The sound of classical French music fills the room, a small gathering of people interact with each other at Chez Nous Bed and Breakfast in Dundee as they prepare for a cultural experience.
Tonight’s event is a special occasion, with the French Consul-General Sonia Doña Perez from the French Embassy in Johannesburg in attendance.
June 1 marks the anniversary of the death of Prince Imperial Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. The Prince Imperial was the only child of Emperor Napoleon III, the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, the iconic French leader.
After Louis-Napoléon’s father was dethroned, he moved with his family to England. Following his father’s death in 1873, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was proclaimed by the Bonapartist faction as Napoleon IV, Emperor of the French.
Before pursuing his role in France and during his time in England, he trained as a soldier. Determined to live up to his family’s name, he put pressure on the British and was able to convince them to allow him to participate in the Anglo-Zulu War.
However, his desire to make a name for himself was shortlived. In 1879, while serving with British forces, he was killed in a skirmish with a group of Zulus.
The skirmish took place on June 1, when the troop he was with, went out and a few kilometres outside of Dundee, 40 Zulus attacked the troop.
The Prince’s horse dashed off before he could mount it, with the Prince clinging to a holster on the saddle. After about a hundred yards the strap broke and the Prince fell beneath his horse, his right arm was trampled. He leapt up, drawing his revolver with his left hand, willing to fight while looking for a way to survive.
He was speared in the thigh. At this moment, the Prince Imperial pulled out the assegai and faced the attackers.
Another assegai struck his shoulder. Instead of fleeing, the Prince fought as hard as he could before succumbing to his wounds. When his body was recovered, his body had 18 assegai wounds, with one bursting his right eye, penetrating his brain. It is in honour of his brave stand, that the event is held.
“Tonight’s event is about French culture and marking the anniversary of the Imperial Prince’s death,” says Elisabeth Durham, the owner of Chez Nous and a French citizen.
As a French citizen, Elisabeth explains by commemorating the Prince’s death, people remember the role France played in South African history while embracing the French culture within a culturally diverse South Africa.
Glen Flanagan, the project leader of the French presence in KwaZulu-Natal, “Roots Prince Imperial Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte & King Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo”, elaborates how the function forms part of French Week. A time where France’s influence in our country is celebrated.
“We end the week on the Sunday following the Prince Imperial’s death, by laying out a wreath for him, the two British soldiers who died with him and the Zulu warriors involved in the skirmish. We also invite members of the French embassy hierarchy to attend, as we commemorate the Prince’s death and the close of the Anglo-Zulu War,” she says.
The French Consul-General Sonia Doña Perez adds that while France does not have the same influence in South Africa as the Netherlands and Britain, one cannot ignore the French connection made through the young man who fought like a lion and died a true warrior.
“He was 24-years-old with a famous uncle, he had romantic ideals and wanted to leave his mark on the world with his romantic ideals.”
Through his life and death, Louis-Napoléon’s name lives on years after his death.
With the event looking at his life and death, guests also enjoyed French cuisine and music, learning more about French culture in the heart of Dundee. The evening proved to be both educational and fun for all.