Napoléon Eugène, Prince Imperial

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Napoléon, Prince Imperial, (Full name: Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph, 16 March 1856, Paris – 1 June 1879), Prince Imperial, Fils de France, was the only child of Emperor Napoleon III of France and his Empress consort Eugénie de Montijo. His early death in Africa sent shock waves throughout Europe, as he was the last dynastic hope for the restoration of the Bonapartes to the throne of France.



At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, he accompanied his father to the front and first came under fire at Saarbrücken. When the war began to go against the Imperial arms, however, he had to flee from France with the Imperial Family and settled in England at Chislehurst, Kent. On his father's death, Bonapartists proclaimed him Napoleon IV. During the 1870s, there was some talk of a marriage between him and Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice. Toward the end of his life there were rumours, not all untrue, that he was romantically attached to the Spanish Infanta María del Pilar of Spain, daughter of Queen Isabella II of Spain; she died two months after Louis Napoléon.[1]

With the demise of the Second French Empire, the Prince Imperial was exiled to the United Kingdom, where he first attended elementary lectures in physics at King's College London. He subsequently applied and was accepted to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. After finishing 17th in his class, he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in order to follow in the footsteps of his famous great-uncle. Finally, with the outbreak of the Zulu War in 1879, the Prince Imperial, with the rank of lieutenant, forced the hand of the British military to allow him to take part in the conflict. He was only allowed to go to Africa by special pleading of his mother, the Empress Eugenie, and by Queen Victoria herself. He went as an observer, attached to the staff of Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, the commander in South Africa, who was admonished to take care of him. Louis accompanied Chelmsford on his march into Zululand. Keen to see action, and full of enthusiasm, he was warned by Lieutenant Arthur Brigge, a close friend, " avoid running unnecessary risks. I reminded him of the Empress at home and his political party in France."

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