Love of Siam-Epilogue

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Constantine Phaulkon was beheaded on June 22,1688.

King Narai died on July 11, 1688, less than a month after Phaulkon was executed.

General Phetracha became King of Siam after the death of King Narai.

He expelled all foreigners and for nearly 150 years foreign ships were not seen on the Chao Phraya River.

Diego and Christoph managed to smuggle Marie and her son safely to the fort in Bangkok.

General Des Farges, fearing a reprisal for sheltering an enemy of the throne, turned Marie over to the Siamese military. Marie was sold into slavery and prostitution. Thereafter for the rest of her life she labored in the royal kitchen.

Little George became a captain in the Siamese Navy, married Luisa Passana and mysteriously died at the age of 25, at the time when Sorasak became king.

In 1767, some 79 years after Phaulkon’s execution and King Narai’s death, Ayutthaya was captured and completely destroyed by the Burmese, and so were all the historical records and documents.

This story is based on European and other Southeast Asian records, from those who documented their relationships with Siam during this period.

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Love of Siam-CH60

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Chapter 36

Sorasak stood in his room,  looking at his reflection in the glass. The  muscles of his face were drawn tight.  King Narai couldn’t last much  longer,  he reasoned. General  Phetracha  was prepared  to take the throne,  and  Sorasak was next in line after the general-King Sorasak. He grinned  at his reflection.

Not  far away, guards were leading  Constantine Phaulkon,  with his arms bound  behind  his back, to an open  field.  He was being marched  to his execution.

Marie, holding  her son George’s hand,  walked out  of her house in Louvo  for the  last time.  Her  husband’s  two  faithful  servants, Diego  and  Christoph, had  arranged  to smuggle her  and  her  son to the French  fortress in Bangkok.  She stopped  for a moment  in front  of the house,  tears coming  to her eyes, and pointed  out  the view to  the young  boy. “See how beautiful  it is,” she said. “Siam is our home.”

“Then  why are you crying, mother?”  the small boy asked. She couldn’t answer.

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Love of Siam-CH59

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Chapter 35

He was born Constantine Hierax. After leaving home, he took on the name Constantine Gerakis, and he was later named Constantine Phaulkon. He was known, too, as the King’s Favorite and Luang Wijawendra, Superintendent of Foreign Trade. The French, when referring him to King Louis XIV of France, called him Foreign Minister of Siam.

To his European enemies he was simply The Greek At his trial he was called Phaulkon.

He was asked to confess to crimes he had never committed, and to things he had never even thought of. In a letter that was written while Phaulkon was in prison being interrogated, Beauchamp, an officer in the camp of Des Farges, reported: “He was made to suffer for more than three weeks with every barbarous villainy of the most horrible kind.” Phaulkon was put to torture to force him to disclose his complicity with the French and for his attempt to convert the king to Christianity.

Phaulkon denied all charges. Nothing could make him change his mind. He swore before his accusers, with God Almighty as his witness, that he was innocent. What he did, he did for Siam. His pleadings fell upon deaf ears.

In the meantime King Narai was dying and General Phetracha had cleared the way for his own accession to the throne. He had done away with the king’s two brothers and the king’s adopted son. He announced he was taking King Narai’s daughter for his wife, to give his reign some sort of authenticity. Only Phaulkon stood in his way.

Marie did not give up hope. “Maybe it’s all a terrible dream and I will wake up,” she kept telling herself When she had to admit it was no dream, she thought it might be rumor that her husband was in prison. Maybe it was a cover up. That was it. The French had rescued him and he was aboard a French man-of-war. But when no word came, only hearsay, she decided that she had to find out for herself. She would go to the prison. She put on her simple Japanese robes, no makeup or jewelry, and had Diego take her to the prison. What she didn’t expect was to find both General Phetracha and Sorasak there when she arrived.

“And what can we do for you, Madam Phaulkon?” General Phetracha asked.

“She came to see her husband,” Sorasak smirked. Marie’s fear was confirmed. Her husband was not safe aboard a French man-of-war. He was here, in this terrible prison.

“My husband is here, isn’t he?” she asked.

“Your husband the traitor,” Sorasak said.

Marie could see she had to appeal to their emotions. She began to plead with them both to spare Phaulkon’s life. “He had every opportunity to leave Siam but he chose to stay and as long as the King is alive,” she cried.

The men laughed. “But he didn’t leave,” Sorasak said. “And that was his mistake.”

“Please, let me see him,’ she pleaded. “I beg you, let me see him.” She fell down to her knees. “Please, let me see him.”

“Why not,” Sorasak said to the general. “Why not let her look at her hero now. Why not let her see that he is nothing, and that he never was!”

General Phetracha, amused at the thought, told the guards to lead Marie to Phaulkon’s cell.

The sight of Phaulkon was more agony than Marie could bear. She fought hard to keep back the tears. She knew she must be brave, but how could she when she saw her husband’s torn body. They had tortured him to where he was almost unrecognizable. She reached through the bars and was able to touch his outstretched hand. He pulled at his chains and moved closer. She touched his face and brushed back his hair, and he took hold of her hand. He kissed it and let it rest against his cheek. He told her how pretty she looked and he asked about their son. She told him Fanique was beginning to enjoy being a grandfather and was teaching their son to speak Japanese. “He’ll be just like you when he grows up; he’ll speak many languages,” Marie said proudly.

“I never was good at Japanese,” he said. “Teach him to speak French. That way the French can’t fool him.”

Marie changed the subject and begged with him to call in the French troops. “There is still time,” she said.

“This would be the worst mistake I could ever make,” Phaulkon said. “The French are prepared to take Siam. As soon as the king dies, they will take Siam by force and Siam will become a French colony. That is exactly what the king has been trying to avoid. If I call them now, they will not come to rescue me but to claim Siam for the King of France. Do you know what that means? King Narai must not know that his friends have betrayed him. He has very little time left. The pain would be more than he could bear, to learn that he had lost his kingdom to a foreign power. Perhaps Siam may fall into the hands of the French but I will not be the reason for it.”

“You speak of the king’s pain, but what about ours, our pain, yours and mine, and all those who love and believe in us?” Marie asked.

“And the Siamese, are they not our people too?” Phaulkon asked his heartbroken wife. “Does their pain not matter to us? Do we only measure life by the pain it brings? No, not at all. Pain and love, they are part of living. When I first saw you, I chose to love you forever, and I have never loved, nor could I ever love another woman as I do you. When I chose to serve the king, I chose to serve always, until his death. And when I chose Siam to be my home and my country, I was bound by my choice to live and die in Siam.”

Marie, clasping Phaulkon’s hand, made a desperate, last plea. “To live yes, but it is not your time to die, not like this. You are too great to die like this.”

“Greatness, what is greatness when it comes time to die?” he asked.

Words, words could not comfort Marie. “You still have a choice!” she cried. “Don’t leave me, please, please don’t leave me!’

“Marie, please listen. If I were to call out the French troops, and they were to come, Phetracha would execute me instantly. Either way, I am dead. I would rather go this way.” He then took out her letter he had tucked in his torn shirt and held it up to her. “What about this?” he asked. “Are these just words? Don’t they have any meaning? Nothing can separate us, not kings, not gods, not even death.”

Marie wiped her tears and tried to gather her composure. “What shall I tell George?” she finally asked.

“Tell him the truth,” he said. “The truth.”

The guards came and took Marie away. She did not go easily. She clung tightly to the bars and, as the guards dragged her by her arms down the corridor, the prisoners in all the cell blocks could hear her screams. Phaulkon heard them too.

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Love of Siam-CH58

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Chapter 34

Des Farges set up his makeshift camp in Ayutthaya to deal with the crisis and meanwhile he sent a messenger to Louvo to check what was happening at the palace. He was holding council with the Chief Superintendent of the French India Company and a dozen French missionaries when the messenger returned with the news. They were all eager to hear what he had to say. He reported that Louvo was quiet and that General Phetracha’s soldiers had dispersed and King Narai was still alive. Christoph arrived about the same time and likewise told them, as briefed by Phaulkon, that all was well in Louvo and the king was not only alive but doing well. He went a bit further. He said that Phaulkon was negotiating a deal with Phetracha. He reminded Des Farges not to listen to rumors since they are lies spread by Sorasak who had his eye on the throne and is trying to sabotage the negotiations.

“Looks like the French army is not needed,” Christoph added, hoping Des Farges would call off any last minute attempt to seize the kingdom. The Chief Superintendent and the missionaries agreed that Des Farges should not get involved in politics. He was pleased to take their advice, not having told them what his orders were from King Louis. Nor did they know his promise to Phaulkon. He called for the withdrawal of his men to the fort at Bangkok.

No one, no one at all, not the Siamese, not the French, and not Marie, were aware of what had happened at the palace that morning. Christoph realized it would be up to him to break the news to Marie. He returned from Ayutthaya to Louvo as fast as his horse could carry him and went directly to Phaulkon’s house. Diego was there with his soldiers guarding the area. Marie was sitting with George on her lap and when she saw Christoph her face lighted up.

“What news do you have for me?” she asked.

For the longest time, Christoph just stood there. Here was a man who had fought battles, who had survived shipwrecks, and who had seen men tortured and watched them die terrible deaths. He had spent as much time inside prisons and dungeons as he did out outside. He appeared to be stoic and one might even question if he was immune to the suffering he had come to know. But when he saw Marie, so happy to see him, he broke down completely, like the child who had been told his father had died. He fell to his knees and there he remained, daring not raise his head for fear those in the room would see the tears in his eyes. Marie reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Is he alive?” she asked, knowing some terrible fate had befallen her husband.

Christoph told her and the others that Phaulkon was alive but, to save the king, he had surrendered to Phetracha and was in prison. If there had been a battle and the king died-what General Phetracha wanted, the king to die so that he could usurp the throne-the French would have attacked and captured not only the palace but struck out at the entire kingdom as well. Those were the orders Des Farges had from King Louis of France-to seize the kingdom if and when King Narai died. “No,” he finally said, “Phaulkon is still alive.”

At first Marie sat motionless. No tears came. She did not cry. She just looked out into space, somewhere far beyond everyone in the room, far beyond even time. Fanique arrived and seeing his daughter in a daze tried to comfort her.

“It’s not over,” he said, shaking her to bring her back to reality. “We will find a way.” Fanique took little George into his own arms.

“I know the dungeon,” Diego suddenly spoke up. “I know the guards and I know how to sneak in. I will go talk to Phaulkon. I will tell him there is still hope. Maybe he has a plan.”

Upon hearing this, like an elixir that had been given to -her to drink, Marie sparked to life. “Yes,” she said, “tell him I am waiting for him. I didn’t leave. Tell him I am waiting for him, at his home, the home he built for George and me, at our home. George is waiting too. Tell him. Go, please go.”

Diego turned his command of the guards over to Christoph. But, before he could depart Marie asked that he wait until she wrote a letter. She went into the seclusion of her room and began writing. When she finished she gave the letter to Diego to give to her husband and wished him speed.

Diego knew the guards and they knew him. A few coins did wonders. They let him pass without escort after he assured them he could find his way alone. He felt his way, slowly, through the dark passage with only a small torch to light his way. He called out softly at each cell as he passed-“Master, it’s me, Diego.” He dared not call out Phaulkon’s name. Then, after one long passage, at the end cell he heard a voice, so very faint.

“Diego, I am here,” it said. “I am here.” Diego knew the voice at once. It was Phaulkon.

Through a small barred window high up Diego could talk to Phaulkon but he could not see him. He asked Phaulkon not to be angry but there was nothing that either he or Marie’s father, Fanique, could do. Marie and little George were at home in Louvo waiting for his return. He heard Phaulkon chuckle lightly.

“Master, the French troops are in Ayutthaya awaiting orders,” Diego said and asked him what he should tell Des Farges.

Phaulkon replied in a voice so faint it was hardly audible. He told Diego to inform Des Farges to return with his troops to the fort at Bangkok. Diego wanted to interrupt but he remembered so well Phaulkon telling him to follow his orders no matter how ridiculous they might seem to him at the time. Diego said he would do as Phaulkon ordered, he would tell Des Farges not to attack even though it meant Phaulkon’s certain death. How terrible a message he had to tell, a message that was his master’s death warrant. Diego passed Marie’s letter to him and departed. Out in the sunlight he could not look back at the prison. He went to Louvo and then to the fort at Bangkok, hoping to find that Des Farges had returned.

Diego thought his heart would break.

In his dark dungeon cell Phaulkon waited for the sun to rise and as soon as it was light enough for him to read he struggled through Marie’s letter. It tore him apart to read it.

‘”To my beloved Constantine: Please do not hold it against me for returning or against Diego or my father for not stopping me. All these years you taught me that Siam is my home, our home. You taught me that we belong here and here we will live and grow old and die. You taught me that we will bring up George in Siam, his only home, the only one he will ever have. You taught me all these things and I believed you. Must you ask me now to disbelieve you? Please don’t ask Diego to send me away from my very home, my land, my love. I will stay even if I have to die. I have no regrets, my beloved Constantine.”

“Nothing will ever separate us, remember? No gods, no kings not even death. I am not afraid to die either, my beloved, not any more. Please do not send away the French, the only hope we have. Please call the French troops back to help set you free and come back to me. I beg you. Your beloved, Marie”

Phaulkon fell against the wall and clawed the hard stone blocks with his fingers. He looked up at the light entering the room. With a heart that was tearing into pieces, a pain that he never knew possible, and with tears in his eyes, he cried, “You innocent fool, my beloved Marie. I have taught you too well. Why must you go through this for my lofty but unattainable ambitions? God, dear God, do not forsake her. She has done nothing wrong, except believe in me.”

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Love of Siam-CH57

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Chapter 33

By the time Diego and Fanique returned to Louvo with Marie and her son, Phaulkon and his men had departed for the palace to defend the king. Except for the servants the house was empty. Even Nana had fled. Marie was distraught. She was hoping dearly that she would see her husband before he went to protect the king. When would she see him again? Life was suddenly so empty. She fell upon the steps at the entrance of their house and began weeping. Everything they had longed for and hoped for, everything they had worked so hard to obtain, it was all gone. There was nothing left. She could not stop the flood of tears. She thought of her dear husband, so strong, so determined and so naively hopeful. So honest and faithful was he to the end. Fanique tried to comfort her but there were no words that could cure her hurt and put a stop to her terrible anguish. Oh, how sad life is, she cried. What is the use of it all? Nothing is permanent. She stopped crying when-her son asked her why she was crying. She had to be strong.

Diego desperately wanted to join Phaulkon but he knew he could not leave Marie and little George unprotected. Fanique too was on his way to the palace where his samurai ready for battle awaited him. Marie gathered her strength and, putting an arm around her young son, she said to him, “This is our home, your home and my home, and this is where we belong.” She said it but she wondered if they were not just empty words.

Abu Omar, his men and the interlopers arrived in Louvo shortly before dawn as scheduled and set out immediately for the palace, taking cover in the shadows of night. They found Fanique and his samurai waiting. Phaulkon and his men arrived soon after. Everyone was prepared. It was a heartfelt gathering. The men knew that many of them would not live to see another day. They knew that they were there to defend the Greek, but they knew they were also fighting for their own cause. If General Phetracha seized the throne there was no telling what might happen. No foreigner would be secure in the kingdom and many would be tried as traitors.

With everyone gathered, they studied their plan of attack. The palace gates were heavily guarded and they could see soldiers on the balcony in front of the king’s bedroom. That was a good sign. Had the king not been alive they would not have been there. It was decided Phaulkon would take eight of his best fighters and enter the palace through the hidden passage. Once inside the king’s chambers, Phaulkon would give the signal to attack. They wished each other luck and Phaulkon and his men departed.

The passage had seldom, if ever, been used and finding its entrance was most difficult. For a time Phaulkon thought he might not find it, that perhaps it was only a myth, and that all would be lost. But then, when he pushed aside a cluster of tangled growth, there it was. The battle was still not over. Phaulkon and his men had to feel their way in the dark along the walls, through a passageway in which, at times, they had to crawl. They had to work their way up stone steps so broken they crumbled under their feet. Once they had reached the last hidden door, they withdrew their weapons, not knowing what to expect. They burst through the door to find themselves in the king’s chambers. The king’s sister and his daughter stood there in alarm. They gasped to see Phaulkon and his men appear as they did. Then, after the shock came tears. Suddenly there was hope, hope where only moments before there was pain and despair. King Narai lay asleep in his bed. Aside from the king and the two women there was no one else in the room.

After calming down the women, and making promises he was uncertain he could keep, Phaulkon approached the king and gently awoke him. “It’s me, Phaulkon,” he said. “I have come with my guards to give you assistance.”

It took a few moments for the king to recognize Phaulkon.

A smile came to his face but that quickly faded and turned to scorn. “You didn’t need to come,” he scolded Phaulkon. “There is nothing you can do and I order you to leave while there is time. Take the women and go and take Mon Pi with you. Take my son where he will be safe. He will be the king one day. Go as I bid you, go.”

Poor King Narai, he did not know that his trusted general had murdered his son. He didn’t know Mon Pi was dead.

“Yes, but let me rest for a while,” Phaulkon said.

“Rest. A young man like you?” the king said. “You have your whole life ahead of you if you listen to me. I am the one who is old and tired and much too sick to even enjoy the wisdom of old age. Go, and save yourself Phetracha will execute you and you know that. He has already done all the damage he can do to me. There is nothing more painful than to be betrayed by those you trust.” He tried to sit up but couldn’t. He looked around. His mind began to wander. “Where are the French? They’re our hope. They pledged allegiance to me. Are they with you?”

“Shh, Sorasak’s guards are outside the door,” Phaulkon cautioned the king, and then he lied to him. “The French are coming and will be here soon. But Phetracha has many men. The French are being cautious not to make the first move and start a revolution.”

“I have known pain many times over,” the king said, placing his hand on Phaulkon’s arm, “but none is as deep as it is now. Yet I have no regrets. You and I have done what we believed was best for Siam. I have been a good king and I am grateful to have the service of such a wise and loyal servant as you. I hope our paths meet again in the next life. You have not told me yet what your Holy Book said about the soul. Do we have a soul? The Greeks, your ancestors, say we do.”

“The Holy Book does not say we have souls but that we are souls,” Phaulkon explained. He had gone over the scriptures with Marie only a few days before. “And yes, our paths will meet again. We will meet again for the Holy Book promises so.”

“Where, in heaven or hell?” he asked jokingly. “Well, it does not really matter if we meet in hell. I know you. You will find a way to get us out.”

“No, Your Majesty. We don’t go to heaven or hell. The Holy Book says we will be resurrected here on earth.”

“If that’s true then there’s nothing to worry about. Go! Go to France. I’ve already made arrangements with King Louis and he gave me his word that you will find France your own home.”

“Your Majesty, Siam is my home,” Phaulkon said convincingly from the heart. “I have chosen it to be so and it always will be. This is where I chose to belong.”

Time was running out fast for Phaulkon and he told the king it was time for him to act and arrest Phetracha. His men were outside waiting and must be getting restless. He bid a hasty good-bye to the king and instructed the women to keep the doors locked after he and his men departed. The king called to him to be careful and said he would pray for him. Phaulkon lingered for a moment. “Which god, your Buddha or mine?” he asked.

“Both of them,” King Narai said. “Just to make sure.”

Phaulkon and his men, with drawn weapons, charged out the door onto the balcony, prepared to give the signal to Christoph to have his men take over the palace but to his dismay, there were no guards. The balcony was empty. The guards were gone. Phaulkon rushed to the railing and looked over the side. Christoph and his small army stood alone in the square below. They had no one to battle. Phaulkon had his men search the palace but there were no soldiers, no Phetracha and no Sorasak in sight.

The sun was rising and hung like a burning disk above the horizon and, from a distance beyond the palace grounds, they heard sounds, a commotion of some sort. Against the glare of the sun Phaulkon shaded his eyes and stared into the distance. His heart stopped. In an open field beyond the walls of Louvo, General Phetracha and Sorasak had amassed a small army. The huge gates to the city were opened wide, ready for the solders to enter. Within the walls the general had set up a battery of cannons and they were trained on the palace, directly at the king’s quarters. From where Phaulkon stood he could see small pots of fire and men standing over them prepared to light the fuses in the cannons.

As the sun climbed higher and higher over the eastern wall, a messenger arrived from General Phetracha with instructions that Phaulkon and his men give up. “There is no escape,” the general said. Even the hidden passage had been discovered and it was now sealed. He said he would give Phaulkon until the sun was overhead to make his decision and at that time, if Phaulkon refused, the artillery would open fire. Phaulkon knew he was serious. This was his chance to kill the king, put the blame on Phaulkon and seize the throne.

Christoph and the men insisted they fight. Phaulkon explained that this is precisely what General Phetracha wanted. He would then have an excuse to open fire in which the king was sure to die. If Phaulkon did not surrender, not only the king but most of Phaulkon’s supporters would die, and for what-lost glory? If Phaulkon and his men did win, it would make little difference for then the real battle would begin, a battle of which even General Phetracha was unaware. The French had orders, upon the death of the king, to take Siam by force. This they were prepared to do. As long as the king was alive, there was a chance.

Christoph asked Phaulkon if he should not call the French troops. “Not as long as the king is alive,” Phaulkon said. He explained that the most important matter was to keep the king from more pain by discovering that even the French, his most gracious friend King Louis XIV of France, had also betrayed him. Phaulkon sent a message back to Phetracha. He stated that if Phetracha let all of Phaulkon’s men go free, and swore not to harm the king, he would give himself up. Phetracha agreed to the terms. Against the wishes of his men, Phaulkon ordered them to surrender.

Phaulkon removed his shoulder belt with his scabbard and rapier, laid them on the floor and stepped out into the balcony. He watched Phetracha and Sorasak below enter the courtyard. Christoph and the others followed Phaulkon’s instruction and let them pass.

Phetracha lost no time and appeared on the balcony, face to face with Phaulkon. He ordered his men to seize Phaulkon. The soldiers pounced upon him like savages gone wild, knocking him to the floor and then bound him in chains. Now satisfied, Phetracha called to Phaulkon’s men waiting below in the courtyard and warned them that, if there was any attempt to revolt, he would execute Phaulkon on the spot. He also warned that if Phaulkon escaped, they would execute the king in return. Before the guards took Phaulkon away, Phetracha had him brought forth. The guards forced Phaulkon to his knees to kneel.

“Look up, you farang,” General Phetracha shouted. “Where is your throne now? What are your hopes, that Prince Alphaitos will be crowned king, and that he will save you. That is no longer possible. Alphaitos attempted to assassinate Sorasak and Sorasak had to defend himself Sorasak wields a mighty sword. Alphaitos is no more. And the king’s other brother, he threatened the king, and he too lost his head. They are both dead. And, ah yes, Mon Pi, the King’s adopted son, what a pity. He was playing on the balcony while the king slept, and he got too close to the railing and fell over the side. He died when he hit the ground. It was a tragedy. The king has no more heirs.”

The king’s sister and his daughter, standing in the shadows of the window above, heard what Phetracha had to say. They heard and had to keep it a secret from the king. But General Phetracha had other ideas. He knew how the king hated to have information kept from him. He went to see King Narai and awoke him, to wish his speedy recovery, and to pass on to him the latest news. He told him everything.

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Love of Siam-CH56

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Chapter 32

General Phetracha appeared at Arun temple and met with the chief monk. The monk had received his message and was waiting for him at the entrance. The general was dressed in his finest military uniform with his sword hanging from a shoulder belt across his chest. He was perspiring heavily. “You come because you have found your enemy,” the monk said, and they went inside the temple to pray.

“I must do what I am to do for Siam,” Phetracha said and the chief monk, saying nothing, blessed him.

When Phetracha came out of the temple into the harsh sunlight, Sorasak and his soldiers were waiting. Phetracha instructed them to follow him and together they marched en masse to the palace. Phetracha had acted on a hunch and it paid off. He had sent a European servant boy dressed as a French soldier bearing a message to the commander of the Bombardiers at the palace telling him his soldiers were needed back at the fort. They withdrew without suspicion or question, leaving the palace guarded by the king’s men. Phetracha then instructed Sorasak to have his soldiers take over the gates and replace the king’s guards. ”Any who resists, kill them,” he shouted for everyone to hear, including the bystanders who were gathering in the streets. Phetracha’s revolt was gathering momentum, much like a fire that feeds upon itself for its strength. And Sorasak was feeding the fire, becoming engaged in the frenzy like a lunatic escaped from an asylum. The fire soon became out of control.

Within an hour the king’s guards were overpowered and, without a fight, surrendered. The commotion at the gates below the palace walls aroused the king’s sister and daughter who were at the king’s side in his bedroom. They rushed out into the hallways to investigate only to find that Sorasak’s soldiers were everywhere. Upon seeing them, an officer rushed forth and commanded them to go back into the room with the warning that no one was to leave.

The women hurriedly ran to the king’s bed and awakened him to tell him the palace was under siege. The king, shaking himself from his slumber, yelled for the women to get word to Phaulkon immediately. Sadly they had to tell him that was not possible, as Phetracha’s men had already surrounded the palace and that Sorasak was with him.

With utmost effort the king forced himself to stand and then commanded his servants, against the protests of his sister and daughter, to bring his military dress and his sword. The servants obligingly began to suit him up. They laced his leather vest into place and helped him into his long waistcoat that reached down to his knees. They placed upon his feet his war slippers, worn so often into battle. They handed him his helmet with chainmail that reached to his shoulders and strapped his sword, in its jeweled scabbard, around his waist. When he was fully dressed, weak and wobbly on his feet, he pushed open the doors and dramatically stepped out into the hallway. He demanded from the guards that Phetracha, whom he called a traitor and coward for hiding, be brought before him. He realized then that the guards were not his guards. “Where are my guards?” he shouted, but there was no reply. “Answer me!” he shouted again. “This is your king speaking!” His body trembled with anger. His sister and his daughter raced to his side and stood beside him holding him up.

Suddenly, far down the corridor, Phetracha and Sorasak appeared and, seeing the two women holding up the king, rushed forth. Sorasak immediately ordered the women to leave the king and go back into their room. They refused. Upon hearing Sorasak’s voice, the king’s anger flared. “I am the one to give orders, not you,” he shouted. He then drew his sword, and looking directly at Phetracha, he accused him, his once former friend, of treason. Poor King Narai, he did his best to be the warrior that he once was but didn’t have the strength to raise his sword above his head.

He collapsed and fell to the floor. Phetracha stepped forth and looked down upon the helpless form of the great king. Then, like a defiant gladiator in the arena, he raised his head and looking at the king’s daughter and sister and the soldiers who had now gathered around him, he smiled victoriously. He had won. It was written across his face. The king was not dead but Phetracha had won. He next ordered the women to pick up their king and take him inside, unless, he boasted, they wanted the guards to drag him off to prison.

At that moment the king’s adopted son, Mom Pi, appeared in the doorway. For the last days, during all the confusion, King Narai had kept his son hidden in a back room out of harm’s way. Mom Pi, suspecting something was wrong, came out of hiding and seeing the king in a heap upon the floor ran up to him and fell on his knees. He began sobbing pitifully, tears streaming down his cheeks, crying for the king to wake up. “Please, please, Sir, it’s me, Mom Pi, wake up, wake up,” he cried, shaking his father, pleading.

Sorasak took no pity on the boy and pulled him, clawing and kicking madly, away from the king. The women could do little to help the boy. They were preoccupied dragging King Narai back into his room. But they did see Sorasak hand the sobbing boy over to Phetracha. Then, as they reached the door, they hesitated, only for a moment, but long enough to look back, and their mouths dropped in horror and disbelief. They saw Phetracha pick up the boy, carry him to the railing on the balcony and toss him over the side to his death on the cobblestone pavement sixty feet below. They could hear the boy screaming as he fell, and then there was silence. The king, still unconscious, was unaware of what had happened.

After relaying Phaulkon’s messages to Des Farges, Christoph hurried as quickly as he could to Louvo. While passing through Ayutthaya he had heard the terrible news about Phetracha storming the palace. Phaulkon and Diego were at the house with Marie when he arrived. Christoph dreaded breaking the news to them, but to soften the blow he assured them that Des Farges and his soldiers would soon arrive in Louvo, if they hadn’t already. With the vast number of soldiers Des Farges had in his detachment he could easily retake the palace from Phetracha.

Diego pleaded with Phaulkon, a thing he never done before, to listen to the advice of his friends and leave Siam with his family. “That is very kind of you to think of me and my family,” Phaulkon said, “but I cannot leave the king, especially now that he needs help.”

Now came Phaulkon’s toughest task. He had to tell Marie that he must go to the king and protect him until Des Farges arrived with his soldiers. Help was on the way and it was only a matter of time and it would be over. He laid out a plan with Christoph and Diego. Diego and his men would remain behind with Marie and George. Christoph and eight men would go with him to protect the king. Marie wanted to know how it would be possible for Phaulkon and his men to reach the king if Phetracha had already placed his own men around the palace. Phaulkon explained that he knew of a hidden entrance that led to the king’s quarters. Only he and a very few other people knew about it.

There was still hope, until a messenger arrived bringing news that Des Farges and his troops were not coming to Louvo but instead were in Ayutthaya putting down an uprising and trying to arrest everybody. Des Farges had done exactly what Phaulkon told him not to do: he listened to rumors. The messenger also sadly reported that Siamese soldiers in Ayutthaya, soldiers once loyal to Phaulkon were, at the urging of Phetracha and Sorasak, beginning to suspect that he had given Siam to the French. The soldiers were rapidly changing sides.

Phaulkon had to take a chance and, hoping the king could hold out, he and his guards rushed to Ayutthaya to confront Des Farges. “Listen to you, giving orders,” Des Farges laughed when they met. “I am not compelled to listen to you.”

“But I have been waiting for you as agreed in Louvo,” Phaulkon said. “I was waiting for you and your troops to arrive. Phetracha has taken over the palace and he has placed the king under arrest.”

“So he had the king arrested. Good!” Des Farges declared. “The king is old and too sick anyway to rule. It’s better that he should die, in which case my orders are to take Siam by force.”

Phaulkon could not believe his ears. Only days before, this man who drank his wine and received his gifts was his friend. Where was his loyalty now, this general of the so-called fearless French Bombardiers? Phaulkon went into a frenzy. Des Farges was unprepared for what was to come next. It was unheard of that someone would dare strike a French officer but that was exactly what Phaulkon did. He struck the French officer a full crushing blow to the jaw and sent him flying back into the arms of his men who were standing by. Phaulkon quickly withdrew his flintlock pistol and pointed it at Des Farges’ temple. “I should kill you now but I will let you live in fear for the Siamese will do that.” He stepped back, waving his pistol around the room. “Now tell your men to let me pass. The fight is not over and remember whose soil you are standing on.”

“Your time is up, Monsieur Phaulkon,” Des Farges replied getting to his feet. “I am master now, under orders from the King of France to take Siam by force. But you already know that.”

“Only in the event the King of Siam dies,” Phaulkon reminded him.

“He’s as good as dead if Phetracha hasn’t poisoned him already. Give it up! You can keep your position until King Louis sends Siam a new ruler.

“Good as dead is not dead,” Phaulkon cried. “You have no right or authority to alter the orders of what King Louis has decreed.”

“Give it up, Phaulkon,” Des Farges continued. “You can keep your position until King Louis sends Siam’s new ruler. You can’t tame these heathens. You have failed and even the French ambassadors have failed in their mission, all because of you.”

“Heathens or not, this is their kingdom. Siam belongs to the Siamese,” Phaulkon insisted. “It always has been and it will continue to be.”

“Who are you fooling?” Des Farges questioned. “If Siam belongs to the Siamese, why do you, a Greek adventurer, have any influence over them? Does their king really listen to you? He uses you, like he uses a pawn. You are his pawn and nothing more. Can’t you hear the Siamese people laughing at you? They don’t respect you; they hate you just like they hate the French because we’re all foreigners. Don’t you get that? We will never be a part of them no matter how much we try. You will never be Siamese.”

“I may not look Siamese, but I am more Siamese than anyone will ever know. I would rather be a proud Siamese than an arrogant Frenchman like I have standing before me. I would rather be an innocent heathen than a thieving Christian.”

“Watch your tongue,” Des Farges called. “Be what you have to do Phaulkon, that’s your choice. These people hate you. I will set up camp here in Ayutthaya. All the Europeans are waiting for your signal but, if you wait much longer, soon they will pledge their allegiance to France. France offers foreigners what you can’t. You don’t have much time. My men can protect you and your family from Phetracha. You and your family will have a safe passage all the way to France. Worry about your own lives and leave the lives of the heathens to France. They’re not going to listen to you any longer, Monsieur Phaulkon.”

Phaulkon replaced his pistol in his sash, mounted his horse and gave the signal for his men to do the same. He then gave Des Farges his last advice. “I have my orders and so do you,” he said. “Your orders are only to be carried out in the event of King Narai’s death. Let’s see if you know how to listen to your king’s orders.”

Phaulkon rode at full gallop back to Louvo. Fanique and five of his samurai were at the house discussing their defense with Diego when Phaulkon arrived. They exchanged greeting, stern and confident, warriors ready for battle. Phaulkon explained to Marie the danger they might be in. He expressed his desire for her to take their son and leave with Diego and go to the Bangkok fort where she and George would be safe. She must try to take a ship to France and wait for him there. He had, the day before, written a letter to King Louis. He went to his desk, took the letter and gave it to her. Fanique agreed to accompany them to Ayutthaya. Phaulkon gave Diego instructions for the two parties to split up and take different routes to the city.

Phaulkon embraced Marie and his son. Once more Marie pleaded with him to go with them but she knew, deep down, that it would do no good. Phaulkon again explained that he couldn’t desert the king. He then sent her and George off with Fanique, Diego and six loyal guards. Fanique’s men took another route to serve as a decoy. Once Marie was safe in Ayutthaya, the plan was for Fanique to summon help from the Europeans and from Abu Omar’s forces and together they would march on Louvo. Hopefully they would meet Phaulkon at the palace at sunrise.

After the two groups left for Ayutthaya, Phaulkon called his guards together and explained to them how the French had betrayed them. The French, he said, led him to believe their troops were in Siam for the king’s needs and to train Siamese soldiers, but that was their subterfuge. Their missionaries were there to instruct the people on the doctrine of the Catholic faith but not to force their religion upon the people. The soldiers were solemn and listened quietly. Phaulkon then outlined his plan. It was no secret that both the French and Phetracha were fighting over the King’s throne. Although Phetracha was obviously a traitor, the dying king would rather see the throne go to him than to find his kingdom had fallen into the hands of foreigners, the same foreigners he had trusted, the same foreigners who swore allegiance to him.

Phaulkon explained to his guards that they would storm the palace and recapture it from Phetracha with the help of the Europeans and Abu Omar. They could not count on the French. They would arrest Phetracha and Sorasak and have them tried for treason. If they succeeded and could keep the king alive, they would have the power to send the French back to where they came from. He sent a message to Abu Omar and the interlopers and told them to come to Louvo with their best men, but to come in small groups so as not to cause suspicion. Phaulkon would make his way inside the palace. At his signal, they would strike at dawn.

Meanwhile, on the road to Ayutthaya, Marie, holding her son and clutching her Bible, her father on one side and Diego on the other, suddenly and without warning gave the command for the driver to stop the carriage. In an outburst of tears and panic she yelled to the driver to turn around. She announced that she had changed her mind. She must stay in Louvo to be with her husband no matter what happened. Fanique and Diego tried to reason with her. Phaulkon’s orders were for her to take their child to safety and she must obey them. She refused to listen and threatened to walk back alone if they didn’t take her back. They were defeated. They told the driver to turn around and head back to Louvo. “What happened to my beautiful little daughter who used to listen to me?” Fanique sighed.

“Father,” she replied, leaning her head on his shoulder, “you forget, you taught me to be brave.” “So I did,” he said.

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Love of Siam-CH55

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Chapter 31

King Narai agreed to a last-minute audience with the departing French embassy. But first, he summoned Phaulkon to his chambers to show the gift he was sending with the returning embassy to King Louis. It was a beautiful golden Buddha, and so heavy Phaulkon could hardly lift it. The king asked that Phaulkon present the Buddha to the French ambassador and to do it with utmost respect. Phaulkon explained to the king that it might be contrary to King Louis’ faith to accept such an image. King Narai objected and, pointing across the room to a golden image of the Virgin Mary standing upon an engraved table that was especially crafted for it, he said he did not find it offensive to receive such a gift from King Louis. ”After all,” he said, “the Catholics and Buddhists are much alike as they both collect idols and images.”

When Phaulkon told La Loubere about the gift, La Loubere announced he could not accept such a pagan idol. But when Phaulkon informed him it was made of solid gold, La Loubere, after giving it careful consideration, said that perhaps he could accept it. What he didn’t tell Phaulkon, but confessed later to de Boullay, was that he could melt the statue down and make use of it in another way for King Louis.

Before their departure, the French Embassy signed a treaty in Louvo that granted the French favorable rights. The French henceforth were exempt from the payment of import or export duties and there was no restriction as to the number of French ships that might come to trade in Siam. It was King Narai’s final gesture to show that he wanted Siam to remain on good relations with France.

At the farewell reception, the king, although he was still quite ill, received Ambassador La Loubere, Bishop Laneau, Father Tachard and a few minor officials with honor. Phaulkon had accompanied them to the king’s chambers. The king apologized for not being able to entertain them properly as he would have liked, and he expressed his regrets about the embassy’s sudden departure. He asked La Loubere to convey to King Louis XIV the assurance of his sincere friendship as well as his good wishes for his continued success and glory. Then, as a complete surprise to everyone, King Narai asked La Loubere to assure King Louis that he was gradually learning the teachings of the Christian faith from Phaulkon and in due time he desired to come to understand the teachings if it was the will and purpose of both their gods. He then presented to La Loubere a fine sword with a hilt of beaten gold and a tortoise shell scabbard with a hammered filigree gold chain to serve as a shoulder belt. Except for the bishop, he gave more gifts to everyone there and the meeting was over.

While King Narai was attempting to cement a working relationship with France, with the desire to preserve peace between the two countries, his nobles on the other hand were becoming more and more agitated by the apparent foreign influence in the kingdom. The forts were garrisoned mostly by French troops, Europeans lived in splendid houses in lavish style, Catholic missionaries were preaching to the Siamese people and were building new churches everywhere, and the most eminent advisor to the king was not a Siamese but a Greek. Growing discontent was spreading and it was distasteful to the Siamese people that European presence was so obvious. Their call began to rouse up the people and awaken them to the facts of what was happening in their kingdom. It was all part of a well-planned plot, the creation of an anti-foreign feeling, initiated by General Phetracha. He didn’t approve of foreign intervention. He always felt that Siam could do it alone, contrary to King Narai’s foreign policy. His outcries at first were surreptitious but he soon forgot he was the boyhood friend of the king. Sadly, King Narai was becoming gravely ill and found it increasingly more difficult to defend himself let alone defend Phaulkon. Now whispers began to circulate around the kingdom-who would be King Narai’s successor?

De Boullay was preparing to depart from the fort at Bangkok for Mergui with two hundred French troops. Included was King Louis’ elite detachment of Bombardiers. Upon hearing about the Bombardiers, Phaulkon pressured General Des Farges for de Boullay to leave the Bombardiers behind as the king had requested them for his own security. Reluctantly de Boullay left them behind and sailed for Mergui. With his and La Loubere’s departure so ended the mission of the second French embassy to Ayutthaya. They left without having achieved their main objective. Both de La Loubere and de Boullay were not pleased.

When the second French embassy arrived in Batavia on their way home to France, they had a shock that would prove to be hard for them to live down. They discovered that King Louis had not waited for their return before sending another expedition to Siam. They met the new expedition, led by Captain d’Estrille, unexpectedly at anchor in Batavia. After an exchange of formalities with cannon salutes and raising and dipping their colors, La Loubere and his envoy went aboard Captain d’ Estrille’s flagship for formal introductions and a lavish shipboard dinner. Father Tachard was surprised when he found one of the men arriving with the expedition was his cousin.

They were both astonished and pleased to see each other but knew they had little time to share.

The two embassies feasted with delight upon French cuisine and wine from the vineyards of France. When the meal ended, they got down to business. La Loubere was at first excited when he saw the French fleet at anchor in the harbor but the excitement waned rapidly when he learned the reason for their mission. He knew at that moment he had lost favor with King Louis and that his mission had been deemed a failure.

Indeed, the truth was hard to bear and it came without sugar coating. Captain d’Estrille came directly to the point: King Louis of France had grown impatient with King Narai. The captain didn’t make accusations but he hinted that France’s second mission to Siam had found little success. King Louis, he explained, was put into an awkward and difficult position as he had made promises to the Pope that Siam would become a Christian country in a very short time. That time had long passed. King Louis now feared losing favor with the Pope.

Captain d’Estrille let it be known that he had explicit instructions from King Louis as to how he was to proceed and that these instructions must be followed to the letter. Captain d’Estrille had aboard his fleet a reinforcement of several hundred troops with a special force of fifty men who were well trained and carefully selected for their courage and integrity. The sole purpose of this force was to safeguard the King of Siam during his conversion.

“But de Boullay has already provided the king with the Bombardier guards,” La Loubere said. Captain d’Estrille continued as if he hadn’t heard him.

“We are to reinforce our troops in Bangkok and Mergui, and then-” Captain d’Estrille hesitated while everyone at the captain’s table awaited his next words-“and, if the king and his court don’t comply, we are to take immediate steps to capture Siam in the event the Siamese people revolt against French occupation. We are to do everything possible to protect Monsieur Constantine from any uprising, if there is one, until troubles subside.” It sounded like he was reading from a textbook.

”And if the king dies, or is killed?” Father Tachard asked.

“If you mean assassinated,” Captain d’Estrille said, “then, in that event, we are to take Siam by force. We will place Monsieur Constantine at the head of state until France can find its own ruler who is capable of forcing the Siamese to accept the Catholic faith. We have the blessings of the Pope in Rome and further military assistance from the Vatican if the need be. Our goal is to place Siam under the power and domination of the King of France. , Monsieur Constantine, or Monsieur Phaulkon as you call him, will be allowed to keep his post until the new French ruler of Siam is appointed.” Not a word was spoken. Captain d’Estrille then said, “This is final.”

When Father Tachard heard this, he wrote a hurried note to Phaulkon and asked his cousin to secretly carry the message to him.

The message stunned Phaulkon, but he could not let it be known how he felt. He had to be steadfast and show perseverance in spite of the obstacles that were mounting against him. The situation grew worse, naturally, with the arrival of more French troops. Everyone, especially General Phetracha, felt threatened. Monks began making offerings at all the temples and they could be heard chanting, sending out their message, day and night. The people, who were once so loving to foreigners, began to show antagonism towards those who walked their streets and especially the French troops. There were no more warm greetings with cupped hands. People everywhere talked in whispers and hushed voices.

Missionaries too began to look at Phaulkon with suspicion and a jaundiced eye. Was he conspiring with the French? Was he planning to overthrow the king? The kingdom itself was in fear. People begin to arm themselves with knives and walking sticks that could be used as clubs. Phetracha and Sorasak didn’t hesitate to make it known that their king was gravely ill and they instructed the monks to chant outside the palace walls throughout the night. They created an eerie, foreboding atmosphere in the city, like a death knell that wouldn’t stop.

In a political maneuver, Phetracha sent for the king’s brother, Alphaitos, who had been kept in exile for years. Sorasak questioned his motive, and Phetracha told him if Alphaitos remained in hiding and the people found him, they could declare him king when King Narai died and then neither he nor Sorasak would have control over the matter. It was best Alphaitos be kept within their reach, for them to do with him what they pleased.

Phetracha next called for support from the people. He asked that they keep Siam for the Siamese instead of letting the country fall into the hands of Phaulkon the foreigner and his French troops. Phetracha began making public speeches and rallied the people to believe that Phaulkon had sold-out Siam to the French in exchange for the throne.

Everyone came to Phaulkon to warn him-Marie’s father, Fanique, Abu Omar, Thamnon, Christoph and all the interlopers. Fanique offered to take Marie and George into hiding and keep them in safekeeping until conditions improved. Phaulkon told him it was Marie’s decision to make but she insisted on staying at her husband’s side.

Abu Omar pledged his allegiance and support to Phaulkon. He assured him that he and his men would fight to their death. Phaulkon expressed his gratitude and instructed Abu to take his men and guard the storehouses, an assignment he accepted cheerfully. Phaulkon knew he could count on Omar, not for the love the Arab had for him but for the knowledge that if General Phetracha got into power there would be little hope for him as he too was a foreigner.

Thamnon advised Phaulkon it might be time for him to give up politics and think about his family and his own future. “You can return when things settle down,” he said.

“This is my home,” Phaulkon said. “I have no place to run.

I must make the people understand this. The Siamese are my people and Siam is where my family and I belong. Furthermore,

I cannot desert the king at a time like this. He needs me as he has never needed me before.” There was little more that Thamnon could say.

Christoph reported that the interlopers were ready for anything and awaited his orders. Phaulkon then instructed Christoph to go immediately to the fort in Bangkok and tell Des Farges to take his soldiers to Louvo without delay. He gave Christoph further orders to instruct Des Farges he was to follow his orders and not listen to any rumors that he might hear. He was, at all costs, to press on with his soldiers to Louvo.

While Diego and his men stayed at the house guarding Marie and little George, Phaulkon went to see the king with the intention, of preparing him for the trouble ahead. When he saw the king ill and weary, he decided not to alarm him and to hold back telling him that Phetracha was attempting to take the throne. As he was about to leave, the king opened his eyes and looked up. Seeing Phaulkon standing there, he said in his weakened voice, “You made a promise that we would discuss the matter of the soul.” Even at this most trying time, the king was responsive.

“I don’t have the Holy Book with me, but I do have a parchment on which I translated a chapter into Siamese for Your Majesty to read,” Phaulkon said. “It’s a beautiful poem.”

”A book of poems! I thought it was a Holy Book,” the king said.

“It is a Holy Book, but there are prayers written in it just like poems,” Phaulkon replied. “Let me read this to you. It’s called Psalm 23.” Slowly Phaulkon read the scripture. When he finished, he looked over at King Narai. His eyes were closed. Phaulkon quietly got up to leave, and as he did, the king spoke to him in a voice that was hardly audible.

“Please leave the poem with me, that I may read it again on my own,” he said. “It is a beautiful poem but you don’t know how to read poems. You must come back and I’ll teach you how to read poetry. I have much to teach you, Phaulkon.”

As Phaulkon went down the stairs on his way out of the palace he remembered Thamnon telling him that the Siamese language, much like Chinese, was a language of poets and not scientists. That’s what King Narai liked, he thought, poetry not war. Phaulkon arrived home and found Marie anxiously awaiting him. She asked if he had read the Bible to the king and she choked up with emotion as he told her he had. “My dear little angel,” he said, “you are more honorable than all the bishops in Siam.”

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Love of Siam-CH54

Chapter 30

One morning, before the heat of day descended upon the city, La Loubere and de Boullay from the French Embassy arrived at Phaulkon’s office at the Royal Palace and disregarding the nobles and officials who waited in the reception room, demanded from Christoph that they see Phaulkon immediately. Christoph informed them that Phaulkon, the Foreign Minister of Trade, was quite busy and that there were others in line before them. As they were about to protest, Phaulkon, who had heard the commotion, came out of his office, made an excuse to those waiting, and escorted the two men into his office and closed the door. The two men, feeling it was their importance that prompted Phaulkon to see them first, were mistaken. Phaulkon was perturbed but he managed to keep cool and composed. He asked politely what he could do for them.

“We do not accept the procrastination by you or the king any longer,” La Loubere blurted out. “We want the matter of French control of Bangkok and Mergui to be settled immediately or we will insist that General Des Farges take action immediately.”

Every man has a breaking point and Phaulkon had reached his. He could no longer control himself. He went into a rage and for a moment the two men thought he might strike them in his anger. They backed off, fearing for a moment he might draw the saber that lay across his desk and cut them into pieces. He was that angry.

“Let me tell you, gentlemen,” Phaulkon began, “no one gives me orders or tells me what to do except the king. And I do not see any crowns on your heads.” He forced them to be seated. “Isn’t it enough that I have stationed your troops, French troops, in Bangkok and your officers are treated with honor and respect and given the best accommodation the kingdom has to offer? Why is it that you want to own what is not yours? Do the Siamese envoys who travel to France claim a piece of France? Certainly not. It is true, Siam seeks the friendship of France but does that mean that the greatest Kingdom in Europe should require payment for this friendship? Isn’t Siam’s friendship in return sufficient?”

Phaulkon did not let them answer. He went on without hesitation.

“And regarding the king’s conversion that you so insist upon, you people have taken him for a fool. This king is wiser than you have imagined. He has intellect that cannot be dominated by any foreign power, not with guns or with cleverness. His people love him but he is not fear inspiring. I do not intentionally disregard religious dialogues between him and the French ambassadors, that is, to shield him from the truth but I omit it for the sake of saving the French from losing face. This king, King Narai who you take to be a puppet, has a mind so powerful that he can present you with questions regarding your own faith that you, and even the Pope, cannot answer.”

The two men of the holy cloth attempted to speak but Phaulkon would not let them. “I want you to listen,” he said. “So what happens when you cannot answer King Narai’s questions? Will you take him and his kingdom by force and make the Siamese lose face? As Westerners you don’t know what losing face means to these people! You might as well talk bloodshed. Is that the way of teaching the world that this God you serve is a God of love and justice and mercy? Is that all you know? I will arrange an audience with the king if you wish, but may God help you.” Phaulkon then ordered them to leave. He had no more he wanted to say.

Phaulkon went to see the king that afternoon. The king’s sister and daughter were at his side attending to him. They excused themselves and quietly left the room. Phaulkon was pleased to see that the king had recovered somewhat from his illness, although he was not completely well. The king noticed the concern on Phaulkon’s face and asked him to be seated. “Have I placed too much of a burden in your hands?” he asked compassionately.

“Just because things do not work out the way one expects does not mean one has made a wrong decision,” Phaulkon answered trying to sound encouraging. He searched for words to cheer up the king.

“I have always admired your good spirit and strong will and I know without any doubt that I have chosen the right man to take charge of my affairs,” the king said. “I believe I know you inside out but there is just one thing I am not sure about.” King Narai slowly pushed himself up to a sitting position.

“What does Your Majesty not know about me that I don’t?” Phaulkon asked. He was caught off guard. He had no idea what the king might say.

“The walls have ears and they speak many languages and they tell me the French ambassadors are twisting your arm to convert Siam into their faith in exchange for arms.”

Phaulkon confirmed with a nod that this was true. He felt somewhat relieved.

“Then tell me honestly,” said the king in a very serious tone, “what do you really believe? It seems to me that you have been using this religion of the French only to secure Siam’s future, yet I also believe you strongly believe in the same God. You are not the kind of man who would compromise his soul. What is it you believe? I do want to know.”

“It is a very complex matter, Your Majesty,” Phaulkon replied, hoping the king would change the subject.

The king waited and then said, “Put Siam and me aside, and simply tell me what you do believe. I have listened to you and have found your wisdom very helpful. Just try to tell me.”

Phaulkon had long felt that he could be at ease with the king, and he felt that way now. He admitted to the king that it was true he had used the promise of helping to convert Siam into the Catholic faith in exchange for French alliance against the Dutch and the English. And he admitted that it was true that he believed in the same God as the French ambassadors. “But there is a difference in their understanding of God and man,” Phaulkon said. “This is what troubles me. Their church alters their doctrine to fit their needs. For this reason they forbid the common man to read the Bible, and yet this doctrine is what they want me to teach,” “How can two people who worship the same God differ in their faith?” asked the king, bewildered.

“It is a long story, Your Majesty. I do not wish to bore you.” “I know I am going to die one day, and that day may be soon, but today is not the day so we have time,” King Narai said. “Now, tell me how your God differs.”

“Well if today is not the day, Your Majesty, we have many days to continue this discussion,” Phaulkon said, hinting the king should rest.

“Is that why you do not permit the French to convert me, because you do not believe in their doctrine?” the King asked but Phaulkon did not come forth with an immediate answer. “If you had the same beliefs as the French ambassadors, would you have permitted them to twist my arm, as you say in English?”

“No, I would not allow the French or anyone to twist the arm of Your Majesty. But neither would I deprive Your Majesty of the truth. It is God’s desire, I believe, that He wants everyone to know Him. But, if one cannot be faithful to the service of his God neither can he be faithful to his king.”

“How do you know the desires of your God?” King Narai asked earnestly.

“It is written in the Holy Book,” explained Phaulkon.

“Does the Holy Book say if we have a soul?”

The king began coughing. Phaulkon reminded the king that he was exerting himself far too much, but in reply to his question he promised they would discuss the matter about the soul one day soon. “Your Majesty must rest now,” he said and quietly departed.

The French Embassy, along with Bishop Laneau, had bypassed both the Barcalon and Phaulkon and went directly to see the king but they were told they had to wait. No reasons were given. They had no choice but to wait. The hours passed and still they waited. It was then, at this time, that one of Phetracha’s men saw the French waiting to see the king and, being suspicious, he hurried to tell the general that the French were getting ready to convert the king. Samuel Potts was at Phetracha’s office at the time, informing the general that Phaulkon was about to give Bangkok away and already the king had given Mergui to the French. The French, Potts said, were prepared to take Bangkok by force and, with Phaulkon’s cooperation, they would crown him King of Siam. “It will be so easy,” Potts said. “French troops already occupy the Bangkok fort. Phaulkon has expelled even his best friend Samuel White from Mergui, giving the position to a French nobleman.” Potts was a master at agitation. He twisted the facts to suit his purpose.

Samuel Port’s words were like a raging fire to Phetracha’s ears. He didn’t have to ponder what Potts had said. He didn’t stop to consider that Potts might be lacking soundness of mind. He rushed to see the chief monk and insisted that he go with him to see the king immediately and put an end to this foreign madness. The monk agreed and together they hurried to the palace. The French ambassador and Bishop Laneau were waiting outside the king’s door at that moment. Without waiting to be announced, Phetracha and the chief monk brushed past the guards and charged into the king’s quarters. They found him calmly eating his noon meal.

“And what is this disturbance may I ask?” the king asked. Phetracha announced that he had heard that His Majesty was critically ill and that he brought the chief monk to pray for him.

King Narai didn’t fall for this excuse, but caution on his part was essential. He knew that Phetracha still feared him and he had to use that to his advantage. He told Phetracha that he might be ill but he was not dying and asked if he could eat in peace. He was careful to show respect to the chief monk and asked that the monk bless him, which the monk did. Before departing, Phetracha wanted to know what the ambassador and bishop were waiting for. The king answered that when he finished his meal he would find out. Phetracha offered to have the chief monk stay with him, for his spiritual welfare, but the king said that would not be necessary.

Phetracha and the chief monk left the king in his room and out in the hall they found the French ambassador and Bishop Laneau still waiting. Phetracha took notice that the guards were Phaulkon’s guards. Later that day Phetracha returned with his own guard detachment with the intent to replace Phaulkon’s guards, but they refused to surrender their posts.

The king, disturbed by Phetracha and the monk’s appearance, and not feeling well, canceled the meeting with La Loubere and the bishop. They were terribly upset and left the palace grumbling.

The next day the French envoy dropped a bombshell. They announced to Phaulkon that La Loubere had decided to return to France and that de Boullay would proceed to Mergui with the French soldiers from the garrison in Bangkok to fortify the position there. Phaulkon was shocked at the news and informed the French that he had not yet made arrangements regarding Siam’s next embassy to France. It was the king’s wish to send one he stated. But it was too late. La Loubere openly admitted that he was giving up the fight. He was vanquished, too tired and worn out to continue. Dealing with Asian minds was not like dealing with countrymen back home. Secretly he admired Phaulkon for his stamina and dogged perseverance.

Phaulkon expressed his wish that La Loubere would stay longer but nevertheless he would make arrangements for his departure. Phaulkon then went to King Narai and suggested he grant the embassy one last audience before they leave. In the meantime, there were things to do.

Foremost, as a result of La Loubere’s sudden decision to cut short the mission, the French envoys reminded Phaulkon that there was no need to send embassies to France each time they had to communicate. Sending a letter via their own ships would suffice. Phaulkon knew to the contrary that it was gifts from Siam that opened the eyes of Europeans. A bag of peppercorn from the Spice Islands, unknown to the tables of Europe, was worth its weight in gold. And so Phaulkon began preparing gifts for the ambassadors to carry to King Louis. He knew what gifts would please the nobles of France. He chose those things that were commonplace in Siam and the East but not known in Europe. These were beautifully glazed Japanese plates and urns, wrought agates from mines in the north, a great many fine china dishes of all sizes, Chinese nightgowns, bezoar-stones, ginseng root that was worth eight times its weight in silver, other spices like turmeric, basil and nutmeg, a hard wood called teak and excellent tea in great quantity. These presents, so insignificant in Siam, were considered of great value on the other side of the world. They were the priceless, sought-after treasures of Asia.

Love of Siam-CH53

Chapter 29B
Betrayals and Trickery of Colonization

It was a colorful and joyful day at the palace when the Siamese envoy, Kosa Pan, the formal Phra Wisut Sunthorn, appeared before King Narai, the royal court, assembled officials and guests. There was an excitement in the Audience Hall that it hadn’t seen in many a day. But the excitement extended far beyond the Audience Hall. Happiness reigned everywhere. The whole kingdom was thrilled to hear that their hero, Kosa Pan, was back King Narai was most anxious to hear about Kosa Pan’s thoughts and learn his opinion of King Louis XIV and the French people. Kosa Pan expounded with a great flourish of waving arms and hand movements on how well he and his embassy had been treated so royally by King Louis and the French court. From the moment the mission landed at the French port of Brest and continued its journey to Versailles, crowds of curious onlookers constantly surrounded them. At both Versailles and Paris, they had endless receptions and state dinners in their honor, all of which caused a sensation in the courts and society of Europe. The envoy’s eastern dress of fine silk and their peculiar manners, together with special dragon carved chairs used to carry them around, caused much comment in French society. They were welcomed everywhere, and invited to plays and concerts, and the opera, and even parades were sponsored for their benefit.

“Tell me more about King Louis,” King Narai asked. “What kind of king is he?”

“He is more than a king to his people,” Kosa Pan answered. “He is, perhaps, more like a god, and about France, it is not a country but the world.” He told of the greatness and riches of the French, with its magnificent palaces and wide avenues. Kosa Pan became so exuberant with his descriptions of King Louis and France that tears came to his eyes when he spoke. He told of a humorous moment too, when they were invited to the opera but made a disturbance when they refused to be seated. They were offered seats below with an audience who sat in the balcony above their heads. There was another account that brought laugher to everyone in the court, as it did do at the court in France at the time. When asked by the French if he liked the way French women dressed, Kosa Pan said in all sincerity, “They are fine, with all their lovely garments, but they would be better still if they were dressed in the manner of the women of my country.” Asked what that was, he replied “In Siam they are half-naked.” There was applause from the ladies. It was obvious to King Narai, at which he did comment, that the ambassadors, particularly the principal envoy, had great success with the ladies.

The Siamese envoys had been assiduous in keeping records for their king, as he had requested, and went so far as to have their attendants count the number of trees in the parks of different palaces seen. The ambassadors themselves kept records. Each evening they compiled memoirs of what they had seen during the day, there was even an assistant who wrote up their travels in Siamese Verse. They did have trouble with the French language. The difficulty arose from the fact that in Ayutthaya, Portuguese was the lingua franca for communication with Europeans. Even Phaulkon used Portuguese in his dealings with the French and often refused to speak French although he was quite fluent in the language. Among the many accounts presented to the king there were page after page of architectural descriptions of buildings seen by the envoy.

With the official ceremonies over, Phaulkon knew his ultimate duty was to entertain the French Embassy and this he did lavishly. His home in Louvo became a banquet hall with Marie taking on the role as elegant hostess. And elegant she was, dressed in her fine Japanese silk robes, her obi sash of brilliant colors and her tiny feet in golden slippers. She moved with the grace of a geisha. Meals were prepared in the throne hall’s kitchens and brought to the house in golden chariots and served as if in honor of Dionysus. The menu of an average meal included remoulades of horseshoe crab and crayfish, followed by roasted veal served whole, not a few but dozens of steamed river trout caught that day, stuffed cuttlefish, red tuna belly and fresh-water prawns. The array of food, so very different from their cuisines at home, delighted the French immensely. Most of the dishes they had never seen the likes of before, even on the best tables in Paris. The wine, imported from France and Italy, of course, was decanted into amphora and specially sealed with Phaulkon’s own crest. To augment the feasts, after each meal dancers and musicians followed at which time Marie silently disappeared leaving the men to their own devices. Meals lasted late into the night and some ended with the first glow of dawn the next day. At a gala dinner, the night before the embassy had their audience with the king, Phaulkon presented the guests with extravagant presents and heaped them with high praise. As for the ill feelings that existed between the French embassy and the Siamese during the landing, Phaulkon saw to it that they were soon forgotten. The biggest and most obvious change was with Des Farges. He reveled in the praise and compliments and the gifts.

The French embassy’s audience with King Narai was a ceremony similar to that which was given to Ambassador Chaumont. King Narai received the royal letter from the King of France while Phaulkon served as the interpreter and publicly read the document. Also present, along with the French Embassy, were Bishop Laneau and Father Tachard. The highlight of the ceremony was when General Des Farges swore an oath of allegiance to King Narai. Phaulkon now felt assured he could depend on the general for the safety of Siam and the kingdom. He felt too that his own safety was assured.

Afterward, King Narai hosted a grand state banquet. He invited all the missionaries in the kingdom, from far and wide, and sent boats commanded by his nobles to bring them from scattered parts of the kingdom to Ayutthaya. It was a splendid show when all the boats arrived.

In meetings and conferences that followed, Phaulkon made it known that he would no longer participate in helping to convert King Narai; but he did point out that he was taking an active part in helping build more churches and missionary schools, and much of it with his own money.

The French envoys remained persistent about their claim on Bangkok but with Phaulkon’s wining and dining them, and with his giving them magnificent presents, their demands grew less each day. Des Farges was pleased and overwhelmed by the tributes and praises and valuable presents and he felt wholly indebted to Phaulkon. He and Phaulkon became good friends, calling each other by their first names. Gradually Des Farges put aside the issue of Bangkok.

The French envoys, La Loubere and de Boullay, however, were not blinded to Phaulkon’s buying favors and French troops’ loyalty and they decided to take action. They did not dwell on false hope. They were poised to insist that Phaulkon officially turn Bangkok and Mergui over to France, and that the conversion of the king commence at once or else, for they felt, if they didn’t act, they too might lose themselves in the gluttony that was possessing the others.

At the far off Tenasserim coast at the port of Mergui all was not going as well as it was in Ayutthaya. Against the orders of Phaulkon, Samuel White returned to the port but unwilling to surrender what he considered was his. He immediately began using the port as a base for privateering expeditions against the Kingdom of Golconda, which had friendly relations with the East India Company. When Abul Hasan Qutb Shah, the seventh ruler of the kingdom of Golconda was deposed, partly the fault of the marauding privateers, the East India Company demanded £65,000 compensation from King Narai and blockaded Mergui. King Narai immediately declared war on the East India Company and handed control of Mergui over to a French governor and the French garrison stationed there. Fearing the arrival of French war ships and the possibility of a trial on the charge of piracy, the renegade sea captains lavishly entertained the British subjects in Mergui aboard their ships in hope to muster up their support. Invited were some sixty British subjects, including Richard Burnaby who had left the East India Company to become an interloper. But the British underestimated the Siamese and their unyielding support of their king. The stealth of the foreigners with their boisterous entertainment aroused the suspicion of the Royal Siamese Navy and they took matters into their own hands. From shore batteries and from other royal Siamese ships in the harbor, they opened fire on the English ships and massacred all the Englishmen who were aboard, down to the last man. Burnaby was among them.

Both the king and Phaulkon marked a noticed change in the behavior in Kosa Pan towards the French several months after his return as ambassador to France. His grand and gracious opinion of the French was short lived. He discovered that he had been little more than a puppet in the eyes of the French court. The Siamese ambassadors were clearly meant to be dazzled by what they saw, and to be treated in such a generous manner that they would report to their end of the earth the greatness of the French monarch. Kosa Pan had gone to France as the Siamese chief envoy but the French had not consulted him before making decisions. They acted alone. He was aware when he left Ayutthaya that Siam had offered Singora to the French as a military post. That he knew. But he was not aware that the French had decided in the meantime to substitute Bangkok for Signora. He learned only upon his arrival back in Siam that the occupation of Bangkok had been planned months before in Paris, behind his back. He considered this an affront to his dignity both as ambassador and as an influential Siamese. As the brother of the late and most popular minister, the Barcalon, Kosa Pan had a change of heart towards the French.

Love of Siam-CH52

Chapter 29A

The French fleet arrived in force at the mouth of River Menam, after nearly seven months, on 27 September 1687. There were two men-of-war and four support vessels, with their crews and officers and soldiers. The expedition was under the command of General Des Farges, Marshal of France. After a day of not hearing from Father Tachard and growing impatient, General Des Farges moved their anchorage to Pak Nam.

Upon notice of the fleet’s arrival, Bishop Laneau hurried to Pak Nam and boarded General Des Farges’ command vessel to make his report to the French embassy. It was not favorable for Phaulkon, the Foreign Minister of Siam. The bishop stated that Phaulkon had been most difficult and did not carry out the instructions from Chaumont to teach the King of Siam the Catholic faith. He lied further saying that de Forbin, after defeating the rebellious Makassars, had to leave Siam for the Coromandel Coast as Phaulkon had become too overbearing toward him. He also told General Des Farges that de Forbin and the other officers were upset with Phaulkon for disobeying the rules of the clergy by reading the Bible and making his own interpretations. The French Embassy, gathered in the captain’s cabin, listened closely to what Bishop Laneau had to report and were not pleased with what they heard.

The Siamese ambassadors, their staff and servants disembarked immediately and waited in Pak Nam for King Narai to send for them. The French were not permitted ashore. For two days they waited and still the Siamese did not come to welcome them. Father Tachard finally returned and made his report to General Des Farges. “The Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Siam, Monsieur Constantine Phaulkon, awaits the French envoys to pay homage to the Siamese Monarch,” Father Tachard said.

“And what does ‘pay homage’ mean to these foreign heathens?” General Des Farges asked. “That we bow down and crawl on the floor?” The officers who stood by found their commander’s comment amusing and all laughed.

“Good sir,” Father Tachard, who did not think it was humorous, began, “it means that French troops in Siam have to pledge allegiance to the Foreign Minister and the king.”

“And by Foreign Minister do you mean this Greek sailor?” La Loubere interrupted in his haughty manner, the veins on his forehead turning crimson red. “Impossible!” he ranted. “Perhaps to the king but never to that maniac who calls himself Foreign Minister.”

General Des Farges agreed, and with both envoys, La Loubere and du Boullay concurring, the general sent Father Tachard back to Phaulkon with their message.

Upon his return to Ayutthaya, Tachard went straight to see Phaulkon and informed him of what had transpired, that the French envoy agreed to pay homage to the king but not to him.

“That’s acceptable,” Phaulkon said. “I didn’t expect them to agree. But what I don’t understand is the change in heart of Bishop Laneau. He was not this way in the beginning. He knew himself that any conversion had to take time. Now why this change?”

“Pressure from France,” Father Tachard said. “Remember, he came here as a missionary and later he was consecrated as the titular Bishop of Metellopolis and appointed the first Vicar Apostolic of Siam. He expected to be treated with respect, although he never demanded it, and then came Chaumont. Chaumont didn’t listen to him and treated him as an interpreter and nothing more. It seems that now Bishop Laneau wants a voice. He wants to be heard and, unfortunately, my dear friend Phaulkon, it is at your expense. Now, draft up your treaty and let me take it back to them.”

Phaulkon drafted the treaty and showed it to King Narai who accepted and signed it. But the French, upon receiving it, refused at first to accept it. It stated that French troops in Siam would fall under the auspices of the king, that they must obey all orders given by him, that plans and specifications for the construction of fortresses must be approved by him, the king, and that all rewards, promotions and punishments cannot be granted or afflicted upon any officer or soldier without prior approval by the Foreign Minister-and here was the rub, Constantine Phaulkon was the Foreign Minister.

Phaulkon called for the document to be secret, hoping this would appease the French, and for Father Tachard to be its witness.

“This is wholly unacceptable! This madman wants absolute power over the entire French establishment!” shouted an angry La Loubere, and turning to Father Tachard, he said sarcastically, “And what do you say, ‘witness’ Tachard?”

Before Tachard could answer, the French delegates and officers began arguing among themselves over the terms. They finally concluded that they had three choices. They could return to France without accomplishing anything; they could land troops and take over the country; or they could accept Phaulkon’s treaty.

Not one of them wanted to return to France empty-handed and disgraced. Regarding the armed takeover, the decision rested upon General Des Farges. When faced with the difficult option, he answered that although his troops were prepared to die for the glory of France, the long voyage had been hard and tortuous for them. He had lost more than a hundred soldiers and had to bury them at sea, an event that was demoralizing for the rest of his troops. Now they were weary and many were ill with tropical fever. They were in no condition to fight and hold the fort at Bangkok. They needed time to rest and regain their health and strength. The delegation had no choice but to accept Phaulkon’s treaty. Father Tachard sent news back to Phaulkon and King Narai that the French had accepted the terms of the treaty.

The French soon forgot their woes when they began their voyage upriver to the fortress at Bangkok, escorted by hundreds upon hundreds of finely carved royal barges and longboats, with banners flying and drums rolling, and paddled by hundreds of men in splendid dress. It was a welcome that would dazzle and impress any arriving foreign delegation.

The first stop was the fortress at Bangkok down river from Ayutthaya. Father Tachard, leading the French delegation, stepped ashore and formally introduced everyone to Phaulkon, his military officers and court ministers, all dressed in the attire of the Royal Court. Phaulkon regretted that King Narai was ill but as soon as he recovered sufficiently he would greet the French delegation with honor and the respect due them. Before they could proceed further, Phaulkon had the French proclaim an oath of allegiance to the king. There followed more parades and processions, bands and musicians, and cannon salutes. Phaulkon and Prince Sorasak, the prince behaving well, led the procession. Each was mounted on a beautifully decorated elephant, with tusks so long they touched the ground as they wobbled along. Portuguese and Siamese soldiers in full uniform lined the streets and saluted the French envoy as it passed. Phaulkon and Sorasak stopped at selected stations along the route to post French soldiers with their officers. Phaulkon made public announcements that the French troops were there in the service of both kings, King Narai and King Louis XIV, and they were to be treated with honor and respect.

At the end of the day the envoys were taken to their quarters which Phaulkon himself had designed according to European standards but with touches of Siamese elegance and beauty. The envoys were impressed.