An Imperial Prince died in the South African veld. The Great Queen of England wept and his distraught mother, Empress Eugenie of France toiled in sad pilgrimage to where he fell. The proud Bonaparte dynasty died with him. This book is not a military history of the war between the British and the Zulu – many other books cover the subject – but rather an attempt to present the Prince as a real person; a young soldier determined not to trade on his foreign royal status but as one indomitably committed to seeing for himself the ramifications of this war. Twelve letters written to his mother the Empress Eugenie, translated into English for the first time as a collection, chronicle the Prince’s impressions of his arrival in Durban and the long ride with his regiment to Northern Zululand. These letters bring a new dimension into an oft-told story. Despite all precautions however, he lost his life facing a regiment of Zulu warriors.
But his death had unexpected consequences. The community who live near the monument built to commemorate his death, are amongst the most abject poor and over the years since the Prince Imperial’s untimely death in 1879, that community and others closer to Pietermaritzburg have become involved in the tragedy but in the most positive of ways. Benefits have been raised to assist in their upliftment – where assegais reigned, now classrooms, a library, rain tanks, vegetable gardens, and schools bear testimony to a Prince who did not die in vain but as the catalyst to the transformation of many lives.
Glenn Flanagan is a South African Francophile, retired French teacher and lecturer, whose interest in the Prince Imperial was inspired by one of her lecturers, Françoise Chupin, in the French Department of the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg Campus. She has travelled widely in Africa, climbing the great peaks, crossing the Sahara, exploring the French West-African countries and completing Honours courses in both English and French African Literature. It was an obvious choice to further her Masters research on the “French Presence in Kwazulu-Natal” with its fascinating component, amongst others, of the Franco-Zulu saga of the Prince Imperial’s tragic story. Glenn continues to research and apply her research networking to community outreach.
Glenn Flannagan received the Legion d’Honneur for her role in furthering France’s relationship with KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
This publication received the financial support of the Fondation Napoléon.