Frances Colesco was born in Norfolk, country England, and in 1853 the family moved to Natal in South Africa when her father was appointed the first Anglican Bishop of Natal.
They lived in a home at Bishopstowe and enjoyed life and the scenery of Table Mountain and the social life at Pietermaritzburg
The city was originally founded by the Voortrekkers, following the defeat of Dingane at the Battle of Blood River, and was the capital of the short-lived Boer republic, Natalia.
Britain took over Pietermaritzburg in 1843 and it became the seat of the Natal Colony's administration with the first lieutenant-governor, Martin West, making it his home.
The British took control in 1843 and built Fort Napier (now a historical monument). Pietermaritzburg was incorporated in 1854 and was the capital of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) province from 1856 to 1994.
Fort Napier is situated on a hill overlooking the city of Pietermaritzburg, From the grounds of the hospital there is a glorious panoramic view of the city with historic hill in the distance such as “Swartkop” ”Foxhill” and “Signal Hill” which are intimately associated with the historic battles in which the Garrisons of Fort Napier played a part.
A primitive Fort was erected in 1843 troops occupied Fort Napier till 1914
Her sister Harriet traveled with their father on his visits to the different areas and supported his in his views over the Colonial attitudes and injustices of the Zulu policy.
Harriet wrote several books and her younger sister Agnes supported the causes.
*See below for some information from this book, Harriet was unrelentless in her pursuit of her causes for the Zulus, despite her own personal hardships.
He met the family in 1873, when he moved to Pietermaristzberg.
She had a previously had special friendship with Louis Knollys,whose biography is found in this story Louis left South Africa for another posting, but Frances appeared to never forget their friendship.
Whether or not Anthony offered another opportunity for a relationship, or whether it developed into a close friendship, or whether it was a case of someone, unlucky in love, who became committed to a cause, and who may have confused friendship with infatuation coupled with hero-worship, it doesn't have any bearing on his abilities as a soldier nor her efforts to try to get to the truth.
However she was only 8 years older than his daughter.
Did he, due to his kind and considerate, nature, become attracted to someone bearing the same name of another Frances, who was special to him? If that were the case then he could, had he wished, thrown convention out of the window, like his grandparents. He didn't.
He upheld his principles. Commitment to another was impossible while his wife was alive.
But that didn't mean he couldn't form a friendship.
Neither can speak for themselves, and once again such a lot has been written about them, but how much is the truth? After his death, she too could write whatever she liked about her feelings or her imagination. As so many have written. But she was not his fiancee.
Her own papers in the South African archives reveal a glimpse of her personality. Her story is there for all to see, and researched as part of a thesis, not only by one person with access to the Colenso papers in the South African archives, but by two.
While undertaking the research about Frances' life,I formed an opinion that Frances tended to
"hero-worship", and had been disappointed in love, and then lived her dying days believing it was her duty to devote her energies towards her causes, and perhaps became quite obsessed with them but also giving her the will to live.
To get another's thoughts, one of those who wrote and researched her, was asked an opinion, which gelled with mine but suggested "unrequited love"
(love that is not openly reciprocated or understood as such), afterall one very well known person when asked what "love" was really couldn't give an explanation!
France's mother was a well educated woman, who also voiced her opinions on a series of matters.
She liked to paint flowers enjoyed music and poetry, and reading, including the works of Froude, and books on theology.
Frances in Natal, without shops to provide clothing, had to learn to sew, and did so not only for her own children but the mission natives, who were provided with pants and blouses.
She also supervised the local women, became the medical attendant to all the locals in the area, and taught the children as was the case in all the pioneering ladies of the time.
Both she and her husband believed in education for their children, but the opportunities in an isolated place were limited. The children along with the locals and other children of the colonists, were introduced to mathematics, and the classics, along with drawing and painting, music and sewing.
She found that life in the colony to be a place of banishment, as everyone has something queer about them or they were mere colonials born and bred in a place, without any ideas. Along with the girls she had very few friends among the colonists. She also felt that her sons would have to have an English education to have an opportunity with their lives.
Frances and John were quite isolated, as she did not mix with the residents, and he was quite unpopular due to his views and she seldom left their home. His controversial view on the treatment of the locals was very unpopular amongst the colonists.
Her daughters sometimes enjoyed trips to town to hear the Military band play on weekends, and often enjoyed picnics with another of the clergy. Frances wrote that they attended town for church on Sundays, or to the military balls, and they had some friends amongst the officers and wives. Her sister Harriet loved to dance, Frances did not.
However Frances's army friends included Helen Shepstone, Offy's wife, and the wife of the Canon, among some others. The editor of the local paper became friends of the family, and Frances stayed with them on occasions, in Natal.
Frances enjoyed the company of the son of a clergyman, Mr Hughs who escorted the girls to town for the concerts and went riding with Frances. She also enjoyed the company of Louis Knollys.
According to her mother, Frances "needed some object to expend herself on..." where Harriet's was directed towards "her home the garden her plantings.." Both Harriet and Agnes were satisfied with their life, on the mission, and with helping their father in his work and causes, Frances was not. She had hoped the family would permanently return to England.
After some time in England, where she and Harriet attended school, Frances was able to secure a grant to open a school, which ran every afternoon. In 1867, her assistant was Rev de La Mare's nephew.
Another trip to England and she obtained a grant of 20 pounds per annum to assist with the school, to employ a native teacher for the boys.
She was also the housekeeper, while her sisters worked the farm with the natives. She hoped to become a professional artist, and was a member of the local sketching society.
The one political event that forged Frances into public attention was to do with Langalibalele and the treatment of the Zulu king.
Her father, once a friend of Shepstone, did not agree with not only the battle against the chief, but with all the colonial actions including his trial, who was banished to Robben Island for life.
John Colenso and Anthony Durnford developed a strong bond of friendship and respect. Anthony considered "The Bishop as a man of men - would to to the death of the right." Later he spoke of the Bishop "as the man I respect and reverence most in the world".
Anthony Durnford once gave his reasons for volunteering a secret mission for Shepstone was "lest England's prestige should suffer" to him "Duty is duty. That is all that is clear to me..."
His concept of British imperial prestige was based on a deep devotion to English justice, fair dealing and honesty. As one writer has put it: "His stern concept of justice is crucial in comprehending Durnford's cross-grained character; it is the pivot around which all his actions turned."*
The Bishop loved Durnford and his soldierly qualities. Later, the Bishop's son Frank also became a family friend.
*J.St.C. Man, "Colonial Anthony William Durnford in the history of Natal and Zululand, 1873 - 1879"
History Hons. essay Natal, 1970, p 62
However not everyone formed the same opinions, as Sir G. Wolsely, The South African diaries 1875 Natal ed by A. Preton, Cape Town, Balkema 1971, allude to.
Wolsely considered that he was hasty in giving an opinion on people and their actions, and did so in "alarmingly strong terms" particularly when those actions were at odds with his own opinions.
He also displayed an over-keenness for responsibility and for action...
These two qualities, his strong sense of justice and duty and the forthright expression of his views, often brought him into conflict with the local government as did his views on the native population but they were appreciated by the Colensos.
But then Wolseley didn't hold a very high opinion of many of the officers from various documents.
From a thesis that was done in South Africa for a Master of Arts, written by Patricia Lynn Merrett;
in October 1980
Recommended reading to give an insight particularly into Frances' outlook, and based on her research and access to the Colenso papers, something that most writers don't have access. Written in 1980, it is quite out of date as to further research and recent developments, however it a good account of the times, based on the facts she discovered in those papers.
Frances's strong stand and a change in her outlook came about because of the 1873 Bushman's River Pass battle, and her belief that matters concerning neither the natives nor Anthony Durnford, were not to her liking. She wrote a book My Chief and I, in 1874, under a pseudonym. She wished to publish it immediately, however, Anthony, who had reviewed her writings, asked that it not be published until after his death.
The book remained unpublished until 1880.
When it was published critics very quickly agreed it was written by a female. It was not deemed a financial success. Female writers were also viewed as "competition".
"The writer was evidently an enthusiastic admirer of the gallant soldier, and remarks of him that his "truly Christian life was as much honoured by those who came in contact with its influence as his heroic death by the world at large" www.antiquarianauctons.com
My Chief and I is available through Amazon Books, no ebook. ($28 including freight to Australia
But while Anthony enjoyed the company of the Colenso family, he did not always agree with their views on the treatment of the Natives.
From another thesis
"These missionaries are at the bottom of all evil. They want war so that they might take the Zulu country, and thus give them homes in a good and pleasant land. They have not been turned out. They came of their own accord. The Zulus do not want them and I for one cannot see why we should cram these men down their throats"
It is possible to look at both sides of every argument, and stand up for those who are wrongfully treated, depending on the particular circumstance, another trait which he shares with this cousin.
Between 1880 and 1886 she focused her writings towards a more political agenda. She wrote articles to newspapers in support of and to enhance her cause for the Zulu nation.
Her motives for her writing career were personal and emotional and she was passionate and uncompromising with her motives, and her convictions were influenced by her family relationships and the environment. Eventually these convictions became obsessive but also gave her the determination to live each day.
"The most abiding influence of Frances was her father: her love and devotion to him bordered on worship".
She traveled to Rome in 1881 to study art, but was not happy with the standard of teaching. She read novels, and sensational stories.
She also wrote a collection of "short stories" all of a romantic nature involving love affairs, and the heroes are all military men, with noble sentiments and Victorian virtues. (seems familiar)
All of them failing to declare their feelings, and often then alluding to misunderstandings!
She then contacted tuberculosis.
During 1883, she had moved to Durban for the winter, as she was ill with the tuberculosis, when word came that her father was now very ill. She returned home as quickly as she could, but missed his death by a very short time, finding the trip an emotional remembrance of one she took a few years previously.
Her father was her hero, she referred to him, not as father - but as Him. Her writings display her idolisation of her father, another person that she hero-worshiped.
Her father was buried under the stone alter of the church, with around 4000 attending his ceremony.
In 1884 their family home was burnt in a savage bush fire. Not very much was able to be saved, she was able to save a basket of some important papers which were being used in a trial, however she lamented that she had lost all her box of letters, some portraits, including Edward's, and all the beautiful things that she had brought out from England, and some pretty furniture that the Colonel had made for her.
But her health deteriorated, she lived for a while with friends on the Isle of Wight, and continued with her causes and subsequent works of her father's. even when she was in the National Cottage Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest. She was admitted late in 1886.
While still in the hospital she continued to edit books for her Zulu causes.
She died in April 1887 whilst being dressed.
In 1887, Frances realised her condition was incurable and she hoped to visit a school friend, however she was living at Ventnor in England on the Isle of Wight when she died April 1887 and she is buried on the Island.
After the fire the girls lived in a cottage on the land, known as "The Farm", and they lived there until 1900. They were evicted by the Church of the Province of South Africa in line with the Church Properties Act of 1910.
None of the girl's married, but devoted their lives to their beliefs in South Africa.
Harriet and Agnes are both buried in South Africa.
Harriet and Mary both died in 1932 and are buried at Sweetwaters near Pietermaristzberg.
They lived in a cottage in Boshoff Street, and later Joseph Chamberlain Rod.
They were cared for by the Bhengu family. They are buried beside their mother in the Commercial Road Cemetery.
After their deaths, their nephew donated all the Colenso papers to the Natal Government Archives.
Several people have accessed these papers and written their thesis as a result.
There are three letters which can be read on the internet through the Natal Society Foundation.
Nevertheless Frances believed in fighting for her causes.
When a letter arrived for her from Jamaica shortly after her death it was forwarded to Frank Colenso by Georgina Burne-Jones, wife of the artist and the person Frances believed understood her best.
Assuming that the writer was Julian Knollys, Inspector general of Constabulary and Director of prisons in the colony, she suggested that he and Frances ‘would like it to lie with her, as the latest sign of so long a friendship’ for, when Knollys was with the army in Natal in the late 1860s, they were attracted to one another.
For further information from another book written by Jeff Guy, The View Across the River: Harriette Colenso and the Zulu Struggle Against Imperialism
It was not Julian Knollys, but Louis Knollys, who had been at Natal at the end of 1860's and become involved with Frances Colenso. Subsequently Knollys was posted to Mauritius where he was on the same staff as Havelock. When the Havelocks visited Seven Oaks S.A. to call on Sarah Colenso (Frances's mother) they brought with them their private secretary, Gerald Brown, whom Knollys had introduced as a special friend.
He and Frances immediately got on well - and one gets a hit of the confidence she had in her relations with men, who in turn found her stimulating and attractive. Mention is made of the typhoid in the summer of 1885-6 and Frances's inability to nurse her sister Agnes, who would only listen to their elder sister Harriette.
Her mother writes to her brother .."It would be quite useless to attempt to persuade Frances to give it up - it is now what she lives for - so she thinks..." 9th June 1886 left for England with a 5 pound a month allowance
Frances arrived in England at the end of July 1886, her family believed that her fragile health had been weakened by her disappointment over the inquiry into Offy Shepstone's action. Desperately unhappy as she was, her defeat now pushed her to the edge of despair.
When she arrived in England she found that Major Louis Knollys was there also passing through on his way to Jamaica. Before that, nothing was known about their love affair in Natal 20 years prior.
To see him again was a surprise and pleasure for her. Their time together was brief and intense, she found a sympathetic listener to her story about stolen documents. So she could be in London with Knollys she delayed visiting her brother, who then wrote her a letter expressing his disappointment and disapproval. She turned on him.
..... has given me extreme surprise and pain to find myself so completely misunderstood where I should least have expected it. I think you forget dear Frank, that I am no longer a girl, but a middle-aged woman who has seen something of the world and much sorrow. I have not "thrown you overboard to please a major' (or anyone else) nor has he "imposed his wishes" on me and .....She was angry to think that Frank believed that they were meeting, "or are likely to meet on "warmer terms" than those of old and valued friendships.
No one lives less likely to credit me with anything short of purest and highest motives for all I do than Louis...
Knollys, Major Louis Frederic, C.M.G. (1877), Indian Army (retired); b. 1847;
3rd s. of late W. F. E. Knollys; educ: at Radley, and at Marlborough;
Joined service in the 2nd Light Infantry, 1866;
Major in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 1881;
A.D.C. to Governor of Mauritius, 1872;
A.D.C, Fiji, 1875;
Commandant. Armed Native Constabulary, Fiji, 1877;
A.D.C. to Governor of New Zealand, 1880;
A.D.C. to Governor of Ceylon, 1883;
Inspector-General of Police and Prisons, Jamaica, 1886;
Inspector-General of Police and Prisons, Ceylon' 1891;
Member, Legislative Council, Ceylon, 1899;
suppressed a rising in Fiji, and restored order, 1876;
retired, 1902. Address: The Wilderness, Dartmouth, Devon.
During these difficult years Georgina developed a close friendship with William Morris, whose wife Jane had fallen in love with Rossetti. Morris and Georgiana may have been in love, but if he asked her to leave her husband (as some of his poetry of these years suggests), she refused
Perhaps Georgina understood all of Frances' lost loves!
Pietermaritzburg - A Garrison Town.
The garrison at Fort Napier played a critical role in changing Pietermaritzburg from a Voortrekker dorp to a firmly Anglophile Victorian colonial capital. Many of the cultural and social amenities were started by the officers while the other ranks laboured to build a new city.
The Government School, used in 1856 for the first meeting of the Legislative Council, was built by two soldiers of the garrison, McKeaney and Murphy. The men of the 45th Regiment, the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery and the Cape Mounted Rifles improved and built Pietermaritzburg's water furrows, roads, offices and private houses.
The Durban detachment of the 45th Regiment built the 45th Cutting which remained the western entrance to the port city for well over a century. The 45th Regiment left Pietermaritzburg in 1859, but many of the men who completed their period of military service during the Regiment's fifteen-year stay elected to remain in the City as colonists.
One such veteran, Thomas Greene, who had arrived in 1843, described the 45th Regiment as the 'real pioneers' of the Colony. Although poorly clothed and fed they were 'ready and willing' to do 'every work that came their way'.
The officers came from the wealthy upper classes and the landed gentry. Before 1871 officers had to purchase their commissions, which effectively barred all those without substantial resources from military careers. After the abolition of the purchase of commissions the need for a private income kept the exclusive character of the officer corps intact.
An officer could not afford on his army pay alone uniforms, servant, mess bills, horses, sporting equipment and other luxuries considered essential to his status as an 'officer and a gentleman'. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the British officer devoted more time to his own amusements than he did to his regimental duties.
Intellectual pursuits were shunned, but young officers enjoyed amateur dramatics, gambling, hunting, shooting and equestrian pursuits. These activities played a great role in shaping the character of Pietermaritzburg.
Pietermaritzburg acquired the reputation of being the most 'clique-ridden' town in Southern Africa. The officers of the garrison and the very senior colonial officials lorded it over the rest of the City's inhabitants in blatant and cutting ways. Class segregation dictated social events, the Race Ball of the May Season being followed by a Tradesmen's Ball.
At the other end of the social scale the garrison greatly stimulated the liquor trade and the world's reputedly oldest profession prostitution. Drinking and womanizing were the two most sought-after forms of relaxation for the British soldier.
In 1884 the Waterloo Bar in Church Street was a favourite haunt of the garrison and was the scene of numerous brawls and a few deaths. A veteran of the 82nd Regiment, John Mockler, who settled in the City, concluded that the Tommies kept Pietermaritzburg 'alive'; and in 1938 an elderly City innkeeper, Mr Sammy Froomberg, recalled that when cavalrymen visited the Black Horse Bar, they would ride into the bar, down their drinks while still mounted and ride out again.
The 'Langalibalele rebellion' which had shaken the Colony in 1873 had seen imperial troops take the field, but the brunt of the action had been borne by the colonial volunteers. The mission of Sir Gamet Wolseley in 1875 was one of the political consequences of the Langalibalele affair.
The 13th Regiment (Prince Albert's Light Infantry) was to lend social support to Sir Garnet's political efforts to change Natal's constitution. Wolseley's tactics have been described as 'drowning the liberties of Natal in sherry and champagne'. The band of the 13th Regiment played at the Governor's glittering ball s and receptions, and Wolseley's staff of aristocratic officers dazzled the colonial ladies while the Governor browbeat their husbands.
Wolseley decided to attend church services at Fort Napier and endure the tedious sermons of the elderly military chaplain rather than having to choose between the services of the rival bishops, Colenso and Macrorie.
Sir Garnet inspected the fort on 5 April 1875 and was not impressed. He described the barracks as a 'disgrace' and the married quarters as resembling 'Irish hovels'. A new building programme began in August 1876, partly as a result of Wolseley's criticisms, but also because of increasing political tension in the Transvaal and on its border with Zululand.
The fortifications were extended and a ten-foot-deep trench with corresponding earthworks was built around the barracks. Less than three years later the British invaded Zululand in January 1879 and Natal was rocked by the news of the disaster at Isandlwana.
|Gun salute 9.00am each day|
Amateur theatricals began in the garrison theatre in 1846, starting a tradition that continues. Regimental bands played in the parks and on the Market Square. This was not always popular as clashes occurred between Nonconformist religious sects, anxious to protect the sabbath, and the troops, backed by music-loving citizens.
Sporting fixtures were arranged by the troops: football, cricket, gymkhanas, croquet, steeplechases and horseracing. The garrison gave Pietermaritzburg a sparkle that many other South African towns lacked entirely.
The officers escorted the ladies of the town to most of the social events and a young officer was a sought-after catch for the daughters of the City's social leaders. Cavalry officers were married off with some rapidity to eligible ladies in the 1880s and 1890s.
|Marching down the main street 1899|
How terrible, all these soldiers, became drunk, they gambled, they married, their married quarters were deplorable, and they enjoyed all the other social aspects and pleasures of the town.
These brave men, who tomorrow would turn around and fight for their mother country, risk death, and injury and face conflict, never knowing what the next day will bring.
Why then, does almost every story written about Anthony Durnford, focus on some of those very same vices that almost every soldier was exposed to?
But from a Soldier's viewpoint.
The account below is taken from a transcript of Frank Bourne's statement which appeared in The Listener magazine of 30 December 1936 following his B.B.C. broadcast in the I Was There... series.
Frank Bourne was a Colour Sergeant in the 24th Regiment at Rorke’s Drift and later rose to become Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Bourne, OBE, DCM.
On January 11 (1879) we crossed the Buffalo river at Rorke's Drift - into Zulu country.
As a Colonel Anthony would have earned a bit more than 17/- per week.
Not much by the time that annuiates back in UK received their share!
As their descendants, many of us probably totally underestimate their living conditions, their fighting abilities, battlefield environment, nor rates of pay.
Poor Frank, every night, he went to bed hungry, every day he faced death.
Not something that today's modern world would accept.
During the early 1800s it took three or four days by ox- wagon to negotiate the 88kms between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
In 1860, London newspapers proudly reported that the Midlands district was 'finally open'...thanks to a daily, horse-drawn omnibus service that cut the journey to eleven hours
Two museums in Pietermaritzburg convey the importance of church life in pioneering the Midlands region. St Peter's became Bishop Colenso's cathedral in 1857 after his doctrinal rebellion caused a schism in the colony's Church of England congregation - his tomb stands before the altar.
In its short history Pietermaritzburg has had three Anglican cathedrals. The first, St. Peters in Church Street was completed in 1857 by J.W. Colenso,
Macrorie House is the former residence of the Bishop of Pietermaritzburg 1869 - 1891, and contains Bishop Macrorie's famous miniature chapel...complete with altar and ornamental screen. The house was built about 1860 and in 1867 was described as "the finest and best built family house in the city".
In 1870 it was rented by the new "Bishop of Maritzburg", William Kenneth Macrorie. They soon bought it and named it "South Hill" and enlarged and improved it in the 25 years they owned it.
|Botanical Gardens in Colenso property|
Bishop Macrorie came to Natal following the controversial excommunication of Bishop Colenso. Colenso's approach to missionary practice, and his biblical scholarship, had brought him into conflict with the Anglican Church authorities. In the schism that resulted some Anglicans remained loyal to Bishop Colenso and others went over to Bishop Macrorie.
The Natal Museum, meanwhile, covers all aspects of our kingdom's history...beginning with the artwork of pre- Zulu, San hunter-gatherer inhabitants. Tatham Gallery is among this country's top seven art museums, attracting curious and connoisseur alike with its eclectic mix of beadwork and basketry, oils and linocuts. British and French 19th and 20th century masterpieces are well-represented with Picasso, Matisse, Degas, Renoir and Hockney...while travelling and locally-curated exhibitions are well worth the wait.
Another national monument in Howick is the spectacular waterfall that plunges almost 100m to the gorge below...small wonder Zulu folk call it 'Place of the Tall One'! For a 'lazy' look at Howick Falls, stroll to the observation platform from nearby caf or picnic sites - for a challenging experience, take the steep trail it's a breathtaking scenario down there, but save some for the climb back up! There are several easier, hour-long explorations of this mini-wonderland of river and valley.
This 27-year-old post-script to the Anglo-Zulu War is well represented in the local museum at Greytown, rated one of the best of its kind in the country. Greytown was from its beginnings a major crossroads and melting pot Victorian, Hindu and Moslem architecture is today centre-stage of East meets West in the Kingdom of the Zulu .
The town has a history in the world of Rugby
The club has a pretty impressive honours board boasting of 22 Springboks having played for the club together with two Springbok captains in Gary Teichmann and the late Roy Dryburgh.
They have also produced a Springbok 7's captain in Marc de Marigny and two Springbok coaches in Dr. Cecil Moss and Ian McIntosh who also became the first KZN coach to take a side to Currie Cup glory. Needless to say his captain was also a Rovers boy - Craig Jamieson.
Among the many other well known Springboks who played for the club include Cecil Moss, Alf Walker, his son Harry Newton-Walker, Bill Zeller, Michael 'Musch' Antelme, Paul Johnson, Jack Gage who also represented Ireland and Peter Swanson together with the more recent players like Guy Kebble, James Small, Pieter Muller, Robbie Kempson, Joel Stransky, Jeremy Thomson, Toks van de Linde, Chris Roussouw, Gaffie du Toit, Dave von Hoesselin, AJ Venter, Butch James and Stefan Terblanche.