Marie-Charles David de Mayréna

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Marie I, King of Sedang
Born January 31, 1842
Died November 11, 1890
British Malaya
Occupation self-styled king

Marie-Charles David de Mayréna (also known as Charles-Marie David de Mayréna and Marie I, King of Sedang; January 31, 1842 - November 11, 1890), was an eccentric French adventurer who became the self-styled king of the Sedang of the northern Central Highlands in what is now southern Vietnam.

De Mayréna was born in Toulon. He fled Paris for Java in June 1883, fearing prosecution for embezzlement. The next year, he was expelled from the Dutch East Indies. He returned to Paris and organized an arms shipment to Aceh. While returning to the East Indies, he stopped in Vietnam and started a plantation. In 1888, the King of Siam began claiming territory west of French territory. Anxious, the Governor-General of French Indochina agreed to a proposal from Mayréna to lead an expedition into the interior in order to negotiate treaties with the local tribespeople.

Once there however, he convinced some tribal chiefs to form a new Kingdom of Sedang - with himself as king. Mayréna, his supporters and some tribespeople claimed that the tribes were not vassals of the Annamese (Vietnamese) emperor and therefore could form their own kingdom. The Kingdom of Sedang was founded when Mayréna was elected King by the chiefs of the Bahnar, Rengao, and Sedang tribes in the village of Kon Gung on June 3, 1888. He then assumed the style and title Marie the First, King of Sedang.[1]

King Marie declared Roman Catholicism to be the official tribal religion. However, he did not try to force the conversion of his subjects, most of whom were Muslims; instead, he announced his own adoption of Islam. He designed a national flag [2] and an honorary insignia—the Order of Marie the First—which he had cast by goldsmiths in Hong Kong.

He also sought to obtain official diplomatic recognition of his kingdom, and offered to cede his kingdom to France in exchange for monopoly rights, and hinted that the Prussians were interested if the French were not. When the French government became understandably chilly, Mayréna approached the English at Hong Kong in 1889. When he was rebuffed there, Mayréna went to Belgium. In 1889, a Belgian financier named Somsy offered arms and money to Mayréna in exchange for mineral rights. However, the French Navy blockaded Vietnamese ports to prevent his return, and his arms were seized as contraband at Singapore. Mayréna retired to British Malaya.[3] There, on November 11, 1890, Marie I died under mysterious circumstances (various reports claim by poisoning, snakebite or as the result of a duel) at Tioman Island.

The Kingdom of the Sedang was subsequently conquered by the French Republic and her protectorate, Annam, without the consent of the government or people of Sedang.[4] French writer and statesman André Malraux wrote an unpublished novel about Mayréna while Malraux' friend and character in La Condition Humaine, Baron de Clappique, wrote a movie script about him.[5]

Coat of Arms of Sedang


  1. ^ The Imperial Collection - The Kingdom of the Sedang
  2. ^ Sedang Kingdom (Vietnam)
  3. ^ Footnotes to History- S
  4. ^ The Kingdom of Sedang
  5. ^ Cf. André Malraux, Antimémoires (Paris: Gallimand 1967), translated as Anti-Memoirs (New York: Holt Rinehart Winston 1968), chapter "The Royal Way" at pp. 253-322. Therein Malraux discusses Mayréna (pp. 258--259). Malraux also references his novel (p. 255) La Voie royale (Paris: Bernard Grasset 1930), whose character Perken was said to be somewhat based on Mayréna (p. 321). Most of Malraux's chapter loosely narrates Clappique's film script The Devil's Kingdom [English title] about Mayréna through Clappique's voice (pp. 259-320).

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