The Kingdom of Naples was under French control for the last decade of the Napoleonic Wars, at first with Napoleon’s brother Joseph as king, before in 1808 he was forced to move to Spain and was replaced by Marshal Joachim Murat. Under his rule the Neapolitan army expanded in size and in the flamboyance and variety of its uniforms, although perhaps not in its battlefield performance. The army did provide troops for several of Napoleon’s campaigns, most notably in Spain, Russia and Germany. In 1814 Murat turned against Napoleon, but he rejoined the Emperor in 1815 and was defeated in a brief campaign in Italy.
Murat was famous for his own flamboyant uniforms, and it isn’t surprising that this trend was repeated during his time in charge in Naples. There are ninety-nine full colour plates here, demonstrating the remarkable variety of uniforms that were to be found in this fairly small army. A handful of them were plain and practical, but Murat’s Royal Guard and his cavalry were given a range of impressively over-the-top uniforms. As a result this is a very pretty book.
The book is based around the paintings of Henri Boiselier, a highly regarded military illustrator who painted them in the first half of the twentieth century, basing them on impressive research. However they aren’t without errors, often related to the royal insignia. These are identified in the captions, and mainly involved Joseph’s insignia appearing on units from Murat’s reign. These painting were produced at some speed, and I must admit I assumed they were older, as they do have the feel of Georgian caricatures. Boiselier’s light touch rather suits these colourful uniforms, and his poses bring them to life.
1 - The Kingdom of Naples and its Armed Forces
2 - Staff Officers and Aides-de-Camp
3 - The Royal Guard
4 - The Line Cavalry
5 - The Line Infantry
6 - The Light Infantry
7 - Technical Troops
8 - Internal Security Forces
9 - The Navy
Author: Digby Smith