Catherine Willis Gray

Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray Murat (August 17, 1803 August 6, 1867) was born near Fredericksburg, Virginia and died in Tallahassee, Florida, United States.


Murat was the great-grandniece of George Washington. She was a daughter of Colonel Byrd C. Willis (August 29, 1781 - 1846) and his wife Mary Lewis. Mary Lewis was the granddaughter of Fielding Lewis, George Washington's brother-in-law.

Her parents made their first home in Orange near the Court House. Later they came to Willis Hill. Col. Willis paid little attention to the management of the plantation and instead spent his time fox hunting, racing, and attending parties. Income was derived from the race profits and the sale of fire wood.

Catherine married Atchison Gray, son of John Gray of Traveller's Rest (Kearneysville, West Virginia). Atchison died less than 12 months after their marriage and their child, born after his death, died also.

Willis family in Florida

About 1825, Catherine Murat came to Tallahassee with her parents, three brothers and two sisters. In 1826 she met and married her second husband, Prince Achille Murat. He was a son of Joachim Murat, former King of Naples and Caroline Bonaparte.

Bellevue in 2007, now an exhibit at the Tallahassee Museum.

His maternal uncles included Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon I of France, Lucien Bonaparte, Louis Bonaparte and Jérôme Bonaparte. His maternal aunts included Elisa Bonaparte and Pauline Bonaparte.

Catherine (Willis Gray) Murat, was entertained when abroad. In 1830, Catherine was present at the coronation of William IV of the United Kingdom and was given a seat in Westminster Abbey.


In 1847, she inherited the 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) Lipona Plantation in Jefferson County, Florida upon the death of her husband. In 1854 she bought Bellevue, in Leon County, which became her primary residence.

In 1858, Murat was appointed the first Vice Regent for Florida for the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, the title given the central person in each state organizing the association’s work. Working closely with Ellen Call Long, she led the efforts as the state raised $3,791 toward the restoration of Mount Vernon, the largest per capita amount raised by any of the 30 contributing states. Catherine became involved in the nation’s first successful preservation effort, the work to preserve George Washington’s home. Despite her staunch Unionism, she was named master of ceremonies during the celebrations of the Florida Secession Convention in 1861. Later, during the American Civil War, Murat participated in the local "Soldiers Aid Societies," who met as sewing circles to clothe the southern troops.

Grave Marker of Catherine Murat.

Early in 1866, Napoleon III of France, a maternal first cousin of her husband, granted Murat an annuity from the French government in consideration of her losses during the Civil War. Catherine Murat died August 6, 1867 at Bellevue.

Graves of Achille and Catherine Murat.

Catherine's marker in the old Tallahassee Episcopal Cemetery reads: "SACRED to the Memory of PRINCESS C. A. MURAT, Widow of COL. CHARLES LOUIS NAPOLEON ACHILLES MURAT, and Daughter of the late COL. BIRD C. WILLIS, of Virginia. Who departed this life on 6 August 1867, in the 64th year of her age. A kind and affectionate wife and sister, a sincere and devoted friend. None knew her but to love her. None named her but to praise. This Monument is erected to her memory, by her bereaved Brother and Sister."



  1. "John Bull Locomotive". History Wired. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  2. "PRR Chronology: 1831" (PDF). Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society. June 2004. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
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