Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar

I learned something new this week. Actually, I try to learn something new every day, but this one took me by surprise. I saw an entry in Wikipedia saying that on February 28, 1897 --  115 years ago today --  the last Ruler of Madagascar, Queen Ranavalona III was deposed and sent to live in exile in Algeria.


I have to admit, for me, this is the first time I have really thought much about the history of Madagascar at all. And probably the first time I thought of an African queen of that era.

So, I did a quick Google search, to see what I could come up with.  And, sadly, it wasn't very much. There are a couple of sites in French, which tested my retention of high school French from so many years ago. But I was able to find a few sites in English.
As sovereign of Madagascar, Ranavalona III became a pawn in the endgame of the maneuvering that had been taking place between the British and French since the beginning of the century. The tension between France and Madagascar had grown especially acute in the three years prior to Ranavalona's succession. French aggressions against Malagasy towns along the coast intensified in the final months of the reign of Ranavalona II and were ongoing at the time that Ranavalona III was crowned the new queen in the summer of 1883. Shortly afterward, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony decided to engage Lieutenant Colonel Willoughby, a Briton who had gained combat experience in the Anglo-Zulu War (but without having been a member of the British armed forces), to oversee the nation's military affairs and train the Queen's army to defend the island against the seemingly inevitable French invasion.
(source: wikipedia)
Most sites say basically the same thing. I would love to know more about her, her life, what life in Madagascar was like, what would have happened if they had been left to rule themselves?
During her reign, Queen Ranavalona III tried to thwart both French and British designs to control Madagascar by turning to the nation’s strategic trading partner—the United States—for support. Despite the queen’s efforts, her fate was sealed when the French finally invaded and colonized Madagascar in 1896. They abolished the Merina monarchy and exiled Queen Ranavalona III to Algeria, where she died in 1917.
(source: fyeahblackhistory)
Throughout her reign, Ranavalona utilized diverse tactics such as strengthening trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and Great Britain in the hope of staving off impending colonization. However, French attacks on coastal port towns and an assault on the capital of city of Antananarivo ultimately led to the capture of the royal palace in 1896, thereby ending the sovereignty and political autonomy of the century-old kingdom.
(source: afrikanwomen)
Sadly, her efforts to get American help didn't work. I wonder why? Was it because the US is friends with France? Was Madagascar not important enough? Were we busy elsewhere?

I have lots of questions. Maybe I'll brush up my French vocabulary, and try to read some of the French websites.

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