Hello, Welcome to Akara
Lomalo, Amoha eto Akara
King of Imerina
Predecessor: Lesiela I
Successor: Senaso I
Born: 1868 Kingdom of Akara
Died: 1920, Mauritius (Age 52)
Spouse: Queen Lesiela I
- Mohapi II
Full name: Yohannes Seretse Merina
Father: King Inhame
Mother: Queen Mamello
Religion: Church of Akara
King Yohannes I
Yohannes I was King of Imerina from 1897 to 1920. He ruled during what was considered zenith of Imerina's history, the kingdom enacting numerous reforms and projects aimed at modernization, and also being able to exert political, economic, and military power in southern Africa. Yohannes rose to power when he he replaced his wife, Queen Lesiela I, as King in 1897 after being installed by the Japanese. While Imerina was able to become a regional power under his rule, it did not last long after his death, as Imerina was annex by Japan only a few months into the reign of Yohannes' successor, Radama III
Yohannes was born as Prince Seretse on March 6, 1868, to King Radama II and Queen Mamello of Akara, the youngest of four children. He had two older sisters Lesiela and Nantenaina, and an older brother Lebona, as well as 87 half siblings from his father's other wives. Rama was the son of King Radama I, who through his marriage to the Asan Princess Zanele, united the Merina and Asan kingdom, and conquered most of the island of Akara
Seretse was educated by Leighton Campbell, a tutor from the London Missionary Society. Campbell taught the young Prince English, Mathematics, and Western Philosophy, among other subjects. Campbell noted:
"The Prince is a rather mediocre student. While he has some understanding of what a teach him, he chooses to not retain most of it unless convenient."
As a child, Seretse was fond of swordplay, and stories of European knights. He owned a suit of armor, and would practice his swordsmanship every day with his father's servants and some of the European guests. His closest friend was Manahirana Ravelonjato, the son of the Duke of Fotsay, who had grown up in the royal palace alongside Seretse.
King Radama died in 1883, and Seretse's older sister Lesiela succeeded him as Queen. After being given three days of mourning, Seretse accompanied his sister at her coronation.
Three days after her crowning as Queen, Lesiela approached Yohannes as he was practicing swordplay with his friend Thabiso. Bringing him aside into the gardens of the Royal Palace, she ask him to marry her. Lesiela hoped that her preexisting influence over Seretse would make him a complacent husband, and also desired to keep power centralized within the royal family, under fear of the growing power of the aristocracy. Seretse was initially hesitant to do so, as he initially had no desire for palace life, instead wanting to become an officer in the army. However he would eventually accept her offer, and became Prince-Consort after marrying her a week later in the main hall of the Palace.
First Franco-Merina War
The French had become hostile to Imerina ever since the annunciation of Lesiela as Queen. They had hoped that Prince Lebona would have succeeded Radama, as the Prince was heavily influenced by his French tutors, and feared that the British-tutored Lesiela would side against them. Thus, even during Lesiela's coronation, French ships were bombarding the coastal cities of Imerina.
A full military invasion came soon after. Unable to defeat the French, the Merina Army was overrun, and Hanariv was occupied. Seretse and Lesiela retreated to the city of Ihosy in the Asan tributary state Zafimanely, where they were sheltered by their cousin, King Isambo. While in Ihosy, the Queen surrendered to the French, handing over the city of Antsiranana and the Iboina region.
Military Education and Career
Seretse would enroll in the Royal Army Academy, an institution established under his father's reign. As Prince-Consort, he was automatically given the rank of Colonel, although it was intended to be an honorary gesture. At the academy, he was taught by mercenaries from the German Empire, primarily in the fields of strategy and tactics. His foreign professors noted that he had quick understanding for most of his material, and an eagerness to test the theory he learned in real life. For a short time, he studied abroad in Berlin, where he became a big fan of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II. After his return, he completed another semester and the Royal Army Academy, before graduating at the age of 19.
In 1891, the Sultanate of Antemoro, an Islamic Tributary of Imerina on the northwester coast of the island, began to refuse to pay its tithed and expelled its Merina advisers. This caused a major upset in the court over what should be done, with many members of parliament cautious of using direct military force. The recent modernization made by the Merina army had yet to be tested, and many were unsure whether this would be the appropriate time.
Without consulting either parliament or the Queen, Seretse mustered a force of five thousand soldiers and launched an invasion of rebellious Antemoro. He was aided by sympathetic officers such General Tsilavina Tojosoa and Colonel Amako Phothetwa. His armies pierced deep into Antemoro territory, quickly occupying the northern half of the Sultanate. At the Battle of Nakohibe, Seretse's personal detachment of 227 men managed to fend off an attack from about 8,000 Hasheda soldiers without suffering a single casualty. However, shipments of rifles from the Ottoman Empire would eventually reach the Antemoro, and Seretse would see several defeats, eventually withering his forces down to less than half their original size.
Two months into his personal war, Seretse received official support from the Merina government, who declared war upon the Sultanate. With thousands of Merina reinforcements, the Sultanate began to collapse, though it still managed to put up harsh resistance. Islamic volunteers from the Swahili coast and Somalia, and slight naval intervention from France dragged the fighting on for more months. Seretse was one of the officers present at the Siege of Manakara, where the Antemoro Sultan Sulaimaan al-Kamel and his remaining warriors took their last stand against the larger, better equipped Merina army.
Second Franco-Merina War
The Second Franco-Akaran War broke out in 1894, with the French invasion of Morondava. Yohannes came to command his own contingent of soldiers and took to the frontlines against the French. At the Battle of Antsirabe, he made a rallied around 20,000 soldiers to combat the French. Marshal Ambiwe Senkali commented:
"The sight of the Prince on his horse, saber in hand and donned in his black uniform, sent a message to the troops. This was Akara's declaration that she was ready for the new age, that we were going to find our place in the sun of modernity."
The Battle of Antsirabe would see the French commander, General Jacques Duchesne, killed. From there the Akaran army was able to score successive victories, driving out the French in 1896. As part of the new treaty, Imerina took back Antsiranana and Iboina.
In 1897, the Japanese merchant Terauchi Heiji was executed on the orders of a Betisaka duke. Japan in retaliation launched a punitive expedition into Imerina. As Imerina's army was already withered from fighting the French, they were easily routed by the Japanese, who reached Hanariv in only a couple of months. After bombarding the city, Queen Lesiela surrendered. Seeking to rule Imerina indirectly, the Japanese placed Yohannes on the throne and bringing Imerina into the Japanese sphere of influence.
Not long after coming into power, Yohannes created a new constitution, which invested a significant amount of power in the King. Yohannes' constitution effectively turned Akara back into an absolute monarchy, undoing the semi-democratic changes made before. Any decision made by Parliament could be overturned by the King at any time, and Parliament also had no means to do the same to any of the King's decrees. The office of Prime Minister essentially became an advisory and diplomatic role.
Due to limited resources, manpower, and stability issues, Yohannes struggled to centralize his kingdom and bring it out of its old system of tributary states. However, he was able to make progress, such as with his Inkala Charter in which all of Imerina's tributaries agreed to recognize his sovereignty over the island, and their suzerainty under him. While the decentralization of Imerina prevented his reforms from affecting much of the island, it did allow him to focus his resources to develop the areas that were under his control.
Yohannes heavily reformed the Church of Akara, which had been the state religion since 1868. Yohannes' new church had a hierarchy of priests and bishops, subject to the King. Despite the church being Lutheran, Yohannes introduced rituals and iconography heavily inspired by that of Orthodox Christianity, including the use of icons, and the practice of administering the seven holy mysteries.
Managing Loyalty of the Nobility
While overall popular with the commoners and the military, Yohannes struggled with gaining support from the nobility and tribal chieftains. These institutions had enjoyed many privileges under the old constitutional monarchy which were being stripped by Yohannes, including their political power. As a compromise, Yohannes established the House of Peers as an upper house of the legislature to represent the nobility. However, like the House of Representatives, it was a largely ceremonial role, as Yohannes continued to wield absolute power as King.
In order to gain more support from the nobility, Yohannes would take Kamara, daughter of the powerful Asan Lord Tlotliso of Techefe, as a secondary wife shortly after assuming the throne. With Lesiela in temporary exile, Kamara provided the king with legitimized female company, although he also would frequently sleep with several of his palace maids. When news of these affairs came out, it caused a minor scandal over most of the court, but infuriated the Lord of Techefe, as in addition to the affairs, Yohannes refused to recognize Kamara as a wife of equal or similar standing to Lesiela, instead designating her as a lower wife, or concubine.
Thus in 1901, Lord Tlotliso would rebel against the king on the grounds of preserving his honor. However, while the Techefe domain was powerful, Yohannes was able to gain an alliance with Tlotliso's son Nteja, who had been disinherited after Tlotliso found his mother guilty of adultery. A large portion of the Techefe forces sided with Nteja, and by extension Yohannes, and Tlotliso was quickly defeated. Yohannes and Nteja would become close friends, though the rebellion would cause Kamara to fall out of the king's favor, and she was exiled to Comoros. In turn, Yohannes would have Lesiela return to Tana from her own exile, bringing with her their new daughter, Sophia.
Kamara would not be the only concubine Yohannes would take, in total he would have seven, though much less than his father had. The king would take 17 year old Princess Lintele, daughter of the statesman Rekwue of Siteni, as another wife in 1902. Though a member of the aristocratic caste, Rekwue came from a less powerful family, and thus was not as demanding as Tlotliso in terms of his daughter's status. Yohannes also enjoyed the company of Lintele much more, the princess being well studied and an experienced singer. She was considered by both historians and contemporaries to be the Yohannes’ favorite wife after Lesiela.
In the end, much of the aristocracy would still conspire against Yohannes. While the King has made attempts at political marriages and attempts to appease the aristocrats through membership in the House of Peers, his centralized state had still stripped them of many of the powers and privileges they had enjoyed under the old feudal system. From 1903 to 1906, twenty eight attempts on the King’s life were plotted by the aristocracy, though many were foiled before they could be attempted. In 1904 Yohannes established a secret police force in order to root out disloyal aristocrats. By 1906, a complete list of all the conspirators and disloyal nobles had been composed.
Seeking to end this subversion once and for all, Yohannes hosted a ball for the House of Peers and the noble clans. Once all the guests had arrived, he locked the palace doors, then had everyone on the list rounded up and summarily executed. For good measure, he also had the entire family’s of most of the traitors killed as well, destroying entire noble bloodlines. The land, wealth, and political positions of the dead were then awarded to loyal aristocrats and their families, as well as to Yohannes’ high ranking military officers. This completely transformed Imerina’s peerage, and formed the basis for the military aristocracy of modern Akara.
Establishing Diplomatic Relations
Yohannes viewed the Japanese Empire as a model for Akara's own modernization. He opened up the country to Japanese immigration, and allowed Japanese citizens to own property in Akara. Under his reign, thousands of Japanese colonists settled in the central highlands, where they became a very influential part of both politics and the economy.
In 1907, Yohannes visited the United States, becoming one of the first monarchs to do so. He met with President Theodore Roosevelt, and the two went hunting in the Appalachian Mountains. They also discussed opening up Akara to American investments, in exchange for assistance in Yohannes' planned infrastructure projects. Yohannes made a trip to the southern states, where he was revered by the African-American minority. On multiple occasions however, he found himself offended due to his treatment by white southerners.
In Africa, Yohannes would send a delegation to Liberia in 1909, where they greeted Liberian president Arthur Barclay. Barclay would visit Tana the following year where he met with the King. Throughout his reign Yohannes took multiple trips to Ethiopia, where he met with Emperor Menelik II, Lij Iyasu, and Empress Zewditu. Yohannes saw the Ethiopians as natural allies to Imerina, though he viewed the more technologically powerful Imerina as the dominant partner in the relationship. In 1911, he set up a deal with Emperor Menelik to allow Asan colonists to settle in Ethiopia, where like the Japanese colonists in Imerina’s, they came to control much of the economy.
As part of his projects in industrialization, Yohannes would order the construction of the first Akaran railroad, running from Toamasina, the largest port city, to the capital of Linkala. He would later connect all major cities with paved roads, and had two more rail lines constructed, one connecting the capital with the southern and interior cities, and another connecting the cities along the western coast to the capital. In order to advertise the new transportation system, he took a tour of all of Akara's major cities by train.
In 1908, Yohannes passed the Abolition Act, which banned all forms of slavery in Akaran territory. This caused an outcry from many nobles, who had relied on slaves for hundreds of years. It also angered many of the foreign corporations that had invested in Akara, as legalized slavery allowed them to make higher profits. In 1910, Yohannes furthered the act to include a ban on child labor. While these policies were widely cerebrated by the commoner and lower castes, it severely hampered his industrialization projects. To work around this, Yohannes allowed companies to use extremely foreign prison laborers on construction projects, and also expanded the law to allow domestic prison labor, but only by the state.
When WWI began in 1914, Yohannes declared that Akara would remain neutral in the conflict. However, he would send observers to both the East African Front and the Western Front in Europe to observe the new changes in warfare. This lead to the king ordering the establishment of an air-wing of the Akaran Army. 27 Model-III biplanes were constructed by the Royal Akaran Motors Corporation, the island's first native vehicle manufacturer.
Yohannes died in 1920, when his royal yacht sank in a typhoon. His body washed ashore on the island of Mauritius, where it was returned to Akara and given a funeral in the capital of Linkala. Unlike the previous monarchs, Yohannes was buried in his own private mausoleum. He was succeeded by his son Mohapi, who ruled for a few months before the Imerina Expedition would lead to Imerina’s annexation by the Empire of Japan.
For & Against
For: Royalism, Absolutism, Nationalism, Industrialization, Westernization, Global trade, Guild-systems, Militarization, Religious Syncretism
Against: Socialism, Democracy, Republicanism, Political parties, France, European colonialism, Iconoclasm, Calvinism, Anarchism, Slavery
Yohannes married his older sister, Lesiela, not long after she took the throne. Before her reign began, Yohannes and the Queen had been close to each other, Lesiela teaching him how to ride a horse, read and write, and play the piano. The two married on August 4th, 1883. They had six children together, though only one son, Yohannes' successor King Radama III. However, Mohapi was very sickly and intellectually stunted, and his reign ended shortly with an acceptation of annexation by the Japanese Empire. Mohapi's own son, Senaso, would become the first King of Akara after independence. Yohannes' daughters were Lereta, Rukiya, Sophia, Catherine, and Palesa, most of whom would marry members of the aristocracy and fade into historical obscurity. An exception was Princess Sophia, who after her father's death moved to the United States and became an acclaimed author of Akaran history and mythology.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF TITLES AND HONOURS
Title and style
NAME'S full style and title is "FULL STYLE"
The TITLE's short title, which is in common use, is "TITLE NAME." When in conversation with the TITLE, the correct form of address is "ADDRESS"
Coat of Arms