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The Kingdom of Ayutthaya

In 1351, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya marked the beginning of the development of Thai people into an independent nation.

Ayutthaya's history is characterized by battles for power at the royal court as well as for the influence in the tributary regions.

The history of Ayutthaya is also the history of weaponry: Every king who could buy more superior weapons or hire mercenaries began a war. Typically with Burma in the North and West or with the Khmer in the East.

And who supplied the highly developed weapons? Who else than the European naval powers.

The Kingdom of Ayutthaya

In 1350, Prince Ramathibodi of U-Thong united the independent Kingdoms of Lavo and U-Thong into a new kingdom with Ayutthaya as its capital. In the following 417 years, 33 kings ruled the empire and it became one of the most powerful states in Southeast Asia.

Under the reign of King Ramathibodi I it only showed regional significance, while his future successors extended Ayutthaya's influence further from the beginning of the 15th century.

Inferior states had to pay tribute according to the Mandala System. The Mandala System consisted of a union of independent but tributary principalities. It also allowed multiple tributary to various rulers that were accepted as superior.

Famous Kings
of Ayutthaya
(1351 - 1767):

Ramathibodi I: 1351 - 1369
Ramesuan: 1388 - 1395
Nakharinthara Thirat: 1409 - 1424
Phra Borom Trailokanat:
1448 - 1488
Phra Sanpet I: 1569 - 1590
Phra Naresuan Maharat:
1590 - 1605
Phra Narai Maharat: 1656 - 1688
Phra Chao Boromakot:
1732 - 1758
Phra Chao Ekkathat: 1758 - 1767

Facts and Figures:
417 Years
5 Dynasties
33 Kings in total
13 successful Coups d'Etat
70 Wars, 24 of them with Burma
The God-Kingdom

In 1378 the Kingdom of Sukhothai and a large part of the whole Khmer Empire were annexed simultaneously. The Khmer capital Angkor was conquered in 1431 and the remaining part of the empire fell to the rule of the Kings of Ayutthaya, too. Although the Khmer were facing the Thai as enemies on the battlefield, they strongly influenced the history of Ayutthaya as well as the Thai history, especially concerning the form and organization of the state and the society. The image of the Sukhothai Kings being the righteous protectors and bringing prosperity to its people, was replaced by a new image of the God-King,  disposed of all authorities and power. Besides the first-time introduced centralized administration system, a newly arranged feudal system was established that was based on nominated aristocrats and principals but not anymore on the members of the royal family.

The Conflict with Lanna

Ayutthaya's conflicts with the Kingdom of Lanna which was founded in 1262 started with the rule over Sukhothai. During the reign of King Trailokanat (1448-1488), the armed conflicts reached their height; there were seven wars with their northern neighbour. Even though King Trailokanat moved the capital of the empire further north to Phitsanulok due to strategic reasons, he did not succeed in breaking the resistance of this enemy and subduing the kingdom. Only at the end of the 18th century, the Thai were able to bring Lanna under their final control. Over the centuries, the Kingdom of Lanna took turns in gaining and losing its independence from Burma.

The Golden Age

Under the rule of Naresuan Thailand reached its largest territorial expansion after conquering large parts of Burma and Cambodia.

The golden age of Ayutthaya began.

Trade, art and culture were booming and the capital with a population of almost one million, Ayutthaya was one of the biggest and most beautiful cities of the Far East.

The End of Ayutthaya

During the 18th century, the Burmese who were reunited had regained their strength and attacked Ayutthaya again. In 1765, they invaded from the North and West towards Ayutthaya under their leader Hsinbyshin.

After heavy fighting for two years, the Burmese overran the city in April 1767 and nearly completely leveled it to the ground. Ayutthaya was plundered and destroyed. Everything which was sacred for the Thai 's was destroyed: Temples, statues and manuscripts.

Relations with the Europeans

A special chapter of Ayutthaya‘s history consists of their relationship with  European nations. Shortly after Malacca, which is part of present day Malaysia, was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, the first traders and missionaries came to the court of the King of Siam (the Europeans knew the Thai Kingdom by the name “Siam” and this did not change until 1939). Three years later King Ramathibodi II signed a friendship and trade contract with the Kingdom of Portugal, which opened its first foreign embassy in Siam in 1820. The English and Dutch followed the Portuguese. The Dutch pursued an aggressive trade policy that led to conflicts with the Thai 's repeatedly. Under the rule of King Nara (1657-1688), the conflict escalated and reached its zenith when the Dutch secured  an almost exclusive foreign trade monopoly in 1644. Upon the advice of his Chancellor Constantine Phaulkon, King Narai allied with France who had already sent their first missionaries to Siam in 1622.

Constantine Phaulkon

Constantine Phaulkon was probably one of the most enigmatic people in Thai history. He was of Greek origin and despite acrimonious resistance of the nobility, he soon rose to become a high official and counselor of King Narai. In 1687, France sent in addition to its missionaries, 600 heavily armed soldiers to support the process of Christianization. The majority of the nobility feared a foreign takeover of power and they took advantage of a serious illness of King Narai to enforce their own interests. Phaulkon was executed and the French were banished from the land. As a consequence of this experience with foreigners, the external relations with Europeans were severely restricted until the 19th century - Siam isolated itself from the West.

Many more details in Wikipedia: Constantine Phaulkon

Picture from Wikipedia:
Constantine Phaulkon

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