The story of an Algerian warlord exiled to Nogent-le-Rotrou. Eurelian Chronicles # 46

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Professor, historian, writer, Alain Denizet brings to light local anecdotes or stories that are often the reflection of a national history.
Professor, historian, writer, Alain Denizet brings to light local anecdotes or stories that are often the reflection of a national history. (© Laurent Rebours)

Find on Actu Chartres, every Sunday, a Eurelian chronicle of the history and stories proposed by Alain Denizet. Professor, historian, writer of Eure-et-Loir, for years he has collected all the chronicles of him on his website.

September 1842: El Hamelaoui, Algerian warlord exiled to Nogent le Rotrou

Rue Saint-Hilaire, Nogent-le-Rotrou.  Source: https://www.perche-gouet.net/histoire/photos/rues/164/9131.jpg.
Rue Saint-Hilaire, Nogent-le-Rotrou. Source: https://www.perchegouet.net/histoire/photos/rues/164/9131.jpg. (© DR)

At the very beginning of September 1842, an old man with a weathered complexiondressed in burnous, wearing a keffiyeh, he crossed the threshold of a house on the rue Saint-Hilaire in Nogent-le-Rotrou.

Informed of his arrival by The Nogentthe curious find out Ahmed ben hadj Ahmed ben el Hamelaouiwarlord of the Costantinois Algerian.

Here’s how, by mixing equally proven facts – high-ranking character, – suggestive clichés – the harem – and local humor – Percheron’s odalisques … -, The gleaner presents the stay of this man who came from the other side of the Mediterranean.

The portrait of El Hamelaoui from the newspaper The gleaner

The gleaner, September 29, 1842
The gleaner, September 29, 1842 (© DR)

“Our city is currently blessed by a true thoroughbred Bedouin, former minister of the former bey of the province of Constantine. His odd costume, long white beard, and his unusual ways arouse general curiosity and, as one would expect, the most bizarre rumors are spread by onlookers. Some say he is a dethroned king, having 10,000 boudjous to spend a day [Pièce d’argent, dans l’Algérie, compté pour 1 fr. 80 centimes.] ; the others seriously affirm that he will transport his he harem to Nogent, which will have, like Sultan Solomon, from five to six hundred wives and that to keep this number of odalisques at full capacity, he will recruit, if necessary, among the Percheron Beauties. We mention a bourgeois, electoral mediator in reform, who must ask for a post as eunuch in the menagerie. It is claimed that his passport [sic] following the formula “special signs”, it carries the word circumcised, which individually embarrassed the gendarmerie brigadier and his wife[1] “

First ally of the French …

Capture of Constantine, VERNET Émile-Jean-Horace, dit Horace (1789 - 1863) Grand Palais (Château de Versailles.
Capture of Constantine, VERNET Émile-Jean-Horace, dit Horace (1789 – 1863) Grand Palais (Château de Versailles. (© DR)

Let us now return to the origins of the story. Why did El Hamelaoui settle in the capital of Perche, so far away from the gentle Mediterranean sun?

At first opposing the French army, he joined the victors after Constantine’s capture in 1837 and, in the process, was appointed Caliph of Ferdjiouabswearing allegiance to Louis Philippe, king of the French.

Video: currently on Actu

As he gave satisfaction, particularly by carrying the tax, grateful France rewarded him with the Legion of Honor.

National Archives, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine.  LH1165 evaluation.
National Archives, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. LH1165 evaluation. (© DR)

He received it in Constantine on 13 October 1839 from the hands of Duke of Orleans, son of the kingwho congratulated himself on why “the Arab leaders for a long time our enemies are so devoted today to the French cause[2] “.

A few days later, El Hamelaoui once again demonstrated his loyalty by lending his support to the Iron Gates expedition in October 1839. Indispensable for the control of the young colony, he allowed to establish a terrestrial connection between Algiers and Constantine.

In October 1840 El Hamelaoui was appointed officer of the Legion of Honor.

… then he gathered at Abd del Kader

Watercolor by Gaspard Gobaut, 846 in
Watercolor by Gaspard Gobaut, 846 in “campaigns of his royal highness, the Duke of Orleans in Algeria”. (© DR)

But shortly thereafter, one of his enemies transmitted a letter to the French authorities that he had intercepted. Unfortunate letter ever since he pledged his support to Abd del Kader who was fighting the French colonization[3].

Tried in August 1841 by the court martial of Constantine for “unauthorized correspondence from the enemies of France”, El Hamelaoui was sentenced to twenty years in prison.

This man, whose qualities had been praised for three years, yes suddenly all the faults of the world.

Not only deceptive, it was, if the paper is to be believed France of “very dissolute morals”, a very bad Muslim because “he did not fast, never went to the mosque, often changing his wife” and administrator “hated” by the population for his abuses [4].

Abd-del-Kader.  Portrait of EM Godefroy around 1835. There is no portrait of El Hamelaoui. [Raison pour laquelle l’illustration qui annonce la chronique est celle d’Ab-del-Kader, autre héros de la résistance à la colonisation,  à qui son histoire est liée.]
Abd-del-Kader. Portrait of EM Godefroy around 1835. There is no portrait of El Hamelaoui. [Raison pour laquelle l’illustration qui annonce la chronique est celle d’Ab-del-Kader, autre héros de la résistance à la colonisation,  à qui son histoire est liée.] (© DR)

From the Margueritte Islands to Nogent-le-Rotrou

While serving the beginning of his sentence in the Margueritte Islands [5] – turned off walking sticks – his young wife comes to plead her case with the queen.

Moved, she sent a letter to the Minister of War which contained these words: “The poor old man has no time to wait”. The old man was sixty …

The king forgave him.

the General Lebreton who had presided over the war council had its roots in the soil of Percheron [6].

This is how El Hamelaoui laid his slippers in Nogent-le-Rotrou in September 1842. His wife followed him there, “following the precept of the Koran which requires women to close their husbands eyes. [7] “That was far from dying.

Integrated into the Nogent population

Fort des Îles Margueritte seen from the shore.  Cannes Archives, 3Fi 650.
Fort des Îles Margueritte seen from the shore. Cannes Archives, 3Fi 650. (© DR)

Aided by an interpreter and a small escort, the exile spent a few months in the capital of the Perche, lived like a bourgeois, frequented notables, a manifestation of a coexistence marked by mutual respect and which at times was not lacking in tender familiarity.

Many Nogent elders remember perfectly this illustrious guest who lived in the palace on rue Saint-Hilaire, taking walks in the city during one of which he picked up a boy from Nogent. His parents were then “very proud of the honor done to their child [8]

Bulletin of the Percheron Society of History and Archeology

When El Hamelaoui left the Perche, it was to go to Meaux, then to Paris where, says Alain Loison, “he appeared in number of social eveningsbut always after having ascertained the absence of any other Arab or Muslim fellow citizen, to live fully in the Western way [9] “

[1] The gleanerSeptember 29, 1842.

[2] Journal of political and literary debates 23 October 1839.

[3] Abd del Kader capitulated in 1847 and was imprisoned Amboise Castle. Released in 1852, this open man later became an interlocutor of France in the Arab world. A stele was unveiled in honor of him a Amboise on February 5, 2022.

[4] FranceAugust 14, 1841.

[5] Place of detention for North African prisoners from Algeria

[6] Eugène Casimir Lebreton was the third son of a farmer. His parents had settled down Luigny when he was 4 or 5 years old. He was elected MP for Eure-et-Loir in 1848. He was also General Councilor of Nogent-le-Rotrou for 30 years and President of the General Council for 20 years.

[7] The gleaner6 October 1842.

[8] Bulletin of the Percheronne Society of History and Archeology, 1904, p. 34.

[9] Alain Loison, The mysteries of Eure-et-Loir, De Borée, 2012, p.370.

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