(Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons. French engraving of King Narai observing an eclipse in his Lopburi Palace, accompanied by Jesuit priests)
King Prasat Thong would die in 1656, sparking a succession crisis – much as his own reign had begun. Emerging victorious was his son, Prince Narai, granted the epithet “the great” in English. Phra Narai was, however, a very unconventional king. Interested in the foreign and exotic, and eschewing tradition to an unprecedented degree, his reign was controversial in its day.
His reign sparked a period of intense cultural exchange between Siam and foreign powers, especially the French and Persians. The King would move out of Ayutthaya to a newly built palace in Lopburi, inspired by Persian designs, and would court Jesuit priests to help him design new fortifications, and import the latest engineering knowledge to better defend his country.
But Narai’s reign would prove a little too novel for many traditionalists. That, however, is for later – the path to Revolution will be laid, even in this early period, but for now we will focus on Narai as a man, and his coming to power.