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1 June 1879

Louis Napoleon, the Prince Imperial of France, then exiled in Britain, begged Queen Victoria to allow him to join the British forces in Zululand. On 1 June 1879 he was given permission to join a small British reconnaissance patrol led by Lt Carey into the Ityotyozi (Jojosi) River Valley. Around midday they observed a deserted homestead in the valley and despite Carey’s reservations, the Prince insisted that they stop there to rest. A small party of Zulus ambushed them killing the Prince and 2 of the Troopers. Thus ended the last hope of a Napoleon dynasty.

There is little on site information and the use of a Guide is recommended to enhance the experience of the site. The sign posts to this site are regularly removed by the locals and it can then be difficult find.

Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte

16 March 1856 – 1 June 1879

The Prince Imperial, Louis Napoleon, only son of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie, was raised in the Bonaparte mould of serving his country, France, as a soldier and being prepared to die for it, if necessary.

Unfortunately, when France was vanquished by Prussia in the 1870 war, he and his parents had to go and live in exile in England. They settled at Camden Place, in Chistlehurst, Kent. Queen Victoria, a close friend of the family, prevailed upon her cousin, the Duke of Cambridge, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, to allow the prince to attend the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich . The Prince acquitted himself exceptionally well and graduated as an officer with top marks for practical gunnery. In his final exams in January 1875, he passed out seventh in the School and first in the final exam.

When Britain sent out reinforcements after the defeat of the British Army at Isandlwana, the Prince applied for permission to join some of his officer colleagues who were already in Zululand. Permission was granted for him to join the British Army as an observer. The Prince left England on 27 February 1879 on board the Danube and after a one day overnight in Cape Town on 26 March, he arrived in Durban on 31 March. Once here, Lord Chelmsford , the Commander-in-Chief of the colonial army, elected Louis to the post of Staff Officer and considered him as “one of the most reliable officers on (his) staff” (Tisdall. P.215).

The Prince left Durban on 19 April 1879, he stayed in Pietermaritzburg for 5 days and then advanced with the troops into Zululand for the final offensive against the Zulu army.

On the 1 June, whilst on a reconnaissance sortie with Captain Jaheel Carey, six of Major Bettington’s troopers and a Suthu guide, the Prince and his party were ambushed close to the Jojosi river. Carey and 4 of the troopers galloped off to safety, 2 of the troopers and the guide were killed. The Prince was unable to mount his horse because of the gunfire and commotion. His right arm was injured in falling when he tried to seize the holster straps of his saddle; he lost his sabre in the struggle, and after a faulty aim from his pistol, he was left to face the horde of Zulu warriors who closed in on him. His body was recovered next morning with 17 assegai wounds, all in the front. Thus, in a faraway land, the 23 yr old Prince Imperial of France shed his last drops of blood. His body was taken all the way to the coast for repatriation, via St Helena, to the Arsenal in Woolwich. He was finally buried in St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, on the opposite side of the nave to his father. His mother now lies in her tomb behind the altar.

Queen Victoria ordered and paid for his monument and she also sponsored the pilgrimage of the Prince’s mother, the Empress Eugénie, who came out a year later to follow in the footsteps of her son and to spend the night of the first anniversary of his death at the spot where he had died.
The present Prince Imperial Interpretive Wall, built in 2006, was a funded by the Lycée Professionel Julien de Rontaunay, Ste Clothilde, Reunion Island, at the request of the cultural tourism research development project, The French Presence in KwaZulu-Natal: La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon.

Glenn Flanagan: Project leader and researcher
2 March 2012 COPYRIGHT