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Hubert Lyautey
wearing the insignia of a Marshal of France
Born 17 November 1854 (1854-11-17)
Died 21 July 1934 (1934-07-22) (aged 79)
Place of birth Nancy, France
Place of death Thorey-Lyautey, France
Allegiance  France
Service/branch French Army
Years of service 1873-1925
Rank Général de division
Awards Marshal of France
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor
Médaille militaire

Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey (17 November 1854 – 21 July 1934) was a French Army general, the first French Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925, and from 1921 a Marshal of France.[1] He was dubbed the Maker of Morocco and the French empire builder, and in 1931 made the cover of Time.[2][3]

Early life

Lyautey was born in Nancy (Lorraine) into an upper-middle-class family with aristocratic connections, royalist sympathies and a military past. In 1873 he entered the French military academy of Saint-Cyr, attended the army training school in early 1876, and in December 1877 was made a lieutenant. He made his career serving in the colonies and not in a more prestigious assignment in metropolitan France. The first years after graduating, Lyautey served as a cavalry officer in Algeria and from 1894 to 1897 in Indochina, under Joseph Gallieni.

Lyautey adopted and emulated Gallieni's policy of methodical expansion of pacified areas followed by social and economical development 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.[4]


From 1897 to 1902 Lyautey served on Madagascar, again under Galliéni. He played a key role in the invasion of the island (1896–1898), in which he commanded the French forces. His military skill and success in this campaign greatly contributed to his promotion to general de brigade in 1902.


General Lyautey reaches Marrakesh, Le Petit Journal, October 1912

The murder of French citizens in Casablanca was used as a pretext by Lyautey to occupy Oujda in eastern Morocco on the Algerian border in 1907. Having been promoted to général de division, Lyautey was Military Governor of French Morocco from 4 August 1907 to 28 April 1912. 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.

During the First World War, he 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 the Zaian War of 1914–21. In 1925, Lyautey lost the military command of the French forces engaged against Abd-el-Krim to Philippe Pétain and resigned to return to France.

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.[5][6]

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.[7] Lyautey was advised in case of war to evacuate Morocco except for the major cities and ports, and to send all seasoned troops to France. He was quoted as saying to the officers the following:

They are completely mad. A war between Europeans is a civil war. This is the most monumental foolishness that they have ever done.[8]

World War I

During the Great War, the Resident-General played a major role in maintaining the French grip on North Africa and preventing a feared rebellion in Morocco. He helped France in the most critical time in 1914-1915 by dispatching colonial troops to fight on the Western front. Along with separate units, he formed and sent to France four Moroccan divisions, which all fought with great distinction. He also persuaded his superiors in Paris to send to Morocco the numerous second-rate battalions of French Territorials instead, which consisted of older draftees (late 30s-40s) and were reserve troops. To his delight, they were considered as seasoned warriors by the Moroccans. Lyautey disregarded an 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 ready to mutiny but still uncertain tribal chiefs.[7] 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. As Minister of War Lyautey demanded, and was given, authority to issue orders to Nivelle and Sarrail (Nivelle's predecessor Joffre had enjoyed much greater power).[9]

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. He thought Lyautey had “no grasp whatever of the war”.[9]

Lyautey resigned as a Minister of War after being shouted down in the French Chamber on March 15, 1917, and Aristide Briand sixth cabinet (12 December 1916 – 20 March 1917) fell four days later.[10][11]


Marshal Lyautey served as Honorary President of the three French Scouting associations.[citation needed] His château in the east of France at Thorey hosts the museum of French Scouting.[citation needed]

Final years and association with fascism

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 lead the Jeunesses Patriotes to overthrow the government.[12]

Lyautey died in Thorey and was buried in Morocco, but his body was reinterred in Les Invalides in 1961.

The sarcophagus of Marshal Lyautey at Les Invalides, Paris


  • 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 is named after him.
  • 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."[2]
  • Lyautey has been suggested as the author of the aphorism that "a language is a dialect which owns an army, a navy and an air force" (Une langue, c'est un dialecte qui possède une armée, une marine et une aviation.), but there is no good evidence for this.



  1. Teyssier, Arnaud. Lyautey: le ciel et les sables sont grands. Paris: Perrin, 2004.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bell, John (June 1, 1922). "Marshal Lyautey: The man and his work". The Fortnightly Review. pp. 905–914. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  3. Singer, Barnett (1991). "Lyautey: An Interpretation of the Man and French Imperialism". pp. 131–157. Digital object identifier:10.1177/002200949102600107. 
  4. Thomas Rid (2010). "The Nineteenth Century Origins of Counterinsurgency Doctrine". pp. 727–758. Digital object identifier:10.1080/01402390.2010.498259. 
  5. Cohen, Jean-Louis. Henri Prost and Casablanca: the art of making successful cities (1912-1940). The New City, (fall 1996), № 3, p. 106-121.
  6. 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.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dean, William T. (2011). "Strategic Dilemmas of Colonization: France and Morocco during the Great War". pp. 730–746. Digital object identifier:10.1111/j.1540-6563.2011.00304.x. 
  8. Le Révérend, André. Lyautey. Paris: Fayard, 1983. p. 368.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Woodward, 1998, p. 86.
  10. "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. March 15, 1917. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  11. Woodward, 1998, p. 104.
  12. Szaluta, Jacques "Marshal Petain's Ambassadorship to Spain: Conspiratorial or Providential Rise toward Power?", French Historical Studies 8:4


  • Portions of this article were translated from the French language Wikipedia article fr:Hubert Lyautey.

Further reading

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Henry Houssaye
Seat 14
Académie française
Succeeded by
Louis Franchet d'Espérey
Political offices
Preceded by
Pierre Roques
Minister of War
December 12, 1916 – March 14, 1917
Succeeded by
Lucien Lacaze

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