Muhammad VII al-Munsif,
commonly known as Moncef Bey
(4 March 1881 in La Manouba
– 1 September 1948 in Pau
: محمد المنصف باي
, Muḥammad al-Munṣif Bāy
) was the Bey of Tunis
between 19 June 1942 and 14 May 1943. He was the penultimate ruler of the Husainid dynasty
Portrait of Moncef Bey as a young man
As a young man Moncef Bey distinguished himself during the events of April 1922 when he supported the nationalist Destour
movement and prevailed on his father Naceur Bey
to receive its representatives. He was invested as Bey al-Mahalla
on 30 April 1942 and succeeded his cousin Ahmed Bey
on the latter's death on 19 June of the same year.
Relations with the Vichy regime
On 2 July 1942 Moncef Bey was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur
by the Vichy regime
Nevertheless, his attitude on the throne was not one which France found easy to deal with. Thus, in a memorandum of 2 August 1942 to Marshall Pétain
presented by his Grand Vizier Hédi Lakhoua
he reaffirmed his belief in Tunisian sovereignty, undiminished by the French protectorate
. He insisted on the establishment of a consultative legislative Council in which Tunisians would predominate; access to civil service roles for Tunisians, and measures against poverty and unemployment. He also wanted compulsory schooling in Arabic, the nationalisation of key enterprises, and a range of other measures of a broadly nationalist character.
On 12 October 1942 at the Eid al-Fitr
ceremonies in the palace of La Marsa
, Moncef Bey expressed his surprise that there was not a single Tunisian among the senior government personnel who were attending with the French Resident General, Admiral Jean-Pierre Esteva
. Esteva replied 'seuls les Français sont aptes aux postes de commande' ('only the French are suited to positions of authority'). The Bey then sent a telegram to Marshal Pétain asking for Esteva to be recalled.
and tension continued to mount between the Bey and Esteva
In December 1942, a confrontation blew up during a session of the Council of Ministers between Esteva and the Minister of Justice Abdeljelil Zaouche
, after the Minister expressed reservations about funding for the National Gendarmerie
and Esteva angrily rejected any criticism of the gendarmerie. Moncef Bey considered that the Resident General's tone was an insult to his representative and thus to his own person.
troops arrived in Tunisia on 19 November 1942 and the Tunisian Campaign
turned much of the country into a battlefield. Moncef Bey was confronted by demands from Pétain to remain loyal to France and from Roosevelt
to allow free passage for Allied troops. Moncef Bey proclaimed Tunisian neutrality while secretly informing Roosevelt that Tunisia would support the Allies.
He also refused an offer from the Italian ambassador Bombieri to repudiate the Treaty of Bardo
and enter into a new treaty with Italy.
Moncef Bey with his ministers (left) and the princes (right)
Protector of the Jews
His predecessor Ahmed Bey
was often referred to as 'the Bey of the French' and signed several decrees prepared by the Vichy regime which were detrimental to The Jewish community in Tunisia
. Moncef Bey on the other hand was referred to as 'the Protector of the Jews' and made efforts to ensure that these decrees were not put into effect. He also refused to sign any other anti-Jewish decrees, including those requiring Jews to wear the yellow star, or to undertake forced labour, or to exclude Jews from certain activities.
Between November 1942 and May 1943, while Axis troops occupied the country, he intervened repeatedly to protect his people, particularly the Jewish community, from their exactions.
Deposition and exile
Moncef Bey at Pau, 5 October 1947
When Allied troops occupied Tunis, the French colonial lobby around Henri Giraud
, including the former Resident General and Vichy minister Marcel Peyrouton
, found a pretext to accuse the Bey of collaborating with Axis forces.
After Esteva fled, General Alphonse Juin
became acting Resident General. On 13 May 1943, on the orders of Giraud, Juin demanded the Bey's abdication, but he refused.
The following day he was removed by a decree from Giraud and flown out of the country by the French airforce.
He was succeeded by his cousin Lamine Bey
on 15 May 1943.
Mausoleum of Moncef Bey at the Jellaz Cemetery
Moncef Bey was sent to Laghouat
in southern Algeria, where he formally abdicated on 8 July.
He was then moved to the small town of Ténès
, in the north of the country and on 17 October 1945 he was moved again to Pau
where he remained until his death on 1 September 1948.
His remains were brought back to Tunis and he was buried with full honours in the Jellaz Cemetery
unlike other ruling members of his family, who were mostly buried in Tourbet el Bey
Family and private life
- Prince Slaheddine Bey (1902-1938)
- Prince Mohamed Raouf Bey (1903-1977)
- Prince Amor Bey (1904-1938)
- Princess Lalla Frida (1911-?)
After Lalla Traki's death in 1919 he married Lalla Zoubaida (née Azzouz) and then another cousin, Lalla Habiba (1888-1969), whom he divorced. His last wife was Lalla Arbiya in August 1942 and she followed him into exile, dying in 1974.
- Roger Casemajor, L’action nationaliste en Tunisie. Du Pacte fondamental de M’hamed Bey à la mort de Moncef Bey. 1857-1948, éd. Sud Éditions, Tunis, 2009
- Omar Khlifi, Moncef Bey, le roi martyr, éd. MC-Editions, Carthage, 2006 ISBN 9973807243
- Saïd Mestiri, Moncef Bey, éd. Sud Éditions, Tunis, 2008 ISBN 9789973844866
- Charles Saumagne, Réflexion sur la réorganisation administrative du protectorat tunisien, éd. Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po, Paris, 1943
- Sadok Zmerli, Espoirs et déceptions en Tunisie. 1942-1943, éd. Maison tunisienne de l’édition, Tunis, 1971
- ^ a b c El Mokhtar Bey, De la dynastie husseinite. Le fondateur Hussein Ben Ali. 1705 - 1735 - 1740, éd. Serviced, Tunis, 1993, p. 70
- ^ Paul Sebag, Tunis. Histoire d'une ville, éd. L'Harmattan, Paris, 1998, p. 493
- ^ Michel et Béatrice Wattel, Les Grand’Croix de la Légion d’honneur : de 1805 à nos jours, titulaires français et étrangers, éd. Archives et Culture, Paris, 2009, p. 532 ISBN 9782350771359
- ^ Message de Moncef Bey au maréchal Pétain du 2 août 1942 (Archives nationales de Tunisie)
- ^ a b c d e f g h ihttps://web.archive.org/web/20081005075810/http://www.jeuneafrique.com/jeune_afrique/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN13086moncesillas0 accessed 21/05/2017
- ^ Henri Grimal, La décolonisation de 1919 à nos jours, éd. Complexe, Bruxelles, 1985, p. 100
- ^ Jean-François Martin, Histoire de la Tunisie contemporaine. De Ferry à Bourguiba. 1881-1956, éd. L’Harmattan, Paris, 1993, p. 151
- ^ Adnan et Saadeddine Zmerli, « Moncef Bey, protecteur des Juifs », Jeune Afrique, 19 avril 2009, p. 87
- ^ Akram Ellyas et Benjamin Stora, Les 100 portes du Maghreb : l’Algérie, le Maroc, la Tunisie. Trois voies singulières pour allier islam et modernité, éd. Atelier, Paris, 1999, p. 237
- ^ « À La Marsa, inauguration de la place Moncef-Bey au lieu du 7-Novembre », Tuniscope, 1/9/2012
Last edited on 23 June 2021, at 22:28
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