La Route du Prince Imperial

La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon

La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon, launched on 1 June 1996 in the precincts of the Prince Imperial monument, Uqweqwe, Zululand, in the presence of Ray Heron, the then Chairperson of the Battlefields’ Route Association and Jenny Bustin, the then President of the French Teachers’ Association of KwaZulu-Natal, is a self-drive route that actually follows the very scenic, pilgrimage route of his mother, the Empress Eugenie, who came to Zululand in 1880, to follow in the foot steps of her son. She spent the night of the anniversary of his death in vigil at the very spot, at uQweqwe, where he died in an ambush on 1 June 1879.

Besides indicating the direct access to the monument of the Prince Imperial at uQweqwe, the Route offers various possibilities of exploring the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

Location of the Prince Imperial Monument

GPS information:

  • Dirt road after Hlubi School, some 11 km from Nqutu: S 28 11 17 – 30 46 07
  • “Chevrons”: S 28 08 07 – 30 48 04
  • Prince Imperial Monument S 28 07 56 – E 30 47 50

Distance to the Prince Imperial Monument:

  • 71 km south-east of Dundee
  • 21 km south-east of Nqutu
  • 52 km south-west of Vryheid

Imperial Route Map

Copyright: Francois Le Quemener

The following list gives brief information about places on the Route, as well as information concerning the Prince Imperial associated with the place and any other historical French connection.


Lala word for ‘lagoon’ or ‘estuary’.
Sighted on Christmas Day in 1497 by Vasco de Gama who called it “The Bay of Natal” and “The Point of the Fishermen”
1835 meeting of James Collis and Captain Allen Gardiner.
First mayor of Durban, George Cato, was of Huguenot descent.
Adulphe Delegorgue, hunter, naturalist, stayed in Albert Park during the Battle of Congella.

The Prince Imperial
Monday 31 March 1879 – Saturday 19 April 1879:
The Prince Imperial was met by Father Sabon OMI and by the military and civil authorities. While in Durban, the Prince met Paul Deleage, reporter from Le Figaro. The Prince stayed with Captain Baynton in St Andrews St and then in a military camp.
After his death, the Prince’s body was brought back to Durban late on Monday 9 June 1879 and on the following day was transferred on to the Boadicea for transport to Cape Town and ultimately back to England.
A year later, the Empress Eugenie, his mother also stayed with Captain Baynton.


Place of the Elephant
Capital of KZN. 1839 laid out by the Voortrekkers. Named after Pieter Retief, of Huguenot descent and Gert Maritz.

Adulphe Delegorgue stayed here in 1839.

The Prince Imperial
Saturday 19 April 1879 – Saturday 26 April 1879
The Prince Imperial stayed in Government House, visited the Imperial Hotel and left from Fort Napier. Subsequently his body lay in rest in the St Mary’s chapel of the French Oblates of Mary Immaculate Missionary Order on the night of 8/9 June 1879 before being taken down to Durban. A solemn requiem mass was said for the Prince and it was attended by all the town’s dignitaries.
The Empress Eugenie also stayed in Government House during her stay in PMB.

Seven Oaks

One of the Empress’ carriages broke down here and she was lent another by the Newmarch family. She thanked them by giving them a little sewing machine with Mother-of-Pearl inlay. It can be seen in the Greytown museum.


Little Pietermaritzburg
First surveyed by General Louis Botha in 1852.
Named after Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape Colony. Centre of military operations at the time of the Bambatha Rebellion in 1906.Later the scene of King Dinuzulu’s trial.

Mooi River/Mpofana River

Light brown yellowy mud

Keate’s Drift

Named after one of the early farmers in the area.

Tugela Ferry/ uThukela

Angry one


Named after General Sir Pomeroy Colley, killes at the battle of Majuba in 1898.

Home of the Noyi Bazi Clinic, run by the French Augustinian order of Sisters. The Sisters received France’s highest honour, La Legion D’Honneur in 1999.


Help one another
Dates back to the time ‘when ox-wagon drivers would lend each other their ox teams to help the wagons get up the steep hill’ (Adrian Koopman).


Once called the Coalopolis of KZN. Laid out in 1882 by Peter Smith.
Site of a British sanatorium in the Anglo Zulu war.
First battle of the Anglo Boer war fought on Talana Hill.
Home of Chez Nous Bed’n Breakfast run by Elisabeth (Dundee’s only French resident) and Mark Durham..

The Prince Imperial
Tuesday 29 April 1879 – Friday 2 May 1879
After leaving Pietermaritzburg, the Prince traveled via Escort and Ladysmith to Dundee. On Friday 2 May he crossed the Buffalo (iNyathi) River into Zululand.

Landman’s Drift on the Msinyathi River

During the Anglo-Zulu war, on 2 May 1879, an entrenched camp and depot was set up at the Drift for the 2nd Division

The Prince Imperial
Monday 19 May
Attack on a kraal that would be rechristened
kraal Napoleon

Tuesday 20 May 1879 – Tuesday 27 May 1879
The Prince returned to Staff Headquarters and was commissioned by Lord Chelmsford to study the plans for a fort that would be built at Conference Hill.


Possible meanings:
isinquthu………the back of the head
Umquthu………..protective charm
Ingquthu……….a vessel of basket work or pottery
with a flat-covered top and small mouth/the ox
given to the bride’s mother which isnot part of
the lobola/a thick, stumpy beard/a hlonipha
term for the female sex organ
(Adrian Koopman)

The District Rd, 11 kms from Nqutu and some couple of kilometers left after the Hlubi School
(the sign has now disappeared!)


Freedom or Liberty
Vryheid, formerly the capital of the so-called New Republic, was set up by a group of Boers in 1884 on land granted to them by Dinuzulu. The New Republic was imcorporated into the South African Republic in 1888.

The Prince Imperial
Sunday 4 May 1879 – Monday 5 May 1879
After his stay in Dundee, the Prince traveled along the Blood River to arrive at Kambula Hill on Saturday 3 May. He met up with his friends Bigge and Slade with whom he had been at the Woolwich Royal Military Academy.


The Outside Meadow
One of the oldest towns in northern KZN, having been founded by the Voortrekkers in about 1852on land obtained from Mpande. For many years it was the capital of a separate Boer Republic but in 1868 it was ceded to the South African Republic.

The Prince Imperial
Tuesday 6 May 1879 – Sunday 11 May 1879.The Prince stayed at Colonel Bray’s.


With some 5000 British settlers arriving in the colony and settling in the Buffalo Border region and up into Northern Natal during the years 1849 – 1851, a Post Halt II was established on the banks of the Ncandu River. Then in 1854, a Dr Sutherland, later the Surveyor General of the Colony, set out a township that he registered as Newcastle after the then Secretary of the Colonies.
In 1876 with the threat of war with the new Zulu Kingdom and the pending annexation of the Transvaal the British decided to build a fort. It was built by Major Amiel and some 200 men of the 80th Staffordshire Regiment. It became an important commissariat for the troops operating in the Transvaal from 1877 – 1881. Subsequently, after the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, it fell into disrepair but was restored in the 1980s as a museum.

The Prince Imperial
Monday 12 May 1879 – Wednesday 12 May 1879
The Prince stayed in Newcastle before leaving on a reconnaissance into Zululand with Major Bettington for some five days.

Conference Hill

A fort was built below the hill by the 94th Regiment. A company of Royal Engineers built twin redoubts nearby to protect stores placed in between them. It is not clear whether one or all of these were subsequently styled Fort Napoleon. (John Laband and Paul Thompson:172)

The Prince Imperial
Saturday 17 May 1879

Thursday 29 May 1879
Reconnaissance with Lord Chelmsford along the Blood River in the direction of the Itelezi hill.

Koppie Allein

Hillock standing on its own

The Prince Imperial
Friday 30 May 1879
Reconnaissance with Lord Chelmsford

Saturday 31 May 1879
Small reconnaissance around Fort Warwick ( small earthwork built on the advancing 2nd Division’s line of communication to Koppie Allein –built by a company of the 2/24th,under Capt J.J.Harvey) (John Laband and Paul Thompson:95)
Return to Koppie Allein


Hard crust, as on food

The Prince Imperial monument is situated between the Jojosi ( ijojo ‘species of grass’ + uzi ‘fibre or thread’) River and the Vumankala ( vuma ‘agree to’ + inkala ‘crab’) stream (Adrian Koopman).

The uQweqwe community has benefited substantially from the Durban University of Technology’s project, FRENCH PRESENCE IN KZN: LA ROUTE DU PRINCE IMPERIAL, LOUIS NAPOLEON. Details can be obtained from the project leader.

The Prince Imperial Interpretive Wall and visitors’ toilet are donations from the Lycée Professionnel de Rontaunay, Ste Clotilde, Reunion Island.

Imperial Route Plaque on wall

The Prince Imperial
On 1 June 1879 at 09h30, the Prince set out with eight others (Lieutenant Carey, , Sergent Willis, Corporal Grubb, Privates Abel, Cochrane, Rogers, LeTocq and an indigenous guide) from Koppie Allein to reconnoitre a suitable campsite for the advance of the British army to Ulundi.. Towards 12h00 they off saddled some 250 metres from the Jojosi river in a deserted kraal, did not post guards and subsequently, at about 15h30 the group was attacked by Zulu warriors. The Prince, Abel, Rogers and the guide were killed in the ambush. Abel and Rogers were buried on site; the local guide was killed some distance from the ambush site and no one knows what happened to his body; the Prince’s body was repatriated to England. He was initially buried in St Mary’s Church, Chistlehurst, Kent and subsequently, in St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, where he lies in the Imperial Crypt with his parents, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie.

Glenn Flanagan
Project Leader (1993 – ): French Presence in KwaZulu-Natal:
La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon
Desk top assistance :S’mangele Gasa and Chika Mwale

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