By Gabby Storey
Béti (1735-1805) was queen regnant of the Betsimisaraka people and the kingdom of Foulpointe, Madagascar upon the death of her father, Ratsimilaho, in 1750.
Her legacy has been overshadowed by historians who have focussed on her personal relationships, when in reality Béti was one of many ruling queens of Madagascar. Béti’s accession to the throne was supported by her mother, the daughter of the neighbouring king of Sakalava.
The treaty between the French colonists and Madagascar in 1750, which Béti signed, allowed the French to establish a colony on Sainte Marie, though it was short lived and unsuccessful. This failure saw Béti brought to Mauritius to stand trial in 1758.
She was acquitted and granted permission to stay in Mauritius. Arguments have been made for her marriage to one of the French colonists, however this has not been substantively proven.
We know little of her later years in Mauritius, however as a major landowner it is plausible that she lived comfortably in exile. She is not known to have had any children.
Arne Bialuschewski, “Pirates, Malata, and the Betsimisaraka Confederation on the East Coast of Madagascar in the First Half of the Eighteenth Century,” in Creole Societies in the Portuguese Colonial Empire, eds. P. J. Havik and M. Newitt, 184-197 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)
Jane Hooper, “The Transformation of an Island Queen: Queen Béti of Madagascar,” in A Companion to Global Queenship, ed. Elena Woodacre, 95-108 (Leeds: Arc Humanities Press, 2018).