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MURRAY, HUGH, Papal Zouave; b. 30 April 1836 at Montreal, L.C., son of Hugh Murray and Henrietta Horan; d. February 1874 at Manresa Or Bilbao, Spain.

Hugh Murray, an Irishman, received his classical education at the Petit Séminaire in Quebec, probably attracted there by his uncle, Abbé Edward John Horan, at that time a teacher in the institution. He took his baccalaureate in arts in 1856 and then became a student at the faculty of medicine, but according to the Annuaire de l’université Laval he had already discontinued his medical studies before the opening of the academic year in 1857.

Deeply affected in that year by the deaths of his mother and father within a few months, he planned for a while to become a priest, but grief and constant work weakened his health to such an extent that he had to give up theological studies. In 1859 he was attached to the editorial staff of the Journal of Education (Montreal), which for two years had been appearing under the direction of the superintendent of Public Instruction, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau*.

Murray was still employed in this way when news reached Canada of the disaster at Castelfidardo on 18 Sept. 1860: the little papal army, commanded by Christophe-Louis-Léon Juchault de Lamoricière, had been vanquished by the Piedmontese troops. The ultramontanes of Canada were horror-stricken: “Piedmont, with unspeakable audacity,” Cyrille Boucher wrote in L’Ordre (Montreal) on 5 October, “has invaded the Papal States, against all human and divine rights.” The editor in chief of the Courrier du Canada (Quebec), the French legitimist Auguste-Eugène Aubry, prophesied in his journal on 5 Nov. 1860 that “Italian unity” having “never existed,” “never will exist.”

It was to oppose the progress of King Victor Emmanuel II’s “sacrilegious usurpation” that the Papal Zouaves had come into being in March 1860, during a secret interview between the Belgian Redemptorist Victor-Auguste Dechamps, the French general Juchault de Lamoricière, and Bishop Xavier de Mérode, the Belgian minister of the papal arms. From the Catholic countries young men flocked to Rome, eager to place their valour at the service of Pius IX. L’Ordre of 13 Feb. 1861 informed its readers that the name of the first French Canadian to “enlist as a Zouave in the papal troops” was Benjamin Testard* de Montigny, “Montreal lawyer, former student of Université Laval.”

Hugh Murray wrote at that time to his uncle Bishop Horan, who took the place of his father, to ask permission to follow Montigny’s example. It was immediately granted. On 31 July 1861, having arrived at Rome, he donned the uniform of a Papal Zouave. On 21 Nov. 1866 he was appointed sergeant second class. At Mentana (Italy), in the victory of French and papal troops over the Garibaldians on 3 Nov. 1867, Murray truly distinguished himself by his courage and was one of 57 wounded whom, in addition to 24 dead, the papal column counted after the action. He was mentioned in regimental dispatches, soon received the cross of knight of the Order of Pius IX, and was promoted second lieutenant on 4 April 1868. The Canadian Zouaves presented him with a sword, bearing an inscription on its blade: “To Second-Lieutenant Murray, knight of the Order of Pius IX, first Canadian officer, his compatriots.”

Back in Canada, Murray, after recovering from a serious operation, offered his services to the Veuillot of American journalism, James Alphonsus McMaster, owner and editor in chief of the New York Freeman’s Journal. But it was not long before Murray the journalist abandoned the writing-desk to put on his Zouave’s uniform again. His royal comrade in the Papal Zouaves, Don Alfonso de Bourbon, had offered his sword to his brother Don Carlos, who had proclaimed himself king of Spain as Charles VII but who had to win his throne away from a prince of Piedmont, Amadeo I, the choice of the Cortès. Since the fight was once more, in a way, against Piedmont, Hugh Murray hastened to Spain during the summer of 1873, and there, having soon obtained the rank of captain, he was second in command of a force of 400 Spanish, Dutch, and Belgian volunteers.

The Carlist Zouaves waged war for two years against the liberal troops of Amadeo of Savoy, then of Alfonso XII, distinguishing themselves in many engagements which caused them to be particularly dreaded. It was during one of them, in February 1874, that Murray met a glorious death, either during the siege of Manresa or under the walls of Bilbao.

With him disappeared “the perfect type of Papal Zouave.” His generous commitment and courage in the service of the papacy must be praised unreservedly, but his political perspicacity, it must be admitted, was not equal to his warlike ardour. Indeed, Murray never understood the complexity of the Italian national problem; in this respect he was like his comrades, and also like the ultramontanes, whether European or American.

Philippe Sylvain

L’Opinion publique (Montréal), 19 mars, 9 avril 1874. Annuaire de l’université Laval pour l’année académique 1856–1857 (Québec, 1856); 1858–1859 (Québec, 1858). Catalogue des officiers et des élèves du séminaire de Québec, 1851–1852 (Québec, 1852); 1852–1853 (1853); 1853–1854 (1854); 1854–1855 (1855); 1855–1859 (1856). Georges Cerbelaud-Salagnac, Les zouaves pontificaux (Paris, 1963). Paolo Dalla Torre, L’anno di Mentana: Contributo ad una storia dello Stato pontificio nel 1867 (Milan, 1968), 314. G.-A. Drolet, Zouaviana: étape de trente ans, 1868–1898 . . . (2e éd., Montréal, 1898). Édouard Lefebvre de Bellefeuille, Le Canada et les zouaves pontificaux: mémoire sur l’origine, l’enrôlement et l’expédition du contingent canadien à Rome, pendant l’année 1868 . . . (Montréal, 1868). Roberto di Nolli, Mentana (Rome, 1865). Elio Lodolini, “I volontari del Canadà nell’esercito pontificio (1868–1870),” Rassegna storica del Risorgimento (Rome), LVI (1969), 641–87.

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Cite This Article

Philippe Sylvain, “MURRAY, HUGH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/murray_hugh_10E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/murray_hugh_10E.html
Author of Article:   Philippe Sylvain
Title of Article:   MURRAY, HUGH
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1972
Year of revision:   1972
Access Date:   September 28, 2023