Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey (17 November 1854 – 21 July 1934) was
French Army general and colonial administrator. After serving in
Indochina and Madagascar, he became the first French Resident-General
Morocco from 1912 to 1925. Early in 1917 he served briefly as
Minister of War. From 1921 he was a Marshal of France. He was
dubbed the Maker of
Morocco and the French empire builder, and in 1931
made the cover of Time.
1 Early life
7 Reaction to outbreak of World War I
8 World War I
9 Minister of War
12 Paris Exposition
13 Final years
16 External links
Lyautey was born in Nancy, capital of Lorraine. His father was a
prosperous engineer, his grandfather a highly decorated Napoleonic
general. His mother was a Norman aristocrat, and Lyautey inherited
many of her assumptions: monarchism, patriotism, Catholicism and
belief in the moral and political importance of the elite.
In 1873 he entered the French military academy of Saint-Cyr. He
attended the army training school in early 1876, and in December 1877
was made a lieutenant. After graduating from St Cyr, two months
Algeria in 1878 left him impressed by the
Mahgreb and by
Islam. He served in the cavalry, and was to make his career
serving in the colonies and not in a more prestigious assignment in
metropolitan France. In 1880 he was posted to Algiers, then
campaigning in southern Algeria. In 1884, to his disappointment, he
was recalled to France.
In 1894 he was posted to Indochina, serving under Joseph Gallieni. He
helped crush the so-called piracy of the Black Flags rebellion along
the Chinese border. Then set up the colonial administration in Tonkin,
and was then head of the military office of the Government-General in
Indochina. By time he left
Indochina in 1897 he was a
lieutenant-colonel and had the Legion of Honour.
Indochina he wrote "Here I am like a fish in water, because the
manipulation of things and men is power, everything I love".
From 1897 to 1902 Lyautey served in Madagascar, again under Gallieni.
He pacified northern and western Madagascar, administering a region of
200,000 inhabitants, beginning the construction of a new provincial
capital at Ankazobe and a new roadway across the island. He encouraged
the cultivation of rice, coffee, tobacco, grain and cotton, and opened
schools. In 1900 he became Governor of Southern Madagascar, an area a
third the size of France, with a million inhabitants; 80 officers and
4,000 soldiers served under him. He was also promoted to colonel in
Madagascar he wrote to his father "I am Louis XIV and that
suits me". He believed that he did not crave power for its own
He returned to
France to command a cavalry regiment in 1902, before
being promoted to general de brigade that same year, largely a result
of the military skill and success which he had shown in Madagascar.
General Lyautey reaches Marrakesh, Le Petit Journal, October 1912
In 1903 he was posted to command first a subdivision south of Oran and
then the whole Oran district, his official task being to protect a new
railway line against attacks from Morocco. French commanders in
Algeria moved into
Morocco largely on their own initiative, early in
1903. Later in the year Lyautey marched west and occupied Bechar, a
clear breach of 1840s treaties. The following year he advanced further
into Morocco, in clear disobedience to the Minister of War,
threatening to resign if he were not supported by Paris. The French
Foreign Minister issued a vague disavowal of Lyautey, because he was
concerned at clashing with British influence in Morocco – in the
event Britain, Spain and Italy were placated by
France agreeing to
allow them a free hand in Egypt, northern
Morocco and Libya
respectively, and the only objections to French expansion in the
region came from Germany (see First Moroccan Crisis).
Isabelle Eberhardt in 1903, and employed her for
intelligence missions. After her death in 1904, he chose her
Early in 1907 a prominent French doctor was killed in Marrakesh,
possibly as he was attempting to lay the groundwork for French
expansion, causing Lyautey to occupy
Oujda in eastern
Morocco on the
Algerian border. Having been promoted to général de division,
Lyautey was Military Governor of French
Morocco from 4 August 1907.
After taking Oudja, he went to Rabat to put pressure on the Sultan,
getting embroiled in a power struggle between the Sultan and his
brother, with Germany and
France taking sides in the dispute.
On 14 October 1909, in Paris, Lyautey married Inès Fortoul, widow of
Joseph Fortoul an artillery colonel, god daughter of Empress Eugénie
and president of the French Red Cross, who had just organized the Red
Cross in Morocco. He returned to
France in 1910, and in January
1911 he took up command of a corps at Rennes.
In 1912 Lyautey was posted back to Morocco, and relieved Fez, which
was being besieged by 20,000 Moroccans. After the Convention of Fez
established a protectorate over Morocco, Lyautey served as
Resident-General of French
Morocco from 28 April 1912 to 25 August
1925. Sultan Moulay Hafid abdicated at the end of 1912, replaced by
his more pliable brother, although the country was not fully pacified
Lyautey has been called "perhaps France's most distinguished – or
infamous – homosexual." Prime Minister
Georges Clemenceau –
whom Lyautey despised, as he did most politicians – joked that
Lyautey was "an admirable and courageous man who always had balls up
to his ass. It's just a shame that they are not always his." It
has been speculated that Lyautey might have provided Marcel Proust
with the model for the character of the homosexual Baron de Charlus in
his magnum opus Remembrance of Things Past.
The actual evidence for Lyautey being a homosexual is primarily
circumstantial, but it was widely regarded as an open secret at
the time, one which some historians claim Lyautey did not take
any effort to hide. Robert Aldrich writes that he liked hot
climates and "the masculine company of young officers". Lyautey's
wife is said to have told a group of her husband's young officers that
"I have the pleasure of informing you that last night I made you all
cuckolds," implying that the officers were all paramours of her
husband, and that she had had sex with Lyautey the night before.
Lyautey's homosexuality, or at the very least his "homophile
sensuality" or "Greek virtues", was in some ways connected
with his time in Morocco. Lyautey's sexual preference for men was not
caused by his sojourn in Morocco, as there were those who objected to
his appointment as commander there because he was a homosexual.
His personal beliefs evolved from monarchism and conservatism to a
belief in social duty. He wrote a journal article "On the Social
Function of the Officer under Universal Military Service". However,
his colonial policies were similar in practice to those of Gallieni, a
secular republican. He was suspicious of republicanism and
socialism, and believed in the social role of the Army in regenerating
Lyautey adopted and emulated Gallieni's policy of methodical expansion
of pacified areas followed by social and economical development
(markets, schools and medical centres) to bring about the end of
resistance and the cooperation of former insurgents. This method
became known as tache d'huile (literally, "oil stain"), as it
resembles oil spots spreading to cover the whole surface. Lyautey's
writings have had a significant influence on contemporary
counterinsurgency theory through its adoption by David Galula. He
also practiced politique des races, i.e. dealing separately with each
tribe, analogous to the British policy of divide and rule.
Lyautey is considered to have been an apt colonial administrator. He
tried to balance blunt military force with other means of power and
promoted a vision of a better future for the Moroccans under the
French colonial administration. For example, he invited a talented
young French urban planner
Henri Prost to design comprehensive plans
for redevelopment of the major Moroccan cities.
Morocco from 1912 he was publicly deferential to the sultan and
told his men not to treat the Moroccans as a conquered people. He
opposed Christian proselytising and the settlement of French migrants
in Morocco, and quoted with approval Governor Lanessan of
Indo-China "we must govern with the mandarin and not against the
Reaction to outbreak of World War I
On 27 July 1914,
Resident-General Lyautey received a cable from Paris
from the undersecretary of foreign affairs Abel Ferry.
He was quoted as telling his officers:
They are completely mad. A war between Europeans is a civil war. This
is the most monumental foolishness that they have ever done.
However, like many professional soldiers, he disliked the Third
Republic, and in some ways welcomed the outbreak of war "because the
politicians have shut up".
On 27 July War Minister Messimy told Lyautey to prepare to abandon
Morocco except for the major cities and ports, and to send all
seasoned troops to France. Messimy later said this had been a "formal"
World War I
At the outbreak of war Lyautey was commanding 70,000 troops, all
members of the Armée d'Afrique or part of La Coloniale. Under French
law, metropolitan conscripts might only under very exceptional
circumstances be made to serve abroad. Initially he sent two
Algerian-Tunisian divisions to the western front, then another two,
plus two brigades of Algerians serving in Morocco, and a brigade of
5,000 Moroccans. Over seventy battalions of Algerians and Tunisians
served on the Western front, while one Moroccan and seven Algerian
Spahis (cavalry) served dismounted on the Western Front
– others fought in Macedonia or – mounted – in the Levant.
In 1914 33 officers, 580 soldiers and the weapons of two battalions
were lost in an expedition near Khenifra. Although this was to prove
the only incident in
Morocco during the war, Lyautey was worried about
the threat of jihad as a result of German propaganda in Morocco, and
many of the remaining legionnaires were German. Four territorial
regiments were sent from the south of
France and served alongside the
mobilised European colonists. By mid-1915 Lyautey had sent 42
battalions to the Western Front, receiving in return middle-aged
reservists (who to his delight were regarded as seasoned warriors by
the Moroccans), battalions of Tirailleurs sénégalais and Tirailleurs
marocains, as well as irregular Moroccan goums. With 200,000 men
Lyautey had to hold down the Middle Atlas and the Rif, suppressing
rebellions by Zaians at Khenifra, Abd al Malik at the Taza, and al
Hiba in the south, the latter aided by German U-boats. Lyautey argued
that Verdun and
Morocco were part of the same war.
Lyautey disregarded advice to concentrate major forces in a few cities
and took a personal risk by spreading them all over the country. At
the end, his gamble turned right as he got a psychological edge over
potentially mutinous tribal chiefs. Lyautey had 71,000 men by July
1915. He insisted
France would win the war and continued with the
usual trade fairs and road and rail construction.
Minister of War
Lyautey briefly served as France's Minister of War for three months in
1917, which were clouded by the unsuccessful
Nivelle Offensive and the
French Army Mutinies. Lyautey was apparently surprised to receive a
telegram offering him the job (10 December 1916) and demanded, and was
given, authority to issue orders to Nivelle (the new
Commander-in-Chief of French forces on the Western Front) and Sarrail
(Commander-in-Chief at Salonika); Nivelle's predecessor Joffre had
enjoyed much greater freedom from the War Minister and had also had
command over Salonika. Prime Minister Aristide Briand, not going into
detail about Joffre’s removal, replied that Lyautey would be one of
a War Committee of five members, controlling manufacturing, transport
and supply, and thus giving him greater powers than his predecessors.
Lyautey replied "I shall answer your call". Lyautey had to spend a
good deal of time touring units and learning about the Western
Lyautey was strongly disliked by the political Left, and when Briand
reconstructed his government in December 1916, Painlevé declined to
stay part (he had been Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts)
as he was reluctant to be associated with him, although doubts about
the replacement of Joffre by Nivelle rather than
Philippe Petain also
played a role (Painlevé was later himself Minister of War for much of
1917, then briefly Prime Minister late in the year).
Lyautey was met with a fait accompli as Nivelle, whom he would not
have chosen, had been appointed Commander-in-Chief by the acting War
Minister Admiral Lacaze, whilst munitions under Albert Thomas
(formerly Under-Secretary for War) were hived off into a separate
ministry assisted by the industrialist
Louis Loucheur as
Under-Secretary of State. Lyautey had hoped to rely on Joffre,
Ferdinand Foch and de Castelnau, but the first soon resigned from his
job as advisor, Foch had already been sacked as commander of Army
Group North, de Castelnau was sent on a mission to Russia, and Lyautey
was not permitted to revive the post of Chief of the Army General
Lyautey was hard of hearing and inclined to dominate conversation. He
preferred to deal directly with the British government via the British
Embassy, to the annoyance of the British CIGS Robertson, who despite
disliking Lyautey, tried in vain to open private channels of
communication with him (at a time when generals of both countries
tried to prevent politicians from "interfering" in the details of
strategy). On the train to the Rome Conference (5–6 January 1917)
Lyautey stood before a map lecturing the British delegation on their
Palestine campaign. Robertson, a man of notorious bluntness, listened
to the lecture then asked Lloyd George "has he finished?" before
retiring to bed. Robertson told Lloyd George "that fellow won’t
last long". He wrote to the King’s adviser Clive Wigram (12 January)
"Lyautey … is a dried up person of the Anglo-Indian type who has
been in the colonies all his life and talks of nothing else. He talks
a good deal. He has no grasp whatever of the war as yet and I should
doubt if he remains long where he is now." 
Lyautey attended the infamous Calais conference on 27 Feb 1917, at
which Lloyd George attempted to subordinate British forces in France
to Nivelle. After a serious argument had broken out between Lloyd
George and the British generals, Lyautey claimed that he had not seen
the proposals until he boarded the train for Calais. On being
shown Nivelle’s plan, Lyautey declared that it was "a plan for "the
Duchess of Gerolstein" " (a light opera satirising the army). He
contemplated trying to have Nivelle dismissed, but backed down in the
face of traditional Republican hostility to military men with
political aspirations. Lyautey shared his concerns about
Nivelle with Petain, commander of Army Group Centre, who would
eventually replace him.
Lyautey refused to discuss military aviation even at a closed session
of the French Chamber, and at the subsequent open session declared
that to discuss such matters even in closed session would be a
security risk. He resigned as Minister of War after being shouted down
in the Chamber on March 15, 1917, and after several leading
politicians declined the post of Minister of War, Aristide Briand's
sixth cabinet (12 December 1916 – 20 March 1917) fell four days
Lyautey caused the Institute for Advanced Moroccan Studies and the
Sherifian Scientific Institute to be set up in the early 1920s.
During the First World War, he had insisted on continuation of the
occupation of the whole country, regardless of the fact that France
needed most of her resources in the struggle against the Central
Powers. He was in overall command of French forces during the time of
Zaian War of 1914–21. He resigned in 1925, feeling slighted that
Paris had appointed
Philippe Pétain to command 100,000 men to put
down Abd-el-Krim’s rebellion in the Rif Mountains.
Political opposition in Paris ensured that he received no official
recognition when he resigned; his only escort home was two destroyers
of the Royal Navy.
Château de Thorey-Lyautey, now a museum
Marshal Lyautey served as Honorary President of the three French
Scouting associations. His château in the east of
Thorey hosted the museum of French Scouting.
Lyautey was commissioner of the
Paris Colonial Exposition
Paris Colonial Exposition of 1931,
designed to encourage support for the Empire in Metropolitan France.
The introduction to the visitors guide contained Lyautey’s
instruction: "you must find in this exhibition, along with the lessons
of the past, the lessons of the present and above all lessons for the
future. You must leave the exhibition resolved always to do better,
grander, broader and more versatile feats for Greater France." A
special extension line of the
Paris Metro was built to Bois de
Vincennes. Despite costing the French government and City of Paris
318m francs, the exhibition made a profit of 33m francs. Belgium,
Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and the USA also contributed
exhibitions on their overseas possessions, but not Britain, which
despite repeated pleas by Lyautey cited the cost of its own exhibition
A building in
Bois de Vincennes
Bois de Vincennes housed part of the Colonial Exhibition
of 1931; Lyautey’s study is preserved as part of the foyer.
The sarcophagus of Marshal Lyautey at Les Invalides, Paris
In his final years, Lyautey became associated with France's growing
fascist movement. He admired Italian leader Benito Mussolini, and was
associated with the far right Croix de Feu. In 1934, he threatened to
Jeunesses Patriotes to overthrow the government.
Lyautey would have liked to have been a national saviour; he was
disappointed to have played only a minor role in France’s political
life and in the First World War.
Lyautey died in
Thorey and was buried in Morocco, but his body was
Les Invalides in 1961.
The town of Kenitra,
Morocco was named "Port Lyautey" by the French in
1933, but renamed after independence in 1956.
The Garrison of the
13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment
13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment is named after
Lycée Lyautey in Casablanca,
Morocco is named after him.
Lyautey is remembered for his words in a critical moment, "Whoever
does not impose his will submits to that of the enemy."
Lyautey has been suggested as the author of the aphorism that "a
language is a dialect which owns an army and a navy" (Une langue,
c'est un dialecte qui possède une armée et une marine.), but there
is no good evidence for this.
^ Teyssier, Arnaud. Lyautey: le ciel et les sables sont grands. Paris:
^ a b Bell, John (June 1, 1922). "Marshal Lyautey: The man and his
work". The Fortnightly Review. pp. 905–914. Retrieved 1 August
^ Singer, Barnett (1991). "Lyautey: An Interpretation of the Man and
French Imperialism". Journal of Contemporary History. 26: 131–157.
^ a b Aldrich 1996, p134
^ a b c d e f Clayton 2003, p216-7
^ a b Aldrich 1996, p135
^ Aldrich 1996, p63, 135
^ a b c d e Aldrich 1996, p137
^ a b c d e f Aldrich 1996, p136
^ this was a few years after the
Fashoda Incident and the Entente
Cordiale was not yet in existence
^ Aldrich 1996, p32-3
^ Aldrich 1996, p158
^ Aldrich 1996, p34-5
^ Singer, Barnett; Langdon, John W. (2008). Cultured Force: Makers and
Defenders of the French Colonial Empire. Madison, Wisconsin:
University of Wisconsin Press. p. 199.
^ Aldrich 1996, p35
^ a b Martin, Brian Joseph (2011) Napoleonic Friendship: Military
Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-century. UPNE.
ISBN 9781584659440, p.9
^ a b c d Hussey, Andrew (2014) The French Intifada Granta.
^ Merrick, Jeffrey and Sibalis. Michael (2013). Homosexuality in
French History and Culture, Routledge. ISBN 1560232633, p.
^ Gershovich, Moshe (2012) French Military Rule in Morocco:
Colonialism and its Consequences Routledge. ISBN 9781136325878
^ a b Porch, Douglas (2005) The Conquest of
ISBN 9781429998857, pp.84–86
^ a b Aldrich, Robert (2008) Colonialism and Homosexuality Routledge.
^ Rid, Thomas (2010). "The Nineteenth Century Origins of
Counterinsurgency Doctrine". Journal of Strategic Studies. 33 (5):
^ Aldrich 1996, p106
^ Cohen, Jean-Louis.
Henri Prost and Casablanca: the art of making
successful cities (1912–1940). The New City, (fall 1996), № 3, p.
^ Wright, Gwendolyn. Tradition in the service of modernity:
architecture and urbanism in French colonial policy, 1900–1930. The
Journal of Modern History, 59, № 2 (1987): 291–316.
^ Aldrich 1996, p136-7
^ a b Dean, William T. (2011). "Strategic Dilemmas of Colonization:
Morocco during the Great War". Historian. 73 (4):
^ Le Révérend, André. Lyautey. Paris: Fayard, 1983. p. 368.
^ Herwig 2009, p28
^ Doughty 2005, p50
^ Clayton 2003, p175
^ a b Greenhalgh 2014, pp119-20
^ Clayton 2003, p181-2
^ Doughty 2005, p320-1
^ a b Woodward, 1998, p. 86.
^ Doughty 2005, p338
^ Greenhalgh 2014, pp172-3
^ Bonham-Carter 1963, p200 "Anglo-Indian" in this context means a
British person who has spent his life abroad in the Empire, not a
person of mixed race.
^ Doughty 2005, p331-2
^ left-wing hostility to generals with military pretensions was
largely caused by memories of
General Boulanger and in particular of
the Dreyfus affair. General Gallieni, one of Lyautey's predecessors,
had faced similar hostility, wholly unfounded as he had in fact been
attempting to assert ministerial control over the Army
^ Clayton 2003, p125
^ Greenhalgh 2014, p184
^ Staff (March 15, 1917). "Lyautey Resigns as War Minister; French
Official Steps Down Because of Stormy Scene in the Chamber. Uproar
Prevents Speech. Cabinet's Foes in Tumult When He Questions
Desirability of Discussion". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 August
^ Woodward, 1998, p. 104.
^ Doughty 2005, p336
^ Aldrich 1996, p248
^ John S. Wilson (1959), Scouting Round the World. First edition,
Blandford Press. p. 33
^ Aldrich 1996, p260-3
^ Aldrich 1996, p324
^ Szaluta, Jacques "Marshal Petain's Ambassadorship to Spain:
Conspiratorial or Providential Rise toward Power?", French Historical
^ Aldrich 1996, p138
^ Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey at Find a Grave
Portions of this article were translated from the French language
article fr:Hubert Lyautey.
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Bonham-Carter, Victor (1963). Soldier True:the Life and Times of
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Clayton, Anthony (2003). Paths of Glory. London: Cassell.
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passé judéo-marocain. Ed. du Lys. Montréal, 2010.
Hoisington, William A., Jr. Lyautey and the French conquest of
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Louis Franchet d'Espérey
Minister of War
December 12, 1916 – March 14, 1917
Franco-Spanish conquest of
French protectorate in Morocco
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Rif War (1920–26)
Zaian War (1914–21)
Tetuan War (1859–60)
Melilla War (1893–94)
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Treaty of Fez (1894)
Algeciras Conference (1906)
Pact of Cartagena (1907)
Treaty of Fes (1912)
Franco-Spanish Treaty (1912)
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