Napoléon, Prince Imperial
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (May 2012)|
- This article refers to the son of Napoleon III. For the stepson of Napoleon I, see Eugène de Beauharnais
|Prince Imperial of France|
|Napoléon at age 22, 1878|
|Period||9 January 1873 – 1 June 1879|
|Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte|
|House||House of Bonaparte|
|Father||Napoleon III of France|
|Mother||Eugénie de Montijo|
16 March 1856|
Paris, French Empire
|Died||1 June 1879
Zulu Kingdom (Present-day KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
|Burial||Imperial Crypt, St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough|
Napoléon, Prince Imperial (Full name: Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, 16 March 1856 – 1 June 1879), Fils de France, prince impérial 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.
Born in Paris, he was baptized on June 14th, 1856, at Notre Dame Cathedral. His godfather was Pope Pius IX, whose representative, Cardinal Patrizi, officiated. His godmother was Queen Victoria, represented by Eugène de Beauharnais's daughter, Josephine, the Queen of Sweden.
His education, after a false start under Francis Monnier, was, from 1867, supervised by General Frossard as governor, assisted by Augustin Filon, as tutor. His English nurse, Miss Shaw, who was recommended by Queen Victoria and taught the prince English from an early age; his valet, the famously loyal Xavier Uhlmann; and his inseparable friend Louis Conneau also figured importantly in his life.
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. With the demise of the Second French Empire, the Prince Imperial was exiled to the United Kingdom, where he first attended elementary lectures in physics at King's College London. He subsequently 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 Eugénie, and by intervention of 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 May 31, 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.
On the morning of June 1, the troop set out, earlier than intended, and without the full escort, largely owing to Louis's 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 toward them screaming. 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 and his right arm was trampled. 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 but pulled the assegai from his wound. As he 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 eighteen assegai wounds and had been stabbed through the right eye which had burst it, and penetrated his brain. Two of his escort had been killed and another was missing. Lt. Carey and the four men remaining came together about fifty yards from where the Prince made his final stand — but did not 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 Eugénie and Queen Victoria, he was to return to his regiment a pariah, shunned by his fellow officers for not standing and fighting. Carey endured several years of social and regimental opprobrium before his death in Bombay, India, on February 22, 1883.
Louis Napoleon's death caused an international sensation, and in one slanderous account Queen Victoria was accused[by whom?] of deliberately arranging the whole thing. The Zulus later claimed that they would not have killed him if they had known who he was. Langalabalele, 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 with him) and who had 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?"[this quote needs a citation]
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 on board the British troopship HMS Orontes (1862) 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, Prince Napoléon (Plon-Plon).
The death is presented in some detail in G. A. Henty's The Young Colonists: A Tale of The Zulu and Boer Wars (1885). The narrator describes it as one of the most shameful incidents ever in British military history. A book on the Zulu War, The Washing of the Spears, by Donald R. Morris, also describes the life and death of the Prince.
In the R. F. Delderfield novel Long Summer Day (the first of the A Horseman Riding By trilogy), Boer War veteran Paul Craddock buys a farm in 1900 or 1901. The middle-aged estate manager, Rudd, is somewhat embittered at having been one of the soldiers who had failed to rescue the Prince Imperial in 1879. Craddock is aware of the events, because by coincidence he had been born that very day.
In a 1943 Southern Daily Echo article, former Sapper George Harding (2nd Company Royal Engineers) recalled being ordered to take a horse ambulance and find the Prince's body and bring it back to the column. The Prince Imperial had been out on reconnaissance mission with a party of the 17th Lancers. Describing the mission, he said "We advanced to a dried up river bed and had to cut away the banks to get the ambulance across. Eventually, we reached a kraal beside a large mealie field where we found the bodies of the Prince and some of his party. They had been surprised by Zulus as they rested in the kraal. The Zulus broke out of the mealie field and killed them before they could remount their horses. The Prince had been stabbed 16 times with assegais. We made a rough coffin and put his body in the ambulance. After burying the other bodies where they were found, we went back to the column. The Prince's body was taken back to England for burial."
The Prince Imperial as a child
The Prince and his mother by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1857
Bust of the Prince by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, c.1865
The Prince and his dog by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, c.1865
The Prince Imperial as an adult
The Prince and his mother by James Tissot, 1878
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Napoléon, Prince Imperial
|Reference style||His Imperial Highness|
|Spoken style||Your Imperial Highness|
- 1856–1870: His Imperial Highness The Prince Imperial
- 1870–1879: Mr. Napoléon Bonaparte
Following 1870, he claimed the titles "His Imperial Highness Louis Napoléon, Prince Imperial of France" and from 1873 "His Imperial Highness Prince Imperial Napoléon, Head of the Imperial House of France", but this was not officially recognised by French authorities.
|Ancestors of Napoléon, Prince Imperial|
- Filon, Augustin (1920). Recollections of the Empress Eugénie. London: Cassell and Company, Ltd. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
- Morris, Donald R. The Washing of the Spears. Simon and Schuster, 1965, pp 511–545.
- David, Saul Zulu. Penguin/Viking, 2004, pp 311–336.
- Balansó, Juan (mayo de 1999). «Capítulo VI. Las hijas de Isabel», Las perlas de la corona, 2ª edición, Plaza Janés, pp. 126. ISBN 84-01-54071-2.
- Southern Daily Echo, Southampton UK 30 December 1943 "Southampton Survivor Of The Zulu War : Vivid Story of Final Battle At Ulundi.
- 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)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial.|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- The South African Military History Society The Prince Imperial
- South African Military History Society: Memorandum Regarding the Discovery of the Late Prince Imperial's Uniform and Other Effects
- Osprey: The curious case of the Prince Imperial
- Battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal Includes a section on the Prince Imperial
Napoléon, Prince ImperialBorn: 16 March 1856 Died: 1 June 1879
|Titles in pretence|
Emperor Napoléon III
|— TITULAR —
Emperor of the French
9 January 1873 – 1 June 1879
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1870
Napoléon V Victor
|Heir to the Throne
as Heir apparent
16 March 1856 – 4 September 1870