With a side of plaid:
In Keith Stern’s “Queers in History,” he writes, “The flamboyant Lyautey made no secret of his admiration for young men. In fact, he went so far as to claim that he could not work with men unless he had sex with them first.” French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau noted that Lyautey was "an admirable, courageous man, who has always had balls between his legs – even when they weren’t his own."
Though Lyautey preferred handsome young officers as companions, he never promoted their careers unfairly and was thus able to maintain the loyalty of the soldiers under his command. They suppressed any criticisms about his sexual orientation in appreciation of his abilities as a soldier, administrator, and leader. In 1921 General Lyautey was made Marshal of France, the highest rank in the French army, and in May 1931, his image graced the cover of Time magazine, which honored him as an “empire builder” for his work in northern Africa. At the time Lyautey was considered France’s greatest colonial soldier.
A statue of Lyautrey in Casablanca, which he had helped develop into a seaport:
In “Heroes of Empire: Five Charismatic Men and the Conquest of Africa,” Edward Berenson’s chapter on Lyautey in Morocco points out that the army “was one of the best places for gay men to remain discreet; there a homosexual could spend his life in the company of young soldiers while exhibiting the virility and honor seemingly inherent in a military career.”
As a youth, the only women in Lyautey’s life were his mother and sisters, with whom he was close. To escape a young woman who wanted desperately to marry him, he fled to Indochina in 1894, stating that he was personally incompatible with the institution of marriage. While in Indochina he served as chief of staff to General Gallieni, who shared Lyautey’s sexual proclivities. When Gallieni was made military commander of Madagascar in 1897, Lyautey followed him.
Lyautey wrote admiringly of the naked male body and penned homoerotic prose about the Islamic, Greek and Ceylonese youths he encountered during his military career. He liked to dress up in Arab garb and favored Persian carpets, luxurious silks and porcelain as decorations for his offices – even his tents.
In one of his diary entries (1886), Lyautey wrote: “...this sub-lieutenant, who pleases me so much and came from ten p.m. to two a.m. to warm up my thirty-year-old self with his hot and rich sap...what a young, vigorous and generous nature! I regret his departure.”
Well, there you have it.
Nevertheless, Lyautey did finally marry at age fifty-five; however, this union with Inès de Bourgoing, the daughter of the squire of Napoleon III, produced no children. His marriage was described as a companionate union, rather than one of love or lust. Writer Douglas Porch (“The Conquest of Morocco” 1982) relates that Lyautey married primarily to have someone to manage his social calendar.
Upon his death at age 79 in 1934, Lyautey’s body was interred in his native Nancy before being moved to Rabat, at the request of the Sultan of Morocco. As evidence of the esteem in which he was held by the people of France, in 1961 Lyautey’s body was transferred to the Dôme des Invalides in Paris, near the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. Lyautey’s elaborate tomb bears inscriptions in Arabic and French. The remains of Lyautey’s wife, however, were buried in Thorey-Lyautey, in northeastern France.