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Bengal Tiger Attack

AT CLOSE QUARTERS 1889 — ©AnnickAldo
This spectacular group, showing the moment when a ferocious tiger was in the very act of trying to enter the howdah, was mounted by Rowland Ward and intended as a reconstruction of an incident dating back to March 26, 1888.
That day, during a hunting trip in India, Prince Philippe, Duc d’Orléans was attacked by a wounded tigress, that very nearly ended his life.
It commemorates his defeat of the animal and inaugurates a huge collection of trophies and specimens collected during his multiple expeditions worldwide. It is one of the Duke's most valued trophies and was the starting point for his relationship with Rowland Ward. The elephant is a magnificent animal that he shot in Ceylon; but the tiger was first shown at the Paris Exhibition in 1889.

Prince Philippe, Duc d'Orleans

The eldest son of the Comte de Paris, Philippe d’Orléans, exiled in 1886, by the same law, which banished his father, was excluded from a military career in France, and consequently resolved to enter the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. After a year, he left for India attached for duty with the 4th Battalion of King’s Royal Rifle Corps. Shortly after his arrival at Bombay, on February 13, 1888, he had gone to Calcutta, where, as guests of the Viceroy, Lord Dufferin, he was invited to take part in a great tiger hunt.
Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, at 19, in field uniform Lieutenant 'King‘s Royal Rifle Corps'.

A Hunting Trip in Nepal

The hunting party's first tiger. (left-to-right)
Duc d’Orléans, Dr. Forsyth, Marquise de Morès, Mr. de Boissy, Edward Gwatkin-Williams,
Colonel de Parseval , Prince Henri d'Orléans, Jaak Shikarri, hindou.
The tiger-hunt took about six weeks before he journeyed to join the Rifles at Chakrata. This was indeed great luck having time off to do a bit of shooting. Especially since Philippe had been fueled by that ‘natural desire’ to live the thrills and perils of such a magnificent hunt. A great deal of preparation has to precede a tiger hunt and Philippe was eager to get started. Upon the arrival of his cousin, Henri d’Orléans, the pair devote all their time to shopping. Despite the heat, which had become unbearable, they ran from one store to another to purchases of guns, ammunition, out-fits, and other useful gear.
Finally, on the 29th of February, their little expeditionary force, made up of the Marquess and Marchioness de Mores, and other such nobles left Calcutta, and got underway.
The party hunted the lowland region of Teraï in southern Nepal, from Purnea, which was their base of operations and supplies, up to the foot hills, for about a distance of 170 miles along the banks of the Koshi river. It was a kind of military expedition, their outfit carried, besides the necessary gear for an expedition, sixty-one rifles of different calibers, fourteen revolvers (generally six shots), and thirty-seven thousand cartridges; brought 10 large tents and sixty elephants, 30 of them lent by the Nepalese Government.
As this was Philippe’s first experience with big game, he was keenly observant and took notes. The account of his hunt and number of kills have been written down in his book, “Une Expédition de Chasse au Népaul”. He shot ‘eight’ tigers and for the rest shot everything else to add a few trophies to his collection at Sheen house, his home in England.
Philippe, Duc D’Orléans in the howdah, his first tiger and elephants crossing the river.


At Close Quaters, Rowland Ward, 1889 — ©AnnickAldo"
Tiger-hunting was one of the most prestigious sports. In his 1924 article ‘Tiger-Hunting in India’, William Mitchell noted that a hunter who bagged a tiger is looked upon as a public benefactor, for the number of people killed each year by wild animals.
The destruction of such a monster raises his conqueror from the rank of sportsman into a hero. “It was reported that when the Duc d’Orléans succeeded in bagging a tiger he caused a French horn to be sounded so that information of the event may be quickly communicated to the surrounding villages.”
An Anglo-Indian reporter said with regard to the shooting party that the distinguished visitors blew their own trumpets with considerable effect as to the number and size of the tigers they were slaughtering. It was stated that one tiger was ‘perfectly riddled with bullets' before he succumbed, and that another ‘jumped from the jungle right into the howdah occupied by the Duc d’Orléans.’ This must have been an awkward situation for the Duc, and somewhat embarrassing for the tiger too, but the former, with that politeness which is inherent in all Frenchmen vacated his seat in favor of the latter, and according to the report “managed to get clear by sliding down behind the elephant’s tail.”
The reporter adds that “this is an adventure which the Duc will be able to speak of with pride when he returns to Europe.” And Philippe did...


'An Incident of the Duc d’Orléans' Recent Hunting Tour In India'

Philippe's account appeared in The Graphic under the title of “At Close Quarters", from which the following :
Did you find this tiger-hunting exciting ?
"Yes," said the Prince, "exciting enough sometimes when you hunt the tiger, as an Indian Nawab said, and always when the tiger hunts you."
Did this latter often happen ?
"Once a tigress jumped on my howdah. She smashed the front of it in completely, and with one paw she struck my gun out from between my hands, and broke it in two like a pipe-stem. That was rather a near thing."
“ Two cubs of a tigress had been shot, and the mother hemmed in by a line of elephants. There was an idea that she was crouching in a small patch of jungle behind a tree on the bank of a small stream, but none of our elephants could go anywhere near it. After some time my elephant, being pluckier than the others, was induced to move forward and push the tree down. While thus engaged, the tigress sprang out from beside it with a roar and a tremendous leap right on the top of my howdah, smashing in the front of it, breaking my gun with one blow of her paw and exploding the right barrel before I had time to fire. The gun is still in my possession — a double-barrelled rifle broken in two pieces just below the barrels, the trigger-guard and metal plates wrenched off and twisted by the force of the blow, and with one barrel discharged, the other still at half cock. Fortunately for me she then stumbled backwards, possibly startled by the explosion, and made off for the jungle. My elephant, mad with fright, bolted in the opposite direction, and for a considerable distance nothing would stop her. When at length we got back to the others, we found the whole line of elephants so demoralised that we had to give up sport for the day, and return to camp. Next morning we cornered our game in nearly the same spot, and I had the good luck to bring her down just as she was crossing the river. The mahout managed to slip round in some extraordinary way under the elephant's ears, and was unhurt, but lost his head-dress.”
The Graphic, An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, vol. 39 (1889)

Henri d'Orléans' Mémoires

Henri d'Orléans hunting tigers in India, 1888.
Henri d'Orléans (1867-1901), victim alike by law of exile, and thus banned from enrollment, this brave and adventurous spirit was sent on an around-the-world trip sponsored by his father, and accompanied Philippe in Nepal to bag some tigers too.
Henri tells the story of their narrow escape in his mémoirs,
“Six mois aux Indes, chasses aux tigres” : “Soon, a tiger is cornered”...
"La muraille d'éléphants tient ferme. La bête alors se jette de côté ! Elle se retourne et voit l'éléphant du Duc d'Orléans qui marche vers son gîte : on ne se contente pas de l'assiéger, on veut la forcer ! Au moins ne sera-ce pas impunément ; si elle doit mourir, elle vendra chèrement sa vie. Elle s'élance sur l'éléphant de Philippe, saisit la paroi de l'howdah et s'y accroche avec ses griffes... mais tout conspire à la trahir : le côté de l'howdah cède et elle retombe. L'éléphant s'affole et, la trompe tendue en avant, part au galop. Le Duc d'Orléans a son fusil brisé en deux contre une branche. Heureusement, l'éléphant s'arrête en rejoignant les autres et mon cousin glisse à terre. Quant à la tigresse, elle a disparu. Mais le lendemain, elle se laisse abattre à la même place sans opposer la moindre résistance."
“After futile attempts to pass the line of elephants, the tigress galloped round and before Prince Philippe was able to discharge his gun, the tigress alighted on the howdah with a roar and a bound, dashing the firearm out of his hand while he was in the act of taking aim. The howdah collapsed under the tigress' weight. The elephant panicked, trunk outstretched, and galloped forward. The Duke's rifle was completely severed by the tremendous force of the blow. Fortunately, the elephant halted and rejoined the group, while the Duke dropped to the ground and escaped. As for the tigress, it had vanished. The next day, it was hunted down and killed.”

Rowland Ward

Study group by Rowland Ward for the Duc d'Orléans, A Naturalist's Life Study, 1913.
The young Duc d'Orléans prepared the skin, sent it back to London and entrusted the noted taxidermist, Rowland Ward to immortalize the scene of the attack.
Philippe’s mother, the Comtesse de Paris, who was herself an excellent shot, personally supervise the ‘setting up’ of nine tigers sent home by her son; and Rowland Ward mounted, under her directions, the tigress in the act of springing on the duke's howdah, the side of which it completely crushed in before the youthful sportsman killed his ferocious assailant at close quarters.
These trophies adorned for many years Sheen House, the Twickenham, Philippe's parental home. The Duc’s collection was later moved to a purpose-built ‘private’ museum at Wood Norton, Worcestershire in 1907.
Collections du Duc d'Orléans au Musée de Wood Norton (Angleterre) - C. Vandyck © MNHN
The specimen can be seen at the Museum for Natural History, Paris: Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle - Grande Galerie de l'Evolution.