Buddha Loetla Nabhalai


Buddha Loetla Nabhalai : biography

24 February 1767 – 21 July 1824

Foreign Relations

In 1810, the first Rattanakosin-to-China mission was sent to the Jiaqing Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

Since the Revolution of 1688, Western presence in Siam had been reduced to a small scale as the Siamese Kings ceased to encourage foreign influence, this coupled with the Napoleonic Wars meant there was little contact between Siam and foreigners.

However, the wars caused many subsequent changes, which were observed in Southeast Asia. The British interest in Malaya increased as their trade with China increased. The Sultan of Kedah, a Siamese vassal, gave Penang off to the British without consulting Siam in 1786, followed by the British acquisition of Province Wellesley. Soon the British replaced the Dutch as the dominating naval power south of Siam.

The mission of the Portuguese governor of Macau in 1818 was the first formal Western contact in Siam since the Ayutthaya times. The British founded Singapore in 1819 and Jaslis, the missionary from Rangoon, introduced the printing press to Siam in the same year. The Portuguese established the first western consulate in Siam in 1820. The first renewed formal British visit was made by Sir John Crawfurd in 1822.


As the eldest surviving legitimate son of Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, Prince Itsarasunthon succeeded to throne when Buddha Yotfa Chulaloke died in 1809. No royal naming system was established at the time Rama II was crowned. He was later named by his son Nangklao as Buddha Loetla Nabhalai and by the Rama convention, called Rama II. His consort, Princess Bunrod, was raised to Queen Sri Suriyendra.

As soon as Buddha Loetla Nabhalai ascended the throne, Prince Kshatranichit, the surviving son of Taksin, rebelled as pretender to the throne. Buddha Loetla Nabhalai’s son, Prince Tub effectively crushed the rebellion, proving himself to be competent, thus gaining his father’s favor. Prince Tub was raised to Krom Muen, given the Sanskrit-derived name "Jessadabodindra," and made Krom Tha (minister of trade and foreign Affair.)

King Bodawpaya of Burma, seeing that Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke was dead, marched an army into Chumporn and conquered Thalang (Phuket) in the same year. Buddha Loetla Nabhalai sent his brother Maha Senanurak the Front Palace to recapture Thalang, which had been razed to the ground. This "Thalang campaign" was the last invasion by the Burmese into Siamese territory.

Death and Succession

Buddha Loetla Nabhalai’s reign was largely uneventful, though the next reign was to be beset on every side. In July 1824, the king died very suddenly, it was said of stranguary, but not without strong suspicions of his being poisoned. According to the succession rule then theoretically in force, the throne would go to the son of Queen Sri Suriyendra, Prince Mongkut; however, his elder half-brother Jessadabodindra succeeded the same day. Though only the son of a concubine, he had served their father in putting down a revolt and then as Krom Tha (Ministry of Trade and Foreign Relations.) The elder brother’s experience counted for more than the theoretical claim of the much younger and inexperienced brother, who nevertheless did much later succeed his elder brother.