On this day in 1879…

The Prince Imperial Napoleon Eugene Bonaparte, the great-grandson of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and the only son of Napoleon III, was killed on 1 June 1879 while serving with the British Army in the Zulu War. He had been part of a reconnaissance party which was attacked by Zulu warriors and the Prince’s horse dashed off before he could remount it. The Prince clung to the saddle, but after about a hundred yards a strap broke, and he fell under his horse and his right arm was trampled. He leapt up, drawing his revolver with his left hand, but was overwhelmed and killed by the pursuing Zulus.

Aged just 22, his death sent shockwaves throughout Europe, as he was the last serious dynastic hope for the restoration of the House of Bonaparte to the throne of France. Rumours quickly spread in France that the prince had been intentionally “disposed of” by the British, or by scheming French republicans. Even the Freemasons and Queen Victoria were accused of arranging the whole thing.

Sir Garnet Wolseley described him as “a plucky young man, and he died a soldier’s death. What on earth could he have done better?”

Benjamin Disraeli took a rather different view: “Who are these Zulus; who are these … people who defeat our generals, convert our bishops, and who on this day have put an end to a great dynasty?”

1 Comment

  • AM Posted June 4, 2020 1:46 am

    The Disraeli quote appears at the end of the film Zulu Dawn. I never understood what the great dynasty was and how they put an end to it until now. Thanks Chris!

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