The Kingdom of Araucania and Patagonia was established by French lawyer Orélie-Antoine de Tounens (regnal name Antoine I) in 1860 as the result of his election as king by a group of local tribal leaders in the Mapuche region, now part of Chile. He established his capital at Perquenco, minted coins with the name Nouvelle France, devised a national flag and founded chivalric orders, all with the aim of ensuring that the Mapuche nation could assert its independence and separate identity in the face of active hostility from its neighbours.
The Mapuche at that time were engaged in armed struggle against Chile and Argentina, which sought to conquer their lands. This resistance proved unsuccessful and within a year of his accession Chile had invaded and occupied the country and imprisoned King Orélie-Antoine I. Eventually released, he spent the remainder of his life in exile in France seeking to regain his kingdom. Before his death in 1878, he appointed a successor as king-in-exile, Gustave Achille Laviarde Colment (1841-1902), who succeeded him as Aquiles I. His subsidiary titles were Prince of Aucas, Duke of Kialeou and Count of Alsena. During his reign in exile, he made strenuous efforts to have the Kingdom and the rights of its people recognised by the French government, but without success. He was the last Araucanian king to appoint consuls in London and Rome.
Laviarde was of noble descent and was born in Rheims. He travelled widely as a young man and spent time in the service of the Bey of Tunis. Returning to Rheims, he was active in the support of the imperialist candidate for mayor, Edouard Werle, and pursued professional interests as a merchant. He allied himself with the Bonapartist cause and was an official invitee at the funeral of Emperor Napoléon III.
Laviarde is mentioned in the 1922 History of the OCT as being a Grand Cordon of the Constellation du Sud. This confraternity was established on 8 September 1875 in London, UK, by King Antoine I as a means of support for the kingdom. He was succeeded as its president by Laviarde upon his accession to the throne.
Interestingly, among the successors to King Aquiles in this presidency were two persons with close connection to the Abbey-Principality. These were M. Louis Druel (from 1917), founder-president of the Grande Prix Humanitaire de France et des Colonies (attached to the Abbey-Principality in 1899) and then from 1945, M. Louis-François Giraudot, who was the fourth Prince-Abbot of San Luigi between 1897 and his resignation in 1899. Both were, of course, also Patrons of the Order of the Crown of Thorns. Since then, the confraternity has changed its name to the present-day Société des médaillés de la Constellation du Sud. A diploma of the order issued by King Aquiles in favour of Enrique Laviarde may be seen above.
Dying on March 6 1902 without issue, King Aquiles’ heir in the Kingdom was Antoine Hippolyte Cros (Antoine II). The Kingdom continues to exist today and maintains an official website.
[Image credits: La vie rémoise: Jean-Yves Sureau]