Ranavalona III, the last queen of the Kingdom of Madagascar [1881 – 1897]

Ranavalona III, the last queen of the Kingdom of Madagascar [1881 – 1897]

Ranavalona III was the last sovereign of the Kingdom of Madagascar. She ruled from July 30, 1883 to February 28, 1897 in a reign marked by ultimately futile efforts to resist the colonial designs of the government of France.

As a young woman, she was selected from among several Andriana qualified to succeed Queen Ranavalona II upon her death.

Like both preceding queens, Ranavalona entered a political marriage with a member of the Hova elite named Rainilaiarivony, who largely oversaw the day-to-day governance of the kingdom and managed its foreign affairs in his role as prime minister.

Ranavalona tried to stave off colonization by strengthening trade and diplomatic relations with foreign powers throughout her reign, but French attacks on coastal port towns and an assault on the capital city of Antananarivo led to the capture of the royal palace in 1895, ending the sovereignty and political autonomy of the century-old kingdom.

Ranavalona III

Ranavalona and her court were initially permitted to remain as symbolic figureheads, but the outbreak of a popular resistance movement called the menalamba rebellion, and the discovery of anti-French political intrigues at court led the French to exile her to the island of Réunion in 1897.

Rainilaiarivony died that same year, and Ranavalona was relocated to a villa in Algiers, along with several members of her family.

The queen, her family, and the servants accompanying her were provided an allowance and enjoyed a comfortable standard of living, including occasional trips to Paris for shopping and sightseeing.

Ranavalona was never permitted to return home to Madagascar, however, despite her repeated requests. She died of an embolism at her villa in Algiers in 1917 at age 55.

Her remains were buried in Algiers but were disinterred 21 years later and shipped to Madagascar, where they were placed within the tomb of Queen Rasoherina on the grounds of the Rova of Antananarivo.