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Empire of the Sahara (1903)

Last modified: 2014-06-28 by klaus-michael schneider
Keywords: lebaudy(jacques) | empire of the sahara | crown | bees | wreath | eagle(golden) | troja |
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[Empire of the Sahara] image by Eugene Ipavec, 6 May 2012
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Empire of the Sahara

Reported by Fuligni’s book [ful97], pp. 124-131:

Jacques Lebaudy was the son of Jules Lebaudy, a French magnate of the sugar industry who was involved in the Union generale crash in 1882 and was therefore rather rich. For long he dreamt of conquest, and put up in 1902 a Company for Nitrates of Cape Juby, and had the idea of creating a trans-Saharan railway, although the French government didn’t listen to him.

In 1903, he decided to go there, and, after a stop at Madeira and in the Canaries, reached the Saharan coast on 25th May with 8 sailors, at 28°40′N, in a spot named Bay of Justice. They met there two Saharan men with whom they had a rather good contact. Two days later, Jacques Lebaudy told his sailors (who just thought «He’s gone mad») that he should now be called "Sire" and that he was Jacques the 1st of the Empire of Sahara.

Back in the Canaries, Jacques Lebaudy had to face the defection of 10 of the 20 men he had enrolled for his second expedition. He was again in Bay of Justice on the 10th of June, and decided that his capital would be there and named it Troja; he left there 5 men as a provisional garrison. Reaching Bay of Liberty (27°20′N), he decided to place there Polis, the main commercial city of his new empire… There, on the 14th of June, he met with a Saharan tribe, who wanted to sell slaves to him; he refused.

In the Canaries, the Spanish authorities and the French consul, Mr Tallien de Cabarrus, did not appreciate the way Lebaudy tried to employ sailors for his expeditions and became suspicious. Anyway, Lebaudy went back to Troja, where his 5 men had been taken away by the Saharan Moors, who now wanted a ransom, having learned thanks to the two first Saharan men (see above) that Lebaudy was rather rich…

In France, Lebaudy’s personal secretary did some advertisement for the Sahara Empire, and the government was soon aware of this ambition. A ship whose captain was Jaurès (brother of the famous Jean Jaurès, socialist French politician) was sent to the Saharan coast, and took back the 5 men who had been sold as slaves near Cape Juby, and of whom Jacques the 1st did not take care at all. In the meantime, Jacques Lebaudy went back to Europe, bought a throne, created orders, and a newspaper (The Sahara). He married a French actress, Augustine Dellière, with whom he had a daughter. He converted himself to Islam, and refused to pay the government for the rescue of the 5 sailors that he had left at Troja. After protesting about not being invited to the Conference of Algeciras, he emigrated to the United States with his wife and their daughter, and lived in Long Island. He became more and more mad, and one day decided that his daughter could be able to give him a son (a prince, heir to his empire) and told her wife he had decided to rape their daughter — and that’s the reason why she killed him.

[Empire of the Sahara b/w] image by Olivier Touzeau, 13 Apr 2001

Well, not very flag-related, will you say; Fuligni in fact doesn’t quote at any time the existence of any flag. But, there is a b&w picture on the last page of the chapter, with the legend: «the imperial ensign». Don’t know when he used it, but I’d rather say that this was after the expeditions in his virtual empire.
Olivier Touzeau, 13 Apr 2001

Additional reports on Lebaudy's career reveal that the field was white, the shield in the center was purple or "deep blue" and the crown and bees were, not surprisingly, gold. Furthermore, two of the accounts claim that Lebaudy actually used the flag during his abortive attempt to establish the empire, not just during his post-adventure pretences.

The website of The Independent (UK) has a 15 September 1998 column by Bennett Maxwell, in which, Lebaudy was said to have designed an imperial flag "with a center adorned with three golden bees on a field of purple beneath a crown surmounted by a cross, supported by arches of gold set with pears" [sic- almost surely a typo for pearls?] Maxwell also states that among the entourage of 300 to 400 patronage seekers who adhered to the "Emperor" and his court-in-exile were some flag merchants. Maxwell reveals that the full form of Lebaudy's self-adopted title, was Jacques I, Najin-al-din, Emperor of the Sahara, Commander of the Faithful, King of Tarfaia, Duke of Arleuf and Prince of Chal-Huin.
Source: this article

An 11 Sept 1917 news feature on Lebaudy claimed that he displayed the flag during his brief stay on the Saharan coast, and described it as "(...) a flag of white silk, decorated with attributes symbolical of kingly power. The ground of the shield was of purple, bearing three bees; above that a crown studded with costly pearls, and the 'whole surmountead by a cross. The heraldry is a little faulty- but the effect 'was gorgeous enough'."
Western Argus (Kalgoorlie, WA, AU), page 1
Source: this article

The Spartanburg (SC-US) Herald for 16 June 1937 had a syndicated feature, Human Side of the News, on page. It states that when Lebaudy's expedition left the Canaries for the African coast, his ship ran up his flag "deep blue, with three golden bees, and a crown of gold."
Source: this article
Ned Smith, 5 May 2012

The adventures of the "Mad Emperor" were widely commented by the press of the time, while the Emperor himself was sketched by caricaturists. A caricature shows the Emperor landing in Africa, holding a sword and what appears to be a broom with a green flag inscribed "TROJA", Troja being the capital of the Empire.
Source: this article

[Empire of the Sahara, emperor's flag] image by Eugene Ipavec, 6 May 2012

On 27 February 2004, the Western Mail (Perth, Australia) published "A modern Napoleon - Jacques Lebaudy", with a black and white illustration of the Emperor and his symbols: a coin, postage stamp, the throne and the flag ("a crown flanked by bees").
Source: this article
Ivan Sache, 6 May 2012

Pennants of Capital Troja

[Troja (Empire of the Sahara)] image located by Ivan Sache, 3 June 2012

"Historia", No. 322, 1973, includes the article "L'Empereur du Sahara", by Euloge Boissonnade (pp. 129-138), giving a detailed account of the adventures of the "Small Emperor". Boissonnade reports the amazement of the Spanish Governor and the French Consul in Las Palmas when they noticed the flag hoisted on the "FRASQUITA", the sailboat used by Lebaudy. The closest port to Morocco, Las Palmas was used by Lebaudy as the logistic base of his expedition. The event reported by Boissonnade happened, when Lebaudy "withdrew" from Morocco after having abandoned his "army" captured by the Moors.

"Puzzled, the Spanish Governor and the French Consul checked the odd ensign hoisted on the sailboat. The two diplomats excitedly browsed the flag book, in search of the nation represented by a white flag charged with a crescent and two golden stars. Lebaudy quickly solved their trouble [...] He told them that, as the Emperor of Sahara, he now had his own army, navy, and, of course, emblems."

A caricature dated 1903, shown in the same article, portrays the Emperor riding a goose and wearing a crown made of three sugar loaves. In the background, the capital of the empire is represented by three cobbles, a board inscribed "Troja" and two pennants, the upper charged with two stars and the second charged with two other emblems. The caricaturist might have been inspired by a report of Lebaudy's ""naval ensign".
Ivan Sache, 3 June 2012

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