Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain

For five years, writes Owen S. Connolly, Jnr., in the face of Allied intervention, Napoleon's talented and amiable older brother attempted to govern the Spanish people.

At nightfall on June 21st, 1813, a French army in full flight, with Allied cavalry harassing its stragglers, jammed the roads from Vitoria north toward the Pyrenees. Joseph Bonaparte, King of Spain and French commander, had long since lost control of his forces, and with Count Miot de Melito and others of his household, galloped cross-country toward Salvatierra.

Suddenly Miot’s horse fell and rolled over him, leaving the Count crumpled in a ditch. Miot was Joseph’s closest friend, but the King, bent on saving his own skin, rode away and left him lying there.

Around midnight, at a villa in Salvatierra, Joseph was dining in the morose company of his courtiers and staff when Miot, pale and bedraggled, entered the room. For a moment the men sat as if they were seeing a ghost.

Then Joseph rose, and with tears in his eyes, put his arm around the Count and led him to the table. Miot, in his memoirs, has not a whisper of condemnation for Joseph’s conduct. It was enough that the King was overjoyed to see him alive. Such was the impact of Joseph’s personality on those around him.

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