Narai (Thai: นารายณ์; 16 February 1633 – 11 July
1688) or Ramathibodi III (รามาธิบดีที่ 3) or
Ramathibodi Si Sanphet
(รามาธิบดีศรีสรรเพชญ) was the
king of Ayutthaya from 1656 to 1688 and arguably the most famous
Ayutthayan king. His reign was the most prosperous during the
Ayutthaya period and saw the great commercial and diplomatic
activities with foreign nations including the Middle East and the
West. During the later years of his reign,
Narai gave his favorite –
the Greek adventurer
Constantine Phaulkon – so much power that
Phaulkon technically became the chancellor of the state. Through the
arrangements of Phaulkon, the Siamese kingdom came into close
diplomatic relations with the court of
Louis XIV and French soldiers
and missionaries filled the Siamese aristocracy and defense. The
dominance of French officials led to frictions between them and the
native mandarins and led to the turbulent revolution of 1688 towards
the end of his reign. Narai’s reign was also known for the
1662–1664 invasion of Burma, the destruction of the briefly
independent port city of the
Sultanate of Singgora
Sultanate of Singgora (1605–1680), and
the Siam–England war (1687).
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 conflicts and courtly life in the
seventeenth century that otherwise would not have survived the
complete destruction of the capital in 1767.
1 Birth and name
3 Domestic Policy
4 Foreign Missions
5 Rising French influence
6 The "Revolution" of 1688
8 See also
11 External links
Birth and name
Narai was born on 16 February 1633 to King
Prasat Thong and his
consort, Princess Sirithida (Thai: ศิริธิดา), who
was a daughter of Songtham.
Prasat Thong had just usurped the throne
from the ruling
Sukhothai dynasty in 1629 and founded a dynasty of his
Narai had an siblings younger sister Princess Si Suphan (or
Princess Ratcha Kanlayani), elder half-brother Prince Chai, and an
uncle Prince Si Suthammaracha.
The Royal Chronicle of Ayutthaya: Royal Recension Version recorded
that "In that year , the princess consort gave birth to a son.
When the royal family glanced at the infant, they saw the baby had
four arms before having two arms as normal. Upon learning this, the
king thought it was a miracle. He therefore named his son Narai."
Narai is from Sanskrit Narayana, a name of Hindu god Vishnu
who has four arms.
Upon Prasat Thong’s death in 1656, Prince Chai succeeded his father
as King Sanpet VI.
However, it was a Thai tradition to give brothers a higher priority
over sons in succession. Prince Sudharmmaraja plotted with his nephew,
Prince Narai, to bring Sanpet VI down. After nine months of ascension,
Sanpet VI was executed following a coup.
Narai and his uncle
marched into the palace, and
Si Suthammaracha crowned himself king.
Si Suthammaracha appointed
Narai as the Uparaja, or the Front Palace.
Narai was also an ambitious prince and had requested Dutch
support against his uncle. Si Suthammaracha’s rule was weak and he
fell under the control of Chao Phraya Chakri, an ambitious mandarin
who also wanted the throne.
Narai and his uncle finally alienated each other. Si
Suthammaracha lusted after Narai’s sister, Princess Ratcha
Kanlayani. He ordered his soldiers to surround her residence and
entered the house. The princess hid in the book chest and thus was
moved to the Front Palace, where she met her brother.
Enraged at his uncle's behavior,
Narai decided to take action. He drew
his support from the Persian and Japanese mercenaries that had been
persecuted during his father's reign. He was also supported by the
Dutch East India Company, as well as his brothers and the Okya
Sukhothai, a powerful nobleman. On the Day of Ashura, the Persians,
Japanese and Dutch stormed the palace. The prince engaged in single
combat with his uncle, until the king fled to the Rear Palace. Si
Suthammaracha was captured and was executed at Wat Khok Phraya on 26
Memorial plate in
Lopburi showing king
Narai with French ambassadors.
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 west. Policies revolved around either
directly countering the influence, or creating a delicate balance of
power between the different parties.:58
In 1660, the Chinese invaded the Burmese capitol at Ava to capture Zhu
Youlang, the last
Southern Ming emperor. Sensing a possible weakening
of Burmese influence in the northern vassal states, King
the Burmese–Siamese War of 1662–64 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 in
1662. After stopping a Burmese army incursion in 1663 at Sai Yok,
Narai led an army of 60,000 in an invasion of Burma, capturing
Martaban, Syriam, Rangoon, Hongsawadi, and then in 1664 laid siege to
Pagan. After "causing many casualties in dead and wounded and
capturing many prisoners of war", the Siamese
Nadia also handed control of
Mergui over to French officer Chevalier
de Beauregard and his small French garrison. At the same time, he
also granted a concession of the strategic port of
Beauregard, with the view of countering Dutch influence.
Narai also built 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.:250–251
Narai observes a lunar eclipse with French Jesuits at Lopburi,
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.:243–244 The conversion attempt ultimately
failed and arguably backfired but Catholics were to remain in Siam up
to the present day.
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 counselor. 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
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. However, both Catholic and
Islamic missions were to come to the conclusion that Phaulkon was
responsible for their failures. Siamese courtiers also
resented Phaulkon's influence and he quickly became the focus of
xenophobic sentiments at court, with the future King
See also: France-
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
Pope Clement IX and
Louis XIV of France. King
Narai reciprocated by sending a mission
to France in 1680 led by Phya Pipatkosa. Although the mission was
lost at sea near Madagascar, the French responded positively by
sending a commercial mission to Ayutthaya headed by Monsignor Pallu in
Kosa Pan presents King Narai's letter to
Louis XIV at Versailles, 1
Rising French influence
See also: Siamese embassy to France (1686)
The second half of Narai’s reign was the period of the growing
French influence until the coup of 1688. This was achieved through a
Greek adventurer with the Latinized name of
Constantine Phaulkon who
formerly worked for the English East India Company. Phaulkon was
introduced into the court by Kosa Lek in 1681 as a witted interpreter
and quickly gained the royal favor.:254–260 In 1682 he served as
the interpreter during the royal audience with François Pallu, who
arrived with letters from Louis XIV. Phaulkon suggested his plan of
the reconstruction of the fort of
Mergui in polygonal European style,
which was strongly opposed by Kosa Lek. Kosa Lek was later accused of
receiving bribery from the peasants who did not want to be drafted
Mergui construction. He was flogged to death under royal
Narai responded the French by the dispatch of Siamese mission to
France in January 1684 led by Khun Pijaivanit and Khun Pijitmaitri
accompanied by missionary Benigne Vachet. They reached
November and eventually had the French royal audience.
Louis XIV sent
de Chaumont as chief ambassador,:261 and de Choisy to lead the
French mission in 1685 to return the Siamese embassadors and to
Narai to Catholicism.:62 The mission contained a large
Jesuit priests and scientists. Colbert sent his letter to
Phaulkon to instruct him to persuade the Siamese king to concede to
French requests with the promises of knighting him as a count.
Siamese embassy to
Louis XIV in 1686, by Nicolas Larmessin.
Though not convert to Christianity,
Narai agreed to allow the French
troops to be stationed in Siamese ports. Chevalier de Forbin was made
the commander of
Bangkok fort and trainers of Siamese armies in
Western warfare.:263 Several Siamese forts including Mergui, Ligor,
Singora (Songkhla), Lavo, and Ayutthaya itself were reconstructed in
European style. Another Siamese mission to France was led by Phra
Visutsundhorn (Kosa Pan, younger brother of Kosa Lek) and Guy Tachard
in 1686 with enthusiastic European reception. A fragmentary Siamese
account of the mission compiled by
Kosa Pan was re-discovered in Paris
in the 1980s.
Samuel White, the governor of
Mergui fort and companion of Phaulkon,
conflicted with the English fleets from India in 1687, leading to the
English blockade of Mergui. The Siamese native mandarins massacred the
local Englishmen out of frustration. With English fleets threatening
Narai decided to denounce the English and executed the mandarins.
Pope Innocent XI
Pope Innocent XI receives the Siamese envoys, led by Father Tachard
who reads the translation of the message from King Narai, December
In 1687 the new French mission left Brest for Ayutthaya. The mission
Kosa Pan returning home,
Guy Tachard again, Simon de La
Loubère, Claude Céberet du Boullay, and the General Desfarges. A
French army regiment was sent with this mission to station in Siamese
forts with Desfarges as the military commander.:267
Narai agreed to
station French troops at
Mergui and Bangkok, both with Western-style
forts.:64,65 Desfarges was stationed at Bangkok. (The fort is now
called the Vijaiprasit Fort Thai:
ป้อมวิไชยประสิทธิ์ later the royal
fort of King Taksin). The last Siamese embassy was led by Ok-khun
Chamnan in 1688 visiting
Rome and Pope Innocent XI.
The "Revolution" of 1688
Main article: Siamese revolution (1688)
Narai spent his whole reign reducing the power of native mandarins
that caused much bloodshed during his predecessors’ time. He firstly
supported Persian and later the French guards and advisors against the
Thai mandarins. Even his ascension to the throne was orchestrated by
Persian mercenaries. The French eventually enjoyed special favors from
religious affairs to the military activities. One of the critical
turning points concerned with the construction of the French forts and
military barracks in Bangkok, at the river mouth. In dealing with the
activities, the French mostly depended on Constantine Phaulkon, the
king's favorite. The threat of the French military presence,
reportedly, was felt among the court noble. All in all, factionalism,
favoritism and nepotism became apparent. The native mandarin somehow
managed to reserve their powers, most notably Kosa Lek.
Petracha, Commander of the Royal Regiment of Elephants, emerged as the
Petracha had familial connections to
Narai, with his mother as the king’s milkmaid and his sister as the
Narai is said to fear of fathering a son. He therefore ordered the
abortion of any of his impregnated consorts. He, however, adopted a
son of a minor mandarin with the name of Phra Piya and made him his
successor. The young prince was embraced by the French who managed to
convert him to Catholicism.
Matters were brought to a head when King
Narai fell gravely ill in
March 1688 while the king stayed in
Lopburi palaces. Aware of the
coming succession dispute, in May 1688
Narai called together his
closest councillors: Phaulkon, Phra Phetracha, 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.
Narai was seriously ill with no hope of recovery, Phetracha
arrested Phaulkon and the French officers. After questioning Mom Pi,
he discovered Mom Pi had conspired with Phaulkon to assume the throne,
and Mom Pi was executed. Further questioning of Phaulkon revealed a
plot to raise a rebellion, and he too was executed. Narai, on his
deathbed, was unable to do anything, except curse
Phetracha and his
son, Luang Sorasak. Luang Sorasak then had Narai's two brothers
On the death of King Narai,
Phetracha proclaimed himself king. Siamese
troops attacked the French troops during the Siege of Bangkok.
Finally, the French soldiers were allowed to return to France. Only
Hollanders were allowed to trade in the capital before the French and
English finally ended their dispute with Siam.:273–276
Contemporary French depiction of King Narai.
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 seven
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 Abbé 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.
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, whilst an ancient street in Lop Buri Province, where
Narai dwelt at the time he received the Chevalier de Chaumont, has
been named "Rue de France" by the Thai government in 1985 to
commemorate the 300th anniversary of the relations between the two
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.
Claude de Forbin
François-Timoléon de Choisy
^ a b M.L. Manich Jumsai (เขียน) ธิติมา
2531, หน้า 17 (in Thai)
[Names of Ayutthayan Kings] (in Thai). Royal Institute of Thailand.
2002-06-03. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved
[Royal Chronicle of Ayutthaya: Royal Recension Version]. Bangkok: Fine
Arts Department of Thailand. 1991. ISBN 9744171448.
or empty url= (help)
^ Dirk Van der Cruysse (2002). Siam & the West, 1500-1700.
Bangkok: Silkworm Books. ISBN 9781630411626.
^ Wyatt, DK (1984). Thailand: A Short History. Chiang Mai: Silkworm.
^ a b c d Chakrabongse, C., 1960, Lords of Life, London: Alvin Redman
^ a b c d e f g h i Rajanubhab, D., 2001, Our Wars With the Burmese,
Bangkok: White Lotus Co. Ltd., ISBN 9747534584
^ Wyatt, DK. Thailand: A Short History. p. 115.
^ Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). Siam and the West. Chiang Mai:
Silkworm. p. 343.
^ Muhammad Rabi' ibn Muhammad Ibrahim (1972). The Ship of Sulaiman.
Translated by J. O'Kane. London: Routledge. pp. 98–9.
^ Muhammad Rabi'ibn Muhammad Ibrahim. The Ship of Sulaiman.
^ Cruysse, Dirk van der. Siam and the West. p. 429.
^ "The Beginning of Relations with European Nations and Japan (sic)".
Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2006. Archived from the original on
2009-06-21. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
^ Smithies, M (1999). A Siamese Embassy Lost in Africa, 1686. Chiang
Mai: Silkworm. p. 1.
^ Smithies, M.; Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). The Diary of Kosa Pan:
Thai Ambassador to France, June–July 1686. Seattle: University of
^ Cruysse, Dirk van der. Siam and the West. p. 444.
^ Kings of
Thailand Archived 2006-09-12 at the Wayback Machine.
^ สิ่งแวดล้อมศิลปกรรม (in Thai).
Lop Buri Province. n.d. Retrieved 2014-10-13. ปัจจุบัน
300 ปี ในปี พ.ศ. 2528
^ Carlyle, T., The French Revolution, Section V
Wikimedia Commons has media related to King Narai.
Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). Siam and the West. Chiang Mai: Silkworm
Marcinkowski, M. Ismail (2005). From Isfahan to Ayutthaya: Contacts
between Iran and Siam in the 17th Century. With a foreword by
Professor Ehsan Yarshater, Columbia University . Singapore: Pustaka
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
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
Wyatt, DK (1984). Thailand: A Short History. Chiang Mai: Silkworm
Nidhi Eoseewong (1984). Thai Politics during King Narai's Period (pdf)
(in Thai). Bangkok: Thammasat University Press.
Prasat Thong Dynasty
Born: 16 February 1633 Died: 11 July 1688
King of Ayutthaya
26 October 1656 – 11 July 1688
Monarchs of Thailand
Thai monarchs' family tree
Phra Ruang Dynasty
Ngua Nam Thum
Mahathammaracha I (Lithai)
Mahathammaracha II (Lue Thai)
Mahathammaracha III (Sai Lue Thai)
Mahathammaracha IV (Borommapan)
Ramathibodi I (Uthong)
Borommarachathirat I (Khun Luang Pa Ngua)
Borommarachathirat II (Chao Sam Phraya)
Borommarachathirat III (Borommaracha)
Ramathibodi II (Chettha)
Borommarachathirat IV (No Phutthangkun)
Sanphet I (Mahathammarachathirat)
Sanphet II (Naresuan)
Sanphet III (Ekathotsarot)
Sanphet IV (Si Saowaphak)
Borommaracha I (Songtham)
Borommaracha II (Chetthathirat)
Prasat Thong Dynasty
Sanphet V (Prasat Thong)
Sanphet VI (Chai)
Sanphet VII (Si Suthammaracha)
Ramathibodi III (Narai)
Ban Phlu Luang Dynasty
Sanphet VIII (Suriyenthrathibodi)
Sanphet IX (Thai Sa)
Borommarachathirat V (Borommakot)
Borommarachathirat VI (Uthumphon)
Borommaracha III (Ekkathat)
Borommaracha IV (Taksin)
Rattanakosin / Thailand
Phra Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I)
Phra Buddha Loetla Nabhalai (Rama II)
Nangklao (Rama III)
Mongkut (Rama IV)
Chulalongkorn (Rama V)
Vajiravudh (Rama VI)
Prajadhipok (Rama VII)
Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII)
Bhumibol Aduyadej (Rama IX)
Vajiralongkorn (Rama X)
List of monarchs of Thailand
ISNI: 0000 0001 2280 1798