Looking for #FEMbruary inspiration, I found in my scrapbook an old Victorian photograph of the King of Siam’s ornate bodyguard. I wanted to know more about these exotically costumed figures.
Looking around for more information I found more inspiration for my possible Pound store figure conversions to celebrate #Fembruary and female figure in our collection https://manoftinblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/09/fembruary-hobby-challenge-conversions/
I found a fascinating article by Mike Dash on the King of Dahomey’s female bodyguard that also mentioned the King of Siam’s female bodyguard:
Dahomey is now known as Benin and these were the “only female soldiers in the world who then routinely served as combat troops.”
As Mike Dash writes “Dahomey’s female troops were not the only martial women of their time. There were at least a few contemporary examples of successful warrior queens, the best-known of whom was probably Nzinga of Matamba, one of the most important figures in 17th-century Angola—a ruler who fought the Portuguese, quaffed the blood of sacrificial victims, and kept a harem of 60 male concubines, whom she dressed in women’s clothes.”
Other Warrior Queens?
There are several websites linked to African Warrior Queens. The Kingdom of Fon had female Regiments in the 19th Century https://uncensoredopinion.co.za/african-queens-series-ahosi-female-military-regiment/
With so many different types of female Warrior, a Generic female warrior troop is probably the best response to the FEMbruary challenge using Pound Store Plastic figures.
But what about the Siam Warrior Women?
“Nor were female guards unknown; in the mid-19th century, King Mongkut of Siam (the same monarch memorably portrayed in quite a different light by Yul Brynner in The King and I) employed a bodyguard of 400 women.”
“But Mongkut’s guards performed a ceremonial function, and the king could never bear to send them off to war.”
Dahomey Amazons in Action
Mike Dash made the distinction between these ceremonial female troops and the Dahomey warriors.
“What made Dahomey’s women warriors unique was that they fought, and frequently died, for king and country. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that, in the course of just four major campaigns in the latter half of the 19th century, they lost at least 6,000 dead, and perhaps as many as 15,000. In their very last battles, against French troops equipped with vastly superior weaponry, about 1,500 women took the field, and only about 50 remained fit for active duty by the end.”
Who had heard of this one, The First Franco-Dahomean War“, certainly a new one to me, “which ensued in 1890, resulted in two major battles, one of which took place in heavy rain at dawn outside Cotonou, on the Bight of Benin”, quoted from Mike Dash’s article. This pitted French colonial troops against male and female Dahomey troops.
More pictures including coloured veteran postcards can be found at this website: http://solarey.net/dahomey-amazon-women-benin-west-africa/
Further staged photographs and dramatic battle pictures can be seen here:
So what of the King of Siam’s Female Bodyguard?
From the Daily True Delta newspaper, New Orleans, USA, March 15, 1857
These details seem to tally with John Thomson’s photograph (below).
The photograph came from torn out part of a magazine page in my scrapbook of a tiny picture by John Thomson, Victorian pioneer photographer. (Stephen White wrote the featured book on Thomson). Exotic, fantastic and ceremonial uniforms. Part of the Victorian and ongoing fascaination with the exotic and the Orient.
Famously Mongkut the King of Siam offered elephants to the US President for use as heavy transport in the American civil War, featured in The King and I film
The idea of these women duelling in front of the other splendidly dressed women soldiers clearly caught the attention of the American journalist for the Daily True Delta newspaper in 1857. This would fit with the Gerard De Gre / Bartitsu duelling rules that I featured last year.
Some of these ideas can be brought into creating a fictional women’s troop made from Pound Store Plastic Warrior Conversions. They would serve well for Bronte inspired Imagi-Nation troops in the Pacific or African realms that the Bronte family created as part of their Gondal, Angria and GlassTown sagas.
So as part of my FEMbruary challenge on Pound Store Plastic Warriors blog, I will be attempting to turn this Poundland penny dreadful Plastic Warrior into a Generic Amazon warrior within the next few weeks? Tissue paper, PVA, Scalpel at the ready.
Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN blog on his Pound Store Plastic Warriors sister blog site, FEMbruary 15 2018