History of Siam 1688: Marcel Le Blanc, S.J.by Michael Smithies
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Few historical events in Asia produced more literary outpourings than the French intervention in Siam, 1685–1688, particularly relating to the cataclysmic last year, in which King Narai was taken ill and his Levantine favourite, Phaulkon, was arrested and killed. Phetracha, the usurper and future king, skilfully engineered the arrest of the king's family and the murder of his half-brothers, keeping the king a prisoner until he died. The French forces were besieged in their forts in Bangkok and Mergui and forced to withdraw, but not before Phaulkon’s widow attempted to seek refuge in Bangkok and was disgracefully returned to her captors by General Desfarges, who was anxious to hold on to her jewels.
Marcel Le Blanc was one of fourteen Jesuits who arrived in Siam in 1687 at the request of King Narai to promote the study of mathematics and astrology. He was sent to study Siamese in a monastery, but like all the French in Siam, he became inextricably involved in events surrounding Phetracha's coup d’état of May 1688. Le Blanc was a key witness to these events, if hardly an impartial observer. He thought little of the French Missionaries, who were long established in Siam, and being French himself, was horrified at the idea of the overthrow of a monarch. Le Blanc, however, took part in events in Lopburi after Phetracha’s coup d’état, and was in Bangkok during the siege and the arrival of Madame Phaulkon. He describes his departure with the French troops from the country, his capture by the Dutch at the Cape and his imprisonment in Middelburg.
First published in 1692, this important historical document has generally been unavailable, apart from an Italian translation of 1695. This new English edition has been translated, introduced and annotated by MICHAEL SMITHIES, well-known scholar of the period.