Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial


Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial

:"This article refers to the son of Napoleon III. For the stepson of Napoleon I, see Eugène de Beauharnais

Napoléon IV, Prince Imperial, often referred to as Louis Napoléon (Full name: "Louis Napoléon Eugène Jean Joseph", 16 March 18561 June 1879), Prince Imperial, "Fils de France", was the only child of Emperor Napoleon III of France and his Empress consort Eugénie de Montijo. His early death in Africa sent shock waves throughout Europe, as he was the last dynastic hope for the restoration of the Bonapartes to the throne of France.

Biography

At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, he accompanied his father to the front and first came under fire at Saarbrücken. When the war began to go against the Imperial arms, however, he had to flee from France with the Imperial Family and settled in England at Chislehurst, Kent. On his father's death, Bonapartists proclaimed him Napoleon IV. During the 1870s, there was some talk of a marriage between him and Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice. Toward the end of his life there were rumours, Fact|date=May 2008 not all untrue, Fact|date=May 2008 that he was romantically attached to Spanish infanta María del Pilar, daughter of Queen Isabella II of Spain. Fact|date=May 2008 Infanta Pilar died the same year as Napoléon Eugène.

With the demise of the Second French Empire, the Prince Imperial was exiled to the United Kingdom, where he applied and was accepted to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. After finishing 17th in his class, he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in order to follow in the footsteps of his famous great-uncle. Finally, with the outbreak of the Zulu War in 1879, the Prince Imperial, with the rank of lieutenant, forced the hand of the British military to allow him to take part in the conflict. He was only allowed to go to Africa by special pleading of his mother, the Empress Eugenie, and by Queen Victoria herself. He went as an observer, attached to the staff of Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, the commander in South Africa, who was admonished to take care of him. Louis accompanied Chelmsford on his march into Zululand. Keen to see action, and full of enthusiasm, he was warned by Lieutenant Arthur Brigge, a close friend, "...to avoid running unnecessary risks. I reminded him of the Empress at home and his political party in France."

Chelmsford, mindful of his duty, attached the Prince to staff of Colonel Richard Harrison of the Royal Engineers, where it was felt he could be active but safe. Harrison was responsible for the column's transport and for reconnaissance of the forward route on the way to Ulundi, the Zulu capital. While he welcomed the presence of Louis, he was told by Chelmsford that the Prince must be accompanied at all times by a strong escort. Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey, a French speaker and British subject from Guernsey, was given particular "charge" of Louis. The Prince took part in several reconnaissance missions, though his eagerness for action almost led him into an early ambush, when he exceeded orders in a party led by Colonel Redvers Buller. Despite this on the evening of 31 May, 1879. Harrison agreed to allow Louis to scout in a forward party scheduled to leave in the morning, in the mistaken belief that the path ahead was free of Zulu skirmishers. (It was a constant feature of the whole campaign for the British to underestimate the capacity of the Zulus, particularly the skill of their light infantry in ambush).

On the morning of 1 June the troop set out, earlier than intended, and without the full escort, largely owing to Louis' impatience. Led by Carey, the scouts rode deeper into Zululand. Without Harrison or Buller present to restrain him, the Prince took command from Carey, even though the latter had seniority. At noon the troop was halted at a temporarily deserted kraal while Louis and Carey made some sketches of the terrain, and used part of the thatch to make a fire. No lookout was posted. As they were preparing to leave, about 40 Zulus fired upon them and rushed screaming "uSuthu!" ("kill") towards them. The Prince's horse dashed off before he could mount, the Prince clinging to a holster on the saddle - after about a hundred yards a strap broke, and the Prince fell beneath his horse, trampling his right arm. He leapt up, drawing his revolver with his left hand, and started to run - but the Zulus could run faster.

The Prince was speared in the thigh, pulled the assegai from his wound, and turned and fired on his pursuers, another assegai struck his left shoulder. The Prince tried to fight on, using the assegai he had pulled from his leg, but weakened by his wounds, he sank to the ground and was overwhelmed. When recovered his body had 18 assegai wounds. Two of his escort had been killed, and another was missing. Lt. Carey and the remaining four came together about 50 yards from where the Prince made his final stand - but not a single shot did they fire at the Zulus. Carey led his men back to camp, where he was greeted warmly for the last time in his career - after a court of inquiry, a court martial, intervention by the Empress Eugenie and Queen Victoria, he was to return to his regiment a pariah - shunned by his fellow officers for not standing and fighting. He endured six years of social hell before his death in Bombay.

Louis Napoleon's death caused an international sensation, and in one slanderous account Queen Victoria was accused of deliberately arranging the whole thing. The Zulus later claimed that they would not have killed him if they had known who he was. Zabanga, his chief assailant, met his death in July at the Battle of Ulundi. Eugénie was later to make a pilgrimage to Sobuza's kraal, where her son died. The Prince, who had begged to be allowed to go to war, taking the sword carried by the first Napoleon at Austerlitz to war with him, and worried his commanders by his dash and daring, was described by Wolseley as "a plucky young man, and he died a soldier's death. What on earth could he have done better?".

After death the Prince was ritually disemboweled by one Hlabanatunga, a common Zulu practice to prevent his spirit seeking revenge on his killers in the afterlife. His badly decomposed body was brought back to England and buried in Chislehurst. Later, it was transferred to a special mausoleum constructed by his mother as the Imperial Crypt at Saint Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire, England, next to his father. As his heir the Prince Imperial appointed Prince Napoléon Victor Bonaparte, thus omitting the genealogically senior heir, Victor's father, the rather detested Prince Napoléon ("Plon-Plon").

The asteroid moon Petit-Prince was named after the Prince Imperial in 1998, because it orbits an asteroid named after his mother (45 Eugenia).

Titles from birth to death

* "His Imperial Highness The Prince Imperial" (1856–1870)
* "His Imperial Highness" Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial of France (1870–1873)
* "His Imperial Highness" Prince Imperial Napoléon, Head of the Imperial House of France (1873–1879)

References

* Morris, Donald R. "The Washing of the Spears". Simon and Schuster, 1965, pp 511-545.
* David, Saul "Zulu". Penguin/Viking, 2004, pp 311-336.

Further reading

* Ellen Barlee, "Life of Napoleon, Prince Imperial of France", (London, 1889)
* M. d'Hérrison, "Le prince impérial", (Paris, 1890)
* André Martinet, "Le prince impérial", (Paris, 1895)
* R. Minon, "Les derniers jours du prince impérial sur le continent", (Paris, 1900)
* Ernest Barthez, "Empress Eugenie and her Circle", (New York, 1913)

External links

* [http://www.rapidttp.com/milhist/vol032aw.html The South African Military History Society The Prince Imperial]
* [http://rapidttp.com/milhist/vol064or.html South African Military History Society: Memorandum Regarding the Discovery of the Late Prince Imperial's Uniform and Other Effects]
* [http://www.ospreypublishing.com/content2.php/cid=120 Osprey: The curious case of the Prince Imperial]
* [http://battlefields.kzn.org.za/battlefields/about/29.html Battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal] Includes a section on the Prince Imperial


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