Orélie-Antoine de Tounens

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Orélie-Antoine de Tounens
Black and white photograph of de Tounens
King of Araucania and Patagonia
Reign17 November 1860 – 17 September 1878
PredecessorPosition created
SuccessorAchille Laviarde
Born(1825-05-12)12 May 1825
Chourgnac, France
Died17 September 1878(1878-09-17) (aged 53)
Tourtoirac, France
FatherJean Tounens
MotherCatherine Jardon

Orélie-Antoine de Tounens (born Antoine Tounens) (12 May 1825 – 17 September 1878) was a French lawyer and adventurer who proclaimed by two decrees on November 17, 1860 and November 20, 1860 that Araucanía and Patagonia did not depend of any other states and that he himself was King of Araucania and Patagonia.[1][2][3] On January 5, 1862, he was arrested by the Chilean army and imprisoned. He was declared insane by the court of Santiago on September 2, 1862, and expelled to France on 28 October 28, 1862.[4][5] He tried three further times to come back to Araucanía to regain his "kingdom", but without success, and he died in poverty on 17 September, 1878, in Tourtoirac, France.


Antoine de Tounens aka Orélie-Antoine I, King of Araucania and Patagonia.

In 1858, Antoine de Tounens, a former lawyer in Périgueux (France) had read the book of Alonso de Ercilla, La Araucana, and decided to go to Araucania, inspired by the book to become the King of Araucania. He landed at the port of Coquimbo in Chile and spent two years in Valparaíso and Santiago, studying Spanish. Later he moved South to the Bio-Bio where he met some loncos (Mapuche tribal leaders). He promised them arms and the help of France to maintain their independence from Chile. The indians elected him Great Toqui, Supreme Chieftain of the Mapuches[6] possibly in the belief that their cause might be better served with a European acting on their behalf.

By two decrees on November 17, 1860 and November 20, 1860, he proclaimed himself king of Araucania and Patagonia under the name Orélie-Antoine I.

He writes in his Memoirs in 1863 "I took the title of king, by an ordinance of November 17, 1860, which established the bases of the hereditary constitutional government founded by me [...] On November 17, I returned to Araucania to be publicly recognized as king, which took place on December 25, 26, 27 and 30. Weren't we, the Araucanians, free to bestow power on me, and I to accept it?"[7]

He sent copies of the constitution of his kingdom to Chilean newspapers and El Mercurio published a portion of it on 29 December 1860. Then he returned to Valparaíso to wait for the representatives of the Chilean government. They ignored him. He also attempted to involve the French government in his idea, but the French consul, after making some inquiries, came to the conclusion that de Tounens was insane. He returned to Araucanía where many Mapuche tribes were again preparing to fight the incursions of the Chilean Army during the occupation of Araucanía.

The supposed founding of the Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia led to the Occupation of Araucanía by Chilean forces. Chilean president José Joaquín Pérez authorized Cornelio Saavedra Rodríguez, commander of the Chilean troops, to invade Araucanía.

Antoine de Tounens with the Mapuche warriors
Territory claimed by Antoine de Tounens
Flag of the kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia conceived by Antoine de Tounes

His servant, Juan Bautista Rosales, contacted Chilean authorities and Antoine de Tounens was captured on 5 January 1862 by the Chilean army, then imprisoned and declared insane on 2 September 1862 by the court of Santiago[8] and expelled to France on 28 October 1862.[9]

Antoine de Tounens published his memoirs in 1863. In 1869, he returned to Araucanía, via Buenos Aires. The Mapuche were surprised to see him because Chileans had told them that they had executed him. De Tounens proceeded to reorganize his realm and again attracted the attention of the Chilean authorities. Colonel Cornelio Saavedra Rodríguez promised a reward for his head but the Mapuche decided to defend their unusual ally.

Without proper funds in 1871 he had to return to France, where he published a second set of his memoirs. He also founded an Araucanian newspaper La Corona de Acero ("The Steel Crown"). In 1872, he proclaimed that he was seeking a bride so that he might sire an heir; indeed, the next year, he wrote to tell his brother that he intended to marry a "mademoiselle de Percy", but there is no evidence that he ever did.

In 1874, he tried again to return to his kingdom, this time with some arms and ammunition he was able to gather with the feeble support of a few entrepreneurs in Europe. Because he was persona non grata in Chile, he traveled with a false passport. However, he was recognized as soon as he landed in Bahía Blanca (on the Argentine coast) in July 1874, and was summarily deported to France.

He tried to return again in 1876. However, local settlers robbed him on his way to Patagonia and handed him over to Chilean authorities. He also fell ill and had to go through an operation to survive. His health did not allow him to continue his journey and he had to return to France.

On 28 August 1873 the Criminal Court of Paris ruled that Antoine de Tounens, first king of Araucania and Patagonia did not justify his status of sovereign.[10]

Antoine de Tounens died in poverty on 17 September 1878 in Tourtoirac, France.

Antoine de Tounens had no children but since his death in 1878, some French citizens without familial relations declared themselves to be pretenders to the throne of Araucania and Patagonia. Whether the Mapuche themselves accept this, or are even aware of it, is unclear.[11]

The pretenders to the throne of Araucania and Patagonia are called monarchs and sovereigns of fantasy,[12][13][14][15][16] "having only fanciful claims to a kingdom without legal existence and having no international recognition".[17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Roberto Hosne, Patagonia: History, Myths and Legends, Duggan-Webster, 2001, page 65.
  2. ^ Bruce G. Trigger, The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Cambridge University Press, 1996, page 177.
  3. ^ Carlos Foresti Serrano, Eva Löfquist, Álvaro Foresti, María Clara Medina, La narrativa chilena desde la independencia hasta la Guerra del Pacífico, Editorial Andrés Bello, 2001, page 63.
  4. ^ Robert L. Scheina, Latin America's Wars: The age of the caudillo, 1791–1899, Brassey's, Incorporated, 2003, page 367.
  5. ^ Jacques Lagrange, Le roi français d'Araucanie, PLB, 1990, page 11.
  6. ^ Herbert Wendt, The Red, White, and Black Continent, Doubleday, 1966, page 271.
  7. ^ Antoine de Tounens, Orllie-Antoine 1er, roi d'Araucanie et de Patagonie: son avénement au trône et sa captivité au Chili, relation écrit par lui-même, Paris 1863 page 113.
  8. ^ Robert L. Scheina, Latin America's Wars: The age of the caudillo, 1791–1899, Brassey's, Incorporated, 2003, page 367.
  9. ^ Jacques Lagrange, Le roi français d'Araucanie, PLB, 1990, page 11.
  10. ^ Le XIXe siècle : journal quotidien politique et littéraire. 1873.
  11. ^ Peregrine, Anthony (5 February 2016). "France's forgotten monarchs". The Daily Telegraph.
  12. ^ Fuligni, Bruno (1999). Politica Hermetica Les langues secrètes. L'Age d'homme. p. 135. ISBN 9782825113363.
  13. ^ Journal du droit international privé et de la jurisprudence comparée. 1899. p. 910.
  14. ^ Montaigu, Henri (1979). Histoire secrète de l'Aquitaine. A. Michel. p. 255. ISBN 9782226007520.
  15. ^ Lavoix, Camille (2015). Argentine : Le tango des ambitions. Nevicata. ISBN 9782511040072.
  16. ^ Bulletin de la Société de géographie de Lille. 1907. p. 150.
  17. ^ Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux. ICC. 1972. p. 51.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
New Creation
King of Araucania and Patagonia
Succeeded by