Siamese embassy to France (1686)

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Siamese embassy to Louis XIV led by Kosa Pan in 1686, by Nicolas Larmessin.

The Siamese embassy to France in 1686 was the second such mission from the Kingdom of Siam (modern Thailand). The embassy was sent by King Narai and led by ambassador Kosa Pan. This embassy was preceded by the First Siamese Embassy to France, which had been composed of two Siamese ambassadors and Father Bénigne Vachet, who had left Siam for France on January 5, 1684.[1]

The embassy[edit]

Depiction of the Siamese embassy in Versailles, in a 1687 French almanac. The butsabok machine carrying King Narai's missive is seen in the painting.
Kosa Pan presents King Narai's letter to Louis XIV at Versailles, September 1, 1686
The embassy with Louis XIV.

The embassy left for France in 1686, accompanying the return of the 1685 French embassy to Siam of Chevalier de Chaumont and François-Timoléon de Choisy on two French ships.[2] The embassy was bringing a proposal for an eternal alliance between France and Siam and stayed in France from June 1686 to March 1687. Kosa Pan was accompanied by two other Siamese ambassadors, Ok-luang Kanlaya Ratchamaitri and Ok-khun Sisawan Wacha,[3] and by the Jesuit Father Guy Tachard.

Kosa Pan's embassy was met with a rapturous reception and caused a sensation in the courts and society of Europe. The mission landed at the French port of Brest before continuing its journey to Versailles, constantly surrounded by crowds of curious onlookers.

The "exotic" clothes as well as manners of the envoys (including their kowtowing to Louis XIV during their visit to him on September 1, 1686), together with a special "machine" that was used to carry King Narai's missive to the French monarch caused much comment in French high society. The machine is called butsabok (บุษบก) in Thai. Kosa Pan's great interest in French maps and images was commented upon in a contemporary issue of the Mercure Galant.[4]

Presents[edit]

The embassy brought vast amounts of present to Louis XIV. Among them were gold, tortoise shells, fabrics, carpets, more than 1,500 pieces of porcelain, as well as lacquer furniture.[5] Two silver Siamese cannons were given as present to Louis XIV, and by a strange twist of fate these cannons would be seized by French revolutionaries in 1789 to be used in the Storming of the Bastille.[6]

Purchases[edit]

The embassy ordered vast amounts of French products to be shipped to the Siamese court: 4,264 mirrors similar to those of the Galerie des Glaces were ordered to decorate Narai's palace, through Colbert to the factory of Saint Gobain. Among other orders were 160 French cannons, telescopes, glasses, clocks and various velvet pieces and crystal decorative elements. They also ordered two geographical globes, inscribed in Thai by French artisans, as well as seven carpets from the Savonnerie manufactory.[7]

Influences[edit]

The Siamese Embassy to France in 1686 had brought to the Court samples of multicolor Thai Ikat textiles. These were enthusiastically adopted by the French nobility to become Toiles flammées or Siamoises de Rouen often with checkered blue-and-white designs.[8] After the French Revolution and its dislike for foreign luxury, the textiles were named "Toiles des Charentes" or cottons of Provence.[9]

A fragmentary Siamese account of the mission compiled by Kosa Pan was re-discovered in Paris in the 1980s.[10] The embassy's encounter with Louis XIV is depicted in numerous paintings of the period.

The embassy of Kosa Pan was soon followed by another one, led by Ok-khun Chamnan in 1688.

See also[edit]

The 1686 Siamese embassy, accompanied by their translator, Abbot Artus de Lionne. Painted by Jacques Vigouroux Duplessis (c.1680-1732).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Asia in the Making of Europe By Donald F. Lach, p.253". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  2. ^ Gunn, p.188
  3. ^ Smithies 1999, p.59
  4. ^ "Suarez, p.29". Books.google.com. 1999-11-15. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  5. ^ McCabe, p.258
  6. ^ Lieberman, Victor B. (2003). Strange parallels: Southeast Asia in global context, c 800-1830. Volume 1: Integration on the Mainland. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. p. 292. ISBN 0-521-80496-5. 
  7. ^ McCabe, p.257-8
  8. ^ McCabe, p.222
  9. ^ McCabe, p.223
  10. ^ Smithies, M.; Cruysse, Dirk van der (2002). The Diary of Kosa Pan: Thai Ambassador to France, June–July 1686. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 

References[edit]

  • Gunn, Geoffrey C. (2003) First Globalization: The Eurasian Exchange, 1500-1800 Rowman & Littlefield ISBN 0-7425-2662-3
  • Smithies, Michael (1999), A Siamese embassy lost in Africa 1686, Silkworm Books, Bangkok, ISBN 974-7100-95-9
  • Smithies, Michael (2002), Three military accounts of the 1688 "Revolution" in Siam, Itineria Asiatica, Orchid Press, Bangkok, ISBN 974-524-005-2
  • Suarez, Thomas (1999) Early Mapping of Southeast Asia Tuttle Publishing ISBN 962-593-470-7
  • Baghdiantz McCabe, Ina 2008 Orientalism in Early Modern France, ISBN 978-1-84520-374-0, Berg Publishing, Oxford