City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Maurice Auguste Benyowsky (1741-1786)
Móric Ágost (Máté Móric Mihály Ferenc Szerafin Ágost) Count de Benyovszky (20 September 1746 – 23 May 1786) was a Hungarian nobleman of Polish and Hungarian ancestry. He was an explorer, writer, the self-declared King of Madagascar, and a military officer in the French, Polish, Austrian and American armies. He is considered a national hero in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.
Benyovszky was born and raised in Vrbové, Slovakia, to the noble House of Benyovszky in what was then Upper Hungary. His parents - Sámuel Benyovszky and Baroness Rozália Révay - were of Hungarian nationality, with some Polish ancestry. Surviving family documents and letters reveal that they wrote and talked with each other and in extended family only in Hungarian. His career began as an officer of the Habsburg army in the Seven Years' War during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia. In 1768 he joined the Confederation of Bar, a Polish national movement against Russian intervention. He was captured by the Russians, interned in Kazan, and later exiled in Kamchatka. Subsequently, he escaped and returned to Europe via Macau and Madagascar. In 1772 Benyovszky arrived in Paris where he met King Louis XVI of France and was offered the privilege to act on behalf of France to colonize Madagascar. After establishing the settlement of Louisburg, in 1776 Benyovszky was elected by a group of local tribal chiefs as their Ampanjakabe (ruler). In 1779 Benyovszky came to America, where he tried to obtain support for a proposal to use Madagascar as a base against the British in aid of the American War of Independence. He died in 1786 while fighting with the French on Madagascar.