Bill Keeth looks back to 1879 and a death that shocked England and France quite as much as the more recent death of Diana, Princess of Wales
The only child of the Emperor Napoleon III of France and the Empress Eugenie, the Prince Imperial relocated with his family to England when his father, son of a younger brother of Napoleon I, was ousted from the French throne, after the Franco-Prussian War.
He trained as a soldier and, keen to see action, he, his mother and Queen Victoria herself persuaded the British to allow him to participate in the Zulu War, where to Baron Chelmsford, the infamous loser of the Isandlwhana massacre was ordered to take care of him.
But on the morning of 1 June, without a full escort, Louis accompanied a troop into Zululand where 40 Zulus 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 ran 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. He 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;
His death caused an international sensation. Rumours spread in France that the prince, being the last of the Bonapartes had been intentionally “disposed of” by the British.
(22 June 2016)
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