Madagascar, The French Exile the last Queen by Sedan Chair

An African Queen is exiled overnight by Sedan Chair and that if what the new French colonial authority decides to put on one of the first stamps. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair.Welcome to today’s offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today has a real feel of sticking it to the locals. France had only just conquered the place and instead of promising a better future or showing the sights of the place they issue this threatening stamp. If we can exile the Queen, just think of what we could do to you. The former Merina Kingdom did not issue stamps so it is likely the stamps would only be of use to colonial French.

The stamp today is issue A9, a 3 centimes stamp issued by the French Colony of Madagascar from 1908-1928. It displayed a sedan chair, which is a chair or supported by horizontal posts that in turn are carried by a team of peoples shoulders. The stamp was a part of a 36 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents. If Madagascar ever develops a stamp collecting hobby, this stamp should rapidly increase in value as an historical artifact.

The Merina Kingdom had ruled Madagascar for many centuries. By tradition, a Queen from the hill people would marry a man from the coastal area who would then serve as Prime Minister. In the late 19th century, a deal was struck that gave France Madagascar in return for allowing Britain Zanzibar. The French landed and conquered the island in 1895. Only 60 French were lost in the battles but several thousand fell to malaria. Initially the last Queen, Ranavalona III was allowed to stay virtually under house arrest in her palace. She signed papers naming the new colonial governor and was surprised to know she would not have to take him as a husband, as was the local custom.

After some rebellion on the part of the local peasants, the French decided that Queen Ranavalona should go into exile, first to the island of Reunion and later to Algiers. Early one morning a few of her family and servants were loaded on to sedan chairs and taken on a several day journey to the coast where the boat to Reunion was waiting. The journey was long and perhaps realizing this was to be her last sight of her country, she was angry and quite drunk. At the boat she met up with her niece, and heir apparent, 14 years old and eight months pregnant with the baby of a French soldier. A rough boat journey saw her niece give birth to a daughter but die 5 days later. Queen Ranavalona adopted the girl. The girl ended up a nurse and socialite in France.

In exile in Algiers, the Madagascar colony paid her a small stipend but she was chronically short of funds, The French governor in Algiers wrote several times to his counterpart in Madagascar asking them to raise her pension but the requests were ignored. The Queen made repeated formal requests to be allowed to visit Madagascar but these were all refused. She was eventually allowed trips to Paris where as a Queen, she made quite an impression on the social scene. She died in Algiers in 1917 and again the Algiers Governor had to write Madagascar to try to get them to live up to keeping up her Algiers tomb. These were again ignored but in 1937 her remains were moved to the royal tombs in Madagascar.

An independent Madagascar did not treat their Royals any better. The Royal complex caught on fire mysteriously in 1995 and many royal relics burned or were looted. The tombs of the royals were all destroyed but remains appeared in the town square the next day that turned out to be Ranavalona III. The fire was officially an accident but many believe it was arson by the government to distract from a corruption scandal. The site had been on a list to become a UNESCO historical site.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open up the discussion in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting,