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LEARNING A LITTLE recently about Murat the Younger and his Turkish Abductions of Icelanders, I felt compelled to search out Murat the Elder and others sharing this moniker. Pirate, admiral, grand admiral, president, governor, brother-in-law to Napoleon, duke, king; there’s not a dullard amongst them.


Marat/Sade, by Peter Weiss, a play with music, 1963.

First off, I had to avoid confusing these Murats with Jean-Paul Marat, the French revolutionary and subject of the 1963 play with music, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Except for players of Charades, it’s usually abbreviated Marat/Sade.

Another hazard in researching Murat is finding a plentitude of people with apparent surname Reis: Murat Ries the Elder, Murat Reis the Younger, Kemal Reis, Piri Reis, Sinan Reis, Turgut Reis, et al. It turns out Reis is Turkish for chief, captain, top guy.

Indeed, based on my research, I make no claim that the three Murats described here were actually blood kin.


Murat Reis the Elder, c. 1534 – 1609, Albanian pirate and Admiral of the Ottoman Navy.

Of course, “the Elder” title is likely retrospective, what with not knowing there would be a Younger. Murat the Elder is said to have joined the pirate crew of Turgut Reis at an early age. Indeed, several sources have him born in 1534 and, this same year, accompanying the pirate Barbarossa to Constantinople.

A more reliable source puts this meeting in 1552. Suleiman I, aka Suleiman the Magnificent, gave Murat the Elder the title of Admiral of the Ottoman Indian Ocean Fleet, which was actually based in Suez, on the Red Sea.


Suleiman I, 1494 – 1566, tenth sultan of the Ottoman Empire and longest reigning one, 1520 – 1566. Portrait attributed to Titian, c. 1530.

To the best of my research, none of Suleiman the Magnificent’s 20 to 30 million subjects ever commented on his choice of headgear.

Admiral Murat the Elder spent the rest of his days tussling with Portuguese, Venetian, Maltese, Spanish and French adversaries, all intent on controlling the Mediterranean. His travels took him as far as the Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco.


Murat Reis the Younger, né Jan Janszoon van Haarlem, c. 1570 – c. 1641, Dutch pirate, Salé Rover.

Murat the Younger has already appeared at SimanaitisSays. He’s the one who traveled to Iceland in 1627 and carrying off the Turkish Abductions. Prior to this, in 1600 back home in the Netherlands, he had letters of marque granting him permission to harass Spanish ships during the Eighty Years War.

Despite the specificity of these letters of marque, Janszoon attacked anyone around. If the prey was Spanish, he’d run up the Dutch flag; if not, the Turkish half-moon or whatever colors came to mind. In 1618, Murat converted (or was converted) to Islam. As Murat the Younger, he sailed with Sulayman Rais, aka Slemen Reis, né a Dutchman named De Veenboer.

What’s this about 17th-century Dutchmen and their Islamic piratical tendencies?

After his home port of Algiers cut a deal with several European countries, Murat and fellow pirates set up shop in the ancient city of Salé, Morocco, in 1624. There, he named himself Grand Admiral and President.

In 1627, Murat, family and cohorts moved back to Algiers. This was also the year of his Icelandic adventures. Moroccan townsfolk celebrated by establishing a Republic of Salé.


The Republic of Salé, 1627 – 1688. Now part of Morocco.

Murat the Younger’s other adventures included sacking Baltimore, West Cork, Ireland, in 1631; raiding the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily; and getting captured by the Knights of Malta in 1635.

The Knights locked him up for five years before he escaped and got himself appointed Governor of the fortress of Oualidia, 115 miles down the Moroccan coast from Casablanca.

Murat the Younger may have married three times: a Dutch woman prior to his roaming days, maybe a sultan’s daughter in 1624 and perhaps a Moorish princess in between. His Dutch daughter Lysbeth Janszoon van Haarlem showed up in Oualidia in 1640. She hung around for a year, then returned home.

What do you suppose they chatted about?


Joachim Murat, 1767 – 1815, Marshal of France, Admiral of France, Prince Murat, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves, King of Naples and Sicily, “the Dandy King.”

My last Murat, a Frenchman, is bereft of the Reis honorific, but he made up for this big time. With General Napoleon Bonaparte’s successes accumulating during the French Revolution, so did Sous-Lieutenant Joachim Murat’s. In 1795, Napoleon was named commander of the National Convention’s defending forces. He in turn put Murat in charge of the cannons delivering the historic “whiff of grapeshot” saving members of the convention.

Murat became a chef de brigade/colonel. And more important, in 1802 he married Caroline Bonaparte, sister of soon-to-be Emperor Napoleon I of France. In 1804, the first year of Napoleon’s ten-year reign, brother-in-law Murat was appointed Marshal of France and First Horseman of Europe. In 1805, he became Prince of the Empire; in 1806, Grand Duke of Berg and Cleves; in 1808, King of Naples and Sicily.

After Napoleon’s fall, Murat fled to Corsica. He tried to generate an uprising there, but was unsuccessful. At his execution, he stood, sans blindfold, and said, “Soldats! Faites votre devoir! Droit au cœur mais épargnez le visage. Feu!”

“Soldiers! Do your duty! Straight to the heart but spare the face. Fire!”

It’s as dramatic as Marat/Sade. ds

© Dennis, 2016

4 comments on “A MURAT FAMILY BUSH

  1. Larry Crane
    July 3, 2016

    Joachim is so beautiful he looks like the first generation of the billionaire Eurotrash who played on private jets and supercars for the last decade of the last century.

  2. Larry Crane
    July 3, 2016

    The fact that he carried the title “King of Naples and Sicily” reminds me of some recent research on the glorious island where Hohenstaufen tribe made a base in Sicily to control their feudal federation of the “Holy Roman Empire” (neither holy nor Roman). The Swabians and the Sicilians intermarried as Theresa would later demand — marriages across the empire were less expensive than wars with the same result — expanded empire.
    The Frederick I (Barbarossa) and his enlightened grandson Frederick II (the sonnet was created in his court and he was coronated as ‘Holy Roman Emperor’ by Pope Innocent II in 1212) built palaces (Castel Svevo — Swabian fortress) and fortresses across Sicilily. Frederick II’s Castel del Monte MAY be the resting place of both a “grail chalice” and the “philosopher’s stone.”

  3. Aaron T Bush
    May 15, 2018

    Rais/Reis means captain in Turkish. That’s why you’re running into a lot, it’s not a surname, it’s a title. 🙂

    • Peter Dew
      May 31, 2018

      a bit like Rey(Spanish) or Rex(Latin) then, meaning King in English ?

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