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France (32)

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Impostors (3)

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Orélie Antoine French Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia

Kingdom of Patagonia

How did a lawyer from Périgord manage, alone and without a penny, to be proclaimed King of Araucania and Patagonia to offer a second "New France" to Napoleon III?

Son of a family of ruined squires whose Gallic ancestors would have created the city of Tonneins, Antoine de Tounens, born in 1825, is all his life the man of a dream ... which will come true! He sought his kingdom from college by consulting the atlases and set his sights on the territory of the Araucanian and Patagonian Indians in southern Chile and Argentina. Why would he not free these 200,000 or so Indians from the rule of Chile and become its king? The Araucanians (Mapuche) never bowed to Spanish order or the Chilean authorities.

Fiercely independent, they do not forget that their ancestors were the only Indians to inflict severe defeat on the conquistadors in 1553 when the powerful Aztec and Inca kingdoms had bowed. Since then, they have controlled a huge territory south of the Biobio river, between the Pacific and the Andes mountain range. A rebellious and inaccessible land ... except for Antoine, who sold his attorney's office to embark for Chile, then entered the heart of Mapuche territory in 1860 to meet the Indian chief Quilapan who dominates the warlike tribes of the Cordillera. Succeeding in passing for the "Savior" of the Mapuche, the lawyer promises them arms and is appointed Orélie Antoine, King of Araucania and Patagonia endowed with a Constitution, of which he informs the president of the Republic of Chile. He also had Périgord published a national subscription to support the new State, planning to create a Bordeaux-Araucanian steamer line and a navy to defend the integrity of the kingdom, while making France dangling the promises of this Southern colony, fertile and rich in precious minerals, capable of accommodating 20 to 30 million citizens!

Did Mapuche choose their king?

Orélie was able to convince the chiefs of the main tribes to federate under the authority of his constitutional monarchy in order to resist the Chilean and Argentinian authorities. He reigns over the Mapuche, Huilliches, Puelches, Pampas, Moluches, Tehuelches, Onas, Alakaloufes and Yagans, i.e. the main tribes of Araucania and Patagonia, at the risk of provoking a war between Chile and Argentina who are fighting for the southern borders: did the Indian chiefs not promise him 30,000 warriors?

Sure of his legitimacy, he shows admirable courage and stubbornness. Imprisoned for nine months in a Chilean jail, sentenced to death and then pardoned for insanity, he was repatriated to France in 1862. He published an Appeal to the French Nation, launched a subscription to finance the emergence of a colony and only collected indifference or sarcasm ... But an adventurer, Planchu, finances the return of Tounens and some faithful in 1869 on the Argentinian coast, from where they join the kingdom at the end of a long raid: five years later, the Indian chief Lemuano recognizes its king. Tounens again promises weapons which he says must be delivered by D’Entrecasteaux. In fact, the French ship does cruise along the Araucan coast, but for quite other reasons ...

The Chileans put a price on the head of Orélie, who escaped several assassination attempts before returning to France in 1871. There he founded the Royal Order of the Steel Crown of which Quilapan and Lemuano were dignitaries, but also the poet François Coppée, and a bulletin which offers an Epistle of love to young ladies to be married ready to emigrate, without forgetting the creation of a Company of New France whose securities on the stock exchange will collapse as quickly as castles in Patagonia.

The king is dead!

Ruined, he returned to Argentina in 1874 under the false identity of Juan Pratt (whose son Hugo would make sparks a century later), was immediately recognized and arrested, once again repatriated.

Discredited in France, he returned to Buenos Aires in 1876 to present himself as an immigrant, a simple farmer in search of a few hectares who attended the auction by lots of the immense kingdom of his dear Indian subjects, who ended up having to submit.

Operated for an intestinal obstruction, he survived by a miracle and returned to Bordeaux to devote his last strength to a final subscription sponsored by the archbishop before passing away in 1878 in Tourtoirac, not without having asked the priest to proclaim according to tradition. : "The king is dead" !

"The king is dead, long live the king"

Orélie Antoine de Tounens had several successors on his throne: Antoine-Hippolyte Cros, his daughter and his grandson… He even still retains a few faithful subjects, at the instigation of the novelist Jean Raspail, who was enthroned Consul General of Patagonia in France. He landed on June 1, 1984 on the British island of Minquiers (between Jersey and Saint-Malo) with some heroic marines to take possession of the northernmost archipelago of the Patagonian kingdom and protest against the British occupation of the Falklands, inalienable territory of the Kingdom of Patagonia. The hoax made the headlines of the Times!