Louis Napoleon Faced the Enemy Fighting for Britain
Another disaster to fall upon Britain during the Zulu War was the death of France's Louis Napoleon Bonaparte - Prince Imperial - Head of the House of Bonaparte. He was a dashing young man of 23 years and was rumoured to be a possible match for Princess Beatrice - Queen Victoria's youngest daughter.
Once commissioned and after his father's death, Prince Louis wanted to see active service. He believed it would be a good political move and enhance his career, for he hoped that one day; France would elect him to rule, as other Bonapartes had done. Had he lived; it is almost certain he would have led his nation one day.
However, this was not to be, and much to the embarrassment of Great Britain - a nation that many French people thought was anti-Bonaparte because of the Napoleonic wars. There was even talk among some of the Bonaparte fanatics that Queen Victoria might have engineered the situation. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Young Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was favoured by the Queen and she took a keen interest in the young man and his widowed mother.
When the Zulu War broke out Prince Louis saw this as a grand opportunity to gain experience. The nation of the Zulus was far away and he could not offend any European nations by fighting in such a war. Much against the British Prime Minister's advice, the young Bonaparte was assigned to go out to South Africa and blood himself with war experience.
He took with him his great relative's sword - the very sword worn by Napoleon Bonaparte during the Battle of Austerlitz. When he arrived in South Africa he made his way to Natal and from here he eventually went out to Lord Chelmsford's camp. The Zulu War had been going on for some 5 months by May.
He was pleased to meet some men from his officer training school and another officer by the name of Jahleel Brenton Carey. Jahleel Carey was a man that Prince Louis quickly developed a friendship with because he spoke very good French having been educated at Lycee Imperial - a famous French university. The man had also been in a British First Aid unit during the Franco-Prussian War and had seen service during the siege of Paris.
During patrols from the base, there had been a couple of incidents when the young Prince had unsheathed his sword and wanted to pursue distant sightings of Zulu warriors. On two occasions he was sternly ordered to stand down and remain with the troop.
He became involved in mapping the surrounding areas and was a little restless with the chore because he wanted to gain some fighting experience. Then on 1st of June, he was allowed to take a small party of horsemen out to reconnoitre the land - a task to do with mapping.
The patrol had his friend and fellow officer Jahleel Brenton Carey and a few other troopers - plus a renegade Zulu who was a scout. They were about their duties for a number of hours when they came upon a small deserted Zulu camp consisting of some abandoned beehive shaped huts.
They dismounted and let the horses graze for a while. The troops made tea and it was a lazy affair allowing the men to lounge around and take a break. One of the men returning with water reported a distant sighting of a Zulu watching them and it was then decided to gather the horses. As the men were about to mount, waiting for the young Prince Imperial to give the order; shots rang out and a large group of Zulus charged out of some scrub screaming their war cry. One of the troopers was slain, while others mounted and panicked - riding away from the attacking Zulus.
Prince Louis had acquired a temperamental grey horse, which bolted. He was caught out trying to mount while the horse began to gallop off. A young Guernsey man was among the troop and he was having difficulty amid the panic too. He called to the Prince in French but could offer no further assistance as he desperately struggled to get upon his own mount which was also galloping away.
Prince Louis slipped from his horse and was left on foot as chasing Zulus came after him. He ran for a short distance then turned to face his attackers. He managed to fire two shots, but it is reported that none of the Zulus was hit.
The young Prince met his death bravely as the group of about six Zulus fell upon him. The rest of his troop looked on in the distance and when they returned to the camp and reported what happened Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey was charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy. His fellow officers were furious with him. He was court marshalled and found guilty, but this was later overturned because the people on the court marshal had not been sworn in.
The next day, British soldiers went out and found the naked and mutilated corpse of Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte - Prince Imperial and head of the House of Bonaparte. He had been ritually disembowelled as was the Zulu custom to stop his ghost from haunting his slayers.
When the Zulus learnt of who they had killed, they said he would not have been slain if they had known him to be a prince. One of his assailants was called Zabanga and he was killed at the Battle of Ulundi.
Even though the charge of cowardice did not carry; Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey would have the harsh stigma of inappropriate conduct in the face of the enemy, for it was generally believed, by his fellow officers, he should have tried to rally his fleeing men and save the young Prince Imperial. Jahleel Carey died in Karachi India during 1883, just four years later. In his obituary, this incident earned him his unwanted celebrity and place in history - perhaps unfairly.