The Merina Madagascar Monarchy

King Andrianampoinimerina (1785--1810) and his son, Radama I (1810--1828) succeeded in uniting nearly all of Madagascar under Merina rule. These kings and their successors descended from a line of ancient Merina royalty who ruled the lands of Imerina in the central Highlands of Madagascar since at least the 16th century. Even prior to their eventual domination and unification of the entire island, the political and cultural activities of Merina royalty were to leave an indelible mark on contemporary Malagasy identity.

With the establishment of dominion over the greater part of the Highlands, Andrianampoinimerina became the first Merina monarch to be considered a king of Madagascar. The island continued to be ruled by a succession of Merina monarchs until the last of them, Ranavalona III, was deposed and exiled to Algeria by French forces who conquered and colonized the island in 1895.

Angry at the cancellation of the Lambert Charter and seeking to restore property stolen from French citizens, France invaded Madagascar in 1883 in what became known as the first Franco-Hova War (Hova as a name referring to the Merina aristocrats). At the war's end, Madagascar ceded Antsiranana (Diégo Suarez) on the northern coast to France and paid 560,000 gold francs to the heirs of Joseph-François Lambert. In Europe, meanwhile, diplomats partitioning the African continent worked out an agreement whereby Britain, in order to obtain the Sultanate of Zanzibar, ceded its rights over Heligoland to Germany and renounced all claims to civilize Madagascar in favor of France. The agreement spelled the end of the independent native tribes of Madagascar. Rainilaiarivony had succeeded in playing Great Britain and France against one another, but now France could act without fear of reprisals from Britain.

In 1895, a French flying-column landed in Mahajanga (Majunga) and marched by way of the Betsiboka River to the capital, Antananarivo, taking the city's defenders by surprise. (They had expected an attack from the much closer east coast.) Twenty French soldiers died fighting and 6,000 died of malaria and other diseases before the second Franco-Hova War ended. In 1896 the French Parliament voted to annex Madagascar. The 103-year-old Merina monarchy ended with the royal family sent into exile in Algeria."

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