Normal state revenues and peace allowed culture to flower as never just before, and Narai’s reign was to be remembered for the establishment of friendly relations with Europeans producing Ayutthaya the most cosmopolitan of cities.
Contemporary foreign records depict the island capital as an awesome walled city some 10 kilometres in circumference, containing hundreds of glittering, gilded temples, towering spires and golden Buddha pictures. On the far more than 50 kilometres of waterways glided ornately carved royal barges, Arab dhows, Chinese junks, ocean going schooners, European barques and lesser rivercraft transporting goods to and from all comers of the kingdom. There had been also tiny vessels that could negotiate a maze of narrow canals and be moored out-side houses’ doorways. The city’s 40 kilometres of roads were alive with astute merchants, artisans, sedate ecclesiastics, noble-men, soldiers, cavalry and caparisoned war elephants adorned with bejewelled harnesses. Some 17 enormous cannon for-tresses protected the island city against would-be invaders.
Initially, Ayutthaya enjoyed harmonious relations with foreigners but eventually King Narai felt compelled to curb Dutch influence which became disturbingly strong, specifically following Dutch gunboat diplomacy forced him to sign a disadvantageous trade treaty in 1664. Frustrated by English reluctance to lend military help to counter Dutch hostility, Narai sought support from France and in 1664 permitted French missionaries to establish their own church. Narai’s relations with Ayutthaya’s French neighborhood grew increasingly cordial soon after he received a letter from Louis XIV hinting at attainable military assistance.
Around this time, a colourful Greek adventurer, Constantine Phaulkon, started assuming an critical central role in Thai politics. A talented linguist, fluent in Greek, Portuguese, French, English, Malay and Thai, Phaulkon had originally been employed as an interpreter by the Thai Treasury on the recommendation of his preceding employers, the English East India Company, which was anxious to improve its relations with Narai’s court. Conversant with local and foreign merchants’ trickery, Phaulkon had performed his duties brilliantly, revealing and sealing hitherto gaping loopholes in customs and duties collection to win himself speedy promotion as a Thai nobleman.
Sooner or later ingratiating himself into Narai’s favour, Phaulkon, a Catholic convert willingly assisted the French in establishing a close relationship with Ayutthaya. In no way interested in assisting Narai against the Dutch, the French had misinterpreted Narai’s religious tolerance as a pro-Christian stance and naively anticipated to convert Thailand to Christianity.
Narai sent an embassy to France in 1681 to underscore his wish for friendly relations. Following stopping in Mauritius for water, the ship carrying the embassy disappeared, almost certainly either sunk by violent storms or sacked and scuttled by pirates. In 1684, possibly on Phaulkon’s suggestion, Narai sent a second embassy to Versailles accompanied by the initial European-bound Thai students. Louis XN responded to Narai’s initiative by sending the 1st French embassy, led by a religious zealot and heavily staffed with missionaries, to Thailand in 1685.
Thereafter, faced with French prevarication and procrastination, Narai grew suspicious of French motives whilst the Thai nobility increasingly resented Phaul-kon’s powerful influence over the king. Worry of French domination remained unspoken but when it was rumoured that Narai intended to appoint his adopted son, Prince Piya, a Catholic convert, as his successor, the circumstance became explosive.
Consequently, in 1688, when the king fell seriously ill in his Lopburi palace, a pa-lace conspiracy emerged. Phaulkon was arrested for treason and executed. Prince Piya was assassinated. The French were expelled and inside a month King Narai had died. Thereafter, deeply suspicious of Europeans, the Thais all but closed their country to foreign trade until the middle of the 19th century.
THAILAND vs AUSTRALIA: AFC Futsal Championship 2016 (Quarter Finals)
A powerful second-half performance highlighted by objectives from Jetsada Chudech, Wiwat Thaijaruen, Suphawut Thueanklang and Jirawat Sornwichian saw Thailand book their location in the semi-finals of the AFC Futsal Championship with a 6-1 win over Australia on Wednesday.
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