Maha Chakkraphat

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Somdet Phra Maha Chakkraphat (Thai: สมเด็จพระมหาจักรพรรดิ) (1509–1569) was king of the Ayutthaya kingdom from 1548 to 1564 and from 1568 to 1569. Originally called Prince Thianracha, he was put on the throne by Phiren Thorathep and his supporters of the Sukhothai clan, who had staged a coup by killing the usurper King Worawongsathirat and Sri Sudachan.

An Ayutthayan Prince[edit]

Prince Thianracha (พระเฑียรราชา) was a son of Ramathibodi II. His half-brother Prince Chairachathirat, which had been crowned King of Ayutthaya in 1534, elevated Thianracha to Uparaja, but did not confer on him the title of King of Sukhothai. Thianracha joined his brother in the campaigns against Lanna and, in 1546, led the siege of Chiang Mai.

Chairacha died in 1546 and his son (and Thianracha's nephew) Phra Kaewfa succeeded to the throne as King Yodfa, with his mother Sri Sudachan as regent. She had Yodfa killed in 1548 and put her paramour on the throne as Khun Worawongsathirat. She made Thianracha her co-regent, but his wife, Sri Suriyothai, advised him to become a monk to avoid assassination in turn.

Later that year, nobles led by Khun Phiren Thorathep and Khun Inthrathep staged a counter-coup, killing Worawongsathirat and Sri Sudachan. Phiren Thorathep elevated Prince Thianracha to the throne as Phra Maha Chakkraphat.

King of Ayutthaya[edit]

Maha Chakkraphat appointed Phiren Thorathep to the position of King of Phitsanulok as Maha Thammarachathirat, and gave him in marriage his daughter Sawatdirat. (Maha Chakkraphat passed over tradition by elevating Phiren Thorathep instead of one of his sons; but he, when still Prince Thianracha, had himself never been titular ruler of Phitsanulok.) Khun Inthrathep was rewarded with the regency of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Wars with Burma (1548)[edit]

Upon Maha Chakkraphat's ascension, King Tabinshweti of the Burmese Dynasty of Toungoo marched to Ayutthaya, trying to take advantage of the upheavals in the Siamese capital.

The Burmese armies stopped near Ayutthaya. Tabinshweti came with his best general, the Uparaja Bayinnaung, Viceroy of Prome and Governor of Bassein. Maha Chakkraphat also took to the battleground his whole family, including Sri Suriyothai, the Uparaja Prince Ramesuan, and Prince Mahinthrathirat. At Pukaothong field, Maha Chakkraphat fought the elephant battle (Yuttahadhi) against the Viceroy of Prome but was overcame. Sri Suriyothai then rushed to rescue her husband but was slashed to death.

The Siamese then put a culverin on a barge and sailed along the Chao Phraya to fire the enemies. The mission worked, the Burmese armies retreated but later they ambushed at Kamphaeng Phet the Siamese troops led by Prince Ramesuan and Maha Thammarachathirat. The Burmese held the two in captivity and requested a white elephant as a ransom. Maha Chakkraphat then gave off the elephants in exchange for his son and Maha Thammarachathirat.

War with Burma (1563–1564)[edit]

After the war of 1548, Maha Chakkraphat insisted on battling Burmese armies near Ayutthaya, so he heavily fortified the city. He, however, de-fortified other cities in order to prevent the Burmese from taking them as bases. The census was taken to derive all available manpower to war. The arms and horses and elephants (white elephants) were caught and accumulated in the full-scale preparation for war.

Bayinnaung, which became King in 1551 after the death of Tabinshwehti, upon hearing about the white elephants, requested for some. As Maha Chakkraphat refused to gave them off, the Burmese King marched to Ayutthaya. Bayinnaung had conquered the whole kingdom of Lanna in 1558 and, with auxiliary troops from Lanna, he led a massive army into Sukhothai Kingdom. Maha Thammarachathirat then realised the greatness of Bayinnaung army and readily surrendered, giving up Phitsanulok and becoming Burmese tributary. At Chainat, Bayinnaung clashed with Prince Ramesuan's army but was able to break through.

The Burmese army reached Ayutthaya and laid siege bombarding the city so immensely that Maha Chakkraphat sued for peace in 1564. The King and Crown Prince Ramesuan were brought back to Pegu as hostages. Bayinnaung left Mahinthrathirat, one of Maha Chakkraphat's sons, as vassal king, along with a garrison of 3,000 men. At Pegu, King Maha Chakkraphat entered the monkhood.[1]

The Burmese War of 1563–1564 was also called the War of the White Elephant.

Second Reign[edit]

In early 1568, the captive king successfully convinced Bayinnaung to allow him to go back to Ayutthaya on pilgrimage. Upon his arrival, in May 1568, he disrobed and revolted. He also entered into an alliance with King Setthathirath of Lan Xang. He was not able to convince Maha Thammarachathirat of Phitsanulok to join him and his son in the revolt. Thammarachathirat remained loyal to Bayinnaung and survived the siege by Ayutthaya and Lan Xang forces until October when the relief forces from Pegu arrived. The invasion armies laid siege to Ayutthaya in December 1568. Maha Chakkraphat died one month into the siege in January 1569.[2] (Burmese sources say that the king died on 17 April 1569,[3] but this might be the date they learned of the king's death.)


  1. ^ Harvey 1925: 168–169
  2. ^ Wyatt 2003: 82
  3. ^ Hmannan Vol. 2 2003: 407


Further reading[edit]

  • Richard D. Cushman (David K. Wyatt Ed.): The Royal Chronicles Of Ayutthaya. The Siam Society, Bangkok 2000, ISBN 974-8298-48-5
Preceded by
Khun Vorawongsathirat
Kings of Ayutthaya
(First Reign)

Succeeded by
Preceded by
Kings of Ayutthaya
(Second Reign)

Succeeded by