Thank you for visiting! Please feel free to leave a comment. I accept anonymous comments as long as they are polite.

All written content is protected by copyright but if you wish to contact me regarding the content of this blog, please feel free to do so via the contact form.

Please pay a visit, too, to HILLIARD & CROFT


Christina Croft at Amazon

Friday 2 June 2017

The Death of the Prince Imperial

On the morning of 2nd June 1879, a British army patrol set out from their camp in the vicinity of Rorke's Drift in southern Africa, in the desperate hope of finding the young Prince Imperial, pretender to the French throne, wounded but still alive. Few members of the patrol could have really believed there was any chance that the young prince had survived, as, the previous day, while on a reconnaissance mission in the midst of the Anglo-Zulu War, he and his six companions had been suddenly ambushed by a party of between thirty and forty Zulu warriors.

Two members of the party were killed instantly, prompting the rest of the group to take flight, but, as the Prince attempted to mount his horse, his saddle slipped and the horse bolted. One companion galloped past him, calling, "Make haste, Sir!" but none stopped to assist him.

On 2nd June, the patrol found his naked body, pierced by eighteen spears, including one through his eye; and beside him lay the speared corpse of his faithful little terrier.

Known as Napoleon IV to the French Imperialists, the Prince had been living in England since France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, and the overthrow of his father, Napoleon III. There, he attended Woolwich Military Academy and showed himself to be 'a plucky but alas! too reckless young man' in the opinion of Queen Victoria, who viewed him with a maternal affection.

A gifted artist and skilled horseman and swordsman,  he was, in the words of one of his many admirers, 'a fine fellow, with the grace of a perfect gentleman. Everyone who knew him speaks feelingly of his charm, his kindness, his heart, the sincerity and rectitude of his sentiments. Everybody loved him.'

Having completed his studies, he longed to take part in active service but, in view of his position as the pretender to the French throne, the British High Command and Queen Victoria had been reluctant to allow him to be placed in any danger. When the Zulu War broke out, he again pleaded to be sent into action but again his request was refused until, at last, after much persuasion, the Queen and the Duke of Cambridge - the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces - allowed him to go to Africa, as a volunteer. Strict instructions were given that he was to be kept away from any fighting, but his own derring-do led him into many dangers.

The fact that his companions abandoned him to his fate cast a dark shadow over the honour of the army, and, to make matters worse, much to Queen Victoria's disgusts, certain Members of Parliament not only begrudged paying for his embalmed body to be returned to England, but also refused to allow a monument to his memory to be placed in Westminster Abbey.

Instead, at her own expense, the Queen had a statue erected in St. George's Chapel in Windsor, and a similar monument stands at the military training school in Woolwich.

The effect of his death on the Duke of Cambridge is described in my book:  'Queen Victoria's Cousins' and far more information about this brave, kind and 'too reckless' young man is included in my forthcoming book, "Queen Victoria & The French Royal Families."


No comments: