La Route du Prince Imperial, Louis Napoleon, launched on 1 June 1996 in the precincts of the Prince Imperial monument, Uqweqwe, Zululand, in the presence of Ray Heron, the then Chairperson of the Battlefields Route Association and Jenny Bustin, the then President of the French Teachers Association of KwaZulu-Natal, is a self-drive route that actually follows the very scenic, pilgrimage route of his mother, the Empress Eugenie, who came to Zululand in 1880, to follow in the foot steps of her son. She spent the night of the anniversary of his death in vigil at the very spot, at uQweqwe, where he died in an ambush on 1 June 1879.
Besides indicating the direct access to the monument of the Prince Imperial at uQweqwe, the Route offers various possibilities of exploring the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
- Dirt road after Hlubi School, some 11 km from Nqutu: S 28 11 17 – E 30 46 07
- “Chevrons”: S 28 08 07 – E 30 48 04
- Prince Imperial Monument: S 28 07 56 – E 30 47 50
The following list gives brief information about places on the Route, as well as information concerning the Prince Imperial associated with the place and any other historical French connection.
Lala word for “lagoon” or “estuary”.
Sighted on Christmas Day in 1497 by Vasco de Gama who called it “The Bay of Natal” and “The Point of the Fishermen”
1835 meeting of James Collis and Captain Allen Gardiner.
First mayor of Durban, George Cato, was of Huguenot descent.
Adulphe Delegorgue, hunter, naturalist, stayed in Albert Park during the Battle of Congella.
Monday 31 March 1879 – Saturday 19 April 1879:
The Prince Imperial was met by Father Sabon OMI and by the military and civil authorities. While in Durban, the Prince met Paul Deleage, reporter from Le Figaro. The Prince stayed with Captain Baynton in St Andrews St and then in a military camp.
After his death, the Prince’s body was brought back to Durban late on Monday 9 June 1879 and on the following day was transferred on to the Boadicea for transport to Cape Town and ultimately back to England.
A year later, the Empress Eugenie, his mother also stayed with Captain Baynton.
Place of the Elephant
Capital of KZN. 1839 laid out by the Voortrekkers. Named after Pieter Retief, of Huguenot descent and Gert Maritz.
Adulphe Delegorgue stayed here in 1839.
Saturday 19 April 1879 – Saturday 26 April 1879
The Prince Imperial stayed in Government House, visited the Imperial Hotel and left from Fort Napier. Subsequently his body lay in rest in the St Mary’s chapel of the French Oblates of Mary Immaculate Missionary Order on the night of 8/9 June 1879 before being taken down to Durban. A solemn requiem mass was said for the Prince and it was attended by all the town’s dignitaries.
The Empress Eugenie also stayed in Government House during her stay in PMB.
One of the Empress’ carriages broke down here and she was lent another by the Newmarch family. She thanked them by giving them a little sewing machine with Mother-of-Pearl inlay. It can be seen in the Greytown museum.
First surveyed by General Louis Botha in 1852.
Named after Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape Colony. Centre of military operations at the time of the Bambatha Rebellion in 1906.Later the scene of King Dinuzulu’s trial.
Mooi River/Mpofana River
Light brown yellowy mud
Named after one of the early farmers in the area.
Tugela Ferry/ uThukela
Named after General Sir Pomeroy Colley, killes at the battle of Majuba in 1898.
Home of the Noyi Bazi Clinic, run by the French Augustinian order of Sisters. The Sisters received France’s highest honour, La Legion D’Honneur in 1999.
Help one another
Dates beck to the time ‘when ox-wagon drivers would lend each other their ox teams to help the wagons get up the steep hill’ (Adrian Koopman).
Once called the Coalopolis of KZN. Laid out in 1882 by Peter Smith.
Site of a British sanatorium in the Anglo Zulu war.
First battle of the Anglo Boer war fought on Talana Hill.
Home of Chez Nous Bed’n Breakfast run by Elisabeth (Dundee’s only French resident) and Mark Durham..
Tuesday 29 April 1879 – Friday 2 May 1879
After leaving Pietermaritzburg, the Prince traveled via Escort and Ladysmith to Dundee. On Friday 2 May he crossed the Buffalo (iNyathi) River into Zululand.
Landman’s Drift on the Msinyathi River
During the Anglo-Zulu war, on 2 May 1879, an entrenched camp and depot was set up at the Drift for the 2nd Division
Monday 19 May
Attack on a kraal that would be rechristened kraal Napoleon
Tuesday 20 May 1879 – Tuesday 27 May 1879
The Prince returned to Staff Headquarters and was commissioned by Lord Chelmsford to study the plans for a fort that would be built at Conference Hill.
Possible meanings: isinquthu: the back of the head
Umquthu: protective charm
Ingquthu: a vessel of basket work or potterywith a flat-covered top and small mouth/the ox given to the bride’s mother which is not part of the lobola/a thick, stumpy beard/a hlonipha term for the female sex organ (Adrian Koopman)
Together with the Troopers Abel and Rodgers and their guide, were killed.
Freedom or Liberty
Vryheid, formerly the capital of the so-called New Republic, was set up by a group of Boers in 1884 on land granted to them by Dinuzulu. The New Republic was imcorporated into the South African Republic in 1888.
Sunday 4 May 1879 – Monday 5 May 1879
After his stay in Dundee, the Prince traveled along the Blood River to arrive at Kambula Hill on Saturday 3 May. He met up with his friends Bigge and Slade with whom he had been at the Woolwich Royal Military Academy.
The Outside Meadow
One of the oldest towns in northern KZN, having been founded by the Voortrekkers in about 1852on land obtained from Mpande. For many years it was the capital of a separate Boer Republic but in 1868 it was ceded to the South African Republic.
The Prince Imperial
Tuesday 6 May 1879 – Sunday 11 May 1879.The Prince stayed at Colonel Bray’s.
With some 5000 British settlers arriving in the colony and settling in
the Buffalo Border region and up into Northern Natal during the years
1849 – 1851, a Post Halt II was established on the banks of the Ncandu
River. Then in 1854, a Dr Sutherland, later the Surveyor General of the
Colony, set out a township that he registered as Newcastle after the
then Secretary of the Colonies.
In 1876 with the threat of war with the new Zulu Kingdom and the pending
annexation of the Transvaal the British decided to build a fort. It was
built by Major Amiel and some 200 men of the 80th Staffordshire
Regiment. It became an important commissariat for the troops operating
in the Transvaal from 1877 – 1881. Subsequently, after the Anglo-Boer
War of 1899-1902, it fell into disrepair but was restored in the 1980s
as a museum.
The Prince Imperial
Monday 12 May 1879 – Wednesday 12 May 1879
The Prince stayed in Newcastle before leaving on a reconnaissance into Zululand with Major Bettington for some five days.
A fort was built below the hill by the 94th Regiment. A company of Royal Engineers built twin redoubts nearby to protect stores placed in between them. It is not clear whether one or all of these were subsequently styled Fort Napoleon. (John Laband and Paul Thompson:172)
The Prince Imperial
Saturday 17 May 1879
Thursday 29 May 1879
Reconnaissance with Lord Chelmsford along the Blood River in the direction of the Itelezi hill.
Hillock standing on its own
The Prince Imperial
Friday 30 May 1879
Reconnaissance with Lord Chelmsford
Saturday 31 May 1879
Small reconnaissance around Fort Warwick ( small earthwork built on the advancing 2nd Division’s line of communication to Koppie Allein -built by a company of the 2/24th,under Capt J.J.Harvey) (John Laband and Paul Thompson:95)
Return to Koppie Allein
Hard crust, as on food
The Prince Imperial monument is situated between the Jojosi ( ijojo ‘species of grass’ + uzi ‘fibre or thread’) River and the Vumankala ( vuma ‘agree to’ + inkala ‘crab’) stream (Adrian Koopman).
The uQweqwe community has benefited substantially from the Durban University of Technology’s project, FRENCH PRESENCE IN KZN: LA ROUTE DU PRINCE IMPERIAL, LOUIS NAPOLEON. Details can be obtained from the project leader.
The Prince Imperial Interpretive Wall and visitors’ toilet are donations from the Lycee Rontaunay, Ste Clotilde, Reunion Island.
On 1 June 1879 at 09h30, the Prince set out with eight others (Lieutenant Carey, , Sergent Willis, Corporal Grubb, Privates Abel, Cochrane, Rogers, LeTocq and an indigenous guide) from Koppie Allein to reconnoitre a suitable campsite for the advance of the British army to Ulundi.. Towards 12h00 they off saddled some 250 metres from the Jojosi river in a deserted kraal, did not post guards and subsequently, at about 15h30 the group was attacked by Zulu warriors. The Prince, Abel, Rogers and the guide were killed in the ambush. Abel and Rogers were buried on site; the local guide was killed some distance from the ambush site and no one knows what happened to his body; the Prince’s body was repatriated to England. He was initially buried in St Mary’s Church, Chistlehurst, Kent and subsequently, in St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, where he lies in the Imperial Crypt with his parents, Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie.
This Route which is a self-drive circuit in KwaZulu-Natal also has a particular focus in Pietermaritzburg. The exiled 23 year old Prince Impérial, Napoleon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, last hope of the Bonaparte dynasty and dear friend of Queen Victoria, sojourned in the city on his way up to Zululand to join Lord Chelmsford’s forces in the last months of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. Unfortunately, the young Prince lost his life in an ambush on 1 June 1879. The Route also marks the pilgrimage route of the Prince’s mother, the Empress Eugénie, who came out in 1880 to follow in the footsteps of her son.
The Prince, as did his mother, stayed in Government House in Longmarket St (Langalibalele St) during his stay in the city as guests of the Governor, Sir Henry Bulwer. Government House is now the premises of UNISA and can be visited on request and at convenience. The Prince attended mass in the Catholic chapel, St Mary’s in Loop St (Jabu Ndlovu St), the first Catholic church built in Natal by the French Missionary Order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The Prince also visited the hotel in Loop St (Jabu Ndlovu St) which subsequently bore his name: Hotel Imperial, now, Protea Hotel Imperial. Likewise, the Prince enjoyed a visit to the Governor’s hunting lodge, now a Bed ‘n Breakfast, named Norwood, on ground that was once part of Chase Valley Downs farm. With other soldiers leaving for the war front, the Prince left Pietermaritzburg from Fort Napier.
After his death the Prince’s body was brought down from Zululand and it lay in state in St Mary’s chapel on the night of 8 June 1879. The Route in the city follows the funeral procession of the Prince from the bottom of Town Hill (northern end of Commercial Rd (Chief Albert Luthuli Rd) to the chapel in Loop St (Jabu Ndlovu Rd). Twelve blue road-signs superimposed by the imperial eagle and an “N” mark the Route in the city. A solemn requiem mass, attended by all the city’s dignitaries, was said for the Prince on 9 June 1879 before his body was transported to the coast via St Helena en route to England. For the last six years a special requiem mass is said in St Mary’s chapel on the Saturday morning closest to 1 June. This mass is said in liaison with the requiem mass that is said for the Prince in the Imperial chapel, Biarritz, France. In 1997, a special rose, the Prince Imperial rose was created by a South African/French horticultural link and was baptised in this city on 17 June by Luwig Taschner, the, then, President of the South African Rose Society.
Pietermaritzburg honours the visit of the Prince Impérial and his mother, the Empress Eugénie, together with the other French Presences that contributed to our rich cross-cultural heritage, with its annual French Presence week and manifestations. An exhibition on the French Presence in our city and province, was established from November 1995 in the Msunduzi museum in Longmarket St (Langalibalele St). On display in the History Hall of the Natal museum is an original pen and ink drawing made by the Prince when he was an Officer Cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. Other mementoes include photographs of the Prince and his mother, the Empress Eugénie, as well as a number of unique prints from the Ogilvy Photographic Collection, showing the site of the death of the Prince and the erection of the memorial cross at Uqweqwe. Other places associated with the Prince and the other French Presences in our city are detailed in the brochure French Presence in Pietermaritzburg which is freely available in the city.
The cultural tourism research development initiative for this French Presence in PMB/KZN was undertaken by the French Section of the department of Language and Communication of the Durban University of Technology, Pietermaritzburg campus from 1994. The project aims to create benefits for all the communities touched by the progress of this initiative and, in particular, the poor rural community of Uqweqwe which lives next to the monument of the Prince Impérial in Zululand; the spot where the Prince shed his last drops of blood, not so long ago, in this distant land.
Senior French Lecturer
Project Leader: French Presence in PMB/KZN. La Route du Prince Impérial, Louis Napoléon.