Ranavalona III, Queen of Madagascar

Ranavalona II c. 1905, taken in Algeria by J. Geiser (source)

Ranavalona III c. 1905, taken in Algeria by J. Geiser (source)

Ranavalona III, born on November 22, 1861 as Princess Razafindrahety, was the last reigning monarch of Madagascar before the takeover of the kingdom by the French government. As a niece of the reigning queen and granddaughter of a king, she was identified as a potential successor to Queen Ranavalona II and when she was school age, the Queen took over her care. She was a good student, educated privately as a child, but in adolescence she attended a Congregational school, the Friends High School for Girls and the London Missionary Society Girls’ Central School.

Queen Ranavalona II died in 1883, when the Princess was 22 years old and she ascended to the throne taking the name Ranavalona III. As her predecessors had, she entered into a political marriage with Rainilaiarivony, who had been the political spouse of the previous queen as well. Rainilairivony continued in his role as Prime Minister relieving Ranavalona of the day-to-day operations of the kingdom.

In the early years of Ranavalona’s reign and the few years preceding it, the tension between France and Madagascar had grown. At the time of her coronation, the northwest coast of the island was under attack. In spite of a treaty in 1886 with France that Ranavalona and her ministers believed protected her sovereignty, France persisted and eventually in 1895 captured the captial city of Antananarivo and the royal palace.

Ranavalona was at first allowed to remain as a figurehead, but popular resistance to French rule and anti-French sentiments in the court prompted her exile to the island of Réunion. She was later sent to Algiers where she remained until her death in 1917.

Find out what else happened on November 22 in Women’s History.

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