Notes from 1688 Revolution in Siam by E. W. Hutchinson.
1647 Phaulkon born at Argostolion in Kephalonia.
1660-79* Phaulkon’s service in British merchantmen; broke ship in India to join George White.
1678* After service at Bantem under Burnaby in the East India Company arrived in Siam in September with Burnaby.
1678-79* In partnership with Burnaby, trades goods for partners.
1679 Shipwreck which leads to Phaulkon’s introduction into the service of the Barcalon (Kosa Lek), probably before the end of that year.
1680 Successful trade mission to Persia in which both Barcalon and King have a stake.
1680* Despatch of Phra Pipat’s Embassy to France.
1682* Third visit of Mgr. Pallu to Siam; Phaulkon interprets at audience in place of Bishop.
1682* Marriage of Phaulkon and his reconciliation with the Church.
1683* Death of Barcalon Lek opens the way for Phaulkon’s rise to supreme power behind the Throne.
PART I OF THE MEMOIR.
Constance : His history and how he found his fortune.
From 1683 onwards until 1687 no further peaks remain for Phaulkon to scale—all his ingenuity now needed to maintain himself… P. de Bèze makes no secret of his liking for the ‘Climber’ despite his shortcomings.
PP. Leblanc and de Bèze were thrown together on the outward voyage and during their thirteen months residence in Siam until they parted at Pondicheri in February 1689.
P. de La Chaise asked P. de Bèze for more information concerning the catastrophe in Siam.
In Section 24 of the Memoir, P. de Bèze describes the Secret Concave (to arrest Petracha) in March 1688 between Phaulkon and General Defarges at which the author consented to assist only on the stipulation that P. Leblanc be present as well. In Leblanc’s book the incident is confirmed, but his name and that of P. de Bèze are withheld and appear instead as ‘two Jesuits.’
PP. Leblanc and de Bèze were in the prime of their manhood in 1687 when they joined the ten other Jesuits of Tachard’s party of twelve for Siam… Claude de Bèze thus enjoyed a seniority in service, amounting to nine years, over his colleague…explains the leadership he exercised on two occasions…Phaulkon on meeting General Desfarges, asks de Bèze to sound the General’s reaction to his plan that the General should arrest Petracha; de Bèze demurs at first but yields when Leblanc agrees and is allowed to accompany him… .
This sakdina provided a basis upon which legal punishments were computed, the different factors being age, sex, rank, and class of the accused.
P. de Bèze shows little appreciation for either wat or their occupants, traveled by boat up and down the rivers and canals and seldom if ever, passed the night in a wat. A monastic way of life undreamed of in Europe.
Phra Narai made it his chosen place of residence during the dry season and built a dam on a small tributary of the main river in order to create an artificial lake (Chupsorn), giving the surrounding country a moister atmosphere… in the town (Louvo) is a small chapel occupied by the Jesuits in 1688 until they moved to Ayutthaya when it became a Buddhist monastery to accommodate the courtiers who assumed the Yellow Robe at Phra Narai’s bidding in order to escape execution by the usurper.
Constance learned to handle and sail a ship; ashore, he acquired such intimacy with native affairs that… he signed on as a sailor in a vessel bound for Bantem… at Bantem he entered the service of the English East India Company… in a subordinate post in their Factory… .
In the confusion which followed, Constance alone kept his head and was aware that flight was of no avail… in this manner he saved the magazine and the whole factory from destruction… presented with one thousand crowns… Constance resigned his post and set out to trade on his own account in Siam.
Constance had introductions to White and Burnaby, the chiefs of the English Company in Ayutthaya… .
Thus the Moors were used to acquire goods in Siam from the King at their own valuation and dispose of them in Persia at a huge profit. That year (1680) in particular they caused the Barcalon much trouble and he, being unable to resolve it, bethought him of Constance. Asked him to conduct the Mission of the King’s Envoys to Persia himself.
Constance, by means of his talent and address, won the King’s heart at their first meeting. No one who knew Constance will wonder at this, for he possessed every quality required for such a conquest, being of a lively temperament with the most diverse talents… .
Flogging is a common form of punishment in Siam, but is only administered to persons of high degree for the most serious offenses. The offender, stripped to the waist, is suspended by both hands above his head while his bare back is thrashed—the implement being a rattan, tightly bound with string. The number of strokes administered depends upon the gravity of the offense, but sufficient cuts are usually given to strip the skin from the offender’s back completely…14
The influence he possessed already without the Office was all he wanted and the Office was bestowed, at his suggestion, upon Oya Vangh. This man, whom Constance believed to be one of his friends, intrigued to bring about the downfall of the King’s favorite minister…17
…a shocking indictment against Constance in the form of a memorandum and submitted to the King on behalf of the people in the provinces…the Barcalon was dismissed and his second was beheaded…17
A strict enquiry established the truth and Luang Sorasak’s arrogance was punished by a flogging and the loss of the King’s favor. His father had no defense he could urge on behalf of his son and made as though he disowned him…18-9
…Constance moved a force of Siamese into Cambodia which put the rebels to flight…19-20
One beast (buffalo) butted at Constance as it passed, making to impale him, but he dodged it and was quit of it with a torn tunic. The King’s anxiety over Constance was not easily allayed and was expressed to his face in the most flattering terms…21
For some time past Constance had been under the impression made upon him by a young lady of Japanese extraction by reason of her moral excellence even more than by her personal appearance. Marie Guimard was her name and he had set his heart upon making her his wife... 22-3
Thereafter for purposes of business they moved to Siam. In that country they gave one of their sons in marriage to a worthy Japanese lady named Ursula Yamada. The first fruits of that marriage was the maiden whom Constance was courting…24
Mestre Phanik, Marie’s guardian, was a man of inflexible loyalty towards his religion which he held of more account than all the riches upon earth… 25
Constance’s passion for Miss Guimar was God’s instrument for his rescue from this deplorable plight (lapsed Catholic)… 25
Constance’s conversion removed the final impediment to his marriage…26
…she inspired the noble conception of Christianity which led later to his efforts to implant it in the Indies, thereby exposing him to the peril which finally engulfed him…27
Before marriage Constance renounced the girl, but she soon contrived to worm her way back into his affection by flattery and by other wiles which the Princess taught her… he was not able to keep his secret hidden from his wife for long and she learned as well that he had a baby daughter by the girl…27
Such men are not ashamed to follow native example and make it a point of honor to set up a harem, filling it with their comeliest slave girls…27
His good wife, a mere girl of sixteen years, set no store by the diversions eagerly sought by others of like years and station: her whole day was engrossed by service, part for God, the remainder for her husband—to assure his comfort. Her outings were for daily visits to the church; indoors, her usual pastime was embroidery of alter cloths with her girls; but…28
No less than her husband, Constance, his wife was filed with ardor to convert the heathen—they both contributed to this end by lavishing care and protection upon the Missionaries… 28
…the most urgent service of all…imparting the true Faith to His Majesty, leading the way to salvation: conscious of his many obligations and of the affection which he owed his Master in return, Constance grieved to find him victim, for all his talents, of a vain illusion which must needs jeopardize the future welfare of his soul…29
Loyal such as his (to religion) could not be undermined readily, for it was reinforced by pride of lineage, by the glamour in which the talapoins had invested it, and by the authority of the best brains in the country…29
The obligation to the talapoins on the part of the King formed the obstacle to his conversion…32
But his vanity was flattered by the respect which Constance displayed for his judgment and he was loath to forego such esteem by sustaining tenets which he now recognized were preposterous…32
Constance proved to His Majesty the existence of a Creator of Heaven and Earth…but to persuade him of the truth and necessity of the Christian Revelation… 33
Constance made up for this (Bishop’s lack of Siamese) in the frequent religious discussions he had with the King himself and had every hope that the interest evinced by His Majesty in the matter would soon lead him to adopt the religion in which he took such pleasure…33
To that end Constance needs must provide his Master with massive supportn against any moves by the opposition; knowing how the talapoins were smarting under the shame caused by their defeat in many discussions on dogma with the King, Constance was aware that they would strive to stir up the whole country in revolt if they saw the King renounce their religion and embrace Christianity…33-4
Constance urges Narai to form alliance with the French.
The combined weight of these reflections left Constance no choice but to move the King to look for support in an alliance with some potent prince in Europe; nor was there one whose friendship could be more profitable than that of the most Christian King—a name…34
...Constance proceeded to broach the subject of alliance to his Master…34
He arranged for two Envoys to be appointed by the King for France; they carried instructions to negotiate for an alliance…35
…the embarrassment felt by Constance when Ambassador insisted that the object for which he had been commissioned was to obtain the conversion of the King; that the King of France ardently desired it and, in order to obtain it, had empowered him to make off of the Alliance and Protection of France… 35
Chaumont however had knowledge of King Louis’ zeal and freedom from self-interest and was sure that no ulterior object for the benefit of French commerce lurked behind the invitation to King Narai that he adopt Christianity; he thus felt unable to depart from the text of his instructions, but left Constance free to explain them to his Master under whatever guise he thought most likely to produce the hoped-for effect and avoid the ill effects anticipated by Constance…36
In Constance’s eyes the principal advantage possessed by Singora was that the Siamese would gladly abandon the place to the French, having only retained control of it in the past with much trouble. There was no other way of reaching it than by the sea on which the Siamese, landsmen as they are, do not excel…37
This Constance did, being convinced that it was the best the French could have. The Gentlemen at the Seminary thought otherwise: their view was that a base so distant from the Capital would not afford sufficient protection either to themselves or to their Christians in the event of a sudden uprising…37
…the presence of the French in Bangkok would excite hostility among inhabitants and foreigners alike—for all who saw ‘The Key to Siam’ entrusted to French hands would without doubt become jealous and would unite to prevent it, and their opposition might be expected to stop short of nothing…36-7
Once a political issue has been raised and opposing views expressed, these views are not lightly surrendered—all the more if the issue is of a religious nature in which the Glory of God is at stake: those who first themselves against a base at Singora could not refrain from charging Chaumont with subservience to Constance’s leading—a man who studied the interest of the King of Siam to the detriment of the French, deceiving them with fine promises.
Constance foresaw that these men would not rest content with the censures they had uttered in Siam but, before long, would make them known to his detriment in Court circles in France. He determined therefore to promote the return of P. Tachard to France who would justify his actions and make clear that his one intention was to further the policy of a firm Alliance between the two Kingdoms in the interest both of religious welfare and of commercial advantages…38
The general belief was that the interest of France lay in occupying Bangkok and Mergen, flatly rejecting Singora with all the arguments profered in its favor by the King’s Minister…38
The good zealots there believed that no target now was too high for our aim; they would have us sight our demands upon the highest advantages possible to attract Siamese and make easy the way for them to embrace our Religion, and accordingly presented Constance with a long list for which he judged that an immediate request would be most untimely—as for instance, that a Christian be exempt from the normal legal status, no matter what his social position might be, etc…39
Constance doesn’t want to alarm the talapoins and the public regarding Narai’s conversion
…if he (Constance) were to publicize them, would unite talapoins and people and suffice to cause an uprising. Rather than give occasion for untimely a disturbance, Constance judged that by going softly, with no outward show of favor for Christians or Missionaries, he would best serve their interests, marking time until the French should be settled in and able by their presence to uphold the public issue of Privileges…39
…the senior Ambassador was Mun Pan, brother of the Barcalon above-mentioned. Constance obtained the post for him with intent to restore him to favor with the King…talents and sagacity…40
Having rendered notable service to the King upon several occasions, the Portuguese received from him in return a large piece of land adjacent to the city to enable them to settle thereon and live under their own laws…40
At the entrance to the Camp—as they call it—the Portuguese erected a Cross upon which is engraved the terms of the concession, as a permanent memorial of the rights acquired by the King of Portugal…40
In their (Portuguese priests) dilemma they made representations to the Apostolic Vicars that they could not, on their own initiative, repudiate an Authority which in the past they had always regarded as legally established by order of the Sovereign Pontiff, nor could they set themselves up to judge between the Vicars and the King of Portugal who was patron of every See in the East Indies, as established by Papal Bulls…41
In fact an Ambassador from the King of Portugal did come (1683) to enlist the King of Siam’s protection for the Portuguese Priests and Religious against the so-called tyranny of the French Bishops. Constance arranged for his reception with all the honors befitting the representative of a ruler whose name still carries weight in the Indies, largely owing to his zeal for the advancement of the Faith…43
The King was far from edified by the disclosure of the disputes which for so long a time had been the cause of division among Christians in the Indies; the bitterness with which both sides supported their plaints shocked him. Moved by a desire to afford equal satisfaction to both parties, he assured the Ambassador that he would always protect the Portuguese and shield them from any unjust interference in the performance of their religion and would order the Apostolic Vicars of Siam to take no measures against the Portuguese Priests and their Religious without first obtaining his consent…44
…so long as Constance retained any hold upon the King they (Portuguese Priests) continued to court his favor; but so soon as they knew he was under arrest and powerless to harm them they discharged all their pent-up resentment upon him; then, when busily framing a protest to Petracha against the tyranny Constance had authorized the Vicars to exercise against them, this was the worst that they could find to bring against him…45
His (Constance) mind was quick to fathom any proposition laid before him and to decide instantly upon the course he would pursue. Since material power at his disposal was on a par with his mental power of penetration and rapid decision, seeing at a glance how far he could go without detriment to his Master’s interest, he would go the full length straightaway. Since the King relied upon Constance completely in transacting all business of State, Constance could have wished that those dealing with him in that business had shown some little confidence in him or evidence of their belief that he would concede as much as was consonant with the respect and loyalty due to his Master. But the Ambassadors from Europe who came to Siam had been bred and were read in a school of fine-spun diplomacy; they were convinced they had to deal with a sharp and artful bargainer who would yield ground to their pressure only inch by inch. It provoked them to waste their time to no purpose with a man who took his stand straightaway and thereafter hardly moved from it. Constance, by so doing, appeared to them to be a vain man who made a show of his power, and they had no patience with it. Instances are known where they were disgruntled when they obtained more from him… 46
Apart from this, Europeans are filled with pride in their own country and with contempt for the people in the Indies, which indeed are not on the same plane with those of their homeland. These men considered themselves within their rights in adopting an air of superiority towards a Minister of the King of Siam. Here however the Minister was Constance, a man conscious of the power he possessed, and filled with all the pride of a European to boot; he reused to tolerate those haughty airs; they merely caused him to lay greater stress upon the honor of his Master and of that Master’s Minister, the more he fancied their honor belittled…46
Massacre of Englishmen at Mergen
The Englishmen’s mortars (Mergen) brought down several conspirators and forced the remainder to disperse. The main body would never have come near the house, had not the gunfire set alight the timber thereof; the gunpowder stored within exploded and rendered the house incapable of defense. The Englishmen then resolved to seek safety aboard ship…48
For his part the King had no intention of leaving unpunished such barbarity as had occurred, yet was loath to risk a revolt which could not easily be put down on account of the vast extent of forest land, without inhabitants, which lies between Mergen and the remainder of the Kingdom. He resolved therefore to have recourse to dexterous hands in securing the persons wanted. To this end he picked out one of the most astute among his courtiers , and dispatched him to Mergen unaccompanied by any following, while men well-armed were infiltrated into the province by different routes…49
This courtier carried instructions that, upon arrival in Mergen, he was to make it known that the King fully approved the treatment meted out to the Englishmen in Mergen and had commissioned him to identify and reward all who had acquitted themselves as loyal subjects by inflicting punishment upon the English for their open defiance of His Majesty…50
Monsieur de Beauregard was dispatched to Mergen as Governor with full powers to treat with the English if they showed willingness, for Constance always sought to be on good terms with them. This new Governor, a young officer left behind by Ambassador Chaumont to serve the King of Siam, had already given proof of his mettle while still in Bangkok…50
During her voyage she sighted and gave chase to a vessel which was sailing under the ensign of the King of Siam, whose master had served under La Haye in the Indies before he took service with the King of Siam; he put up so stout a defense that the Englishman was all but putout of action. Two English officials aboard, Hill and Hodges, authorized the lowerin of the ship’s colors and dispatched an officer to the other vessel with an apology for confusing the flag of the King of Siam at its masthead for that of a Moorish ruler with whom they were at war…51
Constance had a safe conduct dispatched to bring the two Englishmen up to Louvo and, upon their arrival, treated them with respect due to authorized Envoys… Mr. Hodges remained behind in Louvo and was still there when Petracha’s rising took place (May 1688)…51
The Prince Chao Fa Apai Tot
Two of the King’s brothers, both much younger than himself, were entitled in law to succeed the King. The eldest of the two was deformed in body, bandy-legged and very halting in gait; he was subject to passionate outburst of temper and much addicted to strong drink. Undeterred by these defects in his brother, the King had suffered him, when young, to be brought up in his presence. The Prince, inhis youth, had often presumed upon the favor he enjoyed…52-3
Chao Fa Noi, the Younger Prince
The King’s increasing dislike for the senior prince was matched by an increase of affection for the younger brother. The engaging ways of this young prince endeared him to the people and all alike looked forward with satisfaction to seeing him one day upon the Throne. The young prince in fact possessed every claim to the people’s affection—he was comely to look upon, was easy of approach and his manners were charming, to the delight of the court and commoners…53-4
Petracha had been awarded one of the principal seats in the Council thanks to the influence at Court of his sister, but he never once challenged the evidence against her nor pleaded mercy for her, far otherwise…55
…condemned her to death by the customary forms of execution, to be devoured by the tiger. The prince was also condemned to death, but of a different kind—that inflicted upon princes of the Blood Royal—who are crushed between two boards of sandalwood to the end that no drop of the precious royal blood be spilled upon the ground…56
Having observed how ardently Petracha had supported the death sentence ‘for contempt shown to the Throne’—as he styled the offence—His Majesty charged him to carry out the sentence in person, assisted by Phra Pi…56
Be that as it may be, the King was minded to sever this attachment for the young prince and divert it elsewhere by wedding his daughter with Phra Pi whom he had adopted and marked down as his successor…57
Phra Pi and Petracha
Such care was taken of Phra Pi and he made such good use of this favor and of the attention devoted to his upbringing that he lost all trace of his lowly origin and took on the looks and manners of a youth, well-born and well-bred and became the complete courtier. He was not conspicuous for sharpness of wit or brilliance, but made up for them by his good-natured air, his winning and easy manners—in particular, by his readiness to flatter the King—and by his diligence in learning the way to all he hoped to attain…57
Maybe the reason was—as commonly believed—that her heart was already given to her uncle, the young prince, both of her own free will and by marriage; for a persistent rumor had it that their union, His Majesty’s previous design, had now been consummated despite the King’s opposition and the prince’s disloyalty in becoming entangled elsewhere…58
Nor would she budge when the King would have her come to Louvo to receive the gifts sent out from France by Madame la Dauphine (The Duchess of Burgundy) in her honor. This display of independence, but for the deep affection which His Majesty still felt for her, would have driven him to break with her entirely…58
…he (Petracha) circulated a rumor that the princes had been privy to the intentions of the Macassars, which were that by revolting they aimed to depose the King and raise one of the princes to the throne in company with the princess. The king was only too ready to give ear to any suggestion of loyalty on the part of his half-brothers and had no difficulty in believing this rumor to be true…58
Petracha looked for twofold gain to accrue out of this treachery, for he had Phra Pi carry out the sentence single-handed. This young favorite had been following his advice blindly in paying court to the king, flattered by the vision of rising to the throne upon the shoulder of Petracha’s influence; he fancied he had no better friend on earth than this man whose interest in him was but to undo a rival—a dangerous rival, in that the king had come to depend so much upon Phra Pi’s services, dangerous also by reason of the large following of slaves and others dependent upon Phra Pi.
Phra Pi had already incurred the dislike of not a few courtiers whose daughters he had abducted…59
One day the king unbosom himself to Constance from who I had this account. The king added that he could not bring himself to do nothing for Phra Pi, his adopted son, and leave him to the mercy of the princes: he had resolved therefore to set him up as governor of Porcelouk…and make over to him all the elephants captured in warfare during that reign…59-60
At the decease of the queen, half-sister and wife of the king…all who paid court to the king wore the yellow robe—the color of a talapoin’s robe…60
…excusing himself upon these grounds when, later on, the king pressed upon him the office of Barcalon. In point of fact Petracha knew that the office would bring him naught save the title which Constance, albeit charged with all responsibility that it denotes, was too shy to accept; for the king had entrusted the entire business of State to him and Constance was performing the duties of Barcalon…61-2
I was with the king and Constance when Petracha again unbosomed himself of this yarn in their hearing at a date only fifteen days before he let loose his rebellion…62
Such in short was the position at the court in Louvo at the time of our arrival there. Out of all the royal family the king had at his side one sister alone who had retained his affection: Phra Pi and Constance shared his favor, but with this difference that Constance enjoyed control of all affairs of state, the king holding that they were beyond the grasp of the other; Petracha he considered wholly disinterested and neutral, attached to none save the person of the king; on this account his standing at court was passably high…62
PART II OF THE MEMOIR
Arrival of the French Squadron and Signing of the Franco-Siamese Treaty
The squadron which conveyed troops from the king of France for the king of Siam under command of Mr. Desfarges arrived at the estuary of the Menam River in October 1687. The flagship Oiseau arrived September 27, the other four ships before October 5.
Messrs. de la Loubère and Cébéret, Envoys Extraordinary, charged with negotiating a treaty between the two kingdoms, apprised P. Tachard of the orders they carried from the French court which were: (1) to dispatch P. Tachard ahead to Constance and acquaint him with the terms upon which the king of France would accept the alliance offered by the king of Siam; also, (2) to suffer no one from the ships to set foot on shore until the King’s Minister had obtained from the king the satisfaction they asked, namely, Bangkok and Mergen.
The precaution was due to an apprehension that the Ambassador (Kosa Pan) was opposed to the French terms and might be expected to thwart any such concession if he should find himself at liberty to go ashore before it had been granted to the French. The facts were that the Ambassador had never liked to make this promise during his visit to France and, being aware of the importance of Bangkok, also of the uneasiness which sight of that stronghold in French hands would occasion among the Siamese, he had held out against all pressure brought to bear upon him to promise it. Monsieur de Lionne however was a strong partisan of the project; he disclosed to the Ambassador (Pan) a passage in Constance’s Secret Memorandum on certain confidential matters for Monsieur Chaumont in which Constance gauged the measure o the King’s reliance in His Most Christian Majesty by the king’s own willingness to entrust all his strongholds to the custody of that sovereign. Monsieur de Lionne remarked that, if Constance could make offer of every stronghold in the kingdom on his Master’s behalf, the Ambassador could safely make offer of at least two, namely Bangkok and Mergen, seeing that nothing short of this could satisfy the French and crown his mission with success.
The Ambassador (Pan) did not go so far as to give a positive promise to this effect, but did admit in private of Monsieur de Seignely that, seeing the king’s friendship for His Most Christian Majesty, he thought his sovereign might be willing to confer custody of these strongholds upon the king of France.
After examining Louis’ order which the Envoys showed to him, P. Tachard had no option but to seek out Constance, discuss the business with him and persuade him to obtain the concession required by the French court if worse evils were not to befall—as befall they would—if the French terms were not met in full…64
He (Constance) had therefore set himself to create a sate of mind in the king which disposed him to assign both Bangkok and Mergen to the French; he did so by harping periodically upon the menace to Bangkok of hostile action by the Dutch, and to Mergen by the English. His preference all along was first for a base at Singora, which would be a shield for both places for which they were clamoring and wait until they should have at their disposal sufficient force to garrison both…64
Constance reckoned that, for his Master, the alliance was worth having at any price. He did however take the precaution to ensure the safety of his Master’s person, his first condition for the treaty being that sixty of the newly arrived soldiers be allotted to form a bodyguard for the king…65
…Constance also asked that Siamese troops should remain in the strongholds, but reduced in number to four corps, officered by Frenchmen and, like the French troops, answerable to the governor of the fortress to whom they would constitute a useful reinforcement pending the arrival of more French soldiery…65
Constance left the Envoys to draw up the remainder of the treaty with Mr. Desfarges. The bodyguard for the king was granted readily; Mr. Desfarges raised some objections to the inclusion of Siamese soldiery in the strongholds, but was overruled by Mr. de la Loubèr who at the time saw no harm in it and caused the other to give way. The Protocol was then drawn up and signed by the Envoys. The main provisions:
(1) the King of Siam would give to the French the custody of Bangkok and Mergen;…
(2) the appointment of the governor and officers…
(3) French discipline was to be applied to all troops…
(4) The governor would be subject to orders from the king of Siam, if transmitted by his Minister, Constance, and in conformity with the terms of the treaty.
(5) His Siamese Majesty, in case of need, could withdraw up to one half of the garrison to serve elsewhere, provided that the remainder sufficed to ensure the safety of the fortress…
(6) His Siamese Majesty was also to have sixty of the soldiers from France to serve as bodyguard and be ever in the vicinity of his person…
After the treaty had been signed the Envoys put the troops ashore; the whole force was sent up to Bangkok pending an opportunity to detach the party reserved for Mergen…65
The instructions given to the Envoys in France sanctioned the appointment of French cadets to take command of Siamese units and, before leaving Bangkok, Constance had selected several young fellows for the purpose with the approval of General Desfarges. In so doing he passed over a certain young gentleman who la Loubère had recommended to Tachard for the post…
La Loubère had been put on his guard against Constance whom he fancied was paying scant regard to his own exalted status: he complained bitterly that Tachard and Constance were conducting business behind the backs of himself and Monsieur Cébéret by nominating officers for appointment without first consulting them.
This was followed by a sharp interchange of letters. Earlier grievances became inflamed when La Loubère refused to implement his promise of sixty men to form a bodyguard for the king, although this Envoy had set his name to it in the Protocol. The Envoys had fallen out with Constance even before their first audience with the king.
Finally, when they were denied their claim to appear in the king’s presence with covered head, it was against Constance they discharged the full blast of their ill-humor, for it was he—they were convinced—who had caused refusal of this honor…67
One dispute followed another over every clause of the treaty and, but for two facts, I am convinced that an open breach would not have been avoided—Constance’s manifest attachment to France and the fact that neither Mr. Desfarges, Mr. du Bruant, nor the other officers approved the attitude adopted by the Envoys… Phaulkon’s zealous service in securing the two chief strongholds in Siam for French arms and for investing 100,000 écus in the Compagnie des Indes Orientales as a token of the bond which united him to France…67
Forebodings and Dissensions
Forbodings: Petracha profits by dissensions among French. Constance affected by death of his son John…67
Petracha was not slow to turn these dissensions to account. The number of French troops put ashore had taken him by surprise; this threatened at first to upset his plans, for he was not expecting to see so large a force… In a speech of ninety minutes duration he enlarged upon the fate of each Eastern prince in turn…who had admitted European troops into his land… “Behead me; my life is forfeit by reason of my defiance: but never will I give my consent to a policy so fatal to the interest of Your Majesty.” …68
The king took this outburst as a spontaneous expression of loyalty and excused it…68
But there were men who believed—or rather, there were those who would have it believed—that the precautions he called for were the outcome of Constance’s lukewarm devotion for France and his disinclination to do all that was within his power to further French interests…68
His (Petracha) tool for this purpose was an astrologer of the king’s court, a Brahmin who prided himself upon his knowledge of the stars as a means of predicting the future and who had credit with the people…68
The French on the threshold of the kingdom will be welcomed…will be expelled from the land with much loss of life… .
This prediction came to our ears before we ever set foot ashore and we laughed it to scorn, not knowing its origin… His (Petracha) medium was a Siamese on the staff provided for the Envoys, a man whom we knew as le major (quartermaster of the garrison) on account of the medical attention which he rendered to all his fellow-countrymen in the Envoy’s suite… He it was who kept Petracha in touch with all that went on there; him Petracha suborned to frame an accusation against Constance on the part of Mr. de la Loubère, too decent a man, I am certain, to have any hand in it or to stoop so low…69
…but Constance found little therein to console him for the loss of this son; it’s true, he bore it as a Christian should, but I was amazed to find a man so strong-minded so little master of his distress…70
…rumors were now being circulated, warning the people that the kingdom would pass through a radical transformation in March or April (1688) at the time of the transit of Jupiter—an invariable harbinger of trouble in Siam…70
On his (Constance) passage through Bangkok he had observed that an unfortunate impression appeared to have been created in the minds of certain senior French officers, for they did not show any great inclination to follow his orders. This did not apply to Mr. Desfarges, but Constance feared the effect of their influence upon him; he was actually refusing to supply the bodyguard for the king, as stipulated in the treaty…70
I did my best at the time to lift the weight of these anxieties off Constance’s mind by assuring him that, before I left France, I had always heard say it was assumed at court that the French in Siam would follow his orders and be guided by his judgment throughout; that Mr. Desfarges and Mr. du Bruant showed themselves most willing to do so and, if Mr. Desfarges was refusing him the sixty men…lack of men to garrison the two posts of vital import committed to his charge…71
For this reason, lest his loyalty to France be called in question, he was constrained to agree to the dispatch of Mr. du Bruant to Mergen at a moment when his presence at Louvo would have been invaluable. Mr. du Bruant there left for Mergen at the end of the month (January)…71
As the king insisted upon the bodyguard promised in the treaty, Constance obtained form Mr. Desfarges a promise to select twenty-five young cadets as the nucleus for a mounted company under the command of his son, on a salary of two thousand crowns; but a loophole was found in the agreement; Mr. Desfarges submitted that the cadets were no horsemen and first must be trained to ride a horse before appearing in the presence of the king; he asked for horses to be sent to Bangkok and, on the pretext that the youths had not yet qualified, he continued to keep them from going…71
The King’s illness leads to more rumors and unrest. Petracha active. Constance obtains entrée to Palace at Louvo for P. de Bèze.
During the past four or five years the king’s health had deteriorated owing to an asthmatic cough which became worse than usual during February. He had heard speak of the Oracle’s prediction and suspected that it had reference to his life, fearing that his own death might be the misfortune which the Oracle had foretold would follow upon the transit of the Planet Jupiter…72
…he endeavored to make the king see the fallacy it contained and resolved to make a more determined attempt than ever to convert him. This led Constance to introduce to the king one of the Jesuit Fathers (sent out by the king of France) who was to converse with His Majesty upon matters of religion with him. Bishop Laneau (Mr. de Metellopolis) would have been bettered equipped for the task, being better acquainted with the language, but he did not want to come up to Louvo, having taken up residence only one league distant from Bangkok at a house he had there…72
A rumor was current that the king was about to become a Christian and raze every wat to the ground; the talapoins were much exercised in mind thereat and, not to excite their susceptibilities yet more, Constance found a pretext in the king’s illness to introduce me to the royal presence as a physician on the strength of my knowledge of simples. His Majesty was most gracious and said he would like to meet me daily; he asked me to accept a suite of rooms at the palace and take my meals daily at a table he would have set for me…72-3
Petracha was then charged to furnish me with a full report regarding the course taken by the king’s illness during the previous four or five years. The object of this was to convince him since his loyalty was already somewhat suspect that the sole matter which brought me to the palace was the king’s health and thus to deprive him of any new excuse for meddling in public affairs…73
To do this he (Petracha) had need of a following with armed force at his disposal, neither of which could be enlisted unobserved by Constance. Phra Pi had a powerful following; that of the to Princes was even more important, for they were popular with the greater part of the nation who regarded them as the heirs to the throne, also they lived in the Capital whose citizens without exception were loyal and ready to proclaim them successors to the king the moment he expired…73
Petracha’s Grand Designs.
Petracha planned to surmount these several obstacles in this wise; first, he would hoodwink Constance under pretext of confiding in him; next, he would, by a ruse, win over the whole of Phra Pi’s following for his own service; lastly, he would entice the princes from the capital to visit Louvo where he could lay hands on them and dispose of them as the prelude to his own accession to the throne. This is how he set to work…73-4
Petracha had been always studiously correct in his bearing towards Constance and would make it his practice to impart to him secrets concocted by himself…74
He (Petracha) added that it behoved all three to join forces in order to frustrate the threat to their persons, for they possessed the means both to resist successfully and to settle the Succession as well…74
His (Phaulkon) sole rejoinder was that no levy nor movement of troops could be made with his consent in any part of the Kingdom unless it had the king’s sanction…75
Nothing could be more painful to the feelings of a Siamese than the thought of such dishonor. Ambition for a splendid cremation after death induces these people to live sparingly all their days with the intent to leave the wherewithal to pay for this funerary honor…75
His adoption of this canard about defiling the king’s remains enabled Petracha to keep alive and excite the king’s prejudice against his brothers, the two prices, which at the same time he was scheming to convince the same to princes of his eagerness to serve them and thereby incite them to repose their trust in him…75
Petracha now turned the affection of the Princess for those two brothers into profit for himself by gaining her adhesion to his following; this gave him power to dispose of her brother’s lives, which were thus placed in his hands…75
Even on his way there a talapoin is an object of veneration for any girl, princess, or concubine he may encounter in the corridors. Any such female will go down on her knees, holding one end of he scarf she may be wearing in its place upon one shulder while she spreads the rest of the scarf upon the floor, so that the talapoin who walks thereon may impart his blessing. …intimacy which Petracha had fostered with the Sancras of Louvo whose visits to the Princess were always welcome; it was he whom Petracha chose to be his mouthpiece and to address the princess in this wise:…76
With armed support from the French at his disposal, Okya Vichaiyen is resolved to stake his all upon raising up Phra Pi to the throne… .
The Princess had no cause to doubt the good faith of Petracha and her confidence in him was increased by assurances from another Sancras whom she trusted implicitly…76
Petracha’s approach to the princess was made know to Constance by Okmun Sri Munchay, captain of the royal pages who, through Constance’s influence, had been appointed First Gentleman of the Bedchamber. His aunt was a minor wife of the king and much attached to the princess…77
He (Constance) judged it inopportune however to disclose the whole design to the king at once…77
Constance’s first aim was to have Petracha arrested and handed over to the king with the indictment against him established; but no Siamese, he thought, should be entrusted with the arrest (?Luang Petch), for he knew that not a few in the regiment of guards had been approached and won over to the party of this courtier, and any mistake made in so precarious a business would be a source of much danger. He decided therefore to employ Europeans only, having in view Frenchmen especially…78
The general sent word to Constance that of the 1,500 men supplied by the king less than 800 were to be found at work, owing to failure of the overseers to maintain the quota…78
…to slash their heads—that is to say, to make deep slashes on their heads form the crown downwards towards the neck with a sword which penetrates almost to the skull; this is a fairly common penalty for failure by officials to carry out the king’s orders and is very painful…78
Constance, for his part, was busily furnishing the general with munitions of every description, largely at his own expense; he laid particular stress upon a full year’s supply of gunpowder which it was in his power to deliver to the French garrison free of charge…78
Desfarges’s Audience with Narai
His Majesty had heard from Constance that some ferment was stirring, even at court, and that it would be expedient to send for a few Frenchmen to check it; His Majesty thereupon ordered Constance to send for the French General to confer with him…79
The king began with an expression of his regard and touching friendship for Constance, followed by kind attentions for General Desfarges. His Majesty then begged the general not to go back at once but to remain near his person for a while and send for as many of his men as could be spared; His Majesty grieved to learn of the casualties from sickness and death in Bangkok and hoped that the climate of Louvo would agree better with the men’s health….79
Bèze deputed to sound Desfarges’ intentions, finds him willing. Later, Desfarges delays, is indiscreet, abandons the project under advice from French civilians.
The audience lasted along time. At its conclusion the king detained me at the palace for dinner there. Constance was also detained at the palace by sundry business and must needs send to general Desfarges asking to be excused the honor of dining in his company that day.
After we two had dined together, Constance remarked that my exact knowledge of all that was happening around us left him in no doubt that I had fathomed the motives which had prompted the king to invite general Desfarges to court. He then asked m to explain those motives to the general and show him how much was at stake—no less in fact than the king’s very life and that of his two brothers, next in succession to the throne—also the religion and honor of France, the king’s ally, menaced by a plot conceived by a traitor, their savage enemy…79-80
The arrest of this rebellious nobleman together with perhaps two of his confederates was the sole action required, an action simple enough at the moment while the rebel had no suspicions and had not yet assembled a force…80
I was to add that the handful of Englishmen, whom Constance maintained in the king’s employ, would have sufficed him for this undertaking; since however his object was to preserve the king upon the throne and secure the right of succession to his brothers, Constance would feel he did the French a disservice if he failed to submit the project to them first…80
Further, I was to explain to General Desfarges that Constance left him entirely free to decide himself which course he would follow…80
I was to request that he tarry in the reception room at his quarters; Constance would there discuss the matter with him in private, making my use as interpreter…80
…for I was loath to involve myself in matters outside the competence of my Order—he warned me that he would hold me responsible for the consequences of any refusal to acquaint General Desfarges with his message; the Jesuits, so he said, were the only men to whom he could confide a matter of such importance, nor was his own knowledge of French wide enough for a discussion with Desfarges in private without the help of an interpreter…80
General Desfarges took no long time to make up his mind; he told us that Constance would have insulted him had he applied elsewhere than to himself…81
Mr. de Beauchamp, lately Commandant in the garrison, had been summoned to confer with the general because of the confidence reposed in him by the latter. In his opinion the matter called for no lengthy deliberation and could be carried out easily, as he knew—from recent residence in Louvo where he was training the King’s bodyguard—that Petracha had no armed force there. On hearing this, the general at once sent word by me to Constance that he was on his way to the apartment indicated for their meeting. Constance joined him there soon after for a long, private discussion in which I served as interpreter between them…81
The king, Constance added, might be more disposed to accept the Christian religion when he discovered that the Buddhist clergy (its greatest foe) had conspired to compass his destruction. Constance harped upon the probable gratitude of the king’s brothers when they had learned how near they came to losing both the succession and their own lives to boot…81
Constance now pressed upon him three most important precautions:
In the first place, the general must make up his mind so to act that no part of their concerted plan be omitted… .
In the second place, the general must not divulge a whit of the plan imparted by Constance les Petracha become privy to it… .
In the third place, Constance counseled speed to the end that no single moment be lost…81
He (Desfarges) made but one request only, to wit, that Constance send to him an order in due form from the king that he bring up his detachment to Louvo—his object being to prove, if need be, that he acted solely upon orders from the king of Siam whose orders he had instructions to follow…82
Desfarges delays; the Secret leaks out. Undertaking abandoned upon advice of French Civilians
Not one of the promises which he gave to Constance did General Desfarges keep…82
Whilst waiting for them, Desfarges went to rest himself at the French Factory where he found Véret. Véret did his best to retain the general and deter him from proceeding farther in the direction of Louvo. His most cogent argument was the report, current at the time in the capital, that the king had died; he adduced the danger to which the general was exposing himself on behalf of a person and a policy alike which France was preparing to drop; he was expecting orders from Mr. de Seignelay at any moment, so he said, anent his proposal by letter in 1687 to leave Siam and take the troops to help found an outpost—either in Soccodane, or in Borneo or in Pol Condor.
…the tales he heard at the Seminary of Constance’s bad faith as Minister of the Crown and of the scant credit he now possessed at court all went to convince Desfarges at last that Constance must be left to his fate. The picture of Constance which he found at the Seminary was that of a desperado, clinging to office in despite of the king—a man who, by bringing out the French upon his own initiative, proved that his mind was set upon involving them in his own downfall, or at least upon sustaining himself by French support left he falll…83
At this point, a voice at the council table interposed:
Now that the king is dead, the general has need no longer to go as far afield as Louvo; if his purpose now is only to set the Princes on the throne, the elder prince is here, in this city.
Could not the general go to him, accompanied by the Bishop, and offer his services?
The Bishop very wisely expressed his opinion that, before so going, it would be expedient to learn first how matters now stood at Louvo. His suggestion was adopted and one of the officers, Mr. Le Roy, was sent off with a letter from General Desfarges to Constance. The letter was to explain that, upon hearing in the capital of the king’s demise, the general had not ventured to proceed farther lest he be held up and occasion disorder…84
The bearer of this letter arrived in Louvo at 1 a.m. (April 16, 1687) on Good Friday, but Constance had not yet retired to bed. After joining our party at midnight in order to observe an eclipse of the Moon, he had then engaged in devotions before the Holy Sacrament, exposed in the Chapel. His astonishment at Desfarges’ behavior may be imagined; but made no outward show of displeasure. In his letter, replying to that of Desfarges, he merely expressed surprise that the general should have been taken in by just such a rumor that he had been warned to avoid…84
Constance asked me to write also, saying I had seen the king and found him in good health. This I did, and two hours later the officer set out after we had taken him around to several places in the city, including the approaches to the palace, and he had seen with his own eyes that there was no sign of disturbance among the people…84
All this proved to no avail: Mr. Desfarges was no longer open to persuasion. Even before the return of his emissary from Louvo, he had resolved in any case to go back to Bangkok, no matter what reply he might receive from Constance, and he set forth immediately after Le Roy’s return. He never paused to consider whether his desertion of Constance might not imply repudiation of the honor, interests, and even the religion of France…84
…he therefore dispatched a Captain Dassieux to explain and excuse himself to the king’s minister, on the ground of positive assurances that Petracha was assembling levies at Louvo and, in the light of this, his sense of duty forbade him imperil the lives of the detachment he had drawn from the garrison and thereby compromise the safety of a fortress entrusted to his care by the minister’s royal master…84
Dassieux was a decent type of man and believed that the reason advanced in excuse by Desfarges was genuine. He was horrified at the gross deception which appeared to have been practiced upon the general and when he recalled he had not seen a single soldier upon the road and no evidence of troop concentration in Louvo. On these grounds he besought Constance to permit him to go back and inform the general of the fruit of his observation… having denied Dassieux’ request; but he thought highly of Mr. de Beauchamp, and when Beauchamp supported Dassieux’ appeal not to inflict such an affront upon the French and they actually undertook to bring Desfarges up themselves without fail, Constance consented at last to let them try…85
Yet once more the hopes which Constance built upon this enterprise frustrated. The two officers strained every nerve to move Desfarges, but to no avail and in the end Beauchamp had to come back without him. More grievous still was the waste of precious time concerning which Beauchamp had received sample warning and had promised to beware…85
Petracha, on the other hand, did not rest idle. The French general’s visit to Louvo caused him no anxiety at first, so long as he reckoned upon Constance’s collaboration with his party; but after Mr. Desfarges had unbosomed himself to more than one individual, the secret was broken and Petracha obtained some inkling of it…In consequence, by the time when Mr. Beauchamp came back to Louvo, it was too late to send for the Englishmen from the capital since Petracha could not have failed to guess their coming was to arrest him and would have forestalled them by striking first, or else would have retired to the provinces where his partisans were numerous, not to mention those in the capital who might well have laid hands upon the vessels, as was feared, and the result would have been disastrous…85-6
Constance fails to convince Narai to appoint one of his brothers to the succession
King refuses to nominate either of his two brothers as successor. Phra Pi breaks with Petracha, denounces him to the king. King upbraids Constance, arranges to summons Petracha next day.
Constance plan was to persuade the king to nominate as his successor one of His Majesty’s brothers; thereby he would have broken up the following of Petracha completely; but it failed…86
The sole concession which Constance succeeded in extracting was that the king bequeath the crown to his daughter, but on condition that she act solely under the joint advice of Okya Vichaiyen, Okphra Pit, and Okphra Petracha until the final offices had been rendered to the royal remains; thereafter she was free to associate whichever prince of the two she preferred to have as partner with herself upon the throne…86
This announcement would have had but one result, the increase of Petracha’s authority in carrying out his design…86
…this came as a sequel to certain harsh terms used by Petracha in addressing him and so overwrought Phra Pi that he went straightway to the king and divulged the cross-stitch pattern of the plot which Petracha was weaving to obtain control of the administration…87
And so, Constance counseled the king to temper his resentment and to send a summons to Petracha that he present himself the next day at the palace: Constance promised to be there with his bodyguard of fifteen Englishmen and several other Europeans as well, intent upon the arrest of Petracha…87
Petracha has warning of impending arrest by Constance
Petracha has warning; confers with talapoins who occupy the palace. Constance cut off is overpowered. Phra Pi beheaded.
…Petracha sought counsel with the Sancras of Louvo and his closest friends. Together they determined to have recourse to violence undisguised, and, to make good their shortage in manpower, the Sancras and talapoins undertook to incite the masses in support of Petracha. True to their word, they assembled a crowd on the morrow and made announcement to them thus:
The sick king has consigned the conduct of state business to Phra Petracha and has relieved Okya Vichaiyen of office…87
Constance was informed at once that a mob was swarming in the direction of the palace...but I found him fully resolved to die rather than desert the king in this pass, so that my entreaties were no more successful then than in our longer conversation earlier in the day, which I have reported elsewhere…88
Constance takes leave of wife and goes to see Narai
To be rid of me, he begged me go across to our fathers in the chapel and pray God for the life of the king which was in great danger. As soon I had left him Constance went to his wife and took leave of her as though he anticipated never seeing her again. Thereupon, accompanied by Mr. de Beauchamp, two other French officers (M. de Fretteville and Chevalier Desfarges) and his bodyguard of fifteen Englishmen with their captain and several Portuguese, all well armed, he hastened to the palace on foot to bring succor to the king…88
Finding a small back door in the palace ajar, Constance charged through it recklessly, never looking first to assure himself that the others were at his heels…88
The three French officers, when challenged, gave up their arms and were then separated from Constance at once…89
Before long we learned what was taking place in the palace. The king, a prisoner under guard in his private apartment, sent word to us by a valet who, though faithful, had been left to attend to his Master…89
We also knew that Constance was under arrest that but for a large sums of money paid by his wife to his jailer for removal of his chains, he would be tightly bound…90
The wretched Phra Pi was the first victim of Petracha’s rage… the next morning Petracha had him beheaded…90
Later on, but never in my hearing at Louvo, a story went about that his severed head was suspended around Constance’s neck. There may be something in it for this reason: Petracha had framed a charge against the king’s minister of plotting to set the king’s young favorite upon the throne to the prejudice of the king’s brothers…90
Petracha hopes to gain mastery over French forces before dispatching Constance. Deludes Véret and Lionne who consented to bring up Desfarges from Bangkok. Lionne disregards warning from King.
Petracha would have been glad to dispose as speedily of Constance as he rid himself of Phra Pi, but he feared some countermove on the part of the French as was anxious first to make his hold upon them sure.
The esteem in which Mr. Desfarges held the two Bishops and Mr. Véret had not been lost upon him; it was they who had prevailed upon the general to turn and go back to Bangkok. Petracha thereafter was most tactful and h ad tempting promises conveyed to them. Mun Pan was his agent… 91
Pan had been detailed by Constance to join Véret in conducting a search of the Chinese junks for pepper which, according to Véret’s complaints to Constance, the Chinese were loading in defiance of the monopoly in pepper granted to the French Company. Véret had a grievance of long standing against Constance…91
Pan returned Véret’s confidences with the secret news that Petracha was about to assume office by order of the king: the French, he said, would find themselves much better off and would be treated with greater consideration than formerly under ‘that Greek.’…91
It was from this time onwards that the factory abandoned all semblance of respect towards the king’s minister and sent him disrespectful letters; Véret even had the impudence to write to young Desfarges, then acting as aide to Constance by order of his father, telling him that orders from Constance were no longer to be obeyed, saving only orders from Petracha to whom the king had entrusted the administration…91
Petracha in Open Revolt
No sooner was the rebel courtier in open revolt, he sent Véret a letter containing assurances of his friendship and readiness to oblige…91
…but misfortune would have it tha the Frenchmen were not all of one mind. There were men who, despite the evidence before their eyes, could not bring themselves to believe that Petracha was hoodwinking them until the time came when he no longer had need of them; … It’s true, the Bishop of Metellopolis did not trust him implicitly and would not hear of going himself to Louvo…91
Even a witness so impartial as was Mr. Paumard (priest of the seminary, physician to the king and not well disposed towards Constance) was powerless to correct the exaggerated notion which Lionne had conceived in Petracha’s favor…92
According to his own record, Mr. de Lyonnes had a fairly good reception, but the notification of His Majesty’s pleasure was transmitted to him with a most haughty air, to the effect that General Desfarges must come to Louvo and that this prelate, whose advice carried much weight with the general, was to repair to Bangkok and press the general to comply without delay with His Majesty’s command…92
We Jesuits were convinced that Desfarges could not comply without exposing the Christians to ill-usage from which they were only immune at Louvo so long as the French retained control in Bangkok. This we felt it our duty to impress upon Lyonnes and to entreat him not to involve the general, nor let him put himselfin the power of that treacherous Grandee who had not yet declared his policy. A message from the king had warned us that the Grandee’s policy was none other than to compass the death of every Frenchman within his grasp,… 92-3
Mr. de Lyonnes’ reply was that the insistence we urged would offend the Grandee by proving publicly that his word was not trusted. Instead, if we thought it improper for the general to come now to Louvo, he suggested that we state our views in writing together with our reasons for them in a dispatch which he offered to carry and deliver himself to the general. Father Superior and I accordingly sat down to write and, before his departure, I took our letters to him, offering to entrust them to his companion on the journey, Mr. de Beauchamp…93
He, however said that, traveling as envoy of the Grandee, he was unlikely to be subjected to a search and the letters would give him no trouble. Albeit he was of a different mind soon after and, having quitted Louvo, destroyed the letters, fearing they might compromise him… he was soon in Bangkok with Mun Pan at his side…93
Desfarges lured by Pan 1st June, leaves Bangkok to meet Petracha. Persecution of native Christians and Constance’s wife begins. On arrival Louvo, 2nd June, Desfarges taken straight to audience with Petracha.
Pan’s instructions were that he set no limit to the honors he might promise Desfarges if thereby he might prevail upon the general to come up with him to Louvo. This was a matter of vital importance to Petracha whose authority was accepted in no other city than Louvo…93
…in the capital where the king’s elder brother still resided, having refused to go up to Louvo because he could not rely upon Petracha’s promises…93
All eyes were on the French, watching to see the course they would pursue. What with their reputation for gallantry and their control of the river, they had it in their power to split Petracha’s party had they come out openly against him and thereby given new heart to every loyal adherent of the king…94
The English had three good ships in the river (for, besides the two I have mentioned, there was a merchantman of 44 guns) and were ready to join the French against Petracha; in addition there were two vessels owned by the king which Constance had had manned with Frenchmen in April as a standby and were cruising in the Gulf…94
…these five vessels would have sufficed to bring the Siamese to their senses, being in a position to set fire to the capital and the many towns along the river bank. But such was the effect upon the general of the promises poured into his ears by Pan…94
…and finally made up his mind to place himself in the Grandee’s hands, taking his eldest son with him the better to attest the trust he reposed in the rebel…94
Véret was eager to accompany them and participate in the fulfillment of the many promises he had received. On the other hand, the officers of the garrison were far from happy to witness the foisting of this policy upon Mr. Desfarges: Beauchamp, but lately returned from Louvo with a fairly exact knowledge of what was going on there, did his utmost to dissuade the general from going…94
The major in charge of the fortress, Mr. de Verdesal, determined to render it capable of withstanding a siege which he was certain would follow, the more so after he had surprised the former Ambassador (Kosa Pan) in the act of closely examining the fortifications and outer earthworks, a discovery which caused Verdesal to counsel Desfarges not to go to Louvo, but instead to place the inquisitive courtier under arrest for intent to betray the French, and only release him in exchange for Constances. The prejudice in favor of Petracha was however too strong to suffer such good advice to prevail…94
No sooner was general Desfarges aboard on the river, after leaving the fortresss, he found his boat emcompassed by numerous lighters, crowed with armed men, come—so Mun Pan explained—in honor of Constance’s ‘successor to be.’
With his prey now assured, Mun Pan dispatched a runner ahead to Louvo with the news of his success. I cannot say whether Petracha received this news before he consigned Constances’ wife to prison (1 June 1688), but we received it the following day when he rounded-up the native members of our congregation in prison, regardless of age, sex, or nationality. The poor lady was flung into a filthy, stinking, stable; she brought nothing with her and nothing was provided but a lattice framework to serve for bed. One whole day was she left there without food and her fast would have lasted longer but for one of her aunts…95
Her guards refused to let us see her; I therefore approached Sri Munchai (make this Luang Petch) and besought him to obtain this license for me: he had been on very friendly terms with Constance and I had made acquaintance with him in the palace; since that time he had risen high in favor with Petracha, feeling compelled to join that party when he found it in power, with his own life and fortune in the balance; nonetheless he still retained much of his former attachment to the king and friendly feeling towards Constance. He took me to see the lady, comforted her by his promise to ask Petracha for charge of her to be given to him and ordered her guards to let me see her and converse with her at my pleasure, the same for my colleagues also…95
General Desfarges arrived in Louvo on 2nd June and was conducted direct to the Palace; not one moment to rest himself after the journey was he allowed. Learning this, I went to the palace to see if I could have a word with him before the audience with the Grandee; but they were already engaged together when I arrived…96
He (Petracha) knew that, ever since he had made himself master in the palace, I was no longer going there; but he had sent word, asking me to resume my visits, adding that this was the king’s desire…96
I was obliged to resume my visits and even to have a meal there more frequently than in the past. Mr. Paumard was also likewise constrained; but we agreed not to profit by the good fare set before us so long as our Christians were still in prison and left to starve or to die in want…96
The king’s final warning to Desfarges. Petracha threatens Bèze and Paumard. Desfarges distracted; Lionne admits destroying Jesuits’ letters. Desfarges signs order for evacuation of Mergen, leaves his two sons with Petracha as pledge for his return with the garrison.
After dinner that night, as Mr. Paumard and I were on our way out to see if the general were yet quit of his audience with Petracha, we came upon the king’s personal attendant… he informed us on the king’s behalf of His Majesty’s surprise learning that, despite the message he had given to us for Desfarges, the general had persisted in coming; that by coming he had involved himself in a most awkward pass; that Petracha had just now told him it was the king’s pleasure that he bring up his whole force from Bangkok to fight the Laos and that Desfarges had promised to do so…96-7
But, said the king’s man, we were to warn the general to be on his guard, because Petracha gave that order upon his own authority alone and that it was but a pretext to obtain control of the French force and annihilate it. The king, he said, had sure knowledge of this from a courtier in Petracha’s council (Luang Petch?) who remained loyal to His Majesty…97
As we were … leaving the palace to look for the general at Constance’s house (to which he had been directed to go for his dinner), we were accosted by one of Petracha’s men with a request from his master that we go to him. This we did…97
He (Petracha) understood our vexation that Constance and several others had been deprived of their liberty, but he had only done this for the public weal at the instance of the courtiers… 97
He assured us that before long they would all be set free and that meanwhile he as quite willing to let us visit them as often as we wished, with one exception, Constance: that man he would never permit us to see…97
We found him (Desfarges) lying on his bed in a condition of utter dismay over the manner of his reception by Petracha: Mr. de Lyonnes and Mr. Véret were with him and no less cast down, finding themselves involved in a situation so precarious—for, the manner of their reception had been far other than they had expected, being treated as malefactors Bangkok to Louvo for a campaign against the Laos…98
…and promised all that was asked of him (Desfarges), if only to be out of reach of that red-arm (policemen were distinguished by red-ochre on forearms) with the naked sword…98
His (Petracha) motive was to increase his prestige with the courtiers and with the mob assembled by him in the audience hall that they might see with their own eyes, his determination to deliver them from French domination… Had he treated Desfarges as a friend, that promise would have been regarded as a cloak to justify his rebellion…98
When we informed the general of His Majesty’s surprise at his coming—and of our surprise also, seeing the warning we had ventured to send him in writing; … 98
We then communicated the king’s fresh message, sent that day, regarding the trap which Petracha was setting in calling up the Bangkok garrison. The general said he saw the trap quite clearly himself…being in the power of the Grandee whose men, more than 300 in number, were shadowing him…99
We asked whether he had not advanced a single plea on Constance’s behalf to the Grandee. To this he had replied that Petracha seemed often near to explode and do him some ill-turn; it was trouble enough to save his own skin, let alone that of another man…99
At this juncture the Second Ambassador came for dispatches which Desfarges had promised for the officers commanding at Bangkok and Mergen, that they bring their men to Louvo…99
…let them buy ships and go back to France. Petracha was not satisfied with this response and insisted that Desfarges constrain the troops to come to Louvo upon king’s service…99
At first Petracha demurred (to let Desfarge go to Bangkok), but seeing that Desfarges had sent for the contingent from Mergen and had agreed to leave his two sons as hostages, he felt confident of the general’s return together with the Bangkok garrison and permitted him to go under the threat that his two sons would be beheaded if he broke his promise…99
§ 31. Execution of Constances: manner of his death. Effect upon him of his son’s death in January. Instances of his virtues.
Petracha observed that not a single plea was made to him on behalf of Constance and concluded that his execution need be deferred no longer. An order was issued accordingly that it take place that same evening at ten of the clock. The duty of conducting Constance to the place of execution was assigned to a relative of Sri Munchay, a courtier (not Sorasak, as stated elsewhere) well-known to me, whose name I cannot now recall. It was from him I learned the details which follow an dwhich he himself carried to Constance’s widow. He went to Constance’s at six in the evening with the instructions he had received from Petracha and, having imparted them to his old friend, he gave vent to the chagrin he felt when entrusted with an errand such as this, an errand he dare not refuse lest he render himself suspect in the eyes of Petracha, since the least breath of suspicion might cost him his life…100
…submit a single request to him—for a priest to whom Constance could make confession—followed by a few moments of respite in which to prepare to die in a manner befitting a Christian. Despite his promise to us that if he had to inflict the death sentence he would let us see Constance, Petracha now would not listen to a request for a confessor; Constance was merely told he could have until the tenth hour that evening to prepare himself for his death, but any last dispositions concerning his family and personal affairs could be entrusted to the courtier accompanying him (Roger?)…100
The courtier came for him at the appointed hour and conducted him on the back of an elephant to the place outside the city which Petracha had chosen for his execution (not Talé Chupsorn?). Having dismounted, Constance went down on his knees—so the courtier informed us—and made protest before God in whose Presence he would soon be standing, that he died innocent of the crimes imputed to him by Petracha; that the motive for his every action had been to serve and magnify the king, likewise to maintain the throne in the interest of the present royal family. He then entreated the courtier (Roger?) to have a care for his wife and son, also to protect the poor Christians suffering persecution without just cause. He handed to the courtier the Cross of the Order of St. Michael, requesting him to conserve it for his son until such time as the boy will be of age to care for it himself as a token of the French king’s liking for his father…100-101
He then put forth his neck beneath the red arm who swung the executioner’s sword down upon it with a mighty stroke and then with a backstroke laid open his stomach—as is the custom for those who are beheaded…101
Thus died Constance at the age of forty under the executioner’s sword—a wretched death as regards the manner thereof, but a glorious death if judged upon the merits of the cause for which he died, his zeal in service for the Christian religion and for two great kings whose alliance he compassed…101
He was fully conscious of the peril in which he stood after General Desfarges had failed to keep the promise he made, but our repeated exhortation to retire beyond the reach of peril was always greeted with the same remonstrance: ‘What,’ he would cry, ‘turn traitor to my own conscience? Fail in my duty to two great kings? Desert their interests and that o the Christian religion of which God appears to have appointed me guardian in this land? And for what end, if not to save my skin? IMPOSSIBLE.’
He insisted that he would persevere so long as there was any reason to hope that Heaven would bless his efforts; but if it were God’s will that he perish, he would gladly give up his life in such a cause…101
On the other hand, his life became that of one making ready to die, especially after his son’s death (§20) which haunted him, when alone, with a foreboding that it was sent to warn him that his own death was nigh. I did my best to ease his mind of this fear which I treated as idle whimsy at the time; but I have since come to regard it as an especial favor of Providence… No matter how overburdened he might be by affairs of state he would still set aside no small portion of the time at his disposal and employed it in prayer to God. This I witness my self when we were together at Talé Chupsorn the royal pleasance some three miles from Louvo…101-2
…he would then go into Louvo to be present at the mass which I went there to celebrate for him in the chapel. This was hard upon him and his family and I made offer to spare them this fatigue by saying mass at Talé Chupsorn upon a portable altar…102
Force of circumstances alone were the means of bringing him round to accept my proposal, when the extreme heat became unbearable at the same time as Lenten discipline (which he observed with great exactness) and he fell ill…102
He would not the others wait for him but joined them towards the end of the repast; he would then eat his small portion…102
We did not know the language well enough to employ it in our sermons, so that those who knew Portuguese obtained no benefit from the sermon. All such people would collect together in the porch and, standing in their midst, would expound the whole sermon for them in Siamese, addressing them in a kindly, unpretentious manner which won the hearts of these poor folk when they saw the man, at whose coming all made way, treating them upon equal terms, as if they were his brothers. It was indeed a revelation for any who were acquainted with Constance’s natural disposition which was somewhat haughty…102
Twice a week in Lenten he gave a meal to the indigent. Constance and his wife served it personally, displaying to their son (five years of age) the manner in which to render his service early in life to the members of the family of Jesus Christ. On the Feast of the Last Supper (15 April 1688, a month before his fall) he washed the feet of twelve paupers and set before them a fine treat, serving them on bended knee…103
These days were passed by him in a series of devotions, albeit the hesitations of Mr. Desfarges must have distracted him sorely; but, being sharp-witted and of a resolute nature, Constance was wont to take his cue at the very onset and leave all the rest to Providence…103
At dawn on Easter Day Constance knew that Desfarges had deserted him. Undeterred by this news, he went to chapel and received Holy Communion; nor did it disturb him during the morning which he passed in religious devotions until noon, with mind at ease, like as when all went well. Afterwards, he distributed an important sum of money in alms among the poor people of the district to the number of 2,000, who would come year by year at this season to receive their share of his charity. This charity, as he had the satisfaction of knowing before he died, was imputed to him as a crime—Petracha’s indictment being that Constance seduced the people, suborning them by his charities to abandon the national religion and adopt Christianity…103
PART III OF THE MEMOIR
§32. Constance’s widow inconsolable, importuned by Sorasak. Jesuits permitted to carry food to enslaved Christian children; receive assistance from king and a present from Petracha.
Constance’s widow was so crushed by his death that words fail me to describe her grief. She hardly seemed to feel the overturn of her fortune and loss of all he possessed; but the death of the husband she loved far more dearly called forth flood upon flood of her tears. Each time that Constance had bidden her quit him to seek refuge in Bangkok she had refused to leave him, happier for her had been death which she had courted at his side, for trials worse than death lay in store for one whom death had so unkindly spared…104
How he (Sorasak) demanded intimacy with her while the blood of her slaughtered spouse was still warm. His promises and blandishments gave place to ill-treatment, so cruel as to call for superhuman fortitude on the part of the sufferer, determined not to yield…104
…the issue by Sorasak of strict orders that a close watch be kept upon her. This we learned through a message from him, conveyed to us by Sri Munchay to the effect that we must make her obedient to his wishes if we would deliver her from the punishment he was inflicting. I consigned his conditions to the winds and retorted that the lady was ready to pay with every drop of her life-blood in order to preserve her personal honor and Christian faith intact and, what is more, I would support her therein, even if my life depended upon it. Sorasak then ordered her guards to forbid us to address save in their presence and in their language (she speak Thai), to the end that they might know all that we said to her.
Sorasak had not quite the courage to deny us entry to her because his father had given us leave to see her and carry food in to her every day, and he feared we might bring disgrace upon him by lodging a plaint for his ill-treatment of the lady…104
Not long before, he (Sorasak) had the effrontery to abduct the daughter of the Malay high priest whose complaints had obliged Petracha to consign his son to jail and threaten to have him beheaded if ever he offer violence to any other woman, no matter who she be—for Petracha was well aware that his son had made himself hated at court by like outrages…105
Thus, as a pretext for his ill-treatment of Constance’s widow, Sorasak alleged that she had withheld some of the articles expressly listed by him to his father for confiscation; at the same time he made known to her through private channels that his perquisition would cease as soon as she consented to be wived by him; he even found means to suborn one of her kinswoman whose mistaken pity led her to believe it to be in the best interest of the poor creature that she give way in the face of overwhelming pressure, compliance in such cases, she urged, was no sin…105
By the grace of heaven, the Nay (or captain responsible for her custody) fell sick and I cured him. This led him to relax and treat her with less inflexibility and she, in consequence, fare much better…105
It was due again to our simples that we found a means of access to the homes of the courtiers, not excepting even that of Petracha. These were the homes in which the young Christian boys and girls (whom Constance and his wife had been educating) were now dispersed: the little flock had been scattered and the poor lambs found themselves helpless, at the mercy of wolves who savaged them sorely, in the the homes where they were confined, to the end that they abandoned their faith…105
We were even allowed to call in our native clergy to address the sick. The consequence was that the owners of the houses treated the children more kindly and the children took such heart that they would come together of an evening to unite in prayer, although they received a beating when caught in the act…105
We carried food daily, but the instrument by which providence sent us money was the one we least expected—Petracha himself. The king, for whose goodness to us we could never make suitable return, had let me know that one of the afflictions he felt most keenly in his adversity was that eh would no longer give us the same tokens of his friendship as before; nonetheless, to help us in the want which he had no doubt must now beset us, Constance being dead, he asked us to accdept such little money as he still possessed—he would send it to me in small sums by the hand of his valet of the Bedchamber from time to time…
§33. Senior Prince abducted from capital joins brother already captive at Louvo. Petracha’s secret visit to king; explanation of his gift to Jesuits. Two inconclusive visits to the king by Bèze and Paumard. King very weak, dies shortly after.
Petracha now deputed several of his most trusted followers who were courtiers to go to the prince as though to pay homage to him and then abduct him by a back door which gave on to the river…106
Petracha now found himself master of both princes, but he dared not dispatch them on his won authority lest he bring down upon his own head the hatred of all the common folk and of the majority of courtiers in his own following gas well—men who had joined it under the impression they were acting thereby in the interest of the princes…107
A number of courtiers were in attendance and saw him enter the king’s apartment, but only one of their number (Luang Petch?), a man in closest intimacy with him, followed him inside. We had the account from a physician who chanced to be in attendance upon the king at that moment…107
Catching sight of Petracha, the king was seized with a fit of such violence that he fell to the ground as one dead. When restored, His Majesty upbraided Petracha with the unworthy manner in which he was treating his sovereign; with the death of his adopted son and of Constance; for the imprisonment of his brothers. He then gave voice to his grief on our account, that we, whom he had brought out from France upon the recommendation of our king, should now be subjected to ill-treatment and reduced to great want…107
Petracha replied that since His Majesty’s ill-health…he had been obliged to assume control upon the advice of the court, until such time as His Majesty’s health be restored; that Phra Pi and Okya Vichaiyen were found guilty of death by the Privy Council. As for the king’s brothers, Petracha promised to send them to the king and never do them any harm—words which the king’s sister brought up against him later on when he had the hardihood to say that the king had ordered that they be put to death, for she was present throughout the interview. Referring finally to our party of Jesuits, he protested that we had received no ill-treatment and if we needed money, His Majesty had but to give the order and he would sent us money…107
The king signified his pleasure and Petracha made a point of telling the courtiers that he received this order simultaneously with the order to put the king’s brothers to death…107
Petracha sent the money to us with a deal of ceremony to prove that he carried out the king’s orders punctually…108
…he warned us against discussing matters of religion or recent happenings and told us he would cut off our heads if we dared do anything that contravened his orders. He knew however that we were unlikely to observe his orders and made allowance accordingly by repeating them to those who watched over the king…108
So altered, so downcast did we find the poor king, it was not easy to recognize him as the king we had known. He began by bewailing the straits to which he was reduced; he then dwelt upon his grief over the death of Constance, a minister, he averred, who had ever labored faithfully for him and rendered the state good service; the grounds upon which he was condemned to perishlacked any foundation in fact. When the guards found His Majesty launched upon that subject…108
While still restless upon this score (king adopting the Christian faith), we received notice of permission to see the king once more; he had displayed such grief that no time had been given him for discourse with us; he was so insistent to see us again that Petracha had not the heart to deny him this comfort seeing he was at death’s door. We went, fully determined to begin our discourse with a reference at the very outset to the king’s salvation, cost us what it might. Thus, when the king confirmed his words to us by laying bare his chest for us to see his wasted flesh, we adjured him not to hope that any human agent has the means to repair such wastage save by a miracle…108
The Chinese interpreter refused to translate words such as these and persisted, despite our entreaties, assuring us that for himself it was a matter of life or death…109
…I had been only six months in the country and did not know enough of the language, still less the court language which I was only beginning to study; Mr. Paumard had been ten years in Siam but did not know it either. In consequence we were unable to gather from the king whether or not he desired to be baptized. He was carried away again for, sick though he was, he had been lifted from his bed and brought into the antechamber. The king died two days later at the tenth hour that Sunday night, the tenth day of July…109
I cannot say what the king’s mind was in regard to religion: if it was really his intention to adopt Christianity I fear that heaven punished him. By neglecting to be baptized until the end of his life, he was deprived at the last moment of the power to compass it; … 109
I can however affirm that great credit is due to Constance for leaving no shift untried in his zeal to assure the king’s salvation…describing a miracle, performed by the intercession of St. Francis Xavier upon P. Mastrilli, as a means of regaining health…109
Petracha was present and told us at the time that he had been so impressed that, with the king’s consent, he was ready to become a Christian. But there was little honesty in this, for he charged the king, in his indictment, of even contemplating such a crime, and did all he could, after arresting the king, to be in a position to convict His Majesty of having passed us his word to adopt our religion, his object being to find a pretext for publicly proclaiming the king’s tenure of the throne forfeit…109
§34. execution of the king’s two brothers causes revulsion offeeling among populace and talapoins, but Petracha retains support of armed forces and the Moors. His offer of marriage spurned by king’s daughter.
Several days after the king’s demise, his two brothers were put to death by order of Petracha. This outrageous execution was under the superintendence of Sorasak and carried out with even less trouble than he had anticipated…110
A dozen French workmen had taken refuge within our walls. Being fearful that partisans of the princes might come and oblige them to give those partisans a lead, Petracha had us notified to close our gates early that evening and keep them shut, even if we were to hear noises outside; but he did not explain what he meant. That very night however I discovered what was afoot, when I chanced to be at the palace. A great crowd of armed men was there and, among them, I discovered the young prince’s eunuchs, come to seek refuge in the quarter where I happened to be. Through them I learned that their lord had been seized just before and led off the place of execution; only three of his officers had been in readiness to resist and they had been taken prisoner with him. The senior prince had been under guard in a wat and was made fast there without trouble. Both princes were led a mile and a half to a place outside the city walls and were suffocated between two sandalwood stakes—such is the manner of execution for princes of the royal family…110
This final tragedy, it’s true, rendered him the subject of intense aversion, for all men knew at last that naught but lust for power had moved Petracha to take up arms and commit all these crimes under cloak of zeal for the common welfare as he termed it. The talapoins were smarting over the use he made of them as dupes in the service of his ambition and now began to foretell that not for long would he batten upon so rich a harvest of crime…110-111
We now beheld talapoins wending their way to our quarters and heard this from the lips of men who, but yesterday, were stoning us on the streets and discharging curses upon us for the support we gave to disloyal elements in the nation whenever they espied us carrying food to Constance’s family and to the Christians deprived of liberty…111
Petracha however was master both of the soldiery and of the Moors whom he had gained by liberal treatment; also none remained alive who could challenge in his own right Petracha’s title to the throne. He therefore had himself proclaimed king at Louvo and straightway proceeded to the capital, taking the remains of the late king with him in support of his claim to be crowned king himself…111
Fighting was confined to a single palace in which one of the late king’s sisters had barricaded herself and made a show of resistance, but she was overpowered and led away to internment with the late king’s other sister and his daughter, already in Petracha’s power. He was minded to wed her and thereby confirm his occupancy of the throne; but her pride was of a mettle to distain consent and to revile him for his offer to her of a hand stained with the blood of her father and of her two uncles. Naught could console her for the death of the younger of the two princes; she loved him dearly and could not but hate the sight of Petracha whom she regarded as his executioner…111
§35. Lionne and Véret willing to bring in from Gulf the ships Siam and Louvo. St. Crit deputed in their place—when boarded, shatters his vessel with all aboard. Oriflamme arrives: Petracha, anxious to negotiate, releases hostages.
Meanwhile, the French were now preparing to withdraw from the country and Bishop Laneau was negotiating their withdrawal. This method of ridding himself of the French was greatly to the liking of Petracha now that his plan to attain mastery over them was frustrated. Desfarges had no mind to go back into Petracha’s clutches after his escape from them in the manner described by me; nor could he, their general, expose the lives of King Louis’s men, his own with them, to such hazard: as for his two sons, they were to bear the brunt of Petracha’s wrath instead…112
Both Mr. de Lyonnes and Mr. Véret were of like mind also against entrusting themselves a second time to the dictation of Petracha; even in Bangkok they did not feel completely secure and were resolved to slip out to sea in a small vessel, the property of the Company, which was at anchor in the river alongside the fortress. The officers of this garrison had wind of their design and Mr. Verdesal (garrison commandant by warrant of the king) memorialized the general on the officers’ behalf to this effect:
Since the present plight of the garrison was the outcome of counsel preferred by these two gentlemen, the least they could do, in duty bound, was help extricate the French…112
…also that the strongbox of Mr. de Lionne should on no account be removed from the fortress, the contents thereof being promised by the owner for paying the troops… .
(this promise was made by Mr. de Rosalie at the time when he was dissuading Desfarges from returning (i.e. in April) to Louvo and Desfarges objected that he dared not break faith with Constance, for the reason that the fund supplied by the French king for paying the troops was exhausted and Constance was filling the deficiency, as no other source being available as Véret lacked the means…Mr. Rosalie then interposed that Desfarges need not worry, as he himself would advance 40,000 livres…)
Desfarges accepted the contention of his officers and withheld sanction for the departure of the two gentlemen…112
…this he did and deputed Lt. de St. Crit to search for the two vessels cruising in the Gulf. Thus the two gentlemen were obliged to remain in Bangkok and bear their share with the rest in the shortage of provisions due to failure to lay in any stores at all…113
He also appears to have been responsible for the sack of the seminary—Petracha being enraged by his refusal to stir out from Bangkok attributed the general’s breach of parole to him. Determined to have his revenge, Petracha sent orders for all the silver at the seminary to be impounded. Silver bars to the weight of 14,000 lb. were found there in addition to 6,000 lb. weight of currency in gold and silver coins taken from Bishop Laneau. We ourselves lost two fine silver-gilt chalices together with some money which we had entrusted to the Bishop in the belief that he would be treated with greater regard than ourselves…113
Petracha would have vented his resentment upon the general’s two sons but for the dauntless action of St. Crit who set fire to his vessel rather than surrender and sent down in her with more than 300 Siamese who had boarded him. News of this made Petracha shy of reducing the French to suchlike acts of desperation…113
He sent back Desfarges’ two sons to their father and, through Mun Pan, notified Bishop Laneau that he go to Bangkok and negotiate with General Desfarges. Petracha promised to return the money taken from the seminary if the Bishop succeeded in engaging the general on a firm agreement to retire with his whole force from the country…113
Desfarges raised no objections and accepted the offer willingly because Véret was suggesting to him other places which he believed might be more profitable for a French settlement than Siam. Agreements had been reached on most of the points discussed and the Siamese gave three vessels for the transport of the troops together with supplies for them…113-4
At this juncture the king’s ship Oriflamme came to anchorage at the mouth of the river bringing Desfarges a noteworthy reinforcement—she mounted 64 guns. It would be expected that Desfarges would be minded to hold his ground in a stronghold that had been entrusted to him, if not also to exact retribution for the indignities inflicted upon and avenge the Frenchmen, among them an officer who had lost his life under fire. But no! his decision had been taken, those to whose advice he consistently deferred being of one mind that he must quit…114
§36. Constance’s widow, having refused two offers of passage abroad, evades Sorasak and reaches Bangkok with Bèze, aided by Lt. Marie. Departure of French delayed.
Desfarges had all set for the departure of the French when a new difficulty arose, delaying them for a while: the arrival on 4th October at the fortress of Constance’s widow…114
Her warders even permitted her at times to visit the Church of the Portuguese fathers (with whom we were lodging), on condition that she was back again in prison at daybreak. Sorasak’s object was to reduce her to a condition such that she would even welcome being wived by him—his orders being that she be forced to do the work of a servant and so create in her a hatred for hardship. She however held herself fortunate to be thus used, believing the courtier’s lust for her was changed into contempt. She would leave the prison at three hours after midnight in order to be back again at dawn in time to begin work: the distance she had to travel was upwards of three miles in a small, open sampan, often drenched to the skin—for it was the rainy season—and at times she was obliged to paddle her craft through driving rain, to her great discomfort…114
One day she collapsed in a fit so violent that for twelfve hours her life hung in the balance; but her eagerness to hear mass, whenever leave of absence was granted, prevailed over her bodily weakness and, within two days, she was back upon her beat once more…114-5
Desfarges’ answer was that he would not sail without taking her, and the Bishop charged us to assure her of this. She was convinced that he meant what he said and, on the strength of this, she refused the offer of a gallant Portuguese, Hyeronimo d’Abreo, to take her out of the country in his armored longboat, then lying in the river. For the same reason, she refused an invitation from the Dutch factor who was prepared to ship both the lady and her son in a vessel then ready to sail for Batavia…115
I confess that I dissuaded her from accepting either of these two offers; the first, because of the risks I could see that it entailed; the second appeared to me to render scant justice to France, though the Dutch looked to profit greatly in favor with the Siamese if they could reveal a full list to the latter of Constance’s assets and, for this reason, were unlikely ever to permit her to leave Batavia with her son whom they would bring up in their own religion…115
I was present when he (Lt. de Ste Marie, a French officer on business in the capital at this juncture) called upon her and assured her in my hearing that he had heard Mr. Desfarges saying how much he wished she were in Bangkok and that he would not quit without her. Ste Marie went on to offer his services, telling her he would count himself fortunate if he might escort her to Bangkok at his own risk and thereby rescue her from the misery she was suffering, also afford the general real pleasure…115
Petracha had by now overcome most of t he obstacles he had encountered before acceding to the throne and had presented the late prince’s palace in the capital to his son as his official residence. Sorasak’s first impulse was to confine Constance’s widow there; he was anxious however to avoid publicity and to entice her little by little, unconscious of the trap he set for her and, by this emans, avoiding protests from her relatives. For his purpose he called one of his aunts and assigned rooms to her in the palace…116
Constance’s widow had no notion as to where she was, but the many attentions paid to her caused her to suspect some trap and to ask leave to go to her, lying sick in the Portuguese quarter. To prove to her that she had naught to suspect or fear, the request was readily granted. She came straight to me first and told me of her fears which were all the more poignant when she knew that the place to which she had been led was Sorasak’s palace. Yet she had to go back to it when, some time later, the court lady sent a large escort for her…116
She was still awaiting news from Bangkok when one of her former slave girls (Wanlapa), now with Sorasak’s aunt, told her that rooms had been made ready for her in the seraglio to which she was to be led from the court lady’s apartment the very next day and a message to her relatives was to be sent simultaneously, telling them that she was quite comfortable where she was and no longer had any desire to go out…116
…from the moment he was recognized as king, he made pretense, to an even greater degree than his predecessors, of the Majesty which goes with kingship. It consists of only showing he royal person once or twice a year to his subjects; he then appears before them like unto a God from Heaven in whose presence all prostrate themselves, face to the ground…117
To defer the impending disaster, Constance’s widow feigned sickness and asked for one day only in which to take certain medicines, sending her uncle with her excuses. Sorasak and his aunt had not the least suspicion and put off her removal to the palace until the following day. Ere that day, no sooner had darkness fallen, she came to see me and revealed her parlous situation, together with her resolve to escape that very night to Bangkok at no matter what risk to life and limb. Her determination astounded me. Although aware of the many risks involved both for her and for ourselves also, I still felt that my duty lay in not dissuading her, for I knew that she could not remain in the capital without incurring a risk, an exceedingly grave risk, of dishonor to her person and her soul…117
Knowing that Ste Marie was back again in the capital on duty, completing certain minor negotiations, she begged me send for him to explain what precautions were necessary to evade the vigilance of the River Police, as he had made the journey more than once…117
No time was lost in deciding this and, as she had no boat, I gave them the one which I was holding in readiness for my own return to rejoin my colleagues in Bangkok, my Superior having ordered me to stay behind at the capital pending General Desfarges’ application for Constance’s widow. I should hav mentioned the P. de la Breuille was still in the capital with me; he had acquired grater fluency in the language and in consequence was on terms of closer friendship with the native Christians than was any other of our Jesuit fathers, for which reason he had been chosen as the one to remain behind…117
I endeavored to constrain him to accompany us to Bangkok, as I feared that the lady’s evasion, when discovered, might bring ill-usage upon him on the ground that he was privy to it; but he would not hear of any such thing, judging himself fortunate if peradventure he might suffer in so good a cause…117-8
That same evening at ten of the clock all was in readiness and Constance’s widow set forth; she was accompanied by her son and by one of Sorasak’s slave-girls (Wanlapa?) who escaped in order to be with her. In addition, I gave her one of our men to row the boat along with two of Constance’s slaves who had escaped and sought a hiding place with us prior to accompanying me to Bangkok. Before she departed she handed back to us the money we had given her sometime earlier and begged us expend it in gifts to the Christians in need; she also asked us to commend the success of her journey to God…118
I followed somewhat later in P. de la Breuille’s boat after I had settled certain matters of business with him. In traveled fast in order to be in Bangkok before her and prepare General Desfarges to receive her kindly…118
…Danglas had persuaded himself of the pleasant surprise he would afford the general by bringing the lady along with him to Bangkok, thereby sparing the general any loss of face, where the application for her release rejected…118
With this in view, on his next visit to the capital, Danglas brought money with him to meet the cost of a boat and oarsmen for the lady’s removal. Upon his arrival he came to me and unfolded his plan: it was the morning preceding the day when the lady actually sailed and before the matter of her departure had become most urgent…118
§37. Constance’s widow in Bangkok; Verdesal’s gallantry, Desfarges’ brutality. Exchange of pleas and charges between the window and Bishop Laneau’s clergy.
Our journey could not have been better; neither boat was detained; mine reached Bangkok from the capital in eleven hours—two hours in advance of the other boat conveying Constance’s widow and her escort Lt. Ste Marie…119
The Bishop took us somewhat aback by his manner; he seemed dumbfounded by the news we brought and disinclined to go with us to the general, saying he would rather see the general alone. While they were thus engaged I went down to the landing-stage, as it was important to arrange that the lady, when coming ashore, pass unobserved by the Siamese who were engaged in loading cargo into vessels nearby; this was secured most successfully and she came out unnoticed from under the awning of her boat (Vollant states that she was concealed aboard one of the ships tied up alongside). During my absence on this errand the Bishop proceeded to have converse with the general, but when Father Superior went in a few minutes later with intent to join them, he received a most indignant reception and was hounded out of the building…119
The poor lady’s amazement can be divined. With the end of her troubles in sight at last she stepped ashore, she looked for welcome with open arms from the man whose entertainment during three whole months had cost Constance and herself more than ten thousand francs. This was the man now opposed to admitting her into the fortress of which, thanks to Constance’s influence, he had been given control, the man who would now abandon her in a boat on the river, prey to abduction by the Siamese. In fact, her admission to the fortress in the end was due entirely to the pressure applied by Mr. de Verdesal upon Mr. Desfarges who permitted her to be housed in his quarters. Verdesal’s gallant attention went to so far that he vacated his whole apartment for her use and spent all the period she was there under canvas…120
P. Le Blanc was in the fortress and, like myself, was witness of what took place there while the lady was in residence. He witnessed all the fefforts made in vain both to dislodge her also constrain her to go back of her own free will; he saw Desfarges’ flute efforts, first to persuade the lady through the pleadings of the Bishop and seminary staff or to prevail upon his officers to surrender her to the Siamese against her will…120
Desfarges had her confined in one of the bastions of the fortress. Her offence was that she had written to Mr. de Verdesal, since she received no visits form any officer, imploring him to stand by her and have pity on her and her young son. Verdesal showed her letter to the general, thinking to melt him by it. On the contrary, Desfarges seized upon it as a pretext to charge her with the heinous crime of inciting the garrison to flout his orders. She addressed another letter ot the general himself, a most pitiful letter with which she enclosed two letters from King Louis as proof of His Majesty’s favor and protection for Constance and family. Desfarges sent and had her thrown out of Verdesal’s quarters and cast into the dungeon and detained her there as one guilty of a crime against the realm, keeping back the two royal letters which were first copies…120
All the while Bishop Laneau and the staff of the seminary were importuning the officers of the garrison, by letter and by word of mouth; but clearly that was but a pretence. None save the gentlemen from the seminary any longer had access to the lady and they without respite beset her, saying:
It was the Jesuits who had put the notion into her head of leaving the country and of going to France, but she ought not to listen to such counsel…120
To all of this she ever made the same reply with a wondrous firm and steady air, saying:
No counsel by the Jesuits, but her own conscience led her, but its prompting, to seek shelter in Bangkok from a danger which menaced her honor as a woman and her faith as a Christian…123
Again she wondered at the Bishop’s promise to protect her from renewed ill-usage in the capital. He had been powerless to prevent the sack of his seminary and the exposure of his priests in strait-collars at a time when he might still have been able to inspire fear by reason of the French and of the prestige he enjoyed with them, but once they were gone out of the country what consideration could he command from the Siamese?
…the few Christians in the country had been reduced to slavery and distributed already among the courtiers—no worse fate than this could overtake them; anxiety for the inmates of the seminary was groundless, since the general had declared to the Second Ambassador that the Jesuits were her sole advisors when she cast herself upon the garrison without any authority from him…121
Finally, she found it hard to believe the French to be in any danger for which she was responsible: on the contrary, their numbers were such as to afford grounds to the Siamese, for fearing them, rather than to the French, for flinching before such barbarians…121
§38. Desfarges surrenders Constance’s widow to the Siamese but condones the breach of his guarantor’s pledge.
There wcan be but few who will not marvel at the manner in which this affair was conducted and not admit that it reflects little to the credit of France. It would not, I think, be difficult to demonstrate in each case the inducement which led Mr. Desfarges, Mr. Véret and the gentlemen of the seminary to surrender Constance’s widow, but aims and purposes known to God alone are not for man to explore. All I will say is that there was great surprise when it became known that Mr. Véret and Bishop Laneau, who contrived the surrender of Constance’s widow, had thought to withdraw from the country themselves in spite of their parole to the Siamese…122
Both men had insisted to the officers vehemently that if the lady were taken out of the country the Siamese would retaliate by cruelly persecuting the Christians left behind and not only would the French factory be destroyed (a grievous loss to the Compagnie des Indes) but their own persons would be exposed to rough treatment by ‘those savages’ to whom they had offered themselves as guarantors, etc…122
Véret, in fact, boarded the fleet on its way out from the river. The barcalon was scandalized at Véret’s failure to keep faith and, owing to Véret’s great haste which had prevented the Bishop from escaping as he intended, the Bishop was arrested at once and the troops were instantly held up. The barcalon threatened the roughest handling of the Frenchmen remaining in his hands unless Véret were handed over…123
Desfarges had appeared sensitive enough of the consequences which he fancied would follow for the Christians if Constance’s widow were taken out of the country, but he had no such scruples concerning the effect which Véret’s evasion must certainly have upon the Frenchmen remaining in the barcalon’s hands…123
It must be admitted that he was hardly consistent; also that the Bishop had good grounds for wonder at the workings of Divine Providence, good grounds also to regret the many steps which he had been caused to take, for not only am in convinced that this prelate is a good man, but also that he acted under the influence of others rather than his own accord in all the concerned Constance’s window. It is my belief that the Bishop contemplated leaving the country to humor General Desfarges because the removal of the Bishop was included in a design which the general had in mind: at leas the Bishop told it to P. Le Royer and P. Bouchet when he revealed the general’s scheme to them: a scheme which I think he would have kept secret had he foreseen the consequences. He paid a heavy price, as did all the other Frenchmen, for Mr. Véret’s evasion: all were chained up in strait collars and, like slaves, were put to labor upon public works. Our poor P. de la Breuille was not exempt though he had no hand in the business and suffered the same hard usage as the others for more than a year…113
(Note: The assumption that the Bishop was prepared to join Véret in evading the responsibility he had accepted is unconfirmed by any of the other writers. His letter to Véret of 14 January 1689 was also not available for P. de Béze’s enlightenment.—See commentary, page 125.)