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Orelie-Antoine de Tounens
Orelie-Antoine de Tounens (1825-1878) was a French lawyer and adventurer who was elected King of Araucania and Pantagonia.
Orelie-Antoine de Tounens was born May 12, 1825 in Chourngac d'Ans, France. He moved to Chile in 1858 and spent two years in Valparaíso and Santiago, studying Spanish and forming social connections. In 1860 he moved to Araucania among the Mapuche Indians who, at the time, were de facto independent.
Based on his experience as a lawyer, De Tounens claimed that the area did not belong to recently independent Chile or Argentina, so he wanted to create an independent state south of the Biobio River. November 17, 1860 he signed a declaration of Araucanian independence in the farm of French settler F. Desfontaine, who became his "foreign minister". And with an assembly of the chieftans of the various tribes of the territory known as "Araucania" was voted a constitutional monarch by the tribal leaders. He created a national hymn, a flag, wrote a constitution, appointed ministers of agriculture, education, and defense (among other offices), and had coins minted for his kingdom. Later, a tribal leader from Patagonia approached him with the desire to become part of the kingdom. Patagonia was therefore united to his kingdom as well. He sent copies of the constitution to Chilean newspapers and El Mercurio published a portion of it on December 29, 1860. De Tounens returned to Valparaíso to wait for the representatives of the Chilean government. They primarily ignored him.
De Tounens returned to Araucania where many Mapuche tribes were again preparing to fight the incursions of the Chilean army. In 1862 De Tounens proceeded to visit other tribes as well. However, his servant Juan Bautista Rosales contacted Chilean authorities who had de Tounens arrested. They put him on trial and were going to send him into an insane asylum when the French consulate intervened and he was deported to France.
De Tounens remained defiant and published his memoirs 1863. In 1869 he sailed back to Araucania through 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 attention of the Chilean authorities. Colonel Cornelio Saavedra promised a reward for his head but the Mapuche decided to defend their unusual ally.
De Tounens ran out of money in 1871 and had to return to France, where he published a second set of his memoirs. He also founded an Araucanian newspaper La Corona de Acero (Iron Crown). In 1872 he also proclaimed that he was seeking a bride so he could sire an heir. In 1873 he wrote to his brother that he intended to marry mademoiselle de Percy, but there is no evidence this ever happened.
In 1874 de Tounens tried again to return to his kingdom, this time with some arms and ammunition he was able to muster up 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 Bahia Blanca in July 1874 and was again summarily deported back to France.
De Tounens 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 badly 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.
Orelie-Antoine de Tounens died September 17, 1878 in Tourtoirac, France.
Although de Tounens had no children, some of his kin assumed the title as heir of the kingdom. Gustave-Achille Laviarde (as Achille I) tried to convince US president Grover Cleveland to recognize Araucanian autonomy. Upon his death 1902 Antoine-Hippolyte Croselle inherited the title as Antoine II. Later it was transferred to Antoine III, who handed the title over to current holder, Prince Philippe, in 1950.
Current heir Philippe, who lives in France, has spoken on behalf of the Mapuche tribe on occasion. There is also the North American Araucanian Royalist Society [NAARS], a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1995. No sovereign state has recognized the kingdom.