Beniowski, the Hungarian king of Madagascar

Although Madagascar is very far from Hungary, already in the 18th century there was a Hungarian travelling here, a remarkable traveller, discoverer, colonizer, writer and adventurer, Maurice Beniowski.  Beniowski was born in 1746, in Vrbove, Hungary (today Slovakia) in a noble and rich family. His life full with adventures led him from exiles to the French army, from Poland through Russia, Macao, America to the exotic island of Madagascar. Beniowski was the first European to discover the Northern Pacific well before James Cook and J. F. Perouse.

His career began as an officer in the Austrian army during the Seven Years War.  Due to religious misunderstandings and his conflicts with the authority he leaves the country and joins the uprising against the Russians to liberate Poland. He is captured by the Russians and exiled in Kamchatka. He escapes and travels through Macao and Japan discovering as well the Northern Pacific. He arrives to France where he meets Benjamin Franklin and Kasmierz Pulanski, with whom he travels to the United States and participates in the American Revolution. After returning to France he offers his services to King Louis XV and presents him his plan about a colony on Madagascar.

In 1773 he leaves to Madagascar and in 1774 he establishes a colony at Maroantsetra, called Louisbourg. He conquers and unifies the tribes existing here which in 1776 elect him as their Ampansacabe (Emperor). His short life of only 40 years is mostly linked to Madagascar. It is Madagascar where Beniowski perishes as Malagasy monarch in 1786 in fights with the French governor of Ile de France (Mauritius). We do not know too much about his family, but he we know for sure that he marries Zuzanna (Suzanna) Honshova in 1768 in Poland. Different researches mention 3, 4 or 5 children of Count Beniowski, but according to the latest he had 5 children in total.

In Europe both Hungarians and Slovakians consider him as theirs. The legendary figure of Beniowski became a rich source of inspiration for writers, poets and composers. His life has inspired the play Count Benyowsky or The Conspiracy of Kamtschatka by August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue, the opera Benyovszky by Albert Franz Doppler, the epic poem Beniowski by Juliusz Słowacki, the books The Madagascar Diary by Miroslav Musil and Moric Benovsky by Michal Kocák, and the TV series Vivat Benovsky. In 1996 a silver coin in the value of 200 Slovak crowns commemorating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Moric Benovsky was issued by the National Bank of Slovakia.

In Madagascar statues, memorial plaques and street names keep the memory of Count Benyovszky. In Antsirabe the Beniowski street can be found in the city center, parallel with the Grande Avenue.





2 thoughts on “Beniowski, the Hungarian king of Madagascar

  1. Dear writer, thank you for this story about King of madagascar … Beniowsky was one of my forfathers … today I found this part of my researching about the name Benevski – Beniewsky /ski

    good job here and nice site ..

    have a good time

    • Thank you for your comment 🙂 It is interesting to hear he was one of your forfathers. I have found so many variations of his name, I just put here the English and Hungarian version for my posts.

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