King Behanzin was the Fearless King of Dahomey, a West African Kingdom located within present-day Benin. Behanzin is considered the eleventh king of the Kingdom after succeeding his father, Glele. Born in 1844, Behanzin who ruled from 1889 to 1894, was Dahomey’s last independent ruler established through traditional power structures, before colonialism. He strongly resisted European intervention into his country and it is believed that his army included a division of thousands of female warriors.
When the French envoys arrived at his palace with presents, it is reported he brushed the presents aside, saying contemptuously, “We have cases full of that in Dahomey.” When told of the workings of the system of government in France, it is said that he took his pipe from his mouth and laughed loud and long, saying that he much preferred his own, which was quicker and more original. “Dahomey has never ceded Cotonou to France, and if the French do not get out at once, I will drive them out myself.” The French were laying claims to Cotonou obviously against the will of Behanzin.
To this end, a war began. In the first few engagements, Behanzin was victorious. France, realizing they had a difficult enemy to cope with, selected their best colonial fighter, Colonel A. A. Dodds, a Senegalese/French, and sent him against Behanzin. Behanzin defeated Dodds although later during the same war Colonel A. A. Dodds claimed the ultimate victory thanks to heavier artillery.
In 1894, Behanzin surrendered himself to Dodds, without signing any instrument of national surrender or treaty and the Kingdom of Dahomey became a French protectorate but gained full independence as a republic after many years in 1960 and was renamed the Republic of Benin in 1991.
Behanzin lived the rest of his life in exile in Martinique and Algeria. After his death in 1906, his remains were returned to Abomey. His throne and sculptures of wood, copper, iron and silver are now in the Musee Quai Branly, Paris and have become the topic of important discussions about their return to the Republic of Benin.
Source: Wikipedia and Britannica