The seven Christians stood together in the bright sunlight, bound with ropes singing a hymn to their foreign savior as the spear men advanced. Around them a crowd of jostling men, women and children, more than sixty thousand strong...cheered enthusiastically as the spears were driven home and, one by one, the men and women fell and writhed on the sandy ground, their hymn fading slowly into silence...above the still writhing bodies, on a ridge, a score of crosses stood in mute witness, carrying their ghastly burdens, some of whom still lived despite the day and a half they had hung upon the wood. As European colonists scrambled for control of Africa, a leader arose in the red island of Madagascar who, through ruthless determination thwarted the combined ambitions of all the major world powers.That leader and the author of this holocaust was no warrior but a diminutive woman of middle years, Ranavalona-Manjaka Queen of Madagascar, know to her subjects more simply as Ma Dieu.
Under Ranavalona's despotic rule, hundreds of thousands of her people, possibly one-half of Madagascar's entire population, were murdered, starved or simply worked to death by her express command, while she enjoyed an eccentric and debauched lifestyle. For these characteristics, European history has remembered her reign as that of the Female Caligula.