If you’re a Napoleonic wargamer like me, who enjoys refighting the Great Battles of History, you will at some point require the services of a model of one of the greatest ‘characters’ of the age; Prince Joachim Murat, Marshal of the Empire, First Horseman of Europe, Grand Duke of Berg, King of Naples, brother-in-law to the Emperor, Beau-Sabreur, ‘King of the Dandies’ and all-round whoopsie.
Murat commanded the cavalry reserve in many of Napoleon’s greatest battles – Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena, Eylau, Borodino and Leipzig to name a few and his (somewhat foolhardy) bravery and singular dress-sense were the stuff of legend. At least one model Murat is an essential part of any Napoleonic French wargames army.
However, there hasn’t been very much choice in 15mm – Old Glory and Minifigs both did a Murat figure, but I didn’t really like them and they didn’t fit very well with my collection, which is almost completely AB Figures. For 25+ years I hoped in vain that Tony Barton might sculpt at least one Murat (or hopefully a whole pack of Murats) for AB Figures, but it was not to be.
Then at last, salvation arrived in the form of a new Estonian scupltor named Sho Boki! He had clearly read my mind and produced a range of Murats, depicted in some of his best-known costumes (I hesitate to call them ‘uniforms’) from the span of his career – starting with the elaborate Chasseur Colonel’s uniform he wore at the Battle of Marengo in 1800 and ending with one of the regal costumes he wore during the Neapolitan War of 1815. The pack also includes a figures of Marshal Ney during the Retreat from Moscow (included by Sho Boki as the figure is almost identical to one of the 1806 Murats).
Above: A ‘Regiment of Murats’: I’ve painted six of the Murats and mixed them in with some staff officers and aides by AB Figures. AB Figures also provided the horses (Sho Boki designs them to be mounted on AB horses). I painted one of the 1807 Murats as Marshal Bessières (see below) and haven’t yet painted the Spring 1806 Murat or the Ney figure.
Above: The first Murat figure depicts him in the uniform he wore in 1800 as Général de Division of the Reserve Cavalry Division 0f the Army of Italy at the Battle of Marengo. The uniform is an elaborate version of that of a Colonel of Chasseurs à Cheval. Murat had originally been commissioned into the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval (twice – the second time after being cashiered following an affair). The uniform was dark green with scarlet facings and heavily laced in silver. Headgear was a curious green-topped czapka-style cap
As a mere divisional commander at this stage in his career, I’ve based him as a single figure on a 25mm square base, which is the standard format for Napoleon’s Battles, my preferred Napoleonic wargame rules.
Above: My second Murat figure shows him as a Marshal of the Empire, commanding the Reserve Cavalry Corps of the Grande Armée at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805. He had by this time started wearing bizarre costumes in lieu of regulation uniforms – in this instance he wore a costume modelled loosely on ‘Cossack’ dress; namely a dark green kaftan with red lining, fur edging and gold frogging and lace, topped off with a red cap with a fur turban and white egret plumes. He’s also wearing 17th Century-style buff leather boots and gloves and his horse furniture consists mostly of a bearskin shabraque.
As Murat was now commanding a whole Reserve Cavalry Corps, he’s based with an Aide de Camp (ADC) on a 40mm square base.
For his ADC, I’ve used a French Guard Chasseur à Cheval officer by AB Figures, dressed in the typical uniform worn by Murats ADCs; namely a white hussar-style pelisse jacket with black fur edging and gold lace, a black fur busby with crimson-pink bag, gold cords and white plume, crimson-pink breeches with gold lace and a leopard-skin shabraque.
Above: In 1806 Murat was once again commanding the Reserve Cavalry Corps and was in the vanguard during Napoleon’s advance against the Prussian-Saxon Army. Murat’s cavalry were only briefly engaged at the end of the critical Battle of Jena, but Murat’s relentless pursuit of the defeated Prussian Army resulted in the surrender of several major Prussian formations and fortresses and ultimately the complete defeat of Prussia.
Murat’s dress here still includes the green kaftan worn in 1805; here worn open, showing a green & gold hussar dolman and the crimson sash of the Légion d’Honneur. However, he seems to have briefly reigned in his more fanciful fashion catastrophes, this time optiong for a more typical Marshal’s cocked hat (albeit with extra egret plumes) and deep red leather hussar boots, as well as a typical Marshal’s shabraque of crimson cloth, heavily edged with gold lace and fringes. The painting below shows him (for once) without facial hair, so I’ve left off the usual moustache.
Again, as a corps commander, I’ve based him on a 40mm square together with an ADC.
His ADC is dressed much as before, except this time he has buff campaign overall trousers with a crimson-pink stripe down the seam, as well as a crimson-pink shabraque with gold edging. The figure is taken from the latest French ADC pack by AB Figures.
Above: Following his appointment on 15th March 1806 as Grand Duke of Berg, Murat designed a grand new wardrobe to go with his grand new title. The predominant uniform colour for the army of the new Grand Duchy of Berg was white and Murat’s uniform followed that theme. His tailor must have finally caught up with him in Poland in late 1806, in time for him to complement the snow on the battlefield of Eylau in February 1807.
Although much the same pattern as the regulation coat of a Marshal of the Empire, Murat’s coat was coloured white instead of blue and was liberally festooned with gold lace, epaulettes and aiguillettes. Breeches were light cavalry-style in white with gold lace seams and ‘spearpoints’ on the thighs and were worn with crimson leather hussar-boots, edged in gold lace. The whole ensemble was topped off with the same egret-plumed Marshal’s hat as in 1806, gold & white Marshal’s waist-sash, crimson sash of the Légion d’Honneur and esoteric gold-edged gauntlets. Horse furniture is again crimson, heavily laced and fringed with gold.
Once again, as a corps commander, I’ve based him on a 40mm square; this time with two ADCs. I must confess however, that I decided not to add the snows of Eylau to the base!
Above: My 1807 Murat, leading the titanic cavalry charge at Eylau (minus the snow…).
For his ADCs I used a galloping ADC figure from AB Figures’ latest French ADC pack (here on the left) and the ‘Superior Officer of Hussars’ figure also from AB Figures (on the right). The hussar officer here is dressed in much the same manner as the previous ADCs, though this time has replaced his fur busby with a shako in crimson-pink.
The other ADC is wearing the uniform worn by the famous memoirist Jean-Baptiste Antoine Marcellin Marbot, when he served as one of Murat’s ADCs at Eylau. He also has a crimson-pink shako (with white plume), but instead of hussar dress has a Chasseur-style coatee in crimson pink, with collar, cuffs, linings and piping around the lapels in a deep buff shade. The cutaway front of the coat reveals a white waistcoat decorated with gold hussar-braid. Overall trousers are deep buff with a crimson-pink stripe and the shabraque is crimson-pink, edged gold. around his sleeve he wears a brassard, which is a miniature version of the Marshal’s sash in white and gold, indicating his status as an ADC to a Marshal of the Empire.
Above: Following his proclamation as King of Naples on 1st August 1808, Murat devoted most of his time to the governance of his kingdom and didn’t participate in the 1809 Campaign against Austria. However, in 1812 he was recalled along with the Neapolitan Army to join the Grande Armée for the invasion of Russia and true to form, Murat had a whole new uniform that was even more off-the-wall than ever…
Murat’s costume at the Battle of Borodino consisted of a vaguely Ottoman-style blue coat with ‘ruffed’ shoulders, which was once again absiolutely dripping with gold frogging and lace and encrusted with sashes and decorations. This was worn with gold-laced crimson breeches and boots. He was still wearing a Marshal’s cocked hat adorned with egret-feathers, but this time tended to wear it ‘flopped’ on one side, giving him the look of a 17th Century cavalier.
Murat’s flamboyant dress, bravery, horsemanship and dazzling swordsmanship on the battlefield won him a whole new legion of adoring fans – the Cossacks…
The Cossacks would apparently cheer and call to him on the battlefield and on one occasion withdrew when he galloped up alone and ordered them to!
In 1812 Murat commanded an entire army-wing of several cavalry corps, so I’ve now based him on a 50mm square and given him a larger retinue of staff. Once again, there is an ADC in the usual rig of white pelisse with black fur trim and crimson-pink shako and breeches (taken from the first AB Figures French ADC pack). Another ADC wears the ‘Marbot’ uniform described earlier (taken from the later AB Figures French ADC pack). The third figure is a Général de Division of cuirassiers (the AB Figures General d’Hautpol figure).
Above: This figure is based on a famous 1815 equestrian portrait of Murat as King of Naples (shown here) and was probably the uniform worn during Murat’s disastrous Italian Campaign of 1815 that was decided with Murat’s defeat at the Battle of Tolentino. However, an 1813 portrait of Murat also shows him wearing this uniform, so I’ve opted to use this model to represent Murat at the Battles of Dresden and Leipzig (I think it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever bother to paint enough Neapolitans for 1815!).
His blue coat with red facings was positively restrained in style compared to the gorgeous Ottoman-inspired confection worn in 1812, but was once again liberally festooned in lace, epaulettes and frogging – this time in silver instead of gold. His headgear was a peakless czapka, not unlike that worn at Marengo, though this time with a buff top and with the addition of egret feather plumes. Legwear was buff-coloured tight pantaloons with a double red stripe down each leg and just to annoy future painters of wargame figures, a tiger-skin was used in lieu of a shabraque. Grrr.
Murat was placed in command of an entire army-wing during the 1813 Campaign and as such, I’ve based him on a 50mm square with three ADCs in attendance, including a Polish officer as his command contained two corps from the Duchy of Warsaw. All three figures are taken from the most recent AB Figures French ADC pack; two are dressed in the usual variations of white & crimson-pink, though one this time has the pelisse jacket slung over his shoulder to show off the crimson-pink dolman beneath. The dolman has white facings and gold braid, though buff facings are also recorded, as shown here. The yellow plume is another recorded variation on the usual theme.
The third ADC is an officer of Duchy of Warsaw Uhlans, wearing a white kurtka jacket with crimson facings, crimson-topped czapka, crimson pantaloons and silver lace.
Following his defeat at Tolentino, Murat escaped to France in an attempt to rejoin the Emperor, though Napoleon wanted nothing to do with him following his brief ‘turn of coat’ in 1814. In the event, Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and Murat was forced to escape to Corsica. Then, with a loyal band of followers, Murat attempted to regain his Neapolitan throne, only to see his dream end in front of a Neapolitan firing squad.
His last words (to the firing-squad) were 100% Murat to the end… “Spare the face. Aim for the heart. Fire!”
Above: As mentioned at the top of this article, I decided to use the less animated of the 1807 Murats to plug another significant gap in my French Napoleonic collection; Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières, Duke of Istria.
As shown here, Bessières typically wore the green undress coatee of an officer of the Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard. This fairly plain coat (also typically worn by the Emperor Napoleon beneath his trademark grey overcoat) was then adorned with gold epaulettes and aiguillettes and the crimson sash and silver star of the Légion d’Honneur, plus the white and gold waist-sash of a Marshal. Waistcoat and breeches were also typical items of Guard Chasseur dress, being scarlet with gold lace, often worn with very natty green leather boots, as shown here. Horse furniture was crimson with heavy gold lace and fringes and his typical Marshal’s cocked hat was sometimes adorned with egret plumes, as shown here. One notable and slightly odd feature of Bessières’ appearance is that he persisted with using deeply unfashionable white hair-powder.
His ADC is an officer of the Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard and is dressed in much the same ‘undress’ uniform as his Marshal, though in somewhat simpler style. I actually used a spare AB Figures Officer of the Sailors of the Guard and the horse was taken from an AB Figures ADC pack. The two escorts are Chasseurs à Cheval of the Imperial Guard in full dress and are taken from the AB Figures Napoleon & Staff set.
So there you have it! All in all, a damn fine set of figures that fits in extremely well with my existing collection of AB Figures Napoleonics and I can’t wait to get them on the wargames table. Sho Boki has done a magnificent job and I’ve also bought some of his magnificent Russian generals, which I’m looking forward to painting.