“The Mad Queen of Madagascar, Ranavalona I”
11 inches x 14 inches
Mixed Media on Paper
Born in the late 18th century as a commoner’s daughter named Ramavo, her path to become queen began as her father discovered a plot to murder the next in line for the throne—Andrianampoinimerina. The future king offered his appreciation in the form of adopting Ramavo into his family, arranging a marriage with his son, Radama, and became the first of his twelve wives. However, they were unable to produce an heir to the throne and even as Radama later became king after his father, he soon developed syphilis and died.
According to Malagasy tradition, any children that the first wife bears would be considered an heir—a tradition that did not sit well with Radama’s nephew, Prince Rakotobe. He couldn’t eliminate the now royally dubbed Ranavalona as she had many friends in court who followed the Merina traditions—which was something he lacked for his family allowed French and English missionaries into Madagascar. This did not go unnoticed for the queen sought the lives of Rakotobe and his close relatives after her coronation for vastly undermining her ability to rule.
Determined to keep the traditions that the indigenous people of Madagascar secure, Ranavalona began a brutal, militarized discipline among her subjects and drove many European missionaries and potential colonists during her rule. Punishment was extremely severe to foreigners. Christianity practiced in any form was strictly forbidden among her subjects by the 19th century. Foreign Christians soon feared her rule as well as the queen’s own subjects since her behavior became more erratic over time.
Still, her rule came with a massive body count as per an incident where ten thousand people died of starvation whilst on a buffalo hunt that Ranavalona demanded to take place. Even after her passing, the death toll would still increase with a barrel containing gunpowder going off in an accident that killed many of the funeral patrons.
However, her instinct for politics was unmatched and she defended her country’s heritage against powerful nations who wanted to colonize and strip Madagascar bare of its natural resources. Queen Ranavalona I ruled with an iron fist to keep the land of her ancestors untouched.