2.6 Ranavalona I, Queen of Madagascar

Ranavalona I, Queen of Madagascar

Basic Facts:

Life: 1787 to 1861

Reign: 1828 to 1861

Extremely Brief Summary: Ranavalona was born an insignificant member of a low-status tribe. She married into the royal family and as a widow ousted her husband’s successor. She ruled Madagascar for 33 years with bloody, brutal efficiency. She successfully kept her country independent during a time of rampant European imperialism. 

Memorable Moment: Ranavalona may have sponsored the most nerve-wracking piano recital ever when she ordered a foreign visitor who had not played in 30 years to give an immediate recital on an out of tune piano with half the keys broken. Suddenly childhood stage fright does not seem so bad.

The King of the 23 Syllables: Here’s the name I wasn’t even going to attempt in the podcast. The King who preceded Radama was called Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampanjaka.

Selected Sources and Images:

As I said in the episode, I have some concerns about this biography, but if you want more on Ranavalona, this is the most readily available source for getting started. It is called Female Caligula: Ranavalona, the Mad Queen of Madagascar.

You can read Ida Pfeiffer’s account of her Madagascar journey here

Philippe-Auguste Ramanankirahina (1860-1915) painted this portrait of Ranavalona. Since he was only a year old when she died, he wasn’t painting from life, but she did enjoy European clothing, despite her anti-European politics. ImaRanavalona

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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