Who's Who - Alexandre Ribot

Alexandre Ribot Alexandre Felix Joseph Ribot (1842-1923) served as French Prime Minister on four occasions, including a brief stint as premier during the First World War, from March-September 1917.

Born in Saint-Omer on 7 February 1842, Ribot studied law at university and thereafter took employment in legal affairs until his eventual appointment as director of Criminal Affairs at the Ministry of Justice.

Combining his legal career with political ambition, Ribot, a centrist, was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1878 where he represented Pas-de-Calais.  Having lost his seat in 1885 he regained it two years later, retaining it until being elected to the Senate in 1909.

Appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs for two years from 1890-92, Ribot was instrumental in fostering the closer relations with Russia that culminated into a formal alliance in August 1892.  This was subsequently extended to form the Triple Entente encompassing Britain, France and Russia, an alliance that lasted until the outbreak of war in 1914.

Ribot served a brief first term as Prime Minister lasting four months from 6 December 1892, and which fell in the wake of the Panama Canal scandal.

Back as premier in January 1895, Ribot sanctioned an expedition which aimed to establish a French protectorate over Madagascar.  This period at the head of government was once again ended in 1896 by the whiff of financial scandal.

Remaining out of power for the next twenty years, Ribot was recalled to office for a matter of days in August 1914, pending Rene Viviani's appointment in his stead by President Poincare.

Remaining on as Minister of Justice in Viviani's cabinet he switched to the finance portfolio in Viviani's wartime coalition, which he retained until 1916.  Rather than impose war taxes as a means of raising capital to fund the war effort, Ribot gambled on a short war, preferring to raise loans from Britain and the U.S.

Re-appointed premier in March 1917 with the fall of Aristide Briand's government over the upcoming Nivelle Offensive, Ribot, now in failing health, once again only managed to hold down his appointment for a relatively brief period.

His government fell in September of the same year following the controversial decision to dismiss the radical (some said pacifist) Interior Minister Louis Malvy, a decision which cost him the support of parliament's radical block.  Before resigning however he made the important appointment of Henri-Philippe Petain as French Commander in Chief (replacing Robert Nivelle).

Out of office for the remainder of the war, Ribot played no further part in political life.  He died in Paris on 13 January 1923 at the age of 80.

Click here to read the text of Ribot's address to the French Senate following America's decision to enter the war in April 1917.

'Bantam' was a term to describe members of battalions between 5ft 1in and 5ft 4in.

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