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Encyclopedia > Narai
King Narai the Great
Chevalier de Chaumont presents a letter from Louis XIV to King Narai
Reign August 26, 1656July 11, 1688
Born 1629
Died July 11, 1688
Predecessor Suthammaracha (Sanpet IV)
Successor Petracha
Royal House Prasat Thong Dynasty, Kingdom of Ayutthaya

King Narai the Great (Son of Prasat Thong) (Thai: สมเด็จพระนารายณ์มหาราช; 1629 - July 11, 1688) became king of the Ayutthaya kingdom or Siam, today's Thailand, in 1656. His reign saw a major expansion of diplomatic missions to and from Western powers, most notably France, England, and the Vatican. Missions were also sent and received from Persia, India, China, as well as other neighbouring states. Another notable feature of Narai's reign was the unprecedented influence of foreigners at the Siamese court, embodied in the meteoric rise of Constantine Phaulkon, a Greek adventurer who would eventually hold the modern equivalent of the post of Prime Minister. At the same time, the influence of foreigners, particularly the French, became a major source of grievance within the Siamese court, and upon King Narai's death, diplomatic activities and foreign influences were dramatically curtailed and did not recover their former levels until the mid-nineteenth century. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (820x885, 355 KB) Chevalier de Chaumont presents Louis XIVs letter to King Narai. ... Chevalier de Chaumont presents a letter from Louis XIV to King Narai Alexandre, Chevalier de Chaumont (1640 - Paris , January 28, 1710) was the first French embassador for King Louis XIV in Siam. ... August 26 is the 238th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (239th in leap years). ... // Events Mehmed Köprülü becomes Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. ... July 11 is the 192nd day (193rd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 173 days remaining. ... // Events A high-powered conspiracy of notables, the Immortal Seven, invite William and Mary to depose James II of England. ... Events March 4 - Massachusetts Bay Colony is granted a Royal charter. ... July 11 is the 192nd day (193rd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 173 days remaining. ... // Events A high-powered conspiracy of notables, the Immortal Seven, invite William and Mary to depose James II of England. ... Phetracha (alternative spellings: Bedraja, Petraja, Petraja, Petratcha; also called Phra Phetracha; Thai: ; d. ... The kingdom of Ayutthaya was a Thai kingdom that existed from the 1350 to 1767. ... Events March 4 - Massachusetts Bay Colony is granted a Royal charter. ... July 11 is the 192nd day (193rd in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 173 days remaining. ... // Events A high-powered conspiracy of notables, the Immortal Seven, invite William and Mary to depose James II of England. ... The kingdom of Ayutthaya was a Thai kingdom that existed from the 1350 to 1767. ... Constantine Phaulkon (born Κωνσταντίνος Γεράκης or Constantinos Gerakis; Gerakis is the Greek word for Phaulkon) (1647 - June 5, 1688) was a Greek adventurer, who became first counsellor to King Narai of Ayutthaya. ...


Nevertheless, the presence of numerous foreigners from the French Jesuits to the Persian delegates has left historians with rich sources of material on the city of Ayutthaya and its courtly life in the seventeenth century that otherwise would not have survived the complete destruction of the capital in 1767.

Contents

Succession

With no formal succession process, the death of a monarch of Ayutthaya usually gave rise to violent succession disputes and Narai was no exception. On the death of King Prasat Thong in August 1656, his eldest son, Prince Chai seized the throne. King Chai was soon deposed by his younger brother, Prince Narai, who placed his uncle, Suthammaracha, on the throne. However, by 26 October 1656, Prince Narai had deposed his uncle, and with the apparent help of foreigners he seized the throne.[1] King Prasat Thong (Thai: ) (reigned 1629-1656) was the first king of Prasat Thong dynasty, the 4th dynasty of Ayutthaya kingdom. ...


Domestic Policy

Domestic policies in King Narai's reign were greatly affected by the interference of foreign powers most notably the Chinese to the north, the Dutch to the South, and the English who were making their first forays into India to the east. Policies revolved around either directly countering the influence, or creating a delicate balance of power between the different parties.


Fearing a possible weakening of influence in the northern vassal states following the successful Chinese invasion of Ava in 1660, King Narai mounted an expedition to bring Chiang Mai under the direct control of Ayutthya. Although the expedition was successful in taking control of Lampang and other smaller cities, a second expedition had to be conducted to bring Chiang Mai under control.


There was also trouble on the Tenasserim coast at the port of Mergui. In July 1687, an incident that came to be known as the Mergui massacre occurred that resulted in the massacre of some sixty Englishmen. The incident had origins in a deterioration of the relationship between Siam and the East India Company. Phaulkon had appointed two English acquaintances of his as governors of Mergui, and they used the port as a base for privateering expeditions against the Kingdom of Golconda, which had friendly relations with the East India Company. In April 1687 the East India Company demanded £65,000 compensation from Narai and blockaded Mergui. Fearing a trial on the charge of piracy, the two English governors of Mergui lavishly entertained the captains of the ship. However, the entertainment aroused the suspicion of the Siamese authorities, who took matters into their own hands and opened fire on the English ships and massacred all the Englishmen they could lay their hands on. Narai then declared war on the East India Company, and handed control of Mergui over to a French governor and a small French garrison.[2] At the same time, he also conceded the strategic port of Bangkok to France with the view of countering Dutch influence.[3]


King Narai also constructed a new palace at present-day Lopburi ("Louvo" in the French accounts) utilising the expertise of Jesuit architects and engineers. European influences are clearly evident in the architectural style, especially the use of wide windows. The move to Lopburi was arguably prompted by the Dutch naval blockade of Ayutthaya in 1664 to enforce a fur monopoly.

King Narai observes a lunar eclipse with French Jesuits at Lopburi, 1685
King Narai observes a lunar eclipse with French Jesuits at Lopburi, 1685

Although Catholic missions had been present in Ayutthaya as early as 1567 under Portuguese Dominicans, King Narai's reign saw the first concerted attempt to convert the monarch to Catholicism under the auspices of French Jesuits who were given permission to settle in Ayutthaya in 1662. The conversion attempt ultimately failed and arguably backfired but Catholics were to remain in Siam up to the present day. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1618x1330, 917 KB) King Narai and French Jesuits observing a lunar eclipse at Lopburi, 1685. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1618x1330, 917 KB) King Narai and French Jesuits observing a lunar eclipse at Lopburi, 1685. ...


Most controversially, King Narai allowed the rise of Constantine Phaulkon, a Greek adventurer who arrived in Ayutthaya in 1675. Within a few years, Phaulkon had managed to ingratiate himself with the king and became Narai's closest councillor. Under Phaulkon's guidance, King Narai balanced the influence of the Dutch by favouring the French. Phaulkon also encouraged French interest by initially leading them to believe that the king was about to convert to Catholicism. Although King Narai did display a degree of interest in Catholicism, he also displayed an equal interest in Islam and there is no concrete evidence that he wished to convert to either.[4] However, both Catholic and Islamic missions were to come to the conclusion that Phaulkon was responsible for their failures.[5][6] Siamese courtiers also resented Phaulkon's influence and he quickly became the focus of xenophobic sentiments at court, with the future King Petracha at their head. Phetracha (alternative spellings: Bedraja, Petraja, Petraja, Petratcha; also called Phra Phetracha; Thai: ; d. ...


Foreign Missions

The most remarkable aspect of King Narai's reign were the diplomatic missions that he sent and received during his reign. Missions were sent as far afield as France, England, and the Vatican, although at least two missions were lost at sea. Ties with states closer to Ayutthaya were not neglected as missions were also sent to Persia, Golconda (India), China, as well as other neighbouring states.


Undoubtedly, the most celebrated of these missions were those to Europe, in particular France. In 1673, a French ecclesiastical mission arrived at the Siamese court with letters from Pope Clement IX and King Louis XIV of France. King Narai reciprocated by sending a mission to France in 1680. Although the mission was lost at sea near Madagascar,[7] the French responded positively by sending a commercial mission to Ayutthaya headed by Monsignor Pallu in 1682. Clement IX, né Giulio Rospigliosi (January 28, 1600 - December 9, 1669) was pope from 1667 to 1669. ... Louis XIV King of France and Navarre By Hyacinthe Rigaud (1701) Louis XIV (Louis-Dieudonné) (September 5, 1638–September 1, 1715) reigned as King of France and King of Navarre from May 14, 1643 until his death. ...

Kosa Pan presents King Narai's letter to Louis XIV at Versailles, 1 September 1686
Kosa Pan presents King Narai's letter to Louis XIV at Versailles, 1 September 1686

In 1684, another mission was sent to France. However, they made little impact as according to their missionary interpreter, Benigne Vachet, they were ill-informed and uncouth. The same year also saw the wreck of another Siamese embassy to Portugal near the Cape of Good Hope, under Ok-khun Chamnan who survived. After a series of adventures, Chamnan made his way to the Dutch outpost on the Cape and managed to return via a roundabout route to Siam in 1687, in the process acquiring the Portuguese language, then the lingua franca of Southeast Asia. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1757x880, 373 KB) Kosa Pan and Siamese envoys at Versailles, 1 September 1686. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (1757x880, 373 KB) Kosa Pan and Siamese envoys at Versailles, 1 September 1686. ...


Despite the disappointment of the 1684 mission, the French court sent another mission under the Chevalier de Chaumont to Ayutthaya ostensibly to convert King Narai to Catholicism. However at the same time the Persian shah, Suleiman I, had also despatched a mission of his own with the intention of converting Narai to Islam. Ultimately, the result of the de Chaumont mission was some commercial concessions that were equal to those that had been given to the Dutch. Chevalier de Chaumont presents a letter from Louis XIV to King Narai Alexandre, Chevalier de Chaumont (1640 - Paris , January 28, 1710) was the first French embassador for King Louis XIV in Siam. ... Suleiman the Magnificent Suleiman I (November 6, 1494 – September 5/6, 1566); in Turkish Süleyman , (nicknamed the Magnificent in Europe and the Lawgiver in the Islamic World, in Turkish Kanuni) was the sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 to 1566 and successor to Selim I. He was...


A further mission headed by Kosa Pan, a foster brother of King Narai, was sent to France in 1686. However, unlike the first embassy, the second was met with a rapturous reception and caused a sensation in the courts and society of Europe. The mission landed at the French port of Brest before continuing its journey to Versailles, constantly surrounded by crowds of curious onlookers. The "exotic" clothes as well as manners of the envoys (including their kowtowing to Louis XIV), together with a special "machine" that was used to carry King Narai's missive to the French monarch caused much comment in French high society. A fragmentary Siamese account of the mission compiled by Kosa Pan was re-discovered in Paris in the 1980s.[8] Brest (lol) is a city in Brittany, or the Bretagne région, north-west France, sous-préfecture of the Finistère département. ...


In September 1687, another French mission arrived under Claude Cébéret du Boullay, director of the French East India Company. However, apart from the reaffirmation of the 1685 commercial treaty, the mission achieved little else.

Pope Innocent XI receives the Siamese envoys, December 1688
Pope Innocent XI receives the Siamese envoys, December 1688

A final mission under Fr. Guy Tachard and Ok-khun Chamnan was dispatched to France and the Vatican in January 1688. However, by the time it returned to Thailand, King Narai was already dead and a new king was on the throne. Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1471x1092, 311 KB) From Smithies, M., Siam and the Vatican in the Seventeenth Century, River, Bangkok, 2001, p. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1471x1092, 311 KB) From Smithies, M., Siam and the Vatican in the Seventeenth Century, River, Bangkok, 2001, p. ... The Blessed Innocent XI, né Benedetto Odescalchi (May 16, 1611 – August 12, 1689) was pope from 1676 to 1689. ...


The "Revolution" of 1688

By 1688 anti-foreign sentiments mainly directed at the French and Phaulkon were reaching their zenith. The Siamese courtiers resented the dominance of the Greek Phaulkon in state affairs, along with his Japanese wife and European lifestyle whilst the Buddhist clergy were uneasy with the increasing prominence of the French Jesuits. The courtiers eventually formed themselves into an Antiforeign faction. It is also notable, however, that other foreigners who had established themselves in Ayutthaya before the French, in particular the Protestant Dutch, English, and the Persians resented the growing political and economic influence of the Catholic French. Even other established Catholic factions, such as the Portuguese, had reason to resent the French presence, a violation of the Treaty of Tordesillas. The increasing French influence not only increased competition but were also an unwelcome reminder of the declining fortunes of Portugal.


Matters were brought to a head when King Narai fell gravely ill in March 1688. Aware of the coming succession dispute, in May Narai called together his closest councillors: Phaulkon, Phra Petracha, and Mom Pi and nominated his daughter, Kromluang Yothathep to succeed him. The three councillors were to act as regents until the princess took on a partner of her choice from one of the two Siamese councillors.[9] Far from calming the situation, Narai's decision spurred Petracha to act. With Narai essentially incapacitated by his illness, Petracha was given a free hand to stage a coup d'etat with the support of a resentful court as well as the Buddhist clergy. Mom Pi and Phaulkon were executed as Narai laid furious on his deathbed, unable to do anything to save his favourite.


On the death of King Narai, Petraja proclaimed himself king, expelled the French and virtually severed all ties with the west. After an initial confinement, missionaries were allowed to continue their work in Ayutthaya, albeit with some restrictions. Contact between Siam and the west remained sporadic, and would not return to the level seen in the reign of King Narai until the reign of King Mongkut in the mid-nineteenth century. King Mongkut (Rama IV), (October 18, 1804 – October 1, 1868) was king of Siam from 1851 to 1868. ...


Legacy

Although King Narai's reign witnessed the greatest extent of foreign influence at the Siamese court, his diplomatic achievements were to be reversed by his successor. It is debatable whether the new introspective attitude of his successors contributed to the weakening and eventual fall of Ayutthaya. On the other hand, the curtailing of foreign influences in the court may have prevented the colonisation of Ayutthaya. Nevertheless, his reign's diplomatic achievements contributed to him being posthumously styled "the Great," one of five recognised as such in the history of Thailand.


At the same time, the records of those involved in the diplomatic missions, particularly those from the west, have allowed historians to obtain a rare glimpse into the world of the Ayutthayan court as most original Ayutthaya records were destroyed with the city in 1767. These include the French accounts of the Chevalier de Chaumont, the Abbe de Choisy, Fr. Tachard, Claude de Forbin, de la Loubere and the Persian account of Muhammad Rabi' ibn Muhammad Ibrahim. Domestically, the relative stability during his reign also gave rise to the revival of Siamese literature during his reign.[10]


Further afield, one of the main streets of the city of Brest as well as another in Marseilles have been named "Rue de Siam" to commemorate Narai's missions. In addition, among the gifts that were exchanged between the Siamese and the French courts, two items from Siam were to have an unexpected impact on French history. The items were a pair of silver cannons that were eventually stored in the Royal Furniture Repository in Paris since they were classed as gifts rather than weapons. After failing to find usable weapons at the Arsenal, rioting Parisians broke into the Repository and discovered some 20 cannons. However, the Siamese cannons were the only ones that still functioned, and so they were hauled to the Bastille. The date was 14 July 1789.[11] Marseilles redirects here. ... The Bastille The Bastille ( ) was a fight in Paris, known formally as Bastille Saint-Antoine—Number 232, Rue Saint-Antoine—best known today because of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, which along with the Tennis Court Oath is considered the beginning of the French Revolution. ... July 14 is the 195th day (196th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar, with 170 days remaining. ... 1789 was a common year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ...


See also

Constantine Phaulkon (born Κωνσταντίνος Γεράκης or Constantinos Gerakis; Gerakis is the Greek word for Phaulkon) (1647 - June 5, 1688) was a Greek adventurer, who became first counsellor to King Narai of Ayutthaya. ... Chevalier (later Count) Claude de Forbin (August 6, 1656 _ March 4, 1733) was a French naval commander. ... Phetracha (alternative spellings: Bedraja, Petraja, Petraja, Petratcha; also called Phra Phetracha; Thai สมเด็จพระเพทราชา) (d. ... François Timoléon, abbé de Choisy (October 2, 1644 - October 2, 1724), French author, was born in Paris. ...

References

  • Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). Siam and the West. Chiang Mai: Silkworm
  • Muhammad Rabi' ibn Muhammad Ibrahim, J. O'Kane (trans.) (1972). The Ship of Sulaiman. London: Routledge
  • Smithies, M. (1999). A Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa, 1686. Chiang Mai: Silkworm
  • Smithies, M., Bressan, L., (2001). Siam and the Vatican in the Seventeenth Century. Bangkok: River
  • Smithies, M., Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). The Diary of Kosa Pan: Thai Ambassador to France, June-July 1686. Seattle: University of Washington Press
  • Wyatt, DK (1984). Thailand: A Short History. Chiang Mai: Silkworm

Notes

  1. ^ Wyatt, DK (1984). Thailand: A Short History. Chiang Mai: Silkworm, p. 107. 
  2. ^ Wyatt, DK. Thailand: A Short History, p. 115. 
  3. ^ Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). Siam and the West. Chiang Mai: Silkworm, p. 343. 
  4. ^ Muhammad Rabi' ibn Muhammad Ibrahim; J. O'Kane (trans.) (1972). The Ship of Sulaiman. London: Routledge, pp. 98-9. 
  5. ^ Muhammad Rabi'ibn Muhammad Ibrahim. The Ship of Sulaiman, p. 59. 
  6. ^ Cruysse, Dirk van der. Siam and the West, p. 429. 
  7. ^ Smithies, M (1999). A Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa, 1686. Chiang Mai: Silkworm, p. 1. 
  8. ^ Smithies, M.; Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). The Diary of Kosa Pan: Thai Ambassador to France, June-July 1686. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 
  9. ^ Cruysse, Dirk van der. Siam and the West, p. 444. 
  10. ^ Kings of Thailand, [1]
  11. ^ Carlyle, T., The French Revolution, Section V, [2]
Preceded by
Suthammaracha
Kings of Ayutthaya
16561688
Succeeded by
Petraja

  Results from FactBites:
 
Narai - definition of Narai in Encyclopedia (289 words)
Two kings were crowned and quickly put to death, until stability returned with the coronation of Narai on September 26 1655.
Narai allowed French missionaries to settle in Ayutthaya in 1662, and in 1664 the Dutch enforced a monopoly in fur trading by a sea blockade of Ayutthaya.
However, when Narai became terminally ill, his old foster brother Petraja started a coup d'état and killed both Mom Pi and Phaulkon, leaving Narai to die with the knowledge that his power has slipped away.
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