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Early Malagasy flags(Madagascar)

Last modified: 2015-05-20 by bruce berry
Keywords: merina | madagascar |
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Historical overview of early Malagasy flags

An overview of early historical Malagasy flags is given at this website, the main details of which are given below.

image sent by Ivan Sache, 07 Mar 2009

Adoption of the first flags in Madagascar followed the contact of the different kingdoms with foreigners, especially Europeans. In their contacts with all kinds of traders, including slave merchants, the islanders became familiar with flags hoisted on the ships owned by the "Vazaha" ("Europeans").  The Sakalava of Antalaotra, an Islamic people living on the north-western coast of Madagascar, used for a considerable period flags that were divided horizontally red-black-white.  Their dhows flew only one of these colours, charged with Arabic script.

On the eastern coast, Jean René, King of Tamatave (Betsimisaraka people), flew his own colours. In 1817, he pledged allegiance to the Merina king Radama I, who granted him the title of "Andriambaventy" and allowed him to keep his flag. Jean René's flag was white with a rooster holding a bunch of assegais in its claws in the centre.  The flag was manufactured in Rochefort (France).  Later, with the permission of the Ministry of the Royal Navy, these flags were subsequently charged with the Union Jack in canton, to denote the English presence in Mauritius.

The Merina kingdom became familiar with European traders' flags during the reign of king Andrianampoinimerina. The Crown Prince, later King Radama I, had two standards:
- a white flag, called "Mahazovola" ("providing money"), with white being the colour of the Royal idol ("sampy") Kelimalaza; and a
- a red flag, called "Mahazotany" ("providing land"), red being the colour of the Royal idol Manjakatsiroa.

image sent by Ivan Sache, 07 Mar 2009

In 1810, Radama succeeded his father and adopted a flag made of the two colours placed horizontally.  Radama also used other flags. In 1816, Captain Lesage, Ambassador of the British monarch, presented to Radama a purple flag with golden Arabic scripts, a crescent, a hand of Fatima and a curved sword. In 1824 Radama seized the town of Majunga and appointed his cousin Ramanetaka as the local ruler and ordered him to hoist a white flag charged with a red star and the red letters "R R" ("Radama Rex", in Latin for "King Radama").  

image by Ivan Sache, 07 Mar 2009

All subsequent Merina sovereigns (Ranavalona I, Radama II, Rasoherina, Ranavalona II, Ranavalona III) used white and red flags, with different arrangements of the colours, and the red letters "R M" ("Rasoheri Manjaka", "Ranavalo Manjaka") surmounted by the Royal crown.

image by Ivan Sache, 07 Mar 2009

In 1895, the French colonial troops, commanded by General Duchesne, marched on Antananarivo. On 30 September 1895, a bomb planted by the French expeditionary corps destroyed the roof of the Royal palace ("Rova"); the white part from the Royal flag was cut off and hoisted as a sign of surrender.  Queen Ranavalona III was maintained on the throne but the flag was changed to a French tricolor flag with a crowned monogram "R M" placed on the white stripe. On 28 February 1897, Governor General Galliéni exiled the queen to the Réunion island; the bronze eagle was removed from the top of the Royal palace and replaced by the French national flag. 

As a French Protectorate between 1885-1896 Madagascar flew a distinctive flag which is described and illustrated here.
Chrystian Kretowicz and Ivan Sache, 07 Mar 2009