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|Subject: Princess Eugenie, ex Empress of the French and Lady Wood's tour of Zululand Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:06 am|| |
Following the unexpected demise in Zululand, of Prince Louis Napolen of France in March 1879, shortly after the Isandhlwana defeat, Princess Eugenie, ex Empress of the French , Louis's grieving mother made arrangements to visit the placewhere her son was killed in the autumn of 1880..
The Colonial authorties in the capital, Pietermariztburg, were very concerned about Princess Eugenie's safety, as Zululand was still in a state of turmoil and they were really not too happy with her wanting to travel through that country.
She persisted, and with some intervention from London, where Princess Eugenie was exiled, the permision was reluctantly given and plans were made for the Royal tour.
A section of 17 NMP troopers were selected to be the Royal tour guards and guides. Most of these troopers were in their early twenties and many of them had come through the horrors of Isandhlwana and Rorks drift a year earlier . Only the top men were selected for this task and their better than average skills and personal attributes were carefully considered in the selection criteria. They were placed under the command of Sergt Faddy of the NMP and he had one Corporal, Burgoyne and one Lance Corporal , Clarke who assisted him.
For a number of weeks prior to the tour the NMP troopers practised erecting and striking marquees and bell tents on the lawns of Government House.. These marquees and bells were to be used by the Royal French entourage as sleeping quarters and a messing facility.
The route to the Princes' place of demise and night stops were carefully planned. As a result, time was of the essence in the tent handling as the large party would be travelling every day and all the tents needed to be included in the convoy of 20 mule wagons.
Princess Eugenie, the ex Empress of the French arrived on April 28th 1879 and duly departed Pietermaritzburg on the 29th . She brought a number of her own French servants with her and these included two pretty young maids and a cook.
Her official host on the tour was to be Sir Evelyn Wood and his wife, Mrs Wood, who it was thought would be a female companion for the ex Empress for the duration of the tour. The ful list of persons on the tour were;
Countess of Pierrefonds ( ex Empress of the French)
Honourable Mrs R Campbell
General Sir Evelyn and Lady Wood
Marquis de Bassano
Captn Bigge R.A., A.D.C., (Equerry to the Queen)
Lieut Slade.R.A., A.D.C
Surgeon Maj Scott. A.M.D.
2 Female servants ( 1 French, 1 English)
Sergt Faddy, 2 Corporals and 14 troopers, all NMP
3 Men servants, Brown, Hutton and Ford
The first overnight stop for the Royal party was at Kramer's, arriving there at 1.30pm. The NMP troopers performed to satisfaction erecting the Pricess's marquees, the staff bell tents and their owm patrol tents in very good time. The next overnight stop was at Sterkspruit. On May 1st they were at Purcell's. On Sunday 2nd May they had devotions when prayers were read by Captn Bigge. All the ladies other than the ex Empress turned out for this.
As the party progressed north on the long road into Zululand , the frisky NMP troopers spent heir time "eyeing up" the two maids and developing flirtatious relationships with them.The maids, for their part very much enjoying the male attention and preferred riding with the troopers, and not on the Ex Empress's spider,Thus, the troopers spent their time watching two pretty girls in the saddle and not the road .
It was reported that Sergt Faddy became "smitten" by the elder of the two maids and chased off anyone else showing interest in her. Now a number of these troopers , having been educated in the best English schools could also speak French, so the lingua franca used between the maids, the Empresss and the troopers was French. Mrs Wood however could not speak conversational French and was thus left out of things.This annoyed her, and after a few days out and in an outburst remarked scathingly to the ex Empress " these common troopers ought not be able to speak French" . and then promptly reported to the ex Empress that the troopers were having flirtations with her maids. The Empress was much bigger than this, and being very happy for the two maids, laughed the whole thing off.
The troopers had overheard Mrs Wood's scathing outburst so decided that they would settle her at the first opportunity. At the next nights stop when erecting the Wood's bell tent , they surreptitiously left some of the tent pegs out and loosened others.
When the normal storm came up in the small hours, the Woods tent was blown down by the gusting winds and Mrs Woods underwear and other laundry items, which escaped fleetingly on the wind, were grandly impaled for all to see on the thorn trees surrounding the camp. At first light the next morning, the troopers took great delight in noisily assisting with the recovering of Mrs Woods unmentionables and asking the good lady, "are these all yours, or part of the tent.......,...... madam?".
As a further annoyance to her, they led her by shortcuts which were very difficult even for the most experienced horseman.Needless to say there were no further problems with Mrs Wood.
Along the way, travelling north, there was much bonhomie between the troopers and Princess's party. When the Princess herself insisted on giving first aid from her own supplies to a trooper with a minor scrape arising from a fall from his horse,, it was noted that there was a sudden increase in injuries amongst the troopers , especially grit in the eyes, which was attended to,........ by the two pretty maids.
After a few days out , the Royal party was tending to sleep-in more in the morning thus delayed the striking of tents until late in the morning. The long hours in the saddle were taking their toll. This was a problem for the NMP troopers because it meant that a late start caused a late arrival at the next nights camping place. Pitching a camp in the dark is not the easist of exercises.
On the 6th of May the party was at Helpmekaar where the ex Empress planted poppy seeds on the graves of the fallen. On the 8th a NMP fatigue party moved ahead to repair the crossing at Landmans Drft, so that the party could pass over the Buffalo River safely. Sgt Faddy took ill wiith a fever here and the two maids were directed to attend to him. This was seen by the other troopers as favouritism and they too developed "ailments" ,expecting and getting similar treatment.
By the 11th May the party was at Balter Spruit and Sergt Faddy had recovered enought by this time to ride in the ambulance wagon. Whilst here the ex Empress travelled to Utrecht to visit the places which her son had visited.
By arrangement, the Royal party met 15 wagon loads of supplies waiting for them at Conference Hill on 12th May. Whilst stopped here one of Cetewayo's brothers came to vist Gen Wood on a courtesy call. Some Boers also visited. Segt Faddy returned to duty on this day too.
On the leg of the journey to Fort Piet Uys, the inevitable happened. One of the wagons which was loaded with the NMP trooper's tents, food and personal gear , took the wrong fork in the road and as a result would not be able to join the party that night at the camp site at Fort Piet Uys. So, the troopers being the hardy souls they were decided to bivouac for the night in the lee of a small rockface near the fort. This involved sleeping on the ground behind a saddle in one's greatcoat and macintosh. The weather was freeziing .
First the Tropers had work to do and erected the tents for the Royal Party, then retired to their chosen sleeping place in the lee of the small rock face.
After supper in the mess tent marquees the ex Empress decided to take a walk out for a chat with the troopers and to see what they were doing. She was aghast when told that they would be sleeping out under the stars that night sans patrol tents, food or other gear as their supply and equipment wagon had gone awol.
She ordered her cook, Gaston, to immediately prepare a hot meal for the 17 men. When the meal was finished she issued a Royal command ; half the troopers were to sleep in her mess tent that night, and the othe half in her sitting room tent. What followed next must have been hilarious. Being autumn and a very cold night, she instructed her two maids to empty out their trunks, and to give all spare night dresses, shawls, furs and sundry spare female garb to the troopers to sleep in to keep warm .She did the same thing with her own trunk.
After lights out , one can well imagine the impromptu private "show" that was put on in the ex Empress's mess tent by a highly spirited bunch of troopers with French maids outfits and other fashionable ladies costumes at their disposal.
On 24th May the wagons left early at 8am , leaving Conference Hill and branching off to Koppie Alleen. Whilst crossing a spruit one baggage wagon overturned but no serious damage was done. The party camped at Fort Whitehead that night . Whilst here the ex Empress left the camp on her own late in the day to visit the ground her son had visited. By 7pm she was not back in camp so the alarm was raised and 6 men under Sergt Faddy were sent to look for her. She was found and returned to camp shortly after. The camp Commisiariat issued a small tot of rum in commemoration of the Queens birthday on that day .
Koppie Alleen is where Lord Chelmsford assembled his force of 20,000 men before advancing on Ulundi.The tracks of his column were still visible there by the Royal party, a year later.
The Royal entourage then moved on to Fort Warwick .It was from this fort that the late Prince Imperial started on his fatal and final journey. It was to this fort too, that his dead body was returned and embalmed by Lt Scott before being transported down to Durban and repatriated back to England on HMS Boadicea. Lance Cpl Clarke was sent out with six men to find the buried case containing the portion of the Prince's remains which were not sent home when the body was found .
The Royal entourage then moved on and reached the Ityotyosi River at about 4pm and encamped within a few yards of the kraal where the Prince was killed. The ex Empress's tent was however pitched on the very spot where her son met his demise . In clearing the site before pitching the tent large clumps of tamboekie ( ]also read tamboetjie or elephant[/i] ) grass were dug out to level the site. The ex Empress asked for one of these grass clumps to take home as a keepsake.
Whilst this Royal entourage was travelling up through Zululand, the deranged Lady Avonmore was doing her best to join the party and accompany the ex Empress on the journey, as she believed, in her delusions, that that she was the late Prince Imperials wife, which was not true of course. Part of the NMP troopers task was keeping the "mad lady" away from the entourage .
There was a stone cross already erected on the site where the Prince was killed , in memorian. It had been sent out by HM the Queen. Four troopers were detailed to dig and prepare ground around the memorial and make a garden for the poppy seeds which the ex Empress later planted there.
The memorial inscription reads as follows ;
"This cross was erected by Queen Victoria in affectionate rememberance of Napoleon Eugene Louis Jean Joseph, Prince Imperial, to mark the spot where , whilst assisting in reconnaisence with the British troops on the 1st April 1879, he was attacked by by a party of Zulus and fell with his face to the foe ".
On June 5th the Royal entourage moved on, passing Hlubi's house and also passing within a half mile of Rorke's Drift, where they turned off and went along the Bashee valley to Isandhlwana. The party arrived at the spruit below the neck at 3.30pm and pitched camp there. In the meanwhile the ambulance wagon had broken down and was left behind on the trail.
The following morning, 6th Jun, everybody in the Royal entourage visited the scene of the Isandhlwana battle. Several unburied bodies were still visible and from several graves heads and feet were protruding. Lance Cpl Clarke visited Fugitives Drift again and many more skeletons ,unburied, were sitll to be seen..
Tpr Green and LncCpl Clarke revisted Fugititves Drift on 7th June and found the skeletons of 4 pack horses with the pack saddles still intact and lying alongside them. On returning to Isandhlwana, riding up the Fugitives trail in the reverse direction several RML 7pdr shells which had never been fired were found on the battleground, and large quantities of unused MH ammunition were found scattered on the ground, up on the hill.
General Wood interviewed some Zulus who were present at the battle and they reported that they saw Colonel Durnford shoot himself with his revolver.
The next day the whole party moved back to Rorkes Drift, Cpl Clarke riding with the ex Empress in her spider. He was there to give her an account of the battle and he had to answer inumerable questions about it . She also asked Clarke about the visit her son made to his tent in Ladysmith when he was hospitalised there in February of the previous year. He gave her an account too of the recovery of the Prince's body and the escort duty he performed taking the body to Durban for repatriation on the Boadicea.
As the ex Empress wanted to see Fugitives drift the NMP escorted her there on the 9th June. Whilst there they found the body of a mounted infantryman and his dead horse , who were fleeing from Isandhlwana. Horse and rider had fallen over a high cliff and died in the fall ( SD pool cliff?) Clarke reported that they buried the bodies where they found them at the foot of the cliff.
The party then moved on and on the 10th of June, at Robson's Drift, Fynn's Police brought in the Zulu ( Zabanga) who had killed the Prince Imperial. Zabanga told the ex Empress that when the Prince fell they passed him hoping to make a capture of his escort, in pasing they noticed that the Prince was alive, so he, Zabanga, gave the coup de gras , stabbing the body several times with an assegai , then cutting out the left eye and he then stripped the body.
The return trip of the Royal party to Pietermaritzburg, was via Ladysmith, Mooi River and Howick and was uneventful, other than a scare when a section of the NNC showed up at the camp, and putting on a display for the benefit of the ex Empress by rattling their shields and singing their war chants. This scared the French cook, Gaston, and he ran into his tent to fetch his revolver and was about to open fire on the NNC but was fortunately restrained in time.
The ex Empress was very taken in by her AZW battlefield guide, Lance Corporal Clarke and invited him to visit her at the palace should he ever be in London. It so happened that a visit transpired sometime after the turn of the century . Over inumerable cups of tea, the then Col, Clarke was proudly shown, with a lot of nostalgia, a flower pot of tamboekie grass, taken fron Zululand. It had been well nurtured in the palace nursery.
Last edited by barry on Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:19 pm; edited 1 time in total