The Castaway and the Queen.
August 2, 2006 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Queen Ranavalona I, best known as a villainess in George Fraser's novel Flashman's Lady, ascended the throne of Madagascar in 1835. Known abroad as the Bloody Mary of Madagascar, the Queen's favourite methods of execution included half-boiling and tossing off of cliffs, and over a third of her population died under her reign. Although she and her court wore French dress, Ranavalona banned Christianity and drove Europeans off the island. Nevertheless, she united Madagascar and kept it free of French or British control at a time when other African nations were brought into the growing empires. [more inside]
posted by By The Grace of God (22 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Ironically, the industrial development of Madagascar began under this xenophobic queen due to the influence of French engineer and merchant (translation) Jean Laborde. Shipwrecked at Madagascar in the 1840s, Laborde became chief engineer to the queen and was given slave labour and land by Ranavalona.

Without blueprints or tools beyond basic blacksmith's equipment, Laborde built (translation) blast furnaces, produced cast and wrought iron, a foundry to produce cannon and muskets, bridges, roads, and a palace of mirrors. He was driven off Madagascar's main island in 1857 but returned in 1861 after the Queen's death, and was named the first French Consul of Madagascar.
posted by By The Grace of God at 7:47 AM on August 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

Good post, but that historyworld site has horrible web design. Why re invent the scrollbar?
posted by empath at 8:06 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Interesting in a Pol Pot sort of way. So we're to accept keeping 2/3 of the population free of European colonization for thirty years is sufficiently admirable to somehow balance out killing the other 1/3 legacy-wise?
posted by scheptech at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Nevertheless, she united Madagascar and kept it free of French or British control at a time when other African nations were brought into the growing empires.

I guess that makes it all okay then.
posted by elmwood at 8:20 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

You can't beat a bit of Flashman.
posted by PurpleJack at 8:40 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

For all those who aspire to rule, it's always just a matter of degree, not of kind.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:09 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

over a third of her population died under her reign

My ass. Call me picky, but somehow I'm not willing to accept something called Female Caligula: Ranavalona, The Mad Queen of Madagascar as an authoritative source. Same goes for a website called "Christian Martyrs in Madagascar," not to mention Flashman novels. Your main link is to a picture, and your last link is an extremely brief summary ("in practice the reign of Ranavalona is characterized by rebellions, wars and brutality"). Interesting topic, slapdash post.

Just to add a linguistic note: written o in Malagasy is pronounced /u/ (oo as in food), so her name is pronounced rah-nah-VAH-loo-nah.
posted by languagehat at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

By The Grace of God, Interesting post, full of juicy - albeit nasty- history. I never heard of this psycho monarch before. Amazing how these monsters, male or female, come to power and get away with what they do. She was not a nice character. There is a little more information about her available via Stanford University. The results of that author's research [pdf].

She had a long reign but her kinder, saner son, Radama II was assassinated after only a couple of years.

I loved reading the Flashman books years ago.
posted by nickyskye at 9:58 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Apologies, I didn't realise that the first link in the post had to be the main link. I like linking names to portraits!

I'm also sorry for being unclear - the Flashman novel is referenced as the way many people in the English speaking world will have heard of her, not as a source.
posted by By The Grace of God at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2006 [2 favorites]

No, I realize that, and I don't object to its being there (or the picture either)—they're perfectly good garnish, it's just that the post is all garnish and no meat and potatoes. And I shouldn't have said "main link," although many people do take the first link that way; you're quite correct that the first link doesn't have to be the "main" one.
posted by languagehat at 10:56 AM on August 2, 2006

Also from that third link: "She spent her ENTIRE life worshipping God"
posted by washburn at 11:01 AM on August 2, 2006

Modern casting of Flashman, anyone?

I would have loved to see John Cleese do the part, but he is too old now. Malcolm McDowell was ALL WRONG! Rupert Holmes? Sean Bean was good in Lord Of The Rings -- I finally understood the whole point of Boromir after seeing his performance. Orlando Bloom does callow and slimy pretty good . . .

Mrs. Flashman = Charlize Theron? Jessica Simpson if there is no acting called for.

Flashman Sr. WOULD be good played by John Cleese, and his dollymop Judy would be great played by Hilary Swank . . .

AND, in Flashman's Lady, Naveen Andrews would make a PERFECT Soloman Usman . . .
posted by jfwlucy at 11:10 AM on August 2, 2006

Hugh Jackman
posted by Flashman at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2006

Ooooooooooo! Perfect! (-- faints with pleasure-- )

Angela Bassett for Ranavalona?
posted by jfwlucy at 11:29 AM on August 2, 2006

How about Emily Mortimer?
posted by Flashman at 11:53 AM on August 2, 2006

For anybody thinking about going to Mada. (french)

You won't regret it...
posted by pwedza at 1:01 PM on August 2, 2006

Casting Ranavalona? Grace Jones.

Casting Flashman? seconded, Hugh Jackman would make a good Flashman.
posted by selton at 2:48 PM on August 2, 2006

Hugh Jackman would be great, but I could also get behind Orlando Bloom (chuckle). I have more time for him as an actor than most people seem to, and I think he would totally look the part, sporting suitable whiskers. Flashy should have a deceptive nice-guy exterior.

The really hard part would be finding a studio that didn't want to relocate the story to modern-day LA.
posted by Soulfather at 3:43 PM on August 2, 2006

I couldn't stand the wording of the third link- vile, missionary garbage and as such not very informative. Excellent post, otherwise!
posted by moonbird at 4:58 PM on August 2, 2006

Colin Firth (he was wonderfully deceptive as Valmont) as Flashiebaby and Angela Bassett, she'd be superb as Ranavalona.
posted by nickyskye at 10:56 PM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

oo, yeah, Colin Firth. I'm in heaven!

This thread is dying down, but I just have to post a few other thoughts I have had on this . . .

Jude Law as Bismarck from "Royal Flash"

Kathy Bates as Susie the New Orleans Madam from "Flashman and the Angel of Mercy"

Michael Caine as Charity Spring, ditto

Alan Rickman as Lord Cardigan "Haw-haw, Fwashman!"

Catherine Zeta Jones as Lola Montez

Sigh. They should pay me for the thoughts I have while I refill the candy dispensers down at the gas station.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:17 AM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Off-topic, I guess, but I went to a performance of Malagasy jazz at the Kennedy Center a few years ago. It was the only type of music I've encountered (perhaps aside from Chinese Opera) that I totally couldn't find the rhythm of. The audience was mostly Malagasy, and they were all swaying and tapping their toes, but I could not, for the life of me, figure out what was going on. It was a fun experience, actually, but very strange.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:30 AM on August 3, 2006

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