The overthrow and exile of Napoleon in 1815 is a familiar episode in modern history, but it is not well known that just a few months later, British colonisers toppled and banished the last king in Ceylon. This book explores confrontations and accommodations between European colonisers and indigenous monarchs. It discusses the displacement of a few among the three dozen 'potentates' by British and French authorities from 1815 until the 1950s. The complicated relationship between the crown of a colonising country and colonial monarchies has often lain in the background of historical research, but relatively seldom appeared in the forefront except in the case of the Indian princely states. The book further examines particular cases of the deposition and exile of rulers: King Sri Vikrama Rajasinha in Ceylon in 1815, Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar in 1897, and Emperors Ham Nghi, Thanh Thai and Duy Tan in Vietnam during 1885-1916. It also provides more composite accounts of Asia and Africa: the British ouster of Indian princes, the last Burmese king and a sultan in Malaya, and then British and French removal of a host of 'chieftains' in sub-Saharan Africa. Finally, the book looks at the French colonial removal of rulers in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia - and the restoration of a Moroccan sultan on the eve of decolonisation. By the end of the colonial period, in many countries around the globe, monarchism - kingship, had lost its old potency, though it has not disappeared.
This chapter demonstrates how the deposition and exile of indigenous monarchs provided a strategy for colonial authorities to establish, consolidate and maintain their domination. It argues that the displacement of those at the pinnacle of native power, often in arbitrary fashion and by duplicitous means, blatantly manifested the strength of colonisers. The dethroning of indigenous sovereigns evidenced the fragility of colonial overlordship. Dethroned European rulers had often lived in cosmopolitan courts and moved about their kingdoms, and outside their lands, in great royal progresses. The chapter focuses on the posthumous life of royal exiles, suggesting that though deposed, dead and buried, they lived on in national memory and commemoration. The 'new imperial history' places emphasis on the lived experiences of those affected by colonialism, the life stories of both the famous and the unknown.
Sri Vikrama Rajasinha and his dynasty out of the way, the British monarchy and its viceregal representatives assumed the place of the Kandy monarchy, while extending royal power over the whole island in a way the Nayakkars never managed. The dramatic circumstances of Vikrama's capture were recounted in a memoir by a British-employed interpreter, William Adrian Dias Bandaranayaka. Vikrama and earlier Kandyan kings indeed used coerced labour, and only after his death was slavery abolished throughout the empire. In the late 1700s and during the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Britain and France were embroiled in commercial rivalries and military conflicts that constituted a world war fought in Europe, the Americas and Asia. As the years passed, Britain entrenched itself in Ceylon and India, the world largely ignorant about the captive in Vellore. Revolts, insurrections and conspiracies occurred with regularity in Ceylon from 1817 to 1848.
Sudha Shah's study has comprehensively traced the fate of the royals in exile, and Amitav Ghosh's novel The Glass Palace provides a fascinating fictionalised portrayal. This chapter begins with an overview of the ouster of Indian 'princes' who were taken as prisoners of war, or deposed on grounds of resistance, maladministration and character defects, from the early 1800s until the 1940s. The nineteenth century saw unparalleled British empire-building in Asia after the consolidation of its position in Ceylon in 1815. When the British invaded Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar and his sons took refuge at Hamayun's Tomb, the burial-ground of the Mughal emperor. The chapter examines the overthrow of the last king of Burma following the conquest of Mandalay in 1885. It looks at the removal of a Southeast Asian monarch, the Sultan of Perak in Malaya.
In the nineteenth century, the French were seeking an outpost in Southeast Asia to compete with the well established British, Dutch and Spanish, and at the end of the 1850s, gunboat diplomacy secured a foothold in Saigon. French occupation of Hué sparked four years of armed resistance in Annam and Tonkin that targeted the foreigners and Vietnamese Christians, the Can Vuong movement. From the emperor's hideout, an imperial edict was issued in Ham Nghi's name and under his seal. French residents of Vietnam appeared little troubled by the tempests. The French nevertheless maintained support for the throne in Hué, though with the sovereign reduced to virtual impotence. The circumstances of the exile of Ham Nghi in the 1880s, Thanh Thai in 1907 and Duy Tan in 1916 illustrate the difficult coexistence of a paramount colonial power and a vassal 'protected' monarchy.
The British invaded Ethiopia when Emperor Theodore held several Englishmen captive in disgruntlement at lack of British support for the Christian monarch's defence of his country against Muslim neighbours. The rehabilitation of banished rulers provides a useful entry-point for this chapter on kings from black Africa, who, vilified and toppled by Europeans, now figure on the honour roll of African statesmen. Béhanzin is enshrined in the pantheon of indigenous rulers and resisters to European colonialism, and even the French pay tribute to his state-building and the achievements of his court. Most cases of African exile came during the early decades of colonisation, though the weapon of deposition continued to be deployed well into the post-First World War period, and it remained in the arsenal even as African nations approached independence.
Ranavalona III counted among a very small number of reigning women monarchs anywhere in the world in the late nineteenth century. Ranavalona's reign, removal and life in exile present interesting perspectives on gender, monarchy and colonialism. After the removal of Ranavalona, the French tried to replace monarchical panoply with republican pageantry and power. The pomp and defiant stance of the monarch at her coronation in 1883 had weakened into impotence by 1895, and Ranavalona could do little but acquiesce to French demands. For the French colonial historian Marc Michel, 'on the eve of French intervention, both the Malagasy society and state were in the midst of a major crisis, a ripe fruit was ready to fall'. The French continued to control Madagascar until it regained independence in 1960. The Malagasy might applaud the French gesture, and pledge fealty to the Republic, but disappointed expectations would fuel anti-colonial nationalism.
Mohammed V maintained contact, directly and through intermediaries, with the Istiqlal Party at home, where the situation was becoming dire. His banishment and the installation of Arafa, rather than quelling discontent, had aggravated unrest and stoked anti-colonialism. The question of revamped colonialism, autonomy or independence also played out, though in varying ways, in French North Africa: Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Mohammed's banishment greatly enhanced his reputation among nationalists, and among promoters of decolonisation in France and internationally in general, and it underlined the sultan's place as the keystone in Moroccan politics. The French hoped that a fatigued and humiliated Moncef Bey would quietly retire, but his chief minister, M'hamed Chenik, strengthened the bey's resolve. The French exiled Abd el-Kader and his family to France, ultimately housing them in the grand Renaissance château at Amboise.
The doctrine that had allowed the East India Company to annex states with empty thrones before 1857 was thereafter abjured by the British government. Among the crowds of political exiles, the ex-monarchs' situation was exceptional, in large part because of their royal status, one that both British monarchists and French republicans still allowed their prisoners. Colonialism, in Europe and conquered territories, embodied a certain type of statecraft in which the government, frequently of a monarchical sort, of one country imposed overrule on another country, commonly one also governed under hereditary principles. Though Europeans addressed those they dethroned with deference and attended solicitously to their needs, the colonisers had reduced the ousted monarchs to captives, prisoners of war or political prisoners, and wards of the state whose fate depended on decisions taken in London or Paris.
When the British conquered the kingdom of Kandy in 1815, deposing and exiling the last king in Ceylon, they also took possession of the throne, crown and other items of the Kandyan regalia. Some of the articles were eventually auctioned off in London, but the most important pieces were presented to the British monarch and placed in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. In 1934, with the accord of King George V, the throne and crown were returned to Ceylon during a royal tour by the Duke of Gloucester. They then figured prominently in the independence ceremonies of Ceylon in 1948. This chapter explores the history of the Kandyan regalia – from their presentation by the Dutch to the Kandyan sovereign in the 1700s to their current significance in the National Museum of Sri Lanka – arguing that the capture of the regalia and their subsequent history provides insight into the relationship between colonial and indigenous monarchies, colonialism and nationalism, and the role of regalia as trophies of conquest and as symbols of ethnic and national identity.