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 Death of the Prince Imperial BY ARCHIBALD FORBES

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PostSubject: Death of the Prince Imperial BY ARCHIBALD FORBES   Death of the Prince Imperial BY ARCHIBALD FORBES I_icon_minitimeSun Oct 25, 2009 4:00 pm


I was with Herbert Stewart, the cavalry brigade-major,
when Carey came to him with Harrison's warrant for an
escort. Carey did not mention, nor did the document
state, that the escort was for the Prince Imperial. Stewart
ordered out six men of Beddington's Horse a curiously
mixed handful of diverse nationalities and he told Carey
that he would send Captain Shepstone an order for the
Basuto detail of the escort ; but that time would be saved
if Carey himself on his way back to headquarters would
hand Shepstone the order and give his own instructions.
Carey chose the latter alternative and departed. An hour
later, while I was still with Stewart, the six Basutos
paraded in front of his tent. Either Carey or Shepstone
had blundered in the instructions given them, that was
clear; but nothing could now be done but to order the
Basutos to hurry forward and try to overtake the other
instalment of the escort. Meanwhile the Prince had been
impatient; and he, Carey, and the white section of the
escort had gone on. Carey made no demur to the
scant escort, since nothing was to be apprehended and

since he himself had been recently chaffed for being
addicted to requisitioning inordinately large escorts. Harrison
later met the party some miles out, and sanctioned its
going forward notwithstanding that the Basutos had not
joined, which indeed they never succeeded in doing. The
party then consisted of the Prince, Carey, a sergeant, a
corporal, four troopers, and a black native guide nine
persons in all.
When Harrison had announced the tidings of the tragedy,
I went to my tent and sent for each of the four surviving
troopers in succession. They were all bad witnesses, and I
could not help suspecting that they were in collusion to keep
something back. All agreed, however, that Lieutenant Carey
headed the panic-flight ; and next day it transpired that,
when a mile away from the scene and still galloping wildly,
he was casually met by Sir Evelyn Wood and Colonel Buller,
to whom he exclaimed :
Fly ! Fly ! The Zulus are after
me and the Prince Imperial is killed !
" The evidence I took
on the night of the disaster, and that afterwards given before
the court of inquiry and the court-martial on Carey, may now
be briefly summarised.
The site of the intended camp having been planned out by
the Prince and Carey, the party ascended an adjacent hill
and spent an hour there in sketching the contours of the
surrounding country. No Zulus were visible in the wide
expanse surveyed from the hill- top. At its base, on a small
plain at the junction of the rivers Tambakala and Ityotyozi,
was the small Zulu kraal of Etuki, the few huts of which,
according to the Zulu custom, stood in a rough circle which
was surrounded on three sides at a little distance by a tall
growth of " mealies "
(Indian corn) and the high grass known
as "Kaffir corn." The party descended to this kraal, offsaddled,
fed the horses, made coffee, ate food, and then
reclined, resting against the wall of a hut in full sense of
assured safety. Some dogs skulking about the empty kraal
and the fresh ashes on the hearths might have warned them,
but they did not heed the suggestion thus afforded. About

three o'clock Corporal Grubbe, who understood the Basuto
language, reported the statement of the guide that he had
seen a Zulu entering the mealie-field in their front. Carey
proposed immediately saddling-up. The Prince desired ten
minutes' longer rest, and Carey did not expostulate. Then
the horses were brought up and saddled. Carey stated that
at this moment he saw black forms moving behind the screen
of tall grain, and informed the Prince. Throughout the day
the latter had acted in command of the escort, and he now
in soldierly fashion gave the successive orders,
Prepare to
mount !
" " Mount !
" Next moment, according to the
evidence, a volley of twenty or thirty bullets one witness
said forty bullets were fired into the party.
Let me be done with Carey for good and all. He had
mounted on the inner, the safe, side of the hut, and immediately
galloped off. On the night of the event he
expressed the opinion that the Prince had been shot dead at
the kraal, but owned that the first actual evidence of misfortune
of which he became cognisant was the Prince's riderless
horse galloping past him. The men were either less
active or less precipitate than was the officer. One of their
number fell at the kraal, another on the grassy level some
150 yards wide, between the kraal and a shallow "donga" or
gully across which ran the path towards the distant camp.
As to the Prince the testimony was fairly unanimous.
Sergeant Cochrane stated that he never actually mounted,
but had foot in stirrup when at the Zulu volley his horse,
a spirited grey sixteen hands high and always difficult to
mount, started off, presently broke away, and later was
caught by the survivors. Then the Prince tried to escape on
foot, and was last seen by Cochrane running into the donga,
from which he never emerged. Another trooper testified
that he saw the Prince try to mount, but that, not succeeding,
he ran by his horse's side for some little distance making
effort after effort to mount, till he either stumbled or fell in
a scrambling way and seemed to be trodden on by his horse.
But the most detailed evidence was given by trooper Lecocq,
a Channel-Islander. He stated that after their volley the

Zulus bounded out of cover, shouting
" Usuta !
(" Cowards ! ")
The Prince was unable to mount his impatient horse, scared
as it was by the fire. One by one the troopers galloped by
the Prince who, as he ran alongside his now maddened horse,
was endeavouring in vain to mount. As Lecocq passed lying
on his stomach across the saddle, not yet having got his seat,
he called to the Prince,
Depechez-vous, s'il vous plait,
Monseigneur !
" The Prince made no reply and was left alone
to his fate. His horse strained after that of Lecocq, who
then saw the doomed Prince holding his stirrup-leather with
one hand, grasping reins and pommel with the other, and
trying to remount on the run. No doubt he made one
desperate effort, trusting to the strength of his grasp on the
band of leather crossing the pommel from holster to holster.
That band tore under the strain. I inspected it next day and
found it no leather at all, but paper-faced so that the Prince's
fate really was attributable to shoddy saddlery. Lecocq saw
the Prince fall backwards, and his horse tread on him and
then gallop away. According to him the Prince regained his
feet and ran at full speed towards the donga on the track of
the retreating party. When for the last time the Jerseyman
turned round in the saddle, he saw the Prince still running,

pursued only a few yards behind by some twelve or fourteen
Zulus with assegais in hand which they were throwing at him.
None save the slayers saw the tragedy enacted in the donga.
Early next morning the cavalry brigade marched out to
recover the body, for there was no hope that anything save
the body was to be recovered. As the scene was neared,
some of us rode forward in advance. In the middle of the
little plain was found a body, savagely mutilated ; it was not
that of the Prince, but of one of the slain troopers. We found
the dead Prince in the donga, a few paces on one side of the
path. He was lying on his back, naked save for one sock ;
a spur bent out of shape was close to him. His head was so
bent to the right that the cheek touched the sward. His
hacked arms were lightly crossed over his lacerated chest, and
his face, the features of which were in no wise distorted but
wore a faint smile that slightly parted the lips, was marred by

the destruction of the right eye from an assegai-stab. The
surgeons agreed that this wound, which penetrated the brain,
was the first and the fatal hurt and that the subsequent
wounds were inflicted on a dead body. Of those there were
many, in throat, in chest, in side, and on arms, apart from the
nick in the abdomen which is the Zulu fetish-custom, invariably
practised on slain enemies as a protection against
being haunted by their ghosts. His wounds bled afresh as
we moved him. Neither on him nor on any of the three
other slain of the party was found any bullet-wound ; ah1 had
been killed by assegai-stabs. Round the poor Prince's neck
his slayers had left a little gold chain on which were strung
a locket set with a miniature of his mother, and a reliquary
containing a fragment of the true Cross which was given by
Pope Leo III. to Charlemagne when he crowned that great
Prince Emperor of the West, and which dynasty after dynasty
of French monarchs had since worn as a talisman. Very sad
and solemn was the scene as we stood around, silent all and
with bared heads, looking down on the untimely dead. The
Prince's two servants were weeping bitterly and there was a
lump in many a throat. An officer, his bosom friend at
Woolwich, detached the necklet and placed it in an envelope
with several locks of the Prince's short dark hair for transmission
to his mother, who a year later made so sad a
pilgrimage to the spot where we now stood over her dead son.
Then the body, wrapped in a cloak, was placed on the lanceshafts
of the cavalrymen, and on this extemporised bier the
officers of the brigade bore it up the ascent to the ambulancewaggon
which was in waiting. The same afternoon a solemn
funeral service was performed in the Itelezi camp, and later
in the evening the body, escorted by a detachment of cavalry,
began its pilgrimage to England, in which exile, in the chapel
at Farnborough, where the widowed wife and childless mother
now resides, the remains of husband and son now rest side
by side in their marble sarcophagi. The sword worn in
South Africa by the Prince, the veritable sword worn by the
first Napoleon from Arcola to Waterloo in reference to which
the Prince had been heard to say,
" I must earn a better right
to it than that which my name alone can give me" had
been carried off by his Zulu slayers, but was restored by
Cetewayo when Lord Chelmsford's army was closing in upon
To be slain by savages in an obscure corner of a remote
continent was a miserable end, truly, for him who once was
the Son of France !
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