Littell's Living Age/Volume 146/Issue 1882/The Journey of the Ex-Empress Eugenie

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Littell's Living Age
Volume 146, Issue 1882 : The Journey of the Ex-Empress Eugenie
Originally published in the Boston Traveller.

At this time, when events follow each other so quickly, there seems to be some danger that facts, which will one day play an important part in history, may be passed over at the present time. The fact that the ex-empress Eugenie has sailed for south Africa brings her again before the world in which she once played so brilliant a part. The ex-empress travels under the incognito of Countess de Pierrefords, accompanied by the Marquis de Basano, Colonel Evelyn Wood, and Lady Wood; also a small suite, among whom is Uhlman, the confidential servant of the late prince imperial.

This calls to mind that the prince imperial sailed for Natal on the 26th of February, 1879. He had breakfasted with the Prince of Wales at Marlborough House, and had been very warmly commended by the queen. The prince then embarked at Portsmouth.

Upon his arrival at Capetown, in the absence of Sir Bartle Frere, he was entertained by Lady Frere at the Government House, but lost no time in going to Natal. There he became the guest at Pietermaritzburg of Sir Bartle Frere and Lieutenant-Governor Sir Henry Bulwer, until he reached the headquarters of General Lord Chelmsford at Durban, on April 9th. There are but scanty notices of what he did and experienced in the months of April and May. His letters to the empress were filled with animated descriptions of the country and his enjoyments of camp life. During several weeks he was suffering from an attack of fever caused by the climate. In the latter part of May, being on the general staff, he was attached to the cavalry corps of Colonel Redvers Buller, on the northern frontier of Zululand.

On the 16th May the prince imperial made a reconnoissance under the command of Colonel Buller. Lord William Beresford, since gazetted as "Ulundi Beresford," was also with them. Eighty of Baker’s horse and sixty Basutos made up the force. A large number of Zulus were met at Conference Hill. After galloping about from point to point, the prince espied some Zulus on a distant kopjè, and rode after them. Off went Lieutenant Raw and the Basutos after the impatient prince, and on came Baker’s horse in the wake of the Basutos. The Zulus, however, had quickly disappeared. The wind blew cold, most bitterly so, and for those who had no blankets there was no sleep that night. The prince was amongst the forlorn and coverless ones. On the 21st of May the prince, whilst riding out with several officers from camp, was surrounded by the Zulus, upon whom he had rushed sword in hand. Some of the friendly Zulus were killed. The prince put his horse at a kranz (a rocky descent), and had a narrow escape. It was thought, however, that the country was quiet, and small parties of mounted men made daily expeditions from the camp. On such an expedition, and owing to the small number of his escort, the prince imperial fell. Much has been said and written of the gracious and gentle side of this prince’s character. Yet he also possessed in a great degree the dash and élan of a thorough Frenchman. His political position was always a dignified one. He refused to issue any manifesto which would have brought a civil war on France. He had declared, however, on the day on which he attained his majority, "that if the French people should for the eighth time by universal suffrage decide in favor of a Napoleon for their ruler, he was ready to accept the trust of imperial power."

The memorial already constructed to the prince imperial in Zululand by Corporal Sully and the English soldiers is on the spot where he was killed; the stones composing the monument, which in form resembles one of the ordinary flat gravestones in an English churchyard, were shaped in squares by the men in garrison at Fort Newdigate. The headstone and those composing the large cross and the letter "N" are white. The others are of a darker color. It is here that the empress will kneel to pray for her son. Over these stones the waving grasses of south Africa will soon grow. Tropical vines and flowers will also find a place there. The sad tragedies caused by war are marked here and there by the crosses placed at a soldier’s last resting-place, or some memorial stone placed by some comrade; and the simple memorial to the last of the Bonapartes takes no precedence.