Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray Murat (August 17, 1803 – August 6, 1867) was an American socialite. She was married to Prince Achille Murat, an exiled Napoleonic prince living in America, from 1826 to 1847. She was born near Fredericksburg, Va. and died in Tallahassee, Fla.
Murat was the great-grandniece of George Washington. She was a daughter of Colonel Byrd C. Willis (1781–1846) and his wife Mary Lewis. Mary Lewis was the granddaughter of Fielding Lewis, George Washington's brother-in-law. Through the Lewis family, she was also a relative of explorer Meriwether Lewis.
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 firewood.
Catherine married Atchison Gray, son of John Gray of Traveller's Rest (Kearneysville, W.Va.). Atchison died less than 12 months after their marriage and their child, born after his death, died also.
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.
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. On September 8, 1831, 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 Lipona Plantation in Jefferson County, Fla., upon the death of her husband. In 1854, she bought Bellevue, in Leon County, which became her primary residence.
Catherine became involved in the nation’s first successful preservation effort, the work to preserve George Washington’s home. 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.
Murat served in that post until her death. 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.
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 on August 6, 1867, at Bellevue.
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."