Thursday, February 28, 2013
Downfall of the Monarchy of Madagascar
The introduction of constitutional monarchy could almost be seen as the replacement of one royal family by another. For example, Prime Minister Rainiharo obtained that office, as well as that of Commander-in-Chief, by marrying Queen Ranavalona I in 1833. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by his son Rainivoninahitriniony (hope I spelled that right) who was an attempted regicide and coup leader but that did not stop his brother Rainilaiarivony from succeeding him as Prime Minister. He first married his cousin and had 16 children but then also married Queen Rasoherina (the widow of the King his own brother had plotted to kill and who the new PM purged from the list of kings -even making it illegal to speak his name). In due course he married each of the last three Queens of Madagascar; Ranavalona II and Ranavalona III in their turn. He was complicit in a number of coup attempts and was responsible for the new constitution that drastically limited the power of the monarchy and in effect made him king in all but name.
The French, for their part, had no initial desire to bring down the monarchy in Madagascar. Oddly enough, even in republican France, many recognized the value of monarchy in foreign countries and French colonies. Sometimes they were quite beneficial to colonial monarchies and at other times, even when the French were detrimental it was inadvertent. French concern about the British was not unfounded. British influence was growing in Madagascar, particularly through British missionary Bible societies to the extent that the Queen and Prime Minister became Protestant Christians, ordered their court to do the same and “encouraged” the public to be baptized out of patriotic love for the Queen. Alcohol was banned, work on Sunday was banned and a few Catholics were persecuted to show how truly Protestant Madagascar had become. In fact, most continued with their native beliefs with a dash of Christianity thrown into the mix.
In a way, this was a liberating moment for the young monarch. Though, the innocent young woman was a little nervous when the French said she would need a new Prime Minister and she immediately chose French General Jacques Duchesne who had led the recent campaign. The worry arose from her assumption that she would have to marry him and the Queen was relieved when told that such was no longer to be the case. Unfortunately, once it was too late, the native population did begin to rise up against the French presence as well as the Christian missionaries (Catholic or Protestant) and all other foreign influences. Members of the royal court and royal family were implicated in this and, from that point on, many in France began to see the monarchy as being more trouble than it was worth. The rebellion was put down and a hard military man, General Joseph Gallieni (who would go on to considerable fame in World War I) was put in charge of things in Madagascar. Not long after arriving he had the royal properties seized, placed the Queen under house arrest and finally, on February 27, 1897, abolished the monarchy and sent the Queen into exile on Reunion Island, later being moved to Algeria.