23. A Queen Who Kicked Off Her Reign With a Massacre of all Potential Rivals
The rise of Ranavalona began when her father informed Madagascar’s King Andrianampoinimerinandriantsimitoviaminandriampanjaka (they went for ludicrously long names in Madagascar) of a plot against his life. So the king showed his appreciation by selecting the informant’s daughter to marry his son and heir. The marriage proved loveless, however, and produced no issue. When Ranavalona‘s husband died childless in 1828, she engineered a coup and seized power. Her first goal was to clear the path of all potential rival claimants to the throne, in order to proclaim herself Queen Ranavalona I.
In a bloody start to what proved to be a bloody reign, Ranavalona kicked off her rule with a thoroughgoing massacre that claimed just about every member of the royal family she could get her hands on. It was taboo to spill royal blood, so she did them in either by strangulation, or by locking them in a cell and starving them to death. Having secured her throne against domestic challengers, she turned her attention to foreign threats and encroachments from European colonial powers. As a first step, she killed or expelled nearly all foreigners.