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Marshal of France Hubert Lyautey

Chef de la Nation of French National and Social Republic
In office
2 September 1927 – present
Prime Minister Alexandre Millerand (September 1927- December 1927)
Vice PM André Tardieu
Preceded by himself as Chief of French State
Georges Clemenceau as President of the French Republic
President of the Council of Ministers
In office
11 December 1927 – present
President himself
Vice PM André Tardieu
Preceded by Alexandre Millerand
Supreme Member of the Grand Council of the State and the Empire
In office
2 February 1927 – present
Preceded by post created
Chief of French State and Chairman of Military Committee of National Salvation and Preservation of the Empire
In office
25 May 1925 – 2 September 1927
Preceded by Georges Clemenceau as President of the French Republic
Minister of War
In office
12 December 1916 – 14 March 1917
President Raymond Poincaré
Prime Minister Aristide Briand
Preceded by Pierre Roques
Succeeded by Lucien Lacaze
Personal details
Born Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey
17 November 1854
Nancy, Meurthe
French Empire
Nationality French
Spouse(s) Inès de Bourgoing
Father Léon Just Eusèbe Lyautey
Mother Laurence Grimoult de Villemotte
Notable works Le rôle social de l’officier, 1891
Du rôle colonial de l'armée,1900
Dans le Sud de Madagascar, pénétration militaire, situation politique et économique,1903
Lettres du Tonkin et de Madagascar : 1894-1899, tome I, 1920
Paroles d'action : 1900-1926, 1927
Le rôle national de l'officier, 1928
Lettres du Tonkin , 1928
De la nouvelle solidarité nationale et sociale, 1930
Lettres de jeunesse : 1883-1893, 1931
Civilian awards Officer of the Order of Agricultural Merit
Religion Catholiscism
Military service
Nickname(s) L'Africain
Allegiance FrenchRepublic.png French Republic 1873-1925
FrenchRepublic.png French provisional government1925-1927
Francisque.png French National and Social Republic1927-1927
Service/branch Land Force/Infantry
Years of service FrenchRepublic.png French Republic 1873-1925
FrenchRepublic.png French provisional government1925-1927
Francisque.png French National and Social Republic1927-1927
Rank Army General
Marshal of France
Commands 10th Army Corps, Rennes
Battles/wars Colonial Wars
First World War
Awards French Honours
  • France:
    • Grand Master of the Legion of Honour
    • Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
    • Military Medal
  • French Marocco:
    • Grand Cordon of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite
    • Member of Order of Sherifian Military Merit
    • Colonial Medal (Morocco Bars)
    • Morocco commemorative medal
  • French Protectorate of Cambodia:
    • Commander of the Royal Order of Cambodia
  • French Annam:
    • Commander of the Order of the Dragon of Annam
  • Anjouan:
    • Commander of the Order of the Star of Anjouan
Foreign Honours
  • Belgium:
    • Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold
  • Japan:
    • Officer of the Order of the Rising Sun
  • Portugal:
    • Knight of the Order of Christ
  • Russian Empire:
    • Knight of the Order of Saint Stanislaus
  • Vatican:
    • Knight Grand Cross of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great
Dynastic Orders
  • Royal House of Orléans
    • Knight of the Order of the Holy Spirit

Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey (born 17 November 1854 ) is a French statesman, general and colonial administrator who serve as Head of State from 1925 and Prime Minister from 1927 during France's Regime of Marshals era. He deeply believe that it was the politicians who had ruined France and conduct it to his destruction, like a majority of French officer. That governing with a strong executive, he could restore the nation and better defend against communism. Inspired by Millerand's reforms in France and mostly by Primo de Rivera's regime in Spain, unlike him, Hubert Lyautey will not push for a monarchical restoration despite his legitimist convictions and will push for the creation of an ultra-nationalist, authoritarian and army-centered republican regime.

After serving in Indochina and Madagascar, he became the first French Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925. Early in 1917 he served briefly as Minister of War. Become in 1921 a Marshal of France, Hubert Lyautey led a Primo de Rivera-inspired military coup on 25 May 1925. Head of a military government leaded France between 1925 and 1927, Lyautey regime launch a White Terror against "subversive elements" (communists, socialists and radical-republicans), impose a strict system of censorship, the the militarization and the return of strong political clericalism in French society know as Nouvel ordre moral (The New Moral Order) cimenting the Regime of Marshals. In February 1927 the consitution of Great Council of the State and Empire and in September 1927 the French National and Social Republic, mark the end of White Terror and the return of republicans politicians in the governance.

The Regime of Marshals lead by Lyautey, represented the end of liberal republican regime in France, despite the strong anti-republican feelings inside French officers, the Republican regime form is conserved with deep implantation of Bonapartists and Royalists ideas. Unlike other military regimes that preceded it, the Marshals' regime seems more stable, inspiring many parties, personalities around the world. The Governo Militare in Italy is often considered a regime inspired by the actions of Lyautey.

Early life

Lyautey was born in Nancy, capital of Lorraine. His father was a prosperous engineer, and 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 holiday in 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.

In Indochina he wrote: "Ici, je suis comme un poisson dans l'eau, parce que la manipulation des choses et des hommes est le pouvoir, tout ce que j'aime" ("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 1900. In Madagascar he wrote to his father "Je suis Louis XIV et cela me convient" ("I am Louis XIV and that suits me"). He believed that he did not crave power for its own sake.

He returned to France to command a cavalry regiment in 1902, before being promoted to general de brigade a year later, largely a result of the military skill and success which he had shown in Madagascar.

Morocco (1903-1912)

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).

Lyautey met Isabelle Eberhardt in 1903, and employed her for intelligence missions. After her death in 1904, he chose her tombstone.

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.

World War I

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" order.

Between Morocco and Paris

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 regiments of 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

yautey 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 front.

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 Staff.

Lyautey was hard of hearing and inclined to dominate conversation. As minister and cabinet member, he preferred to deal directly with the British government via the British Embassy, to the annoyance of the British CIGS Robertson (at a time when generals of both countries tried to prevent politicians from "interfering" in the details of strategy), who disliked Lyautey. 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 later.

Return to Morocco (1917-1925)

Continuation of the program

Fatal difficulties

The Rif War

Chief of France

Coup of 25 May 1925

Regime of Marshals

Chef de la Nation