Hubert Lyautey

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Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey (1854 - 1934), made Marshal of France in 1921, was the first French Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925.

Born in 1858 in Nancy, Lorraine to an aristocratic military family, Lyautey spent his early military career climbing slowly through the officer ranks. His opportunity came when he was appointed Military Governor of French Morocco, a position he held from 4 August 1907 to 28 April, 1912, then as Resident-General of French Morocco from April 28, 1912 to 25 August, 1925. An extremely skillful self-promoter, he created a reputation for himself as a genius at colonial conquest and administration. He is considered to be the conqueror and creator of modern Morocco. The conquest of Morocco was accomplished by exceeding orders or ignoring contrary orders from Paris to present wary civilian politicians with one fait accompli after another and then buttressing the French government’s commitment with sunk costs arguments. The combination of economic penetration and civil affairs he promoted as an effective and inexpensive strategy for the conquest of Morocco proved a failure. Years of warfare and support for client warlords in the Atlas Mountains were required to win a few decades of control over the country. The United States military employed a similar hearts and minds strategy in the Vietnam War, with similarly disastrous results.

According to Douglas Porch, the imperious Lyautey was openly homosexual but chose to marry late in life to have someone to manage his social calendar.

He was elected a member of the Académie française in 1912. Lyautey served as French Minister of War from December 12, 1916 to March 14, 1917. According to Robert A. Doughty, the newly appointed Minister of War, "knew little about the strategic, operational, or tactical aspects of the war" and spen his time inspecting units and acquiring information. His appointment did not convince many critics that the government was competent (320-321). Lyautey's appointment was only weeks after the bloodbath of Verdun (in Lorraine). Rather than back the Eastern strategy of the French Left, which would have involved a French military campaign beginning in Thessaloniki/Salonika in northern Greece into the Balkans, Lyautey backed the Western strategy of the French Right for another massive campaign to rupture the German lines. Predictably, thousands of lives were wasted without a rupture in German lines leading to a military victory.


The town of Kenitra was called "Port Lyautey" for a while, after him. Then it wasn’t.

Lyautey is the author of the famous quote, often not attributed to him, on dialects stating 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.").


  • Robert A. Doughty. 2005. Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Pres. ISBN 067401880X. Pp. 320-321, 331-332.
  • Douglas Porch. 1982. The Conquest of Morocco. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. ISBN 0374128804.
  • Ian Ousby. 2002. The Road to Verdun: World War I’s Most Momentous Battle and the Folly of Nationalism. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN 0385503938.
  • Constant Southworth. 1931. 'The French Colonial Venture. London: P.S. King & Son. ISBN 0405097573. Pp. 18-19.
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