The Fordoun homestead was built by William Taylor in the mid-1850s…now converted into comfortable hotel rooms, the homestead’s original stonework and yellowwood beams are still visible today. Another dramatic reminder of our history was discovered a few months ago in a story about the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, which was written by Lady Mildred Hart Dyke in about 1980 while she was living at Fordoun. She writes, “At the bottom of my garden…stands an oak tree, planted where the Prince Imperial’s coffin rested on its way to Pietermaritzburg and Durban”. The Prince Imperial, Eugene Napoleon, was killed before the battle of Ulundi in 1879, bringing to an end the Napoleonic dynasty. We were amazed to find that there is indeed an ancient oak in this spot, which features in a picture of the original settler, William Taylor. This set in motion various discussions that resulted in Fordoun being included in events held recently to celebrate the French presence in KZN. We hosted a French-themed luncheon, with tastings of French-style wines ‘inspired by the Napoleonic legend’ and unveiled a plaque on a bench under the old oak. This celebration proved so popular that it will become an annual event at Fordoun. We are delighted to be able to be part of the Alliance Francaise “Route Napoleon” and hope that you will treasure the sense of history that surrounds us here.
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