|King of Ayutthaya|
|King of Siam|
|Spouse||Krom Luang Yothathep
Krom Luang Yothathip
Krom Phra Thephamat
Kasuvadi of Chiangmai
Prince Tras Noi
Prince Phra Kwan
|House||Ban Phlu Luang dynasty|
|Mother||Phra Nom Prem|
Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya Kingdom
Phetracha (alternative spellings: Bedraja, P'etraja, Petraja, Petratcha; also called Phra Phetracha; Thai: สมเด็จพระเพทราชา; 1632–1703) was a king of the Ayutthaya kingdom in Thailand, usurping the throne from his predecessor King Narai and founding the Ban Phlu Luang dynasty, the final one of the Ayutthaya kingdom. Originally a member of king Narai's extended family (two of his relatives were among Narai's wives), he was a trusted councilor of Narai, and leader of the Royal Elephant Corps. However in 1688 he led the Siamese revolution of 1688, had Narai's heirs executed, and by marrying Narai's only daughter, took the throne of Thailand upon Narai's death. He reversed the pro-Western policies of Narai, ejecting foreigners from the kingdom, and launched the Siege of Bangkok, to exile all French troops from Siam. As a result, Siam stayed isolated from Western contact until the 19th century.
Phetracha was born in 1632 at Baan Plu Luang, Suphanburi. De la Loubère has recorded that he was a cousin of King Narai, and that his mother was also King Narai's milkmaid. It was also recorded that his sister was one of King Narai's queens.
He started his civil service career as master of the royal elephants, which was a high military position. Hence, he was sometime referred to as "the Elephant Prince".
It is interesting to note that while Thai historians recorded that Phetracha was not interested in being King, Jesuit missionaries stated otherwise, that he was an ambitious man. While this matter is ambiguous, it is generally agreed that he is a very influential figure in that period, harboring respect from many officers. It is also said that he strongly believed in Buddhism, thus gaining support from many monks, who feared Thailand was being converted to Christianity. Moreover, Phetracha seemed to gain King Narai's trust as well, as he was one of King Narai's close aides and confidants. When the royal palace at Lopburi was finished, King Narai would stay there for many months in a year, leaving Phetracha as regent to take care of matters in Ayutthaya.
Phetracha's rivalry with counsellor Constantine Phaulkon is understandable. While Phaulkon's ideology was to open Thailand to the international community (and benefit from the expansion of foreign trading), Phetracha was a traditionalist who was allegedly disgusted by international influence in Thailand. King Narai himself favored the opening of his country and created many diplomatic ties with European countries, notably France.
Crisis in the kingdom
There was a crisis in Siam in 1686, when British warships surrounded the port town of Marit (now Mergui) and demanded 65,000 pounds sterling for 60 British men allegedly slain by Phaulkon's men. King Narai decided to give away Marid to France. At the same time, however, the French government sent 6 warships and 500 troops to Ayutthaya. They demanded the port town of Bangkok, and that King Narai convert to Christianity. Eventually, a treaty was signed on December 11, 1687. The King's conversion was not acceptable, but Siam had to give Bangkok over to French rule, and the aforementioned troops were stationed in Bangkok.
The crisis did not bode well with Siamese society. Many officers felt that national pride was hurt, that Siam was on the verge of becoming France's colony, and many Buddhist monks were afraid that King Narai would eventually become a Christian. Thus, Phetracha became the center of the nationalist movement and was respected throughout the government.
When he heard that King Narai had become terminally ill, Phetracha killed the rightful heir and beheaded Phaulkon. It was not certain whether he and his son assassinated King Narai or not (official history states that King Narai died in front of him and his son of natural causes). In order to legitimate his coup d'état, Phetracha married the sister and the daughter of the late Narai. His dynasty ruled Ayutthaya for 79 years.
With King Phetracha, according to some modern academics, a representative of the 'nationalist party', who had claimed to defend the kingdom from the French occupation, came to lead the kingdom.[dubious ] He exiled and banned all French representatives. He also negotiated for France to return Bangkok. Only missionaries were allowed to stay.
Traditionally, historians in Thailand have regarded Phetracha as a traitor who rebelled against his King and have avoided mentioning him. However, in recent time, his role becomes controversial as he is also regarded by many modern writers as a nationalist who rescued Ayutthaya from being a French colony.
- Dhiravat na Prombeja, in Reid, p.252
- Dhiravat na Prombeja, in Reid, p.260
- Reid, Anthony (Editor), Southeast Asia in the Early Modern Era, Cornell University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8014-8093-0
|Kings of Ayutthaya