Ward's Book of Days.
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What happened on this day in history.
On this day in history in 1879, died Eugene Louis John Joseph Bonaparte
Eugene was a Prince Imperial of the French Bonaparte dynasty, who died in the service of the British Empire.
Eugene was born on 16th March 1856, in Paris, the son of Napoleon III, Emperor of France, and the Empress Eugenie. He lived an idyllic life, in the palaces of Paris and Versailles, in the cultured epoch of the French Second Empire. All was well until, in 1870, the Germans, not for the first time and not for the last, crossed the Rhine leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. The Germans blockaded the city of Paris. The citizens of Paris rioted. The government collapsed. The Emperor’s chief ministers declared the Second Empire to be at an end, and proclaimed the Third Republic. The Emperor, Napoleon III and his family fled to the sanctuary of Chislehurst, Kent.
Here the family lived with less luxury, but with some style. There was some talk of a proposed marriage between Eugene and Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. The prince and princess did see each other, on occasions, and, it was said, that there was a romantic attachment, but no formal engagement was announced.
Eugene went to military college and joined the army as a junior officer. At the outbreak of the Zulu War in 1879, Lieutenant, Prince Imperial, Eugene was posted to Africa, under the command of Lord Chelmsford. As a royal, Eugene was kept away from any serious fighting, but was allowed to take a small group of men out scouting. On 1st June 1879, Eugene and his men were exploring a small kraal, when the party was attacked by Zulus. The British party fought back, but the Zulus had superior numbers and Euene fell during the skirmish, succumbing to a Zulu spear through his chest.
Eugene’s body was taken back for burial at the Imperial seat of Chislehurst. The funeral was attended by Queen Victoria, but not Princess Beatrice, who was, no doubt, overcome with grief. Later, Eugene’s body was transferred to the Imperial Crypt at St Michael’s Abbey. [St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire, GU14 7NQ]
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