Entry Benovsky
Part of speech   name (anthroponym) [list]
English translation   Matúš Móric Beňovskỳ (20 Sep 1746 - 23 May 1786), (Benyowsky)

Maurice Benyowsky was a nobleman of Hungary of Slovak origin from Vrbove (near Trnava). He began his career as an officer in the Seven Years' War. Because of his rebellious attitude in matters of religion and towards authorities he had to leave the country. In 1768 Benyowsky joined the Polish Confederation (Konfederacja Barska) to fight side by side with Pulaski brothers for independence of Poland from the Russian rule. After being captured by Russians in 1770 he was sent into exile to the east Siberia (Kamchatka). However he managed to escape from the captivity. He rallied his fellow prisoners and managed to capture the fort of the governor and the heart of his daughter. He then commandeered a Russian battleship and set out for a discovery trip through the Northern Pacific (well before James Cook and J. F. La Perouse) along the Aleutians, Alaska, Japan, Formosa (Taiwan), arriving in Macao in 1771. He also visited the huge island of Madagascar off the African coast, then still independent and ruled by countless native chieftains.

In 1772 Benyowsky eventually arrived in France, where he learned about his promotion to General of the Polish Confederation, as well as about his growing international fame. He suggested to the King Louis XV that he should establish a French colony on Formosa or Madagascar. The king appointed him as Governor of Madagascar, gave him the title of count and a few promises, and sent him off to Madagascar. In 1774 Benyowsky arrived in Madagascar with a corps of volunteers. He established a colony at Maroantsetra (Antongil Bay) called Louisbourg, with a hospital/quarantine on Nosy Mangabe. Besides building the French presence and geographically exploring the island he was unifying tribes. In 1776 local kings elected him as their Ampansacabe (Emperor). Among other things he introduced Latin script for the Madagascar language.

In 1776 Benyowsky was promoted to French General and awarded the Order of Saint Louis. However, Paris ignored his requirements, therefore he returned to the Central Europe. He obtained a pardon from the Austrian empress and queen of Hungary, Maria Theresa and was promoted to the rank of Count. Count Benyowsky elaborated a project of Austria's access road to the Mediterranean and was empowered to take control of Madagascar in the name of Austria.

In Paris he became a close friend of Benjamin Franklin and Kazimir (Casimir) Pulaski (1748-1779). In 1779 Benyowsky followed Pulaski to America and offered his services in the American Revolution. He joined General Pulaski for the tragic Savannah battle, where Pulaski died in his friend's hands.

In 1781 Benyowsky returned to America with a project of recruiting in Europe an American Legion to help the Revolution. The project was favorably evaluated. Benyowsky met George and Mary Washington in Newborough. A reconciliatory change in British attitude prevented the project's accomplishment. Benyowsky's brother, Francis, was the adjutant of Major Polerecky, Head of the Blue Hussars of the French cavalry supervising the British surrender at Yorktown.

In 1783 Benyowsky presented his Memoirs and Travels (in French) to J. H. Magellan (a descendant of Ferdinand M.) for publication in the United Kingdom. With Benjamin Franklin's assistance he founded an American-British company for business with Madagascar. In 1784 Benyowsky left Baltimore on board the Intrepid provided by Baltimore businessmen Messonier and Zollikofer. Back in Madagascar Benyowsky challenged in the name of his empire the European powers. Benyowsky perished as Malagasy monarch in 1786 in fights with the French.

His wife, Zuzana Honschova, spent the years from 1784 until her death in 1815 in the United States. A full page handwritten letter of Ben Fraklin, former ambassador to France, dated Philadelphia, May 11, 1786, addressed to madame the countess Benyowsky in Baltimore, concerning the inquiries he made as to the whereabouts of the count Benyowsky, has been preserved until the present day.

Besides being the author of a best-seller of the break of 18th and 19th century, Benyowsky became a rich source of inspiration for writers, poets and composers. The play Count Benyowsky (or The Conspiracy of Kamtschatka), a tragicomedy in five acts by the German playwright August Friedrich Ferdinand von Kotzebue (1761-1819) had its premier in the United States together with the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner on October 19, 1814 in Baltimore.

Benyovszky is also the name of the second of 8 operas by the Austrian composer Albert Franz Doppler (1821-1883), later arranged for piano by the Hungarian composer Mihaly Mosonyi (1815-1870, born as Michael Brand). And Beniowski is also the name of an epic poem by the Polish poet Juliusz S³owacki (1809-1849).

Of course, also in Slovakia many books and articles were written about Count Benovsky, especially The Madagascar Diary by Miroslav Musil from 1997. Another book named Moric Benovsky by Michal Kocák was published in the same year.

And the TV series Vivat Benovsky from 70s is well-known to the public, though it does not reflect historic facts very precisely. More informative is the documentary film The King of Kings was from Slovakia.

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 with this summary: "Count Moric Benovsky, a typical representative of the period of the Enlightenment, the development of transport and trade, exploration of unknown regions, French colonel, Ruler of Madagascar, and the first Slovak author of a best-seller, was involved in the history of various countries. After being captured while fighting for the independence of Poland, he was deported to Kamchatka, where he organized his escape. His voyage to Macao was the first known voyage from the north-east to the south-east shores of Asia. The King of France entrusted him with an expedition to Madagascar, where he unified part of the island, and the local tribes granted him the title of "King of Kings". Upon his return, he attempted to build a fleet of ships for overseas trade. After this failed, he became a general in the American army, and organized another expedition to Madagascar, where he fell in battle with the French in 1796. His travel memoirs were published in London in 1790, and have so far appeared in at least 20 editions in more than ten languages." [http://www.slovakopedia.com/m/moric-benovsky.htm]

Vocabulary  
Web   http://www.slovakopedia.com/m/moric-benovsky.htm

Updated on 2011/05/19