Three Military Accounts Of The 1688 'Revolution' In Siam
The coup d'etat of 18 May, 1688 in the Siamese 'Versailles' at Lopburi led to the establishment of the last Ayutthayan dynasty. But it was not just another internal palace coup in face of the imminent death of the reigning monarch, Narai. For the King's favorite, Phaulkon, had been instrumental in bringing a French expeditionary force into the country in October of the previous year, which had secret orders to seize Bangkok, the 'key of the kingdom', and Mergui, its chief port on the Andaman Sea. Phaulkon's original plan was to place Frenchmen in key positions in the country, perhaps with a view to ruling through a pliant successor, but the unexpected appearance of so many troops eclipsed that project and Phaulkon's hold on power.
The powerful courtier, Petracha, head of the elephant corps, playing on nationalist feelings and throughout 1688 outmaneuvered both Phaulkon and the French. Phaulkon was killed on Petracha's orders and the French were forced to surrender in Bangkok before being allowed to leave. The French general, Desfarges, played a treacherous role in these affairs, abandoning Phaulkon at a crucial juncture and refusing to give shelter to his widow in the French fort, largely because he wished to keep the money Phaulkon had handed to him for safe-keeping before he was betrayed.
Desfarges left an account to justify his actions, hoping to escape the rope on his return to France (he died beforehand). One of the officers sent to Mergui, Lieut. de la Touche, also wrote an account of events in this momentous year, describing the retreat from Mergui, his being taken prisoner and tortured, and his eventual release and return to Bangkok. The engineer in charge of the fortifications in Bangkok, des Verquains, also wrote an account of events, rich in information concerning the treachery of Desfarges, whom he hated, and his treatment of Phaulkon's widow. He goes on to describe the final ignominy of the French, being seized on their return voyage, at the Cape of Good Hope and made prisoner by the Dutch. These three illuminating texts have been brought together and translated from the French for the first time, and throw a great deal of light on the failure of the French to colonize Siam at the end of the 17th century.
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