Friday, January 29, 2016

Etiquette and Princess Catherine, America's 1st Princess

Prince Achille Murat's Snuff-Box — Prince Murat visited America in 1821, decided to stay and bought vast estates in Louisiana and Florida. Seen by many as rude, coarse, and untidy, due to his tobacco chewing and continual spitting, along with liberal use of "colorful" language, he married the beautiful young Catherine Gray. Catherine was wooed by Murat after first meeting at a picnic, at which he drank from her slipper. Evidently not put off by his poor manners, Catherine became the first American princess... But not a "Dollar Princess."

A Royal International Marriage

Now that international marriages, with the nobility of foreign countries, are holding the center of the stage the story of the marriage of one of our southern girls of the long ago, when our girls were wedded for love, and not for filthy lucre, will be found interesting. It is the story of one of our girls, who had two strains of Washington blood in her veins. Catherine Willis, great grand-daughter of Corporal Fielding Lewis and his wife Betty Washington, her father Major Byrd, Charles Willis, a grandson of Catharine, aunt of President George Washington.

Catharine Willis, a marvelously beautiful young girl, married when only fourteen years old, Atchison Gray, who lived but a short time. She afterward married a nephew of the great Emporer, Napoleon Bonaparte, Achille Murat. Prince Achille Murat was the eldest son of Joachim Murat, King of Naples, formerly a field marshal of Napoleon Bonaparte, who married Caroline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, and who was executed after the fall of the Emperor.

They had four children, who were educated by his widow, in Austria. Her two daughters married noblemen of high rank, equal to their own, and their two sons married beautiful and notable American women.

Prince Achille Murat visited America in 1821, decided to remain here and bought vast estates in Louisiana and Florida, making Tallahassee, Florida, his home. He married there the beautiful young widow, Catharine Gray, daughter of Colonel Byrd Willis, of Willis Hall, grandniece of President George Washington. She met Prince Achille in Florida. They spent much time in their beautiful home near Tallahassee, though they made many delightful trips abroad. 


When the Indian war broke out in Florida, his fighting blood was stirred. He went to the front and was commissioned colonel. His bravery and strategy upon the field won him many laurels. He was a great student and used to devote his time to scientific research. He was proficient in seven languages, and bore a striking resemblance to his uncle, the great general and emperor. The hope of his life was to see the Bonapartes restored to power, but this was denied him. He died in 1847. 

When Louis Napoleon was made Emporer, he remembered Achille Murat's widow, whom he had once met in London. He settled an independent fortune upon her, and at his urgent request was present in Paris at a family reunion, where she was received by the Emperor with such honors as befitted her rank, and received much attention, not only as the widow of the nephew of the great Napoleon, but also as the great niece of General Washington. 

After a brief stay in France, she returned to Florida, in spite of their urgent entreaties that she should remain with them. Her deeds of charity were numerous and she was beloved by rich and poor alike. She died in 1867, and was buried beside her husband in the cemetery at Tallahassee, Florida, where handsome monuments mark their last resting places. 

On them may be found the following inscriptions:
Departed This Life April 18, 1847, 

CHARLES LOUIS NAPOLEON MURAT, 
Son of THE KING OF NAPLES and CAROLINE MURAT, Aged 47. 
This monument is dedicated by his wife, Catherine, in perpetual memory of her love. 

Sacred to the Memory of 
PRINCESS C. A. MURAT, 
Widow of 
COL. CHARLES LOUIS NAPOLEON ACHILLE MURAT and Daughter of the Late Col. Byrd Willis, of Virginia. Who departed this life in the 6th day of August, 1867, in the 64th year of her age. A kind and affectionate wife and sister, A sincere and devoted friend. None named her but to praise. None knew her but to love her. 

To his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, Napoleon presented a gold snuff-box, bearing upon the lid a cameo likeness of the great Field Marshal Murat. He presented it to his son, Achille, who brought it with him to Florida. His widow, Catherine Willis Murat, gave it to her esteemed friend and adviser, Woodson T. White, who gave it to his son, Woodson T. White, residing in Waco, Texas, who still has it among his treasures, and through his courtesy, a picture of this interesting memento is herewith given. — The Los Angeles Herald, 1908

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