A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z




Constantine Phaulkon

Greek national and adviser to King Narai during the Ayutthaya period whose merit availed him the title of Chao Phraya Wichayen, the highest noble title ever given to a foreign national. This happened only twice in Thai history, the second time to the Belgian diplomat Gustave Rolin-Jaequemyns (fig.), an adviser to King Chulalongkorn, i.e. Rama V, during the Rattanakosin period. Constantine Phaulkon was born in 1647 on the Greek island of Kefallonia from Greek and Venetian parents, and was originally named Constantinos Gerakes. At the age of 13 he became a cabin boy on an English ship, allowing him to travel and see the world. Dedicated and intelligent, the young adventurer learnt to speak English and Portuguese, and later on when he worked for the English East India Company in Bantam (Java), he also learnt Malay. In 1675 he traveled to Siam to work in the East India Company's office in Ayutthaya, whilst in the mean time also conducting private trade on the side. He soon became fluent in Thai and began to work as a translator at the Court of King Narai. Due to his Western origin and experience with the East India Company, he before long rose to the position of adviser to the King, on matters related to the West. He was assigned to welcome foreign delegations and represent  Siam in political negotiations. In 1687, he received the highest of civil titles and became a minister in the position of Samuha Nayok, i.e. High Chancellor. Whilst King Narai had welcomed Catholic missionaries and allowed them to built churches, Phaulkon felt he had been called by God to achieve the conversion of the King and all the people of Siam. His high position, however, had earned him the envy of some Thai members of the Royal Court and when King Narai became fatally ill Phra Phetracha, the foster-brother of King Narai, and Kosa Pan, the son of King Narai's wet nurse, staged a coup d'état and arrested Phra Pui, the royal heir, as well as Phaulkon. Constantine Phaulkon was executed in Lopburi on 5 June 1688, for high treason. Some sources, e.g. the Paston Papers from 1688 by Sydney Paston, suggest that the King's overthrow might even have been plotted by the Sangha, the Buddhist clergy, to prevent the Catholic Phaulkon to try and convert the terminally ill King Narai to Christianity.