 Curassier regiment; 1 Hussar regiment; 1 Lancers regiment; 1 Cavalleggeri regiment (light cavalry).


3) Artillery, Horse artillery, sappers and logistic train.
Total: 5.800 infantry; 2.100 cavalry; about 15 cannons

4 divisions, each made up of 3 line and 1 light infantry regiments plus artillery and logistic train.


Notable regiments:
· 4th Line Regiment “Real Sannita” (Royal Samnites, recruited in the mountain areas of the Abruzzi province).
· 5th Line Regiment “Real Calabria” (Royal Calabria, recruited in the mountain areas of Calabria province.
· 7th Line Regiment “Real Africano” (Royal African, made up of soldiers of African origin, mostly veterans of the Napoleonic wars).


Total: 36.300 men, 36 cannons

4 Cavalleggeri (light cavalry) regiments
Total: 2.900 men

· Coastal artillery batteries
· Garrison companies
· Provincial legions of the Guardia Civica (national guard)

Ships of the Line:
· Capri, 74 guns, 1810
· Gioacchino, 74 guns, 1812
· Carolina, 28 guns, 1811


· Letizia, 28 guns, about 1811
· Cerere, 28 guns, 1785
Minor vessels: a couple of corvettes and brigs, about 50 coast defense gunboats

The quality of the line regiments is good, there are still many veterans of the Napoleonic wars in the ranks, and their performance in the OTL Austro-Neapolitan war was rather good, they fought hard and most battles were tactical draws, but strategic defeats, they only lost cohesion and disintegrated after the battle of Tolentino, where many officers died, and the supply situation had become untenable.

The officer corps was more of a mixed bag, with mostly mediocre commanders, some failures like d’Aquino and some brilliant exceptions like Guglielmo Pepe (you will hear again of this man…).

Finally the main fortress in the Kingdom was Gaeta, protecting Naples from the north. In OTL it was the last stronghold both for Murat loyalists in 1815 and for Bourbon loyalists in 1860. In both cases, although isolated from all sources of relief it fell only after a difficult siege and intense bombardment.

[The Data on regiments and number of soldiers are OTL and I could unfortunately only find them in the Italian Wikipedia, that refers to the following two books, in Italian, that I however can’t directly consult, as in the moment I find myself in Germany and don’t think thet would be easily available here.
· Crociani, Brandani, "L'esercito Napoletano 1805/15", Editrice Militare Italiana, Milano 1987
· V. Ilari, P. Crociani, G. Boeri, Storia Militare del Regno Murattiano 1806-15, Widerholdt Frères, Invorio, 2007]
Subscribed! Any chance of a team up with Eugene Beauharnais? If he's been deprived of his post of viceroy in Northern Italy, and I don't really see why the Austrians should keep him in power, maybe he could go lend a hand to his old buddy. He's after all a vastly competent man, and even if he's not the best general in the world, he does have plenty of military experience, plus he could be a governor, an advisor, a minister or what have you.

He has a cool head on his shoulders. He could help restraining any more future rushed judgements by Joachim.
Another Napolitean AAR, I will follow it with attention.
Thank you for the attention: I hope you will like it.

Subscribed! Any chance of a team up with Eugene Beauharnais? If he's been deprived of his post of viceroy in Northern Italy, and I don't really see why the Austrians should keep him in power, maybe he could go lend a hand to his old buddy. He's after all a vastly competent man, and even if he's not the best general in the world, he does have plenty of military experience, plus he could be a governor, an advisor, a minister or what have you.

He has a cool head on his shoulders. He could help restraining any more future rushed judgements by Joachim.
I don't know... I could still put him at court and I concur that he would be a precious counsel and a gooinfluence on Joachim. However he is married with the daughter of the King of Bavaria, who in otl gave him the duchy of Leuchtenberg and sincerely I don't see a way to change this with the POD I choose.
Besides I strikes me as too honest and loyal: how could he stomach being subordinate to a traitor like Murat? He would go there only if desperate and stripped of all titles: maybe if he joined Napoleon at Waterloo? But, doing that, he would have acted rasher than Murat, so what would be the point of having him?

I could have him keeping his throne, but then it would have been a Lumbardy TL, which could be interesting, but is not my goal now, or a early unified Italy, which I don't think could be very plausible.

But many thanks for the input!
next update

I am happy to see that you are already waiting for the next installment :)
I think I can have something ready for Thursday and a longer update on Sunday.
I'm following this pretty silently, mostly because my knowledge about Italian history is not that stellar, so I'm staying in the background until I can contribute something meaningful XD

But I really like this TL, Joachim not throwing in his hat for Napoleon AGAIN has always been an interesting POD to explore, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this will impact the Italian peninsula in the long run.