21. The Failed British and French Expeditions Against This Queen’s Realm
The era’s European colonial powers, especially Britain and France, were unhappy with being shut out of Madagascar, where they had been welcomed by previous rulers. Queen Ranavalona’s abrogation of the treaty with Britain cut her armies off from their main supply of modern weapons, and left them vulnerable. The French, who held some small islands off Madagascar’s coast and were interested in spreading their influence to the mainland, immediately took advantage of that vulnerability. In 1829, in Ranavalona’s first year on the throne, a French expedition attacked some of her forts, but was repelled.
France’s efforts to expand into Madagascar were usually opposed by the British, who did not relish the prospect of a French colony athwart their trade route around the Cape of Good Hope to India. However, their mutual dislike of Queen Ranvalona’s policies got them to temporarily set aside their differences. So they mounted joint punitive expeditions against Queen Ranvalona’s realm, but the attempts ended in failure. When the Europeans retreated, the dangerous queen beheaded the corpses of their dead, put the heads on stakes, and lined them up on Madagascar’s beaches, facing the ocean.