I saw this story on Madame Guillotine's blog here (@MmeGuillotine on Twitter). I'm not going to recap all of her research here (you should really just read her blog entry–it's really entertaining and much more academic than this post is going to be), but I will rather just tell one bit that I found absolutely hysterical.
Caroline Bonaparte, Napoleon's youngest sister, was known for being a bit of a trashy, difficult diva. All of his sisters were, but Caroline was the worst. They were these new upstarts who had replaced an ancient regime, and, to put it in terms that the old aristocracy probably would have used, boy, were they vuuulgar.
Caroline fell in love with Joachim Murat, a handsome, dashing officer. Napoleon disapproved of their courtship but eventually let them marry. Madame Guillotine compares their relationship to Lydia Bennet and Wickham's relationship in Pride and Prejudice, which I think hits the nail on the head exactly. She writes:
"I imagine the pair of them as being rather like Lydia Bennet and Wickham – she, all flashy dresses, showing off and wild high spirits and he, slightly embarrassed and not altogether approved of in his military uniform. Like the Wickhams, the Murats lived well off the back of other people’s achievements, moving into the grand Hôtel de Brienne, close to the Tuileries and accumulating enough wealth to make a huge and very extravagant splash in Parisian high society. However, unlike the Wickhams, the Murats were well matched – intelligent despite their deficient educations, sensual, bold, dynamic and fiercely ambitious, they made a formidable team."
Obviously Napoleonic history is very rich and I can't even begin to recap it here, but long story short, Joachim Murat was made King of Naples, and Caroline was his Queen. They partied it up for 5 years, but then Napoleon lost the Battle of Leipzig and Joachim and Caroline's position as new monarchs was very precarious. They decided to turn their backs on Napoleon in exchange for his enemies agreeing to let them keep their crowns.
Then Napoleon regained power. I imaging Joachim going "SHITSHITSHITSHIT" over his betrayal. He made the fatal mistake of assuming that Napoloen, having regained power, would be able to keep it. Joachim and Caroline sided with Napoleon, against the allies who had formerly agreed to go easy on them when Napoleon was eventually defeated.
Defeated he was, and Joachim was arrested by the reinstated King of Naples whose throne he had essentially been keeping warm for 5 years. This is the part that I found so hilarious, considering what a dandy-fied and egotistical couple he and Caroline made:
When Joachim was executed for treasion, he went out like a boss, shouting the command to fire, himself. However, what he actually said was a bit less badass: ‘Soldats! Faites votre devoir! Droit au cœur mais épargnez le visage. Feu!’ aka, ‘Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face. Fire!’