Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I'm writing a novel set in seventeenth century Siam. This blog is an attempt to gather all my research material in one place; hopefully, it will help me to become more productive, and that it may be useful for others interested in Siam. Garth Christpinet.

Seventeenth century Siam (Thailand) is a fascinating milieu; Europeans traveled there in great numbers as sailors, merchants, missionaries, ambassadors, company employees, artisans, and just plain old adventurers. Many of them wrote books and journals in English, French, Dutch, and Portuguese about what they saw and experienced which have survived, mines of information in an otherwise bleak landscape.

Carte des Inde Orientales drawn by Pierre Du Val, 1677. (Dawn Rooney Collection).

No Asian country can match the Thai kingdom for its far-flung and friendly relations with maritime Asia, during the period that Ayutthaya was the Thai capital [1350-1767]. A book comparable to the present study could not be written about any other Asian nation. Shortly after the founding of Ayutthaya in the fourteenth century, representatives of the Thai court traveled along the coastline of East Asia, investigating trade in Chinese ports, the king of the Ryukyu Islands, Korea and Japan. The lands of South Asia had long been known to the Thai, particularly in the context of Buddhist scholarship, and by the fifteenth century, Thai agents were exploring trading opportunities in the ports of India at first hand.

The seventeenth century brought a dramatic rise of trading and diplomatic exchanges with island courts of the Indonesian archipelago (Aceh, Jambi, Banten, Palembang, Riau) and with the great South Asian courts (Bengal, Golkonda, the Mughal Empire and Persia). Trading relations were maintained by this time with numerous ports on the coast of China, with Japan, with ports of the Indonesian and Philippine archipelago and with many ports of India. In addition to their active trade policy, the Thai monarchs were also among the most adventurous of all rulers of Asia in cultivating diplomatic relations during this period. From the beginning, Ayutthaya’s commercial doors were open, and foreign merchants were welcomed. Thai products thus reached marketplaces all across maritime Asia, from Japan on the east to the Arabian peninsula on the west. A view of Ayuttaya by Johannes Vingboons, circa 1665. Notice the octagonal building at the northwest corner of the city.

One reason why Thai exports were so widespread is the geographical position of the kingdom. Its coastlines face east to the South China Sea and Pacific rim, west to the ports of the Indian Ocean and south to the archipelago. Its only potential rivals with similar geographical advantages were the sultanates of the Malay peninsula, Sumatra, Java and other islands. But none of those states created a network of trading and diplomatic contacts throughout maritime Asia comparable to Ayutthaya’s. Chinese mariners ushered Ayutthaya into the Chinese trading world of Japan, the Ryukyu kingdom, China, Vietnam and the archipelago. Traders from ports as far west as the Arabian peninsula brought Ayutthaya into the embrace of the Muslim trading world of South Asia and the archipelago. Sailing ships from the archipelago itself provided the kingdom with even more extensive island contacts. During its final two centuries, the Thai capital was served by European coastal shipping between Asian ports. And Thai crown ships established their own network, with ports of call as distant as Nagasaki and the Persian Gulf. This combination of trading networks, together with the diplomatic initiatives of the Thai kings, was unique in all of Asia. (From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya's Maritime Relations with Asia, edited by Kennon Breazeale.)

To get a general idea of the period, start by reading the next two blogs, on King Prasat Tong and King Narai, which are taken from W.A.R. Wood's History of Siam, first published in 1924, but still a useful introduction to the two most important kings of the 17th century.

This is a list of such books available to me, either that were written in or have been translated into English. The idea behind this blog is to glean information from these books, and also from other websites, and have them available in one place for easy reference, and, with the help of, to have them read to me.

The map above places Phaulkon's house at the southeast of the city.


Title. Authors.

  • 1688 Revolution in Siam; Hutchinson, E.W.
  • 17th Century Burma and the Dutch VOC 1634-1680; Dijk, Wil O.
  • A Description of the Kingdom of Siam 1690; Kaempfer, Engelbert
  • A Record of Cambodia The Land and its People; Daguan, Zhou (Harris, Peter)
  • A Relation of the Voyage to Siam 1685; Tachard, Guy (Terwiel, B.J.)
  • A Resounding Failure Martin and the French in Siam; Smithies, Michael
  • A Traveler in Siam in the Year 1655; Heeck, Gijsbert (Terwiel, Barend Jan)
  • Aspects of the Embassy to Siam 1685; Chaumont, The Chevalier de and Choisy, The Abbe de
  • Ayutthaya Venice of the East; Garnier, Derick
  • Court, Company, and Campong; na Pombejra, Dhiravat
  • Description of the Thai Kingdom or Siam; Pallegoix, Mgr. Jean-Baptiste
  • Descriptions of Old Siam; Smithies, Michael
  • Discovering Ayutthaya; Kasetsiri, Charnvit & Wright, Michael
  • English Intercourse With Siam in the 17th Century; Anderson, John
  • Facets of Thai Poetry; Rajani, M.C. Chand Chirayu
  • From Japan to Arabia: Ayutthaya's Maritime; Breazeale, Kennon
  • History of Siam; Wood, W.A.R.
  • History of Siam in 1688; Blanc, Marcell le (Smithies, Michael)
  • History of the Malay Kingdom of Patani; Syukri, Ibrahim (Bailey & Miksic)
  • In the King's Trail An 18th Century Dutch Journey; Raben, Remco and na Pombejra, Dhiravat
  • Les Chateaux de la Loire; D'Huart, Simone et al
  • Mission Made Impossible The Second French Embassy; Smithies, Michael
  • Peter Floris His Voyage to the East Indies in the Globe, 1611-1615 Siam, Pattani, Bantam; Floris, Peter
    Recalling Local Pasts Autonomous History in S.E. Asia; Chutintaranond, Sunait & Baker, Chris
  • Samurai of Ayutthaya; Polenghi, Cesare
  • Siam Mapped A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation; Winichakul, Thongchai
  • Siamese Court Life in the Seventeenth Century; na Pombejra, Dhiravat
  • Siamese Sketches; Buls, Charles
  • Siamese White; Collis, Maurice
  • Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680-I; Reid, Anthony
  • Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680-II; Reid, Anthony
  • Strange Events in the Kingdoms of Cambodia & Laos; Kersten, Carool
  • Thailand: A Short History; Wyatt, David K.
  • The Adventure of Plants & Portuguese Discoveries; Ferrao, Jose E. Mendes
  • The Asian Military Revolution From Gunpowder; Lorge, Peter A.
  • The Diary of Kosa Pan, Thai Ambassador to France, June-July 1686; Kosa Pan
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys; Gallienne, Richard
  • The Embassy of Pero Vaz de Siqueira to Siam (1684-1686); de Seabra, Leonor
  • The Great Nation France from Louis XV to Napoleon; Jones, Colin
  • The Siamese Embassy to the Sun King; Smithies, Michael
  • The Siamese Memoirs of Count Claude Forbin 1685-88; Smithies, Michael
  • The World of Ships; Wilkinson, Philip
  • To Rule the Waves How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World; Herman, Arthur
  • Van Vliet's Siam; Baker, na Pombejra, Kraan, Wyatt
  • Witnesses to a Revolution: Siam 1688; Smithies, Michael

King Prasat Tong (reigned 1629-1656)

25. Jetta (December 13, 1628 - August 1629)
26. Atityawong (August - September 1629)
27. Prasat Tong (September 1629 - August 7, 1656)

The young King Jetta, aged only fifteen, was a mere puppet in the hands of Pya Sri Worawong. His accession, already unpopular, was rendered more so by a series of brutal murders. Pya Kalahom and all his principal supporters fell victim to the fury of Pya Sri Worawong. An unsuccessful bid for popular favor was made by the pardon of numerous criminals on the occasion of the coronation. Pya Sri Worawong himself assumed the title and office of Pya Kalahom, and made his younger brother Pya Sri Worawong.

The Kalahom had had a very remarkable career. He was born about the year 1600, being a son of Pya Sri Thammatirat, a Royal Chamberlain, whose younger sister was the mother of King Songtam and he was thus the cousin of that monarch. In his youth he was known as Pra-ong Lai.1 From a humble position he rose to be, at the age of eighteen, Chief Page to King Songtam. He was always in trouble and disgrace. On one occasion he was imprisoned for attacking the Mock King at the Plowing Festival.2 Later he was implicated in a plot against King Songtam’s brothers, Prince Sri Sin and Prince Tong. After spending several years in prison, he was released in 1622, and greatly distinguished himself in the unfortunate expedition to Cambodia in that year. A year later he was discovered in an intrigue with one of the ladies of Prince Sri Sin, and went back to jail. On his release he appears to have been tamed to some extent. He was made Pya Sri Worawong, and was high in the favor of King Songtam during the last few years of his reign.

It will be observed that he had good reasons for opposing the accession of Prince Sri Sin to the throne. But the exclusion of the Prince was not enough. The new Kalahom was determined on his destruction. The Prince had taken the precaution of becoming a priest. Yamada undertook the unworthy task of luring him away from his sanctuary. He visited the Prince and persuaded him that the Japanese troops would aid him to seize the throne. Believing this, the Prince discarded the yellow robe. He was at once seized and condemned to die. He was sent to Petchaburi, and there cast into a pit to perish of starvation.

One of the Prince’s adherents, Luang Mongkon, rescued him in a very remarkable manner. He dug another pit, communicating with the one in which the Prince was confined. The corpse of a slave was introduced by night, and dressed in the Prince’s clothes, while the Prince escaped. The guards, thinking their prisoner dead, filled up the pit with earth, and reported to Ayutia that Prince Sri Sin was dead and buried.1

Prince Sri Sin then managed to raise a large force, seized several cities, and was crowned as King of Siam. In the end he was, however, defeated and captured.

Before meeting his death, which was inflicted in the usual way, by beating him to death with a sandalwood club, he solemnly warned the young King against trusting Pya Kalahom.

Luang Mongkon, after making a vain attempt to murder Pya Kalahom, was also executed. He was a man of Herculean strength, and before dying, managed to burst his chains, strangle one executioner, and very nearly accounted for another. He had been offered his life if he would enter the King’s service. “How can I do so?” he asked. “The King is dead.” One is grateful to van Vliet for having preserved the name of this brave man.

After the removal of Prince Sri Sin, King Jetta was encouraged by Pya Kalahom to indulge in all kinds of folly and dissipation until everyone was thoroughly tired of him.

He had been less than two years on the throne when the end came. Pya Kalahom, little by little, had been usurping the external trappings of Royalty. The limit was reached when he cremated the body of his deceased mother2 in a style equal to the usual at a Royal cremation, and caused all the principal functionaries to attend. The young King’s jealousy was at length aroused, and he uttered the most violent threats against Pya Kalahom. The latter, professing to think himself in danger, called together all his supporters and attacked the palace. The King’s partisans were defeated, and he himself fled to a temple. He was captured and executed, together with his mother. Before dying, he bitterly reproached Pya Kalahom, and accused him of having poisoned King Songtam—very probably a true accusation. Pya Kampeng-ram, who was supposed to have designs upon the throne, was also executed not long after.

Having thus got rid of the King and of Pya Kampeng-ram, Pya Kalahom was disgusted to find the steps to the throne barred by his accomplice Yamada. The wily Japanese had supported the claims of Pya Kampeng-ram to the throne, and had displayed great grief when his nominee was executed. He now insisted upon setting up as King the little Prince Atityawong, a younger son of King Songtam, aged only ten.

Pya Kalahom determined to get Yamada out of the way. The Governor of Nakon Sritammarat was accused of rebellion, and Yamada and his Japanese were sent down to subdue him. Yamada was at the same time authorized to assume the position of Governor of Nakon Sritammarat. He was speedily successful, and, happy in his new position ruler of a semi-independent province, was content, for the time being, to refrain from interfering with the ambitious designs of Pya Kalahom.

The “bottled spider” first caused himself to be crowned as Regent, and compelled the young King to enter a monastery, when he was, however, quickly removed in order to be clubbed to death, after a reign of little more than a month.1 The poor boy piteously denounced the cruelty of the man who had set him on a throne only to deprive him of his life; but there was no mercy to be expected from a monster who knew no law but his own ambition.

Pya Kalahom now became King. He is known in history as King Prasat Tong—the King of the Golden Palace. He was the first monarch since the foundation of Ayutia, with the single exception of Kun Worawongsa, who must frankly be called a usurper, for he had no kind of hereditary claim to the throne.1

The usurper’s position, at the beginning of his reign, was none too secure. He was at war with Portugal, and one of his first acts was to clap every Portuguese in the Kingdom into jail, where they remained for three years. Nakhon Sritammarat was in a disturbed condition. Yamada had been poisoned shortly after becoming Governor, and his son, Oin Yamada, was engaged in hostilities with the party of the ex-Governor. After many vicissitudes, he and most of his Japanese retired to Cambodia. Thence they shortly returned to Ayutia, accompanied by a large number of Japanese who had been expelled from the capital in 1629. The usurper did not at all approve of the presence of all these Japanese, rightly thinking that those who had helped to put him on the throne might as easily put him down again.2 He therefore made up his mind to be rid of the turbulent Japanese once for all. The Japanese quarter of Ayutia was suddenly attacked by night, during the flood season of 1632. Many of the Japanese were ruthlessly butchered, but a large number of them escaped by boat. They were pursued by the Siamese, and a sharp fight was kept up from Ayutia down to the sea, with heavy losses on both sides. The majority of the Japanese made good their escape to Cambodia.

The usurper’s resentment against the Japanese was perhaps further inflamed by the fact that the Shogun of Japan had refused to recognize him, and had declined to receive his envoys. In Japan it had long been the established custom for the Emperors to live in seclusion, while others reigned in their name. Scrupulous respect was, however, shown to their persons. A man who had ruthlessly slain the rightful heirs to the throne, and had usurped the title, as well as the power, of King, was looked upon in Japan as a ruffian devoid of all human decency.

The Queen of Patani shared the opinion of the Shogun of Japan. She refused to send the usual tribute, and declared herself independent of King Prasat Tong, whom she described to a Dutch visitor as a “rascal, murderer and traitor.”

Cambodia was hostile, and was supposed to be waiting for a suitable opportunity to invade Siam, aided by the expelled Japanese.

Chiengmai was under Burmese domination. An attempt at rebellion was made in 1630, when the Prince of Chiengmai2 declared himself independent and captured Chiengsen. But the new King of Burma, Tado Tammaraja,3 once more invaded the northern principality in 1631. After a long siege, Chiengmai was captured by the Burmese in April 1632. The Prince was deposed, and one Pya Luang Tipanet was set up as Burmese Viceroy at Chiengmai.

It will thus be seen that King Prasat Tong occupied, at the outset of his reign, a very isolated position. His only foreign friends were the Dutch,4 who espoused his cause, and promised to assist him against the Portuguese and Cambodians. In 1630 and 1632 several Dutch vessels were sent to Siam for this purpose. Prince Frederick Henry of the Netherlands, brother and successor to Prince Maurice, sent a very flattering letter to King Prasat Tong, congratulating him on his accession, and containing some touching condolences on the death of his predecessor—doubtless well meant, but not very tactful.

The new Governor of Nakhon Sritammarat, following the example of the Queen of Patani, refused to send tribute. The King himself led an expedition against the rebel city in 1632, destroyed it, and removed most of the inhabitants to Ayutia. VanVliet relates that the King, on setting forth to attack Nakon Sritammarat, swore to offer up the first four women he met, as a sacrifice. On leaving Ayutia he met four young girls in a boat, on whom he fulfilled his vow.

This story is typical of the cruelty and barbarity of this atrocious man. His whole reign was a series of murders. In 1635, one of his daughters having died and been cremated, a part of her flesh, for some reason, remained unconsumed. Attributing this to magic (for he was as credulous as he was cruel) he indulged in a perfect orgy of murder and torture. It is needless to disgust the reader with the detailed description of these scenes. Over three thousand persons lost their lives, as the tyrant saw in the death of his daughter a good excuse for ridding himself of those whom he suspected of disapproving of his usurpation of the crown. One of the daughters and two of the sons of King Songtam were sacrificed among the rest.

The usurper had early determined to extirpate all the scions of the Royal Family. In 1633 he had caused three infant Princes to be executed. In 1635 a blind Prince who had for some time previously been an object of suspicion, was inveigled into a dispute with a soldier, and punished with death.

An expedition which was undertaken in 1632 against rebellious Patani was unsuccessful. The Patanese repulsed the Siamese and inflicted several severe defeats upon them. According to Dutch witnesses this was due to the bungling methods of the Siamese General, but the blame was thrown on the Dutch, who had been expected to assist with two ships, which never turned up.

In 1634 a more serious attempt was made to subdue Patani. An army of over 30,000 men was raised at Ayutia, and was sent under the command of Pya Praklang to Nakon Sritammarat, accompanied by a great many elephants, ponies, guns and ammunition. There they were to be joined by other troops, sent by sea, and by armies to be raised in the Peninsula. The total force available was estimated at between 50,000 and 60,000 men. The Dutch again promised to assist with six large vessels. The few Japanese remaining at Ayutia were also ordered to take part in this expedition.

Owing to gross mismanagement, this campaign, like the first, was an utter failure. Instead of waiting for the Dutch fleet, the Siamese attacked Patani, and were repulsed with severe losses. Their provisions then ran short, and they returned to Singora. The Dutch fleet, on reaching Patani, found that the Siamese had departed.

The King of Siam had one General beheaded and several others severely punished. He appears to have been satisfied with the action of the Dutch, and returned to them five thousand florins, being half of the duty paid by them that year for the right to trade with Siam.

On January 1st, 1636, Pya Pitsanulok, one of the most influential men in the Kingdom, was arrested for having falsely accused the King’s brother of plotting to gain the crown. On January 22nd he was publicly cut in two by the executioner.

In the same year (1636) extensive preparations were made to subdue Patani, but an embassy was first sent to urge the Queen of Patani to submit. By the advice of the Dutch, the embassy was well received, and Patanese envoys were sent in April to Ayutia to beg forgiveness, and to present the customary gold and silver trees in token of submission.

Although the King outwardly professed to be satisfied with the assistance given by the Dutch against the rebellious Patani, he now regarded them with less favor. His irritation was increased by the receipt of some very stiffly worded letters from the Dutch Governor-General at Batavia, who complained that he had been misled about some consignments of rice which had been promised him. On December 10th, 1636, two of the Dutchmen employed by the Dutch Company had an altercation with some priests, and they and their friends were later attacked and roughly handled by a large crowd of Siamese. The next day they were charged with attacking the house of the King’s brother, and two of their number were sentenced to be trampled to death by elephants. Van Vliet, by distributing presents to the King and principal officials, managed to obtain their release, after they had been exposed all day in public, bound hand and foot. He was forced to sign an undertaking that all Dutch in the Kingdom pledged themselves absolutely to obey all the orders of the Pra Klang.

It may be remarked that the King was drunk on this occasion. It was, in fact, his usual custom to be under the influence of drink thrice daily. “This drunkenness,” says van Vliet, “which occurs very often, and often reaches dangerous limit, has caused many evils during his reign and is frequently he reason why innocent blood has been shed.”

In March 1638 occurred the beginning of the year 1000 of the Chulasakarat Era. King Prasat Tong became obsessed with the idea some frightful calamity would overwhelm the world to mark the thousandth year of the Era. He therefore determined, if possible, to aver the calamity by altering the name of the year. The Old Siamese Calendar was run on a triple system; firstly, there was the Chulasakarat number of the year, secondly, each year bore the name of an animal, of which there were twelve, recurring in regular order;1 and thirdly, it was numbered from one to ten. The combined cycles of twelve animal and ten numbers completed themselves every sixty years, when the first animal (the Rat) coincided with the number One. The year 1000 (A.D. 1638-9) was the year of the Tiger, numbered Ten. The King’s plan was to “camouflage” the year by calling it the year of the Pig, while retaining the number Ten. This meant leaving out the names of nine of the animals, and thereby disorganizing the combined cycles of sixty years.

Delighted with this ingenious scheme, the King wrote to Tado Tammaraja of Burma,1 suggesting that it should be adopted in Burma as well. The Burmese monarch probably felt little interest in the matter, as the “animal cycle” was not in general use in Burma. Moreover, he had already averted all danger of ill luck by holding a huge ordination ceremony, at which 1,000 youths, one for each year of the Era, were initiated into the Buddhist priesthood. He therefore sent an embassy to Ayutia, with a letter returning an unfavorable reply. King Prasat Tong flew into a passion, and dismissed the Burmese envoys, after heaping insults upon them.

The alteration in the “animal cycle” was never generally adopted, even in Siam.

In 1639, the usurper indulged in another outburst of fury against the Dutch. The Dutch Company had put forward a certain claim against the Siamese Government, which the King, after first promising to meet, later repudiated. Annoyed at the King’s fickleness, van Vliet used much stronger language than was wise, and it was reported that he had uttered a threat to bring a Dutch fleet to attack Ayutia. The King, who was, as usual, drunk when this report was made to him, at first ordered the immediate execution of every Dutchman in Siam. He was induced to grant them one day’s grace in which to leave the country, failing which they were to be trampled to death by elephants, and the factory given up to plunder. The whole capital was thrown into confusion. Troops were called out, cannon pointed at the Dutch factory, and all the Dutchmen were arrested and kept in confinement for some time. The King, however, changed his mind about having them trampled to death, and in the end released them, and bestowed various marks of favor upon van Vliet. For some time, however, a number of troops were kept under arms, and all kinds of warlike preparations were made with the object of showing the Dutch that the King was ready and able to capture Batavia.

In November 1641 a letter was received from the Prince of Orange, and also one from the Governor-General of the Dutch Indies, accompanied by many rare gifts. The King received the Prince’s letter in an unusually ceremonious manner, and said that he had never before been favored with so pleasing a missive. But the Dutch probably knew better by this time than to be impressed with these changes of face. Van Vliet, writing several years later, said that real friendship between Siam and the Netherlands was impossible “unless the disgrace which we have suffered has been washed away by the sword, in which may God Almighty help.”

In 1648 Singora became troublesome, and an expedition was sent to subdue it. The Dutch Council at Batavia gave orders that some Dutch vessels were to be sent to help the Siamese fleet, in the hope of placating the fickle King. No record remains of the result of this expedition, but it would appear that Singora was not subdued until much later. In 1654 we find the Dutch once more at loggerheads with King Prasat Tong on account of their negligence in not having sent twenty ships to assist in attacking Singora. Their Agent, Westerwolt, the successor of van Vliet, was treated with great indignity, and when he threatened to leave Siam he was informed that any attempt to do so would result in his being trampled to death by elephants, together with all his compatriots.

Finally the King had to be told that owing to the rupture of relations with England the Dutch could not spare any ships.1 This unpleasing news was conveyed together with many valuable presents. The latter apparently placated the capricious tyrant, for he treated the Dutch with greater courtesy, though is expedition to Singora had to be put off. The army, which had been waiting at Nakon Sritammarat, was recalled, and the General in command was thrown into irons.
In 1655 another attempt was made to subdue Singora, but “the Admiral who had undertaken to overcome the place with the naval force ran away, so that they returned to Siam with shame.”

King Prasat Tong was responsible, during his reign, for a considerable amount of legislation. One is unwilling to admire any of the measures of this execrable man, but it must be admitted that his legislative activities were not unsuccessful.

The most interesting of the Laws associated with this King’s name are the following:

  1. The Law of Appeal, promulgated in A.D. 1633.
    The underlying principle of this Law was not to provide, as in modern times, for Appeals concerning the facts of Law on which the original judgment was based, but an Appeal was considered rather in the nature of an Appeal against the Judge, for injustice, favoritism, or slackness. A great many grounds for appealing against a Judge were admitted, and the Judge hearing the Appeal was empowered to fine the Judge of the Court below if the complaints brought by the parties were found correct. On the other hand, groundless Appeals might result in the punishment of the Appellant. This last provision might perhaps be useful in modern Siam, where Appeals are often made on very frivolous grounds.
  2. The Law on Debt Slavery, A.D. 1637.
    Slavery, though unknown in the golden days of King Ramkamhaeng and his successors at Sukotai, had always been a feature of the Siamese social system under the Kings of Ayutia. Slavery in any country must always be inseparable from cruelty and abuses, but once the system is admitted, the Siamese Law on the subject does not appear unreasonable, and does not by any means ignore the interests of the slaves. There were provisions in the Law for the punishment of masters who killed or injured their slaves, and many means were provided to permit of slaves regaining their liberty. Unfortunately, as was inevitable, the more merciful provisions of this Law were too often disregarded, and the lot of a debt-slave in Siam was often a very miserable one, even in modern times, until the year 1905, when King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) performed the most noble act in his long and memorable reign, by finally abolishing once and for all the last remaining traces of slavery in his Kingdom.
  3. The Law of Inheritance, issued by King Prasat Tong in A.D. 1635, is still in force at the present time. This Law professes to be based on the Dhammathat, but in fact it is a great improvement on Manu’s hoary and anachronistic code. It is interesting to note that King Prasat Tong provided for the making of Wills. Moreover, a Will is not spoken of as something new, but appears to have been, even before 1635, a recognized legal instrument in Siam. Burmese Buddhists, even in the present year of grace, are still precluded from making Wills.
    The provisions of the Siamese Law as to the witnessing of a Will are most interesting, and in the opinion of the author are superior to the English law on the subject. The witnesses must be respectable persons, their number varying according to the rank of the Testator. Moreover, they are not, as in England, merely witnesses to the signature of the Will, but also to its contents, and to the competence of the Testator. These provisions render it difficult for a man to make a hasty or eccentric Will, since it may not be easy to find the requisite number of respectable persons to witness it. It is thus practically impossible for a Siamese, on his death-bed, to disinherit his wife and children and leave his money to a home for lost dogs.
  4. The Law of Debt, which came into force in A.D. 1648, is another ingenious piece of legislation. This Law set forth very clearly the respective liability of wives and husbands, parents and children, and brothers and sisters for one another’s debts.
    A curious provision of the Law of Debt is that a person who denies before a Court of Law liability for his debt, but is proved in fact to be liable, may be made to pay double “so as to keep him from getting into the way of denying his debts.” Similarly, an unsuccessful Plaintiff may be mulcted in twice the amount of his claim, so as to teach him not to bring false claims. These provisions are not enforced at the present day. In former times, one must suppose that none but litigants with cast iron cases ever ventured into Court.
    The Law of Debt was ill adapted to modern requirements; it was superseded by the new Civil Code introduced in 1926.
  5. The most curious specimen of King Prasat Tong’s legislative efforts has been kept to the last. This is his addition to the Law of Offenses against the Government of A.D. 1351. It was issued in 1657 (probably after the King had had a particularly trying time with van Vliet) and runs as follows: “If any subjects of the Realm, Tai or Mon, male or female, fearless of the Royal displeasure and Laws and seeing the wealth and prosperity of merchants from foreign lands, shall give their daughters and granddaughters to be the wives of foreigners, English or Dutch, Japanese or Malays, followers of other religions, and allow them to become converted to foreign religions, those persons are held to be thorns in the side of the State and enemies of the Realm. They may be punished by confiscation of their property, imprisonment for life, degradation, being made to cut grass for the Royal elephants, or fines of various grades. This is for an example to others. Why is this? Because the (foreign) father will sow seed and beget future progeny, and the father and son will report the affairs of the Realm in foreign lands, and when they became known, the foreigners will assail the Realm on every side, and the Buddhist religion will decline and fall into disrepute.”

Dutch writers refer more than once to preparations made by King Prasat Tong, during his reign, to subdue Cambodia, which, as has been seen, had been more or less independent since 1618. No record can be fond of an invastion of Cambodia having been actually undertaken during this reign, but there is some reason to suppose that the show of force was sufficient, and that Cambodia renewed her allegiance to Siam. It was probably to celebrate this event that King Prasat Tong erected a temple on the road from Ayutia to Prabat, the design of which was copied from the celebrated Angkor Tom temple in Cambodia.

King Prasat Tong died on 8th of August, 1656. It seems strange that this man, who had obtained the throne of Siam through intrigue and murder, and had retained it by methods of terrorism, was allowed to die quietly in his bed. Not only this, but he even seems to have been regarded by some contemporary and later writers with a certain degree of admiration. Van Schouten speaks of him as “ruling with great reputation and honor,” and the compilers of the Siamese Pongsawadan apparently had rather a high opinion of him. He was evidently one of those successful upstarts who succeed, by sheer force of audacity, in impressing upon others a false opinion of their merits. If there was anything really great about the man, it certainly is not evident in the accounts of contemporary observers.

King Narai (reigned 1656-1688)

28. Jai (August 7 - 8, 1656)
29. Sutammaraja (August 8 - October 26, 1656)
30. Narai (October 26, 1656 - July 11, 1688)

The Chevalier de Chaumont presenting a letter from King Louis XIV to King Narai on 18th October 1685. Chaumont commissioned this painting himself. It shows how he held the letter just out of reach of King Narai, forcing him to lean down to take it. Phaulkon is on the floor gesturing to Chaumont to raise it higher. (Drawn by Jean-Baptiste Nolin). The ruins of the throne hall depicted in the painting above; Narai's Palace, Lopburi.

On the death of King Prasat Tong, his eldest son, Chao Fa Jai, seized1 the throne, though it would appear that the late King’s younger brother had been appointed Uparat. Chao Fa Jai, however, only reigned for a few days. His younger brother, Prince Narai, joined the party of his uncle, and he was captured and executed.

Prince Sri Sutammaraja, younger brother of King Prasat Tong, now became King, and Prince Narai was made Uparat.

From the little we know about King Sri Sutammaraja, we may conclude that he was as villainous a character as his brother. Fortunately for Siam, he reigned for less than three months. In November 1657 he became enamored of his niece, the sister of Prince Narai, and made overtures to her which she resented. She was smuggled out of the palace hidden in a bookcase,2 and went to complain to her brother of the unseemly treatment to which she had been subjected. Prince Narai decided to dethrone his uncle. Calling his followers round him, he attacked the palace. The King was wounded in the back, but managed to escape. He was captured, and a few days later was executed.1

The new King was aged about twenty-five at the time of his accession. The violent deaths of two monarchs within three months had unsettled the country, and we may suppose that King Narai did not feel, at first, very secure upon his throne. He had, indeed, not been King for long when two of his younger brothers were accused of plotting against his life. They were both executed, and for some time executions of suspects were the order of the day.

In 1659 the Kingdom of Cambodia was disturbed by civil war between the young King, Keo Fa, and his brother, Nak Pratum. The Queen Mother, a Cochin Chinese Princess, asked for the intervention of the King of Cochin China. A Cochin Chinese army then overran and plundered the Kingdom. The King was captured, and died in Cochin China, and Nak Pratum became King. Among the victims of this invasion were several Englishmen, employed in the East India Company’s factory in Cambodia. The factory was looted, and they narrowly escaped with their lives. They fled to Siam, where King Narai treated them with great kindness and generosity. They sent a flowery account of the country to the Council at Batavia, and urged the re-establishment of a factory at Ayutia. By 1661 the East India Company once more possessed an establishment in Siam. The King forgave them an old debt, still owing, and their factors returned once more to “ye olde factory house,” abandoned in 1622. Thomas Cotes was placed in charge.

Burma at this time was in a very disturbed state owing to difficulties with China. The Ming dynasty had been overthrown, and the last Ming Emperor died in 1643, His son, Yunhli, after maintaining himself for some years as a kind of robber chieftain on the frontiers of Yunnan and the Shan States, was driven in 1658 to seek a refuge in Burma. As a consequence of this, the next year a large Chinese force invaded Burma and besieged Ava.1

These events were not without their effect upon the politics of Siam. Pra Sen Muang, the Prince of Chiengmai, became panic-stricken on hearing of the Chinese invasion of Burma, and fearing that his turn would come next, sent an envoy with a letter to King Narai imploring the protection of Siam. King Narai eagerly welcomed the opportunity of reuniting Chiengmai and Ayutia, and in November 1660 marched northwards at the head of a considerable army.

In the meantime, the Prince of Chiengmai received tidings that the Chinese had run short of supplies and had retired from Ava. Thinking that, in his haste, he had laid himself open to the vengeance of the King of Burma, he secretly ordered all his officers and men who were with the Siamese army to return at once to Chiengmai. King Narai, seeing tha the Prince of Chiengmai was playing him false, proceeded on his march, and occupied Nakon Lampang and several smaller towns in the Chiengmai dominions. His force, however, was too weak to deal with a hostile Chiengmai. He therefore returned to Ayutia early in 1661.

In the same year King Bintalé of Burma was overthrown and executed. He had caused great misery by conniving at “profiteering” in food by his wives and courtiers during the siege of Ava. His brother, the Prince of Prome, became King, assuming the title of Maha Pawara Tammaraja.

These events in Burma greatly encouraged King Narai in his design of subduing Chiengmai. He was by no means satisfied with the performance of his Generals on the first expedition, and determined to place a younger and more energetic man in charge of his armies. His choice fell on his foster brother, Pya Kosa Tibodi Kun Lek. Pya Kosa, on assuming command, horrified all the old hands by his merciless severity. He had realized that what was wanting in the Siamese army was strict discipline and obedience. Deserters and slackers got short shrift from him, and he saw to it that his orders were obeyed. On one occasion he gave instructions for the building of a stockade with the narrow ends of the bamboo buried in the earth. A certain officer, observing that this was contrary to the usual method of putting the big ends downwards, assumed that the General had made a mistake, which he took upon himself to set right. He paid for this offence with his head.

Pya Kosa was, of course, quite right, and readers who have tried to induce country folk in Siam to do a job on a new system will have every sympathy with him.

At the end of 1661 Pya Kosa left Ayutia for Chiengmai with his army, followed not long afterwards by the King. In all about 100,000 men were engaged on this expedition, a far larger army than had ever before been put into the field for an invasion of Chiengmai. No serious resistance was met with until Nakon Lampang was reached. That city fell after a short engagement. Lampun held out for a week. Chiengmai put up a stout resistance but was taken after the arrival of King Narai in March 1662. The Prince and most of the nobles were captured.

After the fall of Chiengmai a Burmese army appeared on the scene, but was attacked by the Siamese and driven back to Burma.

King Narai remained for fifteen days at Chiengmai. He then returned to Ayutia with a vast amount of booty, including the famous image of Buddha called the Prasingh, which had formerly been at Ayutia.

While the Siamese were invading Chiengmai, a serious rebellion broke out in Pegu. The Peguans had shown evident signs of disaffection during the siege of Ava by the Chinese. After the danger was over, the new King of Burma made ready to chastise them. They revolted, seized the Governor of Martaban and sent him to Ayutia with envoys to beg King Narai to take Pegu under his protection and to defend them against the King of Burma. At the same time large numbers of Peguans emigrated from their country and settled in Siam.

King Narai, seeing that these proceedings could result in war, assembled strong forces at all the principal points on the frontier of Burma. Towards the end of 1662 the expected attack was made, but the Siamese were ready, and drove the Burmese back with heavy losses. Encouraged by this victory to pursue a still more adventurous policy, King Narai now advanced into Pegu. The whole population, wearied of Burmese oppression, rose in his favor. Martaban, Rangoon and other strongholds were quickly occupied, and the Siamese army then marched northwards. How far they got is a matter as to which the most diverse evidence exists. In the end, however, they were forced, owing to shortages of supplies and the existence of a famine in Burma, to retire back to Siam.1

This was the last important invasion of Burmese territory by a Siamese army. The results were of no lasting importance. Pegu fell back almost at once under Burmese rule, but a less harsh policy was adopted towards the Peguans, lest they might again appeal to Siam for aid.

As for Chiengmai, King Narai seems to have made no attempt to maintain his ascendancy there. In 1663 Pya Sen Muang died and the Burmese Prince of Prome was appointed to govern Chiengmai, which remained under the rule of the Burmese Princes until 1727.

It must be admitted that King Narai’s wars were quite devoid of any useful results.

The re-establishment of an English factory at Ayutia was very displeasing to the Dutch, who had had almost the whole trade of Siam in their hands for about forty years. Moreover, the system of Royal monopolies, instituted by King Songtam and consolidated by King Prasat Tong, whereby the King controlled the principal articles of commerce, such as hides, tin and timber, did not suit them at all. Early in 1664 they demanded various special commercial privileges, and on failing to obtain these, they sent a fleet, which blockaded the mouth of the Menam River for a considerable time. Siam had then no fleet capable of trying conclusions with the Dutch. Their demands were therefore granted, and on August 10th (22nd N.S.), 1664, a Treaty was signed whereby the Dutch obtained the sole monopoly of the trade in hides, and Siam undertook not to employ any Chinese on her ships. The term Chinese was defined as including Japanese and Cochin Chinese. As most of the sailors on Siamese ships fell within this definition, this clause rendered it impossible for Siam to compete with Holland in the China trade.

But the most interesting provision of this Treaty is the following: “In case (which God forbid) any of the Company’s residents should commit a serious crime in Siam, the King and the Judges shall not have the right to judge him, but he must be handed over to the Company’s Chief, to be punished according to the Netherlands laws.”

Here we have the germ of the system of extraterritorial jurisdiction, which has occupied so prominent a place in the politics of modern Siam.

King Narai, hoping to curb the arrogance of the Dutch, began to think of cultivating the friendship of other European Powers. The British East India Company were disinclined to interfere in Siamese affairs; there was even a good deal of discussion as to the desirability of closing the factory at Ayutia, which was less profitable than had been expected. Portugal was no longer formidable. There remained France. In 1662 Monsignor de la Motte Lambert, Bishop of Bérythe, had arrived in Siam. He was followed in 1664 by Monsignor Pallu, Bishop of Heliopolis, and other French Jesuit missionaries. The King paid great attention to these French missionaries, particularly when he learned that one of their number, Father Thomas,1 was a skillful architect and engineer. Father Thomas designed and superintended the construction of new forts at Bangkok, Ayutia, Nontaburi, and other places, designed primarily against Dutch aggression. The King, thinking that Ayutia was too easily accessible from the sea, moved his residence to Lopburi, where a new palace, forts, and other buildings were put up, likewise with the help of Father Thomas. A tower was also built at Ayutia, to be used as an observatory.

The French missionaries were given land and houses and were encouraged to build churches. The great favors thus showered on them by King Narai misled them into supposing that he had a personal leaning towards the Catholic faith, and they began to form the design of converting him, and through him the whole Kingdom.

In 1665 the Bishop of Heliopolis returned to Europe. He regaled the Pope, Alexander VII, and King Louis XIV of France, with wonderful accounts of the advance of the faith in Siam. The Pope promised to take steps to push forward the good work, and Louis sent several architects and craftsmen to assist Father Thomas with his more worldly tasks.

The Bishop of Bérythe and his followers had their first personal interview with King Narai about the time of the departure of Bishop Pallu for Europe. They seized the opportunity of expounding to His Majesty the principles of Christianity. He appeared to be impressed and their hopes of success were raised by further grants of land.

A couple of years elapsed, during which a good many converts were gained, but the King remained a Buddhist. In 1668 Mohammedan missionaries arrived from Acheen, a State which had for long been in friendly communication with Siam, and urged King Narai to embrace the tenets of Islam. The French missionaries were greatly perturbed, but the King was not much impressed by the merits of Mohammedanism, and at a later date stated that if he were ever to change his religion he would certainly never become a Mohammedan. It is worthy of note that though Christianity has never made a very general appeal to the Siamese, particularly the upper classes, Mohammedanism has attracted them even less.

In February 1669 Monsieur des Bourges, Secretary to the Bishop of Bérythe, who had returned to France in 1663, appeared again in Siam, accompanied by six more priests, and bearing a Bull from the new Pope, Clement IX, whereby Siam and some of the neighboring States were placed under the jurisdiction of the Church of Ayutia, thus recognizing French ecclesiastical ascendancy in Indochina. Monsignor Lanneau was later (1664) consecrated Bishop of Metallopolis, to reside in Siam, with power to establish missions throughout the East, with the exception of the possessions of Spain and Portugal.

By 1676 there was a Catholic seminary at Ayutia, attended by over a hundred pupils. Siamese youths were being prepared for holy orders, and a female community, known as Votaries of the Cross, was established. No means were neglected of gaining adherents for the Church of Rome.

On May 27th, 1673, the Bishop of Heliopolis returned to Ayutia, after a long and very adventurous journey. He bore with him letters from Pope Clement IX and King Louis XIV to King Narai. The Siamese monarch was anxious to receive the letters in solemn public audience. The Bishops stipulated that they must be received in a manner becoming to their dignity, and must be spared the humiliation of appearing in their stockinged soles and prostrating themselves before His Majesty. After some delay these conditions were accepted, and the Siamese nobles were scandalized by the sight of the Bishop and priests remaining seated at a royal audience. The letters were duly presented, but certain valuable presents, sent by the Pope and the French King, had perforce been left behind at Bantam.

Not long afterwards, the Bishops were conducted in almost Royal state to Lopburi, and were given a private grant of land for the mission; the King further promised to build them a fine church at his own expense.

The presents from the Pope and the French King never arrived. A Siamese vessel was sent to bring them from Bantam, but the vessel, with its cargo, was captured by the Dutch after it had left that port.

The year 1675 was a memorable one, for in that year the Phoenix, a ship belonging to Captain George White, arrived at Ayutia. Captain White’s factor was none other than the celebrated Constant or Constantine Phaulkon,1 whose romantic and dazzling career in Siam has been so often related.

Phaulkon was born in the Greek Island of Cephalonia, about the year 1650. His father was a small innkeeper named Yeraki (meaning falcon). Young Yeraki ran away from home when about ten years old, and joined an English ship. He lived in London until about 1669, when he went to sea again as Captain White’s cabin boy. He had anglicized his name to Falcon, and his shipmates re-hellenized it again to Phaulkon. He rose to be mate of a ship belonging to the East India Company which, in 1678, brought Captain Richard Burnaby to Siam, and when first in the country was used by Captains White and Burnaby in their trading operations at Singora. In 1680 he joined the service of Pya Kosa Tibodi, who had then lately become Pra Klang, and before long was promoted to be Superintendant of Foreign Trade, with the title of Luang Wijaiyen.1

The appointment of Phaulkon to this position did not at all suit the East India Company. The one thing which they regarded with special hatred and detestation was what they called an “interloper,” meaning thereby an English trader who carried business in the Far East independently of the Company. Captain George White and his brother Samuel were noted “interlopers.” Phaulkon had perhaps imbibed from the Whites sentiments none too friendly to the East India Company, and to the end of his career paid no attention to the Company’s claims to monopolize the English trade in Siam, but encouraged many of the detested “interlopers” to come and do business at Ayutia.

Phaulkon’s policy of encouraging “interlopers” led to constant ill-feeling between him and the servants of the East India Company, and this tended, as time went on, to throw him more and more in the arms of the French.

In 1674 the Bishop of Heliopolis had left Siam, but several new priests arrived in 1676. In 1676 M. Cherboneau, the first Medical Missionary to Siam, arrived. He was installed in a hospital established by the King, but was before long persuaded to accept the Governorship of the island of Puket. This appointment was, without doubt, inspired by the French missionaries, and marks the first step in their design to gain for their country complete political control over Siam. A few years later, M. Cherboneau was succeeded at Puket by another Frenchman, M. Billi.

In 1679 the worthy Bishop of Bérythe died, and after his death the political side of the activities of the French missionaries became more evident.

Colbert, the famous Minister of Louis XIV, had in 1664 granted a charter to a Company called the “Compagnie Royale des Indes Orientales,” which was intended to rival the English Company, and which had been established at Surat since 1668. In 1680 this French Company sent a vessel to Ayutia, with a number of officers, to start a factory there. The King received them well and granted them all kinds of privileges.

On Christmas Day 1680 the first Siamese embassy to Europe left Ayutia. There were three ambassadors, all of high rank, with thirty followers. They took with them a letter to the King of France, written on a sheet of gold, together with many rare and curious presents, including young elephants and rhinoceroses. The letter offered to ceded Singora to France. Singora, as has been seen, had been in a state of rebellion at the time of the death of King Prasat Tong, and it would seem as though it was still unsubdued in 1680.

The ship bearing this embassy, which must have been a regular Noah’s Ark, never reached Europe. It got as far as the east coast of Madagascar, where it was wrecked, and all the passengers, humans and animals alike, went to the bottom of the sea.

While showering favors upon the French, King Narai was not badly disposed towards the English. The latter had not, however, the advantage of possessing a force of missionaries, and King Charles II was not a man to whom the prospect of ousting French influence in a far distant land was likely to appeal. It appears, however, that in 1678 King Narai offered to cede Patani to the East India Company, with the same privileges as they enjoyed at Fort St. George. Samuel Potts, one of the Company’s factors, actually went to Patani, but finding it in a state of rebellion, he went on to Singora.

With regard to these rebellions of Patani and Singora, it is difficult to trace very clearly what happened. Patani appears to have submitted to Siam in 1679, but Singora, which had been more or less in a state or rebellion for over twenty years, was reported by Potts, in January 1679, to be preparing for a siege. According to Dutch reports, Potts assisted the rebellious Governor of Singora to put up earthworks against the Siamese, which brought the East India Company into great disfavor. In March 1679 Singora was still holding out, but was probably subdued during that year. La Loubère states that the siege came to an end in a curious manner. A Frenchman, named Cyprien, tired of the dilatory methods of the Siamese General, crept into Singora by night, captured the Governor, brought him, singlehanded, into the Siamese camp.

Potts returned to Ayutia after the fall of Singora, and began to indulge in a series of quarrels with Richard Burnaby, who had been in charge of the British factory there since 1768. Burnaby was dismissed in 1681, and Potts and Thomas Ivatt became joint chiefs of the factory. Burnaby had let Phaulkon run up a big debt. Potts demanded payment, and commenced a most violent correspondence with Phaulkon, whom he called ungrateful and impudent, and whose replies he stigmatized as “nonsensical stuff.” Ivatt took Phaulkon’s side and was dismissed. He followed Burnaby into the Siamese Service. On the night of December 6th, 1682, the house and factory of the East India Company were utterly destroyed by fire. Potts accused Phaulkon of having caused the fire in order to destroy the evidence of his debt. Phaulkon alleged that Potts himself had burnt the factory down, so as to conceal the defalcations of which he had been guilty.

These disputes only served to make Phaulkon more and more pro-French. At about this time he was converted to the Roman faith, and from now on became more or less definitely a supporter of French interests.

In 1683 William Strangh and Thomas Yale were sent from England to investigate the Company’s affairs in Siam. They were well received by the new Pra Klang, Pya Sritammarat, the successor of Chao Pya Kosa Tibodi, who had died early in that year. Strangh and Yale did more harm than good. They collected none of the debts due, and failed to elicit the truth about the loss of the factory. Yale was more or less reasonable, but Strangh had the most violent quarrels with Phaulkon who had now become Chao Pya Wijayen, and left in a fury at the end of the same year. Strangh wrote Phaulkon a parting letter, in which he spoke of “your impolite weak understanding, jumbled by your sudden and surprising elevation to a sovereign Lordship or a heathenish Grace,” and accused him of firing the factory and of being at the bottom of all the Company’s troubles and losses at Ayutia. Not very diplomatic.

Phaulkon, whom Strangh saw fit to insult so grossly, was now one of the most powerful men in Siam. The new Pra Klang, to quote Phaulkon himself, was a “fool,” and the Greek was to all intents and purposes the Pra Klang. Whilst Strangh was irritating this dangerous enemy, King Narai was arranging to make fresh overtures to France. In January 1684 the second Siamese embassy set sail for Europe. This embassy was headed by two Siamese, and accompanied by a French priest. They landed first in England, at Margate, and it is said that a Treaty was concluded by them with Charles II, but no trace of it has been found. They then went to France, where they were well received. The members of this mission were, however, men of inferior rank, and their behavior did not make a good impression in Europe.

These Siamese ambassadors, who had doubtless been informed that Christians were monogamous, must have been rather puzzled by what they saw at the Courts of Charles II and Louis XIV.

Relations between Phaulkon and the East India Company did not improve. Not long after the departure of the second Siamese embassy to Europe, Phaulkon seized and imprisoned Peter Crouch and John Thomas, the Company’s factors, on their ship the Delight, for refusing to deliver to him a quantity of nails consigned to Japan. The East India Company had by this time decided that the trade of Siam caused more trouble than it was worth, and that Phaulkon was a “naughty man” and a “wicked fellow.” However, in 1685 the Council at Fort St. George sent a Commerical Mission to Ayutia to make a final attempt to set matters on a more satisfactory footing. This mission arrived at Ayutia in September 1685. The first sight that met their eyes was two French men-of-war, which had just arrived, conveying the first embassy of Louis XIV to Siam. The English mission was more or less ignored, and seems to have been entirely without results.

The French embassy was equipped on a most magnificent scale. At its head was the Chevalier de Chaumont, and he was accompanied by a numerous suite, in which the Jesuit element largely predominated. The principal task set by King Louis for the Chevalier de Chaumont was the conversion of King Narai to Christianity, and the Abbé Choisy, who accompanied him, was instructed to remain behind to baptize the King in the event of his conversion.

The French embassy obtained, by virtue of a convention signed on December 19th, 1685, very important religious and commercial concessions. The French East India Company gained complete liberty of commerce, with the exception of import and export duties, and with the important restriction that all goods had to be bought from the Royal warehouses. The manager of the Company was given extraterritorial jurisdiction over their servants. The Company further obtained a monopoly of the tin in the island of Puket, and Singora was ceded to them, with full power to fortify it.

In return, what did Siam gain? Nothing at all! There must, however, have been a tacit understanding that France was to assist, if necessary, against the Dutch, whose steadily increasing influence in the Peninsula was regarded by King Narai with some misgiving.

The Chevalier de Chaumont, however, failed in what was regarded as the main object of his mission, namely the conversion of the King. Poor King Narai must have had a very trying time of it, for not only was he being pestered by de Chaumont and the Jesuits to become a Catholic, but there was at the same time a Persian ambassador at his Court, who lost no opportunity of impressing upon His Majesty the virtues of the Koran.

In the end, de Chaumont asked for a definite reply, and the King is then supposed to have made a speech which has since become famous, in the course of which he said: “It is natural to believe that the True God takes as much pleasure in being worshipped in different ways as by being glorified by a vast number of creatures who praise Him after one fashion. We admire the beauty and variety of natural things. Are that beauty and that variety less to be admired in the supernatural sphere, or are they less worthy of God’s wisdom? However, as we know that God is the supreme Ruler of the world, and believe that nothing can be done against His will, I resign my person and my realm to His mercy and His Divine Providence, and I implore Him, in His eternal wisdom, so to dispose of them as shall seem best to Him.1

While the French embassy was being feted at Lopburi, relations between Siam and the East India Company were becoming less and less friendly. The King of Siam had a claim against the King of Golconda, and an Englishman in the Siamese service, Captain John Coates, was sent, in command of a Siamese ship called the Prosperous, to enforce a settlement. Coates seized several ships belonging to the King of Golconda, captured a fort, and committed other hostile acts. There was a factory of the East India Company at Madapollam, in Golconda territory, and the chief and governor of the factory were blamed by the King of Golconda for the action of Coates, an Englishman, though, as a matter of fact, they had done their best to hinder him.

The proceedings of Coates, and of another Englishman in the Siamese service, Alexander Leslie, were denounced by the East India Company as piratical, and the relations between the Company and the Government of Siam became extremely strained.

French influence, on the other hand, gained in strength every day. The Chevalier de Chaumont and his Mission left Siam on the 22nd of December, 1685, taking with them the members of King Narai’s third embassy to France. This embassy was headed by Pra Wisut Suntorn (Nai Pan), a younger brother of Choa Pya Kosa Tibodi, the deceased Pra Klang. Pra Wisut was an able and intelligent man. He and his colleagues created a very good impression on King Louis, the more so as they had come to ask, as a favor, for something which he was only too ready to grant, namely French troops to garrison some of the forts in Siam.

During the early part of 1686 the war between Siam and Golconda continued, and was the cause of so many incidents to which the East India Company took exception that finally they determined to make on Siam. They had been trying since 1684 to get the permission of James II to declare ware, but James was reluctant to sanction a course which might lead to trouble with France. On March 21t 1685 he wrote a personal letter to Phaulkon, in which he addressed him as “Our well-beloved friend,” and informed him that certain presents sent by him to the late King Charles II had been well received, thanked him for his kindness to English subjects, and assured him of “our friendship upon all occasions which may offer.” This letter was delivered in August 1686, by Captain Henry Udall, Commander of the English ship Herbert.

Captain Udall never left Siam. While he was at Ayutia, a serious rebellion was raised by the natives of Macassar, who had a large settlement in the capital. They were only subdued after several very severe engagements. During the final action Captain Coates was drowned in a marsh, and Captain Udall fell, fighting bravely. Four Frenchmen were also killed. Phaulkon, who was no coward, also took a personal part in this action, and would have lost his life had not a “strong black Cafer flung him into the river and swam with him to a boat.” In the end, the Macassars were subdued, but not till most of them were dead. Those who were captured were buried alive.

The East India Company had fully determined on war against Siam, or rather, one might almost say, against Phaulkon, the “naughty fellow” whom they blamed for all their misfortunes. Their principal aims were threefold: to capture and hold the port of Mergui; to capture as many Siamese ships as possible; to arrest and court-martial every Englishman in the Siamese service. A certain Captain Lake, who was sent to Ayutia, more or less as a spy, was foolish enough to boast of these warlike designs of the Company. He was consequently arrested on his ship, the Prudent Mary, by Count de Forbin, the French Commandant of the fort of Bangkok, and imprisoned at Lopburi, where he died in 1687.

Mergui was at the time governed by two Englishmen, Richard Burnaby, the former Chief of the Company’s factory at Ayutia, and Samuel White, brother of George White, Phaulkon’s early patron. Burnaby, who bore the title of Pra Marit, was Governor, and White was Shahbandar, or Port Officer. A personal letter from James II was obtained, ordering Burnaby and White to betray their trust by handing over Mergui to the Company’s men-of-war. James was never too proud to ask any of his subjects to do a dirty action.

On the 28th of April, 1687, the Company forwarded to the King of Siam a detailed claim of £65,000, for damaged suffered by British subjects as a result of the war between Siam and Golconda, and also for advances made to the Persian ambassador to Siam. The claim was accompanied by a very friendly letter to the King, coupled, however, with a threat to take any of His Majesty’s subjects and ships by way of reprisals, and to blockade the port of Mergui until full satisfaction was given.

The letter was not delivered until after the arrival at Mergui of two English frigates, the Curtana and the James. Captain Anthony Weltden, of the Curtana, landed, and a proclamation by King James II was read, ordering all Englishmen in the Siamese service to leave at once. The Englishmen at Mergui, numbering at least fifty, prepared to obey, and a truce for sixty days was proclaimed, to allow the letter to King Narai being sent to Ayutia. After the proclamation of the truce some preparations were, very naturally, made to defend the port. Weltden objected to this, and on July 9th he caused some piles, which had been driven into the river bed, to be taken out; and on the same day seized Captain White’s ship, the Resolution, which was sailing under the Siamese flag.

On the night of the 14th of July the Siamese Governor of Mergui, exasperated by the proceedings of Captain Weltden, and fearing that all Englishmen at Mergui were about to make common cause with their compatriots, suddenly opened fire on the James, and succeeded in sinking her. During the same night an attempt was made to massacre every Englishman in Mergui. Weltden, who was ashore, had a narrow escape, being left for dead. White got away, but Burnaby fell a victim, together with about fifty other Englishmen.

This incident, it must be admitted, was not very creditable either to the English or the Siamese.

Weltden retired, and not long after he had left, another English ship, the Pearl, arrived at Mergui, having on board William Hodges and John Hill, who had been appointed to administer Mergui after its expected capture. They found a French Governor and some French troops stationed at Mergui, and ere reluctantly forced by the French and Siamese to proceed to Lopburi. They were the first imprisoned, together with many other Englishmen, but were later released by the King, who does not seen to have been at all anxious for war, and hoped to use them as intermediaries for arranging a peace. They remained in Siam for almost two years.

On August 11th, 1687, King Narai issued a declaration of war against the East India Company. In it he accused White and Burnaby of treacherously assisting Weltden, and threw on Weltden the sole responsibility for the massacre at Mergui. His Majesty carefully explained that he did not consider himself to be at war with the English Government. Many Englishmen, unconnected with the East India Company, remained in Siam, and do not appear to have been badly treated.
The King was at that time preparing to receive the second embassy of Louis XIV, which arrived at Ayutia on September 27th, 1687. This embassy was far more imposing than that of de Chaumont. The envoys, de la Loubère and Céberet, were accompanied by three men-of-war and four other ships, conveying 600 French soldiers and 300 artificers commanded by Monsieur Des Farges, a General of France. The religious and commercial elements were also fully represented.

It is not clear whether King Narai expected so large a force, but his difficulties with the East India Company made him more disposed to welcome them than might otherwise have been the case. To us, at the present day, it seems like an act of madness on his part to admit so many foreign troops into his Kingdom. It was not, however, until after the world had beheld with amazement the exploits of Dupleix and Clive in India that it was understood with what comparative ease a clever and capable man, backed by a few well-disciplined European troops, could overcome an Oriental Kingdom.1 in 1687 the idea that France could do any serious harm to Siam with 600 men would probably have appeared grotesque to King Narai. A hundred years later the feat would have seemed far more possible.

The French envoys brought with them a French patent of nobility for Phaulkon. He became a Count and a Knight of the Order of St. Michael and St. Peter. Many valuable gifts were also sent to him by King Louis and Pope Innocent XI.

The French troops were not, wisely, all kept together. They were sent to man various forts, for instance Bangkok, and, as we have seen, Mergui.

On December 1st, 1687, a new Treaty was signed, grating even greater privileges to the French East India Company than that of 1685.

Céberet left Ayutia immediately after the Treaty was signed, and La Loubère in January 1688, taking with him the fourth Siamese Embassy to Europe.1 The French troops remained, and seem to have had a most wretched time. Many of the soldiers died of fever, and the survivors made themselves very unpopular by their insolence; in particular, they paid far more attention to the fair sex than was thought at all becoming.

A strong anti-foreign party had by this time sprung up and had gained general popular support. The King’s policy was distasteful both to the nobility and to the common people. The whole realm was filled with Europeans, the forts were garrisoned by foreign troops. The most powerful Minister was a Greek. To add to their troubles the country was at war with the East India Company, a war for which Phaulkon was supposed to be responsible.

Moreover, the religious prejudices of the people were aroused. Catholic priests were in high favor and held valuable privileges. The King was suspected of Christian tendencies. He had no son, but had adopted a young man named Mom Pi2 whom he hoped to make his successor. Mom Pi was a Catholic. Phaulkon did all he could to encourage the spread of Catholicism, and became daily more and more unpopular.

At the head of the anti-foreign party, if it can be so called, was Pra Petraja, a General who was in command of the elephants, and who had greatly distinguished himself in the Burmese war and won more laurels in a later expedition against Cambodia.1 Pra Petraja was a man of humble origins.2 He had, however, always been a favorite of King Narai. They had always been together, for Pra Petraja, like Pya Kosa, was one of the King’s foster-brothers.

Pra Petraja was a man of small stature, but he was known to be brave and energetic. He had a commanding presence, and was well fitted to take command of the popular party. He hated Phaulkon, and his son, Nai Dua, who had recently been appointed Luang Sorasak, a violent and aggressive young man, is said to have on one occasion assaulted the Greek and knocked out two of his teeth.

In March 1688 King Narai became seriously ill with dropsy. His symptoms were such as to render it unlikely that he would live for more than a few months. Immediately there began the usual intrigues as to the succession. The King had two brothers and a sister living. The elder of his brothers was called Chao Fa Apai Tot, and the younger is known to us by the nickname of Chao Fa Noi. Both of them were greatly out of favor. He had also a daughter , Princess Yota Tep. Phaulkon had some time before advised King Narai to proclaim his daughter as his heir, but the King had refused. The Greek now urged the King to appoint his adopted son, Mom Pi, as his successor. Pra Petraja supported, or professed to support, the claims of Prince Apai Tot.

The King was induced, at the request of all the leading officials, to appoint Pra Petraja to act as
Regent during his illness. Pra Petraja at once assumed control over the palace guards, and as he had the army at his back he was able to do exactly as he wished.

Mom Pi was first got out of the way. He was enticed out of the King’s apartments and ruthlessly murdered. This deed opened the eyes of the dying monarch to the treachery around him, but he was helpless; the reproaches with which he assailed Pra Petraja and Luang Sorasak were not likely to turn them from their purpose.

Phaulkon now sent to Bangkok begging Des Farges to bring up the French troops there to his assistance. Des Farges set out, but was told that the King was dead, and was persuaded to return to Bangkok.

Phaulkon was arrested on a charge of treason, and after being treated for several days with great cruelty, was executed on June 5th, 1688. He died bravely, protesting his innocent, and that his whole policy had been directed by three motives—the glory of God, the service of the King, and the interests of the State.

Thus ended the earthly career of one of the most remarkable of European adventurers in the East. In his short life of only forty years, Phaulkon rose, from the position of cabin boy on a small ship, to be a Chao Pya of Siam, a Count of France, addressed as friend by Kings and Popes, and entrusted with the destinies of a powerful Kingdom. True to his name, he soared high, and it must be admitted that he was a great man, and may have had noble aims. It was has never been proved that he intended to bring Siam under French dominion, though doubtless his policy was one which might, in time, have had such a result.

Phaulkon left a widow, a Japanese by birth, and a son. The widow, after many vicissitudes, became superintendent of the kitchen to King Tai Sra, and was still living in 1717. The son died young, leaving several children. It is on record that Phaulkon’s grandson, John Phaulkon, and one of his granddaughters, were among the prisoners taken by the Burmese on the capture of Ayutia in 1767. They returned to Siam, and were still living in 1771. It is more than possible that there may be descendents of Phaulkon living in Siam at the present day.

After the death of Phaulkon, Pra Petraja, in the name of the King, ordered Des Farges to bring up his troops to Lopburi. Des Farges refused, and an attack was consequently begun against the fort at Bangkok. At the same time a persecution of the native Christians was commenced.

Pra Petraja had himself no desire to usurp the throne. His sole object was to get rid of Phaulkon and compel the French to leave the Kingdom. His son, Luang Sorasak, however, was more ambitious. In order to force his father’s hand, he caused the King’s two brothers to be arrested, and had them both executed in the usual way, by sewing them up in a velvet sack and clubbing them to death. This step rendered it impossible for Pra Petraja to draw back.

Two days later, on July 11th, 1688, King Narai died, and Pra Petraja was at once proclaimed King.1

King Narai is more familiar to us than any other of the Kings of Ayutia. The following description of him is adapted from Father Tachard, who met and spoke with him several times: “The King is below the average height, but very straight and well set up. His demeanor is attractive, and his manners full of gentleness and kindness. He is lively and active,and an enemy to sloth. He is always either in the forest hunting elephants, or in his palace, attending to State affairs. He is not fond of war, but when forced to take up the sword, no Eastern monarch has a stronger passion for glory.”

King Narai was, without doubt, a remarkable man, and it is pitiable that such a man should have ended his days so miserably. The glamour with which his name has been surrounded by contemporary French writers must not, however, blind us to the fact that his foreign policy was a very unwise one, and must, had he lived longer, have brought his Kingdom into serious danger.
King Narai was not responsible for any great amount of legislation during his long reign. Most of the Laws attributed to him are mere Regulations as to procedure. The most interesting of his Laws is one of the Articles of Law known as the “Law of Thirty-six Clauses.” This article, dating from the year 1687, provides for the punishment of offences similar to Champerty and Maintenance. Any many who prosecuted or defended a case under the pretence that he was a relative of one of the parties rendered himself liable to very severe penalties.





The following videos will be useful in helping me to imagine scenes that take place in my novel. The first video, for example, shows Marina beach, where in the 17th century new arrivals from England to Fort Saint George (Madras) docked and, to reach shore, either waded through the surf or rode piggyback on the backs of coolies.

1. Marina Beach, Madras (Above).

2. Fort Saint George, (White Town), (above).

3. East India Company, (above).

4. Pearl Islands, Mergui Archipelago, (above).

5. Rafting on the Kok river, (above).

6. Bamboo rafting, (above).

7. Bamboo rafting, (above).


Above: The voyage of the Mayflower II, 1957.

Above two videos is to do with Louis XIV and Versailles.

Above: Ferdinand Megallan's voyage. Explains (at 5:45) what a whipstaff is.





Above: The Chevalier de Chaumont presenting a letter from King Louis XIV to King Narai on 18th October 1685. Chaumont commissioned this painting himself. It shows how he held the letter just out of reach of King Narai, forcing him to lean down to take it. Phaulkon is on the floor gesturing to Chaumont to raise it higher. (Drawn by Jean-Baptiste Nolin).

Above: Constantine Phaulkon.

Above: Wisut Sunthorn, Kosa Pan, first ambassador.

Above: Another picture of Wisut Sunthorn, Kosa Pan.
Above: Okluang Kanlaya Ratchamaitri, second ambassador.
Above: The three Siamese ambassadors during their stay in France (June 1686-February 1687.)
Above: Father Guy Tachard, a Jesuit priest.
Above: Abbe de Lionne, Bishop of Rosalie.
Above: Bishop Lambert de la Motte was the first Frenchman, so far as we know, to come to Ayudhya. He had already walked the whole way across India and was on his way to China.
Above: Mgr. Pallu, Bishop of Heliopolis (or Baalbec). He loved Siam and the Siamese and twice went back to Europe to recruit architects and craftsmen whom he brought to Ayudhya. (Ayutthaya Venice of the East, by Derick Gernier.)Above: Louis XIV.
French nobility in court dress, last third of the 17th century, (above).
French nobility in court dress, last third of the 17th century, (above).
Dutch middle-class dress, last third of the 17th century, (above).
French cavaliers, last third of the 17th century, (above).
French officer and musketeer of the guard, last third of the 17th century, (above).
French Officer of the palace guard and infantry officer, last third of the 17th century, (above).
French Peasants and mounted gendarme, last third of the 17th century, (above).
French Nobleman and officer, last third of the 17 century, (above).
Above: The double-armed man, 1625-88.
The Restoration to the Glorious Revolution, 1660-88.