“Reverend Mace made himself unwelcome in the Dey’s court from the day he arrived. It is widely known that on the day Charles Mace presented his diplomatic credentials, the Dey was already disposed to dislike him for the reason that the newly-appointed British Consul-General had delayed his arrival in Algiers for several months in order to avoid arriving during the worst days of the plague, a particularly sore subject with the Dey. In Algiers if anyone dares mention the plague in public without leave from the Dey, they do so at the risk of painful execution. To say the least, the barely-disguised delay in arriving on the part of the British Consul-General did not sit well with the Dey.
Charles Mace and his wife figure significantly in several of the novels, and was in fact the British Consul General in Algiers for several years. I hope that the liberties I’ve taken with this historical character in no way impugn his reputation. I envision an even more significant role for his wife in the volumes to come, as I have cast her as a mentor and friend to Lalla Hurriya during her service with the Mace family, a period during which she and Mrs. Mace established a network of contacts among the women of the Hinterlands.
But, to return to Charles Mace, I learned from Playfair’s Annals that he was a member of the clergy and, going to the Clergy of the Church of England Database, I found his records. Mace became a deacon in the Church in December of 1767 and a priest in June of 1770 at Halsham in Yorkshire, on the North Sea and about a hundred miles north of London. Apparently, Mr. Mace returned to England after his service in Algiers, and the database records show that he died in London in 1825.
According to Playfair’s Annals of British Relations with Algiers Prior to the French Conquest, Mr. Mace replaced Mr. Charles Logie as Consul General in 1791 under a curious arrangement. The King granted a pension to Logie in view of his long service ‘in different parts of Barbary’ and then stipulated that the sum was to be deducted from the salary of his successor. According to the Annals, ‘so eager was Mr. Mace for re-employment that he did not hesitate to accept these onerous conditions.’ In this way, Mace ‘threw off the gown in favor of diplomacy.’ Clearly, the man was motivated by a higher calling throughout his life. Or perhaps he lost sight of that calling for a period before returning to the cloth of the Church.
His time in Algiers did not go well; and this will be apparent to readers of the 1790s Series, especially in A Graveyard in Algiers and in A Runaway in Algiers. I have speculated that the Maces would have found, like many European consuls and agents, a home outside the walls of the city, in the Hinterlands, the jurisdiction of Mohammad Amalfi, Caid al-Fahs. Given that Mace delayed his arrival in Algiers until the onset of the cooler winter month of January in order to avoid the plague that beset the city during the hot weather, it is not at all unlikely that Mace would have chosen to live outside the city gates. For purposes of the narrative, I placed him in a villa in Kouba, not far from Caid Jafar’s summer residence and nearer still to the notorious Villa Suwaylim.
Again, according to Playfair’s Annals, p. 221, ‘He began badly by delaying his arrival at Algiers until January 1794 on account of the prevalence of the plague, the deaths from which at that time numbered about 400 per month.’ The Dey was not pleased, the plague being such a sensitive subject with him. I write, in A Runaway in Algiers:
“Therefore, when the British Reverend Charles Mace, ordained clergyman in the Church of England and diplomat, presented himself at the Dey’s palace, the infuriated Dey banned Mace from ever returning to his court, or his palace, exclaiming, ‘Mace is better suited to looking after goats than to be consul of the English in Algiers.’”
The reason for the Dey’s sensitivity in regard to the plague is the same reason he was reluctant to lead prayers for relief from drought. Again, from A Runaway in Algiers:
“It is the same with the plague and the prohibition against even mentioning it in public. To admit that such a crisis exists would be to admit that the Almighty is visiting His wrath on Algiers, and such an admission would mean that the Almighty is displeased with the ruler of Algiers. Beyond that, if the rains do not come after the prayer, the assumption on the part of the populace might likewise be that the Dey is somehow excluded from the Almighty’s mercy and therefore not deserving of his position as their ruler. Regardless of the verity of such assumptions, either would more than suffice as an expedient for the Dey’s enemies within the jihadist groups and the corps of janissaries who support them to overthrow him.”
Religion and politics, what a dangerous combination! Even for the Dey of Algiers. And for Charles Mace.
A Diverse Society with a Tumultuous Past
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