In the real world, the Kingdom of Imerina was a state which grew from the central highlands of Madagascar to encompass the entire island. It was occupied by France following the Franco-Hova Wars and was annexed outright in 1897. This alternate universe concerns a world where independence was retained into the modern era. The point of difference occurs in 1863. The alleged regicide of Radama II is avoided and the French diplomat Joseph-François Lambert is murdered in his place. I intend to start drawing ships from this period and slowly progress to the present, with other scales appearing from time to time. This alternate universe is not meant to be entirely realistic, but I do hope to avoid exceptionally outlandish scenarios.
Hery class torpedo boat (1871)
Antananarivo class monitor (1876)
Ant class gunboat (1870/1883)
Andevo, tug (1867/1879)
The Death of Ranavalona and the Fall of Radama II (1861 - 1863)
- 1861: Following the death of his authoritarian mother, Prince Rakotosehenondradama ascends the throne as Radama II. The influence exerted by foreign advisors on the new monarch immediately sours his relationship with the nobility. Of particular concern is the French diplomat and entrepreneur Joseph-François Lambert. The so-called ‘Lambert Charter’, signed by Radama in 1855, grants Lambert the exclusive right to exploit all mineral, land, and forestry resources in the kingdom. The monarchy is to receive a meager ten percent royalty in return. The charter threatens to undermine the economic independence of Imerina, and nobility's exclusion from the agreement does little to quell opposition.
- 1863: Tensions between the Radama II and the nobility reach their breaking point. An insurrection led by prime minister Rainivoninahitriniony storms the royal palace and imprisons the monarch. A number of loyal advisors are also arrested. Lambert's own residence is assaulted by a smaller force and he is killed in the ensuing chaos. Word of his death slowly spreads to France. Radama is spared the fate of Lambert. He is, however, forced to sign an agreement with the nobility. He is to possess absolute authority no longer, with greater responsibility afforded to nobles. The controversial Lambert Charter is declared null and void, and the leaders of the insurrection are declared heroes of the kingdom.
- 1865: In response to the murder of Lambert, the French government dispatches a force of 800 men to Madagascar. Moving by river, the punitive expedition reaches the capital at Antananarivo. It is repulsed by a larger force led by Rainivoninahitriniony's brother, Rainilaiarivony. Lacking the mobility and naval support of the French, Rainilaiarivony allows the expedition to withdraw. A peace settlement is soon reached. Imerina is forced to recognise the Lambert Charter. However, in doing so, it stresses that the agreement applied to Lambert alone. It also agrees to pay reparations to the French administration in Hell-Ville. This covers the cost of the expedition and incurs an additional fee for the murder of Lambert. The expedition leads to the emergence of a debate among the nobility. Some feel that Imerina should modernise on its own terms, while others call for the protection of old traditions. Those favouring the former reconcile with Radama. Rainilaiarivony, in contrast to his borther, is among them.
- 1871: With the support of Radama II, Rainilaiarivony purchases four spar torpedo boats from the Great Britain. These vessels form the foundation of the future Royal Merina Navy. It is hoped that the torpedo boat threat might discourage future French expeditions, and the acquisition of more warships is planned in the future. This coincides with modernisation and reorganisation of the land forces. However, funding limitations restrict the extent of this programme. Only the most experienced and loyal troops will receive the latest weapons. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Merina industry remains quaint by European standards. It must, therefore, depend on Europe for much of its materiel.
- 1874: Prime minister Rainivoninahitriniony attempts to force the hand of the monarch a second time after Radama II calls for the abolition of slavery. In a public meeting, Rainivoninahitriniony orders the monarch to protect in the existing caste system. Instead of backing down, Radama rebukes Rainivoninahitriniony and forces his resignation. This allows Rainilaiarivony to ascend to the post of prime minister. He supports modernisation, but his victory over the French makes him popular with both factions. The issue remains contentious, however, and Radama concedes to the wishes of the conservative faction. Slavery remains an integral component of the caste system, and will not be abolished until 1888.
- 1876: Two monitors are ordered from Great Britain to supplement the four spar torpedo boats acquired five years earlier. They are named Antananarivo and Ambohimanga after the political and spiritual capitals of the nation. A small boat yard is also established in Toamasina. This will, in time, build new torpedo boats with engines and weapons imported from Great Britain. It is an experiment originating from the mind of Rainilaiarivony. The construction and initial cost of the yard will be covered by the monarchy. It will then be transferred to a member of the nobility, who will continue to run the enterprise. The yard is not the first sign of modern industry in Imerina. Several European factories exist. However, Rainilaiarivony hopes that it may present a Merina-controlled model for future endeavours.
- 1879: Using the yard in Toamasina as a model, Rainilaiarivony embarks on an industrialisation programme. Factories are created with government support and passed to members of the nobility. Imerina manufacturing cannot compete with that of Europe, but it can meet local needs in critical areas while excess material is exported across the globe. A disproportionate number of conservatives benefit from this scheme, leading to discontent among the modernists. This forces Rainilaiarivony to abandon another plan which would establish public education throughout the kingdom. With support from Radama II, he is able to secure the tax reforms necessary to support the industrial programme. However, many nobles opposing the reform find ways to circumvent the new system.
- 1887: Citing the Lambert Charter as justification, France invades the Kingdom of Imerina for a second time. However, this is no mere punitive expedition. France aims to overthrow the government and annex all of Madagascar. The invasion begins in January with the bombardment of Toamasina. Five torpedo boats attack the French fleet in broad daylight, but three are lost in return for a single sloop. The port is soon occupied by a force of 1,000 men. A second force occupies Mahajanga in February, but soon finds itself surrounded by three times as many Merina troops. The monitors Antananarivo and Ambohimanga succeed in scattering the now reduced French naval presence at Toamasina that same month. In April, Merina forces converging on the two occupied ports are forced to diverted north to suppress a Boina uprising. A number of other smaller uprisings also occur. This allows the French force at Mahajanga, reinforced with an additional 13,000 men in June, to break out with relative ease before the start of July. A night attack by torpedo boats and gunboats against the French fleet at Mahajanga inflicts heavier losses than expected, but does little to stem the tide. A second attack four days later, supported by monitors, fails badly. The Royal Merina Navy largely withdraws from the conflict. The French advance stalls in September against fortifications at Andriba. A French column is sent ahead to capture Antananarivo, but is intercepted by Merina troops preparing to march on Toamasina. Heavy losses are sustained near the outskirts of the capital, but victory is achieved. Troops are withdrawn from Andriba immediately thereafter, allowing the French to capture the town. In October, the main French force is stalled a second time along a defensive line 20 kilometres northwest of Antananarivo. However, heavy losses are once again sustained by the forces of Imerina. Defeat is only avoided when troops returning from the northern rebellions harass the French supply line. This forces their withdrawal to Ankazobe.
- 1888: The French invasion force is reinforced by 4,000 men in early January. Though insufficient to replace those men lost to combat and disease, it does provide security to French lines of communication. An assault on Antananarivo scheduled that month is postponed by rain. Indeed, the rainy season has delayed French efforts since November. In February, the French garrison at Toamasina is routed by a force of Merina troops. The attack is supported by Ambohimanga. It is the first contribution by the Royal Merina Navy in several months. Despite this victory, the government of Imerina calls upon Great Britain to restore peace. Though additional manpower is available, the loss of experienced troops and material over the course of the war has seriously weakened the Merina army. While the Kingdom might hold off a second attack on its capital, it no longer possesses the ability to push the French back. A peace agreement is signed in March. Known as the Treaty of Tolagnaro, this document cedes part of Mahajanga to Britain and the coast around Nosy Be to France. In return for British protection, Imerina also agrees to emancipate the Andevo people and to offer British citizens an opportunity to purchase resource extraction rights before all other foreigners. A final clause, unknown to the French, is included. If any British colony in southern Africa is attacked by another European power, Imerina agrees to provide military support.
- 1890: The emancipation of the Andevo is not well received among conservative members of the nobility. A small force attempts to seize Radama II in August. Hoping to repeat the success achieved in 1863, they are instead routed by an elite guard dispatched by Rainilaiarivony. The prime minister’s efforts are not, however, enough to avert civil war. Drawing support from disaffected conservatives and those elements which rebelled in the war against France, the rebel faction raises an army of 10,000 men in the north and west. The forces of the government suffer greatly from desertion and are hard-pressed to contain the rebellion. Fortunately, the rebels lack the logistical expertise and manpower to support large-scale inland operations. This provides the capital, Antananarivo, with a degree of protection.
- 1891: The tide turns against the conservative faction in February during their assault on Mahajanga, one of the few large towns on the western coast still under government control. An artillery battery accidentally shells HMS Icarus while it is taking on coal in the British concession. The ship and a detachment of Royal Marines join loyalist forces in defence of the town. Rainilaiarivony had not requested military aid from Britain, fearing that it would weaken his own country’s position. Britain now had a reason to intervene without any formal request from Radama II. Rainilaiarivony directs his men to move westward and northward from the interior, severing lines of communication and isolating rebel forces at key points. Once isolated, they can be defeated in detail. This campaign is supported by British landings along the coast. The Royal Merina Navy, still weakened from the war with France, provides what little firepower it can. The last of the rebels surrender in November, leaving the modernists in control of the nation.
- 1896: Rainilaiarivony dies of fever at the age of 68. His death has a profound impact on Radama II, who subsequently retreats from public life. Rakatoarilova, a student of Rainilaiarivony, is appointed prime minister. With the conservative faction still recovering, the new government introduces a wave of reform. Most of this effort is directed at flaws in earlier reforms introduced by Rainilaiarivony. Removing loopholes in existing tax legislation is of particular importance. However, some of the more controversial measures which were not implemented in Rainilaiarivony's tenure, such as public education, are now pursued. Unfortunately, the rebuilding of the armed forces limits the extent of more costly development programmes which do not offer long-term financial benefit.
On the 16th of August 1861, Queen Ranavalona of Imerina died in her sleep. Her 33-year reign was one of triumph and failure. Following in the footsteps of her predecessor, she had sought to industrial key sectors of the economy. Royal foundries produced artillery, muskets, and gunpowder for a time. However, a mill explosion in 1853 severely restricted the availability of domestic gunpowder. The expulsion of the Jean Laborde, a French industrialist, in 1857 brought artillery production to a halt. Other industrial enterprises were severely hampered by the lack of domestic market. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that widespread use of forced labour reduced the amount of capital flowing from new industries to the general population. Ranavalona succeeded in expanding the European-influenced army into a force of nearly 100,000 men at its peak. However, the cost of this force and constant war imposed extreme financial strain on the nation. Her administrative council and a network of regional governors facilitated centralisation and domination, but Ranavalona’s suppression of Christianity undermined the schools which made such bureaucracy possible. Upon her death, Imerina controlled two-thirds of Madagascar. Only remote areas of the northwest and south were independent. Administration was not, however, uniform. Large rural areas were administered indirectly, with local leaders retaining much power. Other regions were nominally independent, retaining autonomy in law only. The island of Nosy Be, off the northwestern coast, had been under French control since 1840.
Prince Rakoto, the son of Queen Ranavalona, succeeded his mother. He was crowned king on the 23rd of September 1862, by which time he had adopted the name Radama II. He was fascinated with European innovation and reversed many of the protectionist policies enacted by his mother. Treaties of friendship were established with Great Britain and France. Other agreements soon eliminated the trade barriers which had prevented the complete collapse of domestic demand. These actions soon placed Radama at odds with the andriana, Imerina’s noble class. Many did not appreciate the growing influence of European diplomats and businessmen, while others felt that the monarchy was hoarding revenue. The Lambert Charter was of particular concern. During his mother’s reign, Radama had granted French entrepenuer Joseph-François Lambert extensive resource rights. Lambert later claimed that he was entitled to all mineral, forest, and unoccupied land resources in Imerina. Radama’s decision to replace older members of the administrative council with his friends did not help matters.
Tensions between Radama II and the andriana reached their breaking point in May 1863. Acting on the orders of prime minister Rainilaiarivony, a group of armed insurrectionists stormed the royal palace at Antananarivo on the 12th and imprisoned the monarch. Three members of the administrative council appointed by Radama were killed, while others were placed under arrest. Elsewhere in the kingdom, Lambert’s own residence was assaulted. Rainilaiarivony had requested Lambert’s capture, fearing that his death would lead to French reprisals, but he did not survive the ensuing chaos. On the 15th, an agreement was reached between Radama and his captors. Radama was allowed to retain his crown. However, the administrative council no longer served at the behest of the monarch. It now possessed power in its own right and could enact laws with the approval of the king. Furthermore, the controversial Lambert Charter was declared null and void. The imprisoned members of the administrative council were branded as traitors and most were poisoned during trials by ordeal. Rainilaiarivony and his allies were declared heroes. According to the government statements that followed, they had protected Radama from a European plot to overthrow the monarchy and conquer Imerina.
Last edited by Kiwi Imperialist on July 28th, 2019, 9:00 am, edited 21 times in total.