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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

12 August 1897: The town of Anosimena is captured by French troops from Menabe defenders in Madagascar during the Franco-Hova Wars

Not a lot of people know about the Franco-Hova Wars so we have decided to give you a bit of a background on these wars and how they overthrew the ruling monarchy of the Merina Kingdom, and resulted in Madagascar becoming a French colony.


The Franco-Hova Wars (also Franco-Malagasy Wars) comprised French military interventions in Madagascar between 1883 and 1896. Hova refers to a class within the Merina tribal structure.


 File:Madagascar ambassadors to England 1836-1837 - Henry Room.jpg

European colonial powers, primarily Britain and France, had ambitions to control Madagascar, a rich island with strategic importance in regard to the sea passage to India. However, Madagascar proved difficult to subdue due to its size, local hostility, and the unsuitable climate. Further, the Merina tribe had been successful in bringing the various local tribes under its control under their royalty and to coordinate the resistance. Skillfully exploiting the rivalry between Britain and France, the monarchy kept its independence.

 File:Ranavalona I.jpg

When the Queen Ranavalona I took power in 1828, considerable British influence was already suppressed. Upon her death, her son took over as King Radama II in 1861.

 File:Radama II with crown.jpg

As prince, he had already made secret concessions to Joseph-François Lambert, a French adventurer. This so-called Lambert Charter was unfavorable to Madagascar, and after a brief reign, he was assassinated in 1863 and the concessions were revoked resulting in a conflict with France. [1]

File:Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar engraving.jpg

First Franco-Hova War

 File:Tamatave bombarded and occupied by the French 11 June 1883.jpg

The First Madagascar expedition was the beginning of the Franco-Hova War and consisted of a French military expedition against the island of Madagascar in 1883. It was succeeded by the Second Madagascar expedition in 1895.


File:Armee Radama.jpg

Following their capture of Mauritius from the French in 1810 during the Napoleonic Wars, with ownership confirmed by the Treaty of Paris (1814), the British saw Madagascar as a natural expansion of their influence in the area.[1] The Merina King Radama I managed to unite Madagascar under one rule, benefiting from British weapons and military instructors.[1] He signed treaties with the British, allowing Protestant missionaries and outlawing the slave trade.[2]

File:Ranavalo Manjaka, reine de Madagascar, et ses heritiers presomptifs.jpg
When Queen Ranavalona I took power in 1828, relationships with foreign powers gradually soured. By the mid-1830s, nearly all foreigners had chosen to leave or were expelled, and British influence was largely suppressed.[1][2] An exception, the Frenchman Jean Laborde, was able to remain in the island to build foundries and an armament industry.

File:Jean Laborde.jpg

Meanwhile, the Queen's son Prince Rakoto (future King Radama II) had been under the influence of French nationals at Antananarivo. In 1854, a letter destined for Napoleon III that he dictated and signed was utilized by the French government as a basis for future invasion of Madagascar.[2] He further signed the Lambert Charter on 28 June 1855, a document that granted Frenchman Joseph-François Lambert numerous lucrative economic privileges on the island,[2] including exclusive right to all mining and forestry activities, and exploitation of unoccupied land, in exchange for a 10% fee to the Merina monarchy.[2]

 File:Joseph-François Lambert Charter Charte.jpg

A coup to topple the Queen and replace her by her son was also planned, in which Laborde and Lambert were involved. Upon the death of the queen, her son took over as King Radama II in 1861, but he only ruled two years before ending by an assassination attempt. This assassination was treated as successful at the time, although later evidence suggests Radama survived the attack and lived to old age as a regular citizen outside the capital. He was succeeded to the throne by his apparent widow Rasoherina.

 File:King Radama II and Rabodo (Queen Rasoherina) of Madagascar.jpg

The Prime Minister Rainivoninahitriniony revoked the Lambert Treaty in 1863. From 1864, Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony endeavored to modernize the state by putting an end to slavery in 1877, modernizing the legal system in 1878 and setting up a new constitution in 1881.[3] Under the anglophile Rainilaiarivony, British influence grew considerably in the economic and religious fields.[1]

 File:Rainivoninahitriniony Prime Minister of Madagascar.jpg

 File:Portrait of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony of Madagascar.jpg

 File:Malagasi Embassy to Europe 1863 Rainifiringa Ralahimaholy with Rev John Duffus and Rasatranabo na Rainandrianandraina.jpg

Growing French interests

In the early 1880s however, the French colonial faction, the right-wing Catholic lobby and Réunion parliamentarians all advocated an invasion of Madagascar in order to suppress British influence there.[3] The non-respect of the Lambert Charter and the letter to Napoleon III were used by the French as the pretext to invade Madagascar in 1883.[2] Various disputes also helped trigger the intervention: the minority Sakalavas remained faithful to a French protectorate in the north of the island, a French national was killed in Antananarivo, and the Merina placed an order for the French flag to be replaced by the Madagascar flag in French concessions.[1] This triggered the first phase of the Franco-Hova War.


The decision was taken to send the naval division of Admiral Le Timbre.[1] The French under Admiral Pierre[4] bombarded the northwestern coast and occupied Majunga in May 1885.[5] A column brought an ultimatum to Antananarivo, asking for recognition of French rights in northeastern Madagascar, a French protectorate over the Sakalava, recognition of French property principles and an indemnity of 1,500,000 francs.[1][5]

File:Medal of the First Madagascar expedition.jpg

When the ultimatum was refused, France bombarded the east coast, occupied Toamasina, and arrested the English missionary Shaw.[3][5] Meanwhile, Queen Ranavalona II died, as did Admiral Pierre, who succumbed to the fatigue of the campaign.[1] Admiral Pierre was replaced by Admiral Galiber, and then Counter-Admiral Miot.[1]
File:Petit beurre Ranavalona III of Madagascar.jpg

File:Queen Ranavalona III, Antananarivo, Madagascar, ca. 1890-1895.jpg

A Treaty was signed in December 1885, the French interpreting it as a Protectorate Treaty, while Queen Ranavalona III and Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony denied it.[3] The Treaty included the acceptance of a French resident in Antananarivo and the payment of an indemnity of 10 million.[1]

 File:Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony of Madagascar inspecting troops.jpg

The Treaty however remained without effect, and would lead to the Second Madagascar expedition in 1895, which resulted in French colonization of Madagascar.[1]

File:Musee-de-lArmee-IMG 0976.jpg

Second Franco-Hova War

 File:Crown of Queen Ranavalona III.jpg

The Second Madagascar expedition (French: L'Expédition de Madagascar, or Campagne de Madagascar) was a French military intervention which took place in 1894-1895, sealing the conquest of the island of Madagascar by France. It was the last phase of the Franco-Hova War and followed the First Madagascar expedition (1883-85).

 File:Madagascar French expeditionnary troops Henri Gallichet 1850 1923 La Guerre a Madagascar 1896.jpg

 File:General Jacques Duchesne bf 1923.jpg

An expeditionary corps was sent under General Jacques Duchesne.[5] First, the harbor of Toamasina on the east coast, and Mahajanga on the west coast, were bombarded and occupied in December 1894 and January 1895 respectively.[6] Some troops were landed, but the main expeditionary force however arrived in May 1895, numbering about 15,000 men, supported by around 6,000 carriers.[7][8] The campaign was to take place during the rainy season, with disastrous consequences for the French expeditionary corps.[9]
As soon as the French landed, revolts erupted here and there against the Merina government of Queen Ranavalona III. The uprisings were variously against the government, slave labor, Christianization (the court had converted to Protestantism in the 1860s).[10]

 File:Merina troops in ambush Henri Gallichet 1850 1923 Louis Charles Bombled 1862-1927 La Guerre a Madagascar 1896.jpg

As the French force advanced towards Antananarivo, they had to build a road along the way.[11] By August 1895, the French were only mid-way at Andriba where there were numerous Malagasy fortifications but only limited fighting.[12] Disease, however, especially malaria, but also dysentery and typhoid fever, was taking a heavy toll on the French expeditionary corps.[13] The expedition was a medical disaster: about 1/3 of the force died of disease.[14] Altogether, there were 6,000 deaths in the expedition, four-fifths of them French.[15]

File:Merina troops Henri Gallichet 1850 1923 Louis Charles Bombled 1862-1927 La Guerre a Madagascar 1896.jpg

The Malagasy Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief Rainilaiarivony tried to resist at Tsarasaotra on 29 June 1895, and at Andriba on 22 August 1895. He again attacked the Duchesne "flying column" in September, but his elite gunner troops were decimated by the French.[16]

 File:Merina troops raising the alarm Henri Gallichet 1850 1923 Louis Charles Bombled 1862-1927 La Guerre a Madagascar 1896.jpg

 File:Merina artillery in ambush Henri Gallichet 1850 1923 Louis Charles Bombled 1862-1927 La Guerre a Madagascar 1896.jpg

Duchesne had to send a "flying column" from Andriba on 14 September 1895, formed of Algerian and African soldiers as well as marines and accompanied by pack mules, to the capital. They arrived at the end of September.[17] An artillery battery was trained on the royal palace from the heights around the capital, and high-explosive shells were fired on the palace, killing many.[18] The Queen promptly surrendered.[19][20]
In the whole conflict, there were only a few skirmishes, and only 25 French soldiers died from fighting.[21]

File:Medal of the Second Madagascar Expedition law of 15 January 1896.jpg


The conquest of the island was formalized by the 6 August 1896 vote at the French National Assembly, which resulted in favor of the annexation of Madagascar.[22]

 File:Franz Sikora 013.jpg

File:Joseph-Simon Gallieni.jpg

Despite the success of the expedition, the quelling of the sporadic rebellions would take another eight years until 1905, when the island was completely pacified by the French under Joseph Gallieni.[23][24]

File:Petit Journal Ranavalona III arrive a Paris.jpg

During that time, insurrections against the Malagasy Christians of the island, missionaries and foreigners were particularly terrible.[25] Queen Ranavalona III was deposed on January 1897 and was exiled to Algiers in Algeria, where she died in 1917.[26]

 File:Franz Sikora 005.jpg
File:Petit Journal Ranavalona III in exile in Algiers.jpg 

File:Signature of Ranavalona III.svg

Taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Hova_Wars & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Madagascar_expedition & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Madagascar_expedition

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  File:Madagascar gun 1898.jpg

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