Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia
Reino de la Araucanía y la Patagonia
|November 17, 1860–January 5, 1862|
Location of the claimed territory of the Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia, in Chile and Argentina
|Capital||Perquenco, in current Cautín Province, La Araucanía Region, Chile|
|Orélie-Antoine I (Aurelio Antonio I)|
|Historical era||Occupation of the Araucanía|
|November 17, 1860|
|January 5, 1862|
|Today part of|| Argentina|
The Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia (Spanish: Reino de la Araucanía y de la Patagonia; French: Royaume d'Araucanie et de Patagonie, sometimes referred to as New France) was an unrecognized state proclaimed on November 17, 1860 by a decree of Orélie-Antoine de Tounens, a French lawyer and adventurer who claimed that the regions of Araucanía and eastern Patagonia did not need to depend on any other states. He had the support of some Mapuche lonkos around a small area in Araucanía, who were engaged in a desperate armed struggle to retain their independence in the face of hostile military and economic encroachment by the governments of Chile and Argentina, who coveted the Mapuche lands for economical and political reasons.
Arrested on January 5, 1862 by the Chilean authorities, Antoine de Tounens was imprisoned and declared insane on September 2, 1862 by the court of Santiago and expelled to France on October 28, 1862. He later tried three times to return to Araucania to reclaim his "kingdom" without success.
In 1858, Antoine de Tounens, a former lawyer in Périgueux, France, who had read the book La Araucana by Alonso de Ercilla, decided to go to Araucania, inspired to become its king after reading the book. He landed at the port of Coquimbo in Chile and met some loncos (Mapuche tribal leaders) after arriving South to the Biobío. He promised them some arms and the help of France to maintain their independence from Chile. The Indians elected him Great Toqui, Supreme Chieftain of the Mapuches possibly in the belief that their cause might be better served with a European acting on their behalf. On November 17, 1860, he proclaimed via a decree that the regions of Araucanía and eastern Patagonia did not need to depend on any other states and that the Kingdom of Araucania is founded with himself as King under the name Orélie-Antoine de Tounens. He declared Perquenco capital of his kingdom, created a flag, and had coins minted for the nation under the name of Nouvelle France.
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 invading Araucanía to capture Antoine de Tounens on January 5, 1862. He was then imprisoned and declared insane on September 2, 1862, by the court of Santiago and expelled to France on October 28, 1862. Antoine later tried three times to return to Araucania to reclaim his "kingdom" without success.
On August 28, 1873, the Criminal Court of Paris ruled that Antoine de Tounens, first king of Araucania and Patagonia, did not justify his claim to the status of sovereignty. He died in poverty on September 17, 1878, in Tourtoirac, France after years of fruitlessly struggling to regain his kingdom. Historians Simon Collier and William F. Sater describe the Kingdom of Araucanía as a "curious and semi-comic episode".
According to travel writer Bruce Chatwin, the later history of the "kingdom" belongs rather to "the obsessions of bourgeois France than to the politics of South America." A French champagne salesman, Gustave Laviarde, impressed by the story, decided to assume the vacant throne as Aquiles I. He was appointed heir to the throne by Orélie-Antoine. The pretenders to the throne of Araucania and Patagonia have been called monarchs and sovereigns of fantasy, "having only fanciful claims to a kingdom without legal existence and having no international recognition".
There does appear, however, to be increasing recognition of the role in defending Mapuche rights assumed by this "strange symbolic monarchy." It has been reported that "the intensification of the Mapuche conflict in recent years has given a new purpose to the Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia, long considered an absurdity by French society."
Antoine de Tounens had no children, but since his death in 1878, some French citizens without any familial relations to him declared to be pretenders to the "throne of Araucania and Patagonia". Whether the Mapuche themselves accept this or are even aware of it, is unclear.
The 2017 film Rey is based on this incident.
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