Letter from King Narai (r. 1656-1688) to the Supreme Government in Batavia, (received) 1 December 1668

French depiction of King Narai

Introduced Hendrik E. Niemeijer, Senior Lecturer in Maritime and World History (Diponegoro University, Semarang)

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The English trader John South wrote in 1661 about Ayutthaya: “This is absolutely the best scal I have bin at in India and we have our custome free for ever”. Ships were coming from Macao, Tonkin, Cochin-China and Manila in February and March; in May and June the Dutch and English ships from Banten and Batavia arrived; a few months later the sails and galleys from Makassar, Johor and Aceh were seen, and finally, in November, the ships engaged in the trade with Japan.

Ayutthaya was a crucial port for the Dutch, as it was situated along the sea-lanes to the VOC’s factories and possessions in Tonkin, Formosa (Taiwan) and Japan, and no other European nation frequented the Siamese port more often than the Dutch during the 1650s and 1660s. The Siamese also came to Banten and Batavia, with their own junks and galleys. Sometimes they continued their trip to Java’s Northeast coast to buy horses in exchange for tin and lower quality porcelain. The nakhodas of these Siamese ships brought letters from the kings and gifts for the Sultan of Banten, the Susuhunan of Mataram and the High Government in Batavia, sometimes even elephants. As such, Batavia was one of the diplomatic contacts and trading partners of the Siamese kings.

Dutch-Siamese relations deteriorated in the early 1660s. Although a full analysis of the course of events is still lacking in the historical literature, it is clear that the return of the English to Ayutthaya and Siam’s war with the North consumed much manpower and resources and had a negative impact on the Dutch trade. There was also a fierce competition with the “Moors”, but ever more so with the Chinese and Sino-Siamese junks sailing to China, Taiwan and Japan. In 1662 the VOC was also at odds with Portugal again, and this led to the capture of Portuguese Cochin on India’s west coast. The VOC’s capture of a ship near Hainan between Canton and Macao flying a Portuguese flag and with a Portuguese crew led to altercations in Ayutthaya because this ship was fitted out by King Narai. Although the King himself was on a military expedition, the VOC lodge was besieged and later King Narai asked for 84,000 guilders in compensation for the seized ship.

Another factor was the behaviour of okya Phichit, a high Siamese official who acted as “voorkoper”, or pre-salesman, monopolizing as many sales in deerskins as possible. In response, the High Government decided to leave Ayutthaya altogether. On 5 September 1663 the Princesse Royale, and the flute ships Hoogcaspel and Elsenburg, left Batavia for Siam to dismantle the lodge in silence. The flutes had the order to intercept and to capture Chinese junks destined for Siam. [1] On 25 October all of the 15 Company staff left the factory quietly and went downstream on a fast Cambodian prau to the warehouse Amsterdam, where the Princesse Royale and Elsenburg were waiting for them. The Princesse Royale came back to Batavia on 9 December 1663 with all of the money (12,051 Spanish real) and goods from the lodge, including 5,328 pikuls of sappanwood, 6,154 pots of coconut oil, 1549 deerskins and other items. [2]

Not happy with this unforeseen departure, King Narai sent two diplomats to Batavia in February 1664. In a letter the Phrakhlang explained to the Supreme Government how okya Phichit (a Muslim noble of Persian descent) was to blame, and how he had been punished by the King. The King expressed his wish that the VOC should return to Ayutthaya. The Supreme Government decided on 10 June 1664 to send Pieter de Bitter with the Zirkzee to Siam to finally settle the disputes with the King. Enoch Poolvoet joined him, in case the factory could be re-opened. [3] The Zirkzee arrived at the mouth of the Chao Phraya river on 15 July. Immediately after arrival the guards of the tollhouse came on board with the news that King Narai was much inclined to renew the old alliance with the VOC.

The Zirkzee returned to Batavia Siam on 30 November with a cargo of sappanwood and coconut oil. Pieter de Bitter handed over his report, a letter from Poolvoet and a royal letter from King Narai himself in Malay. The Daily Journals of Batavia Castle record a triumphant relation in compendio of the reports and letters received. Batavia’s letter was received in Siam with the necessary protocol on 1 August and opened by the King in the presence of many Siamese noblemen, all carrying a silver betel-box they had received as a gift from the King. It was concluded that the mutual relations had been completely disturbed by the troublemaker okya Phichit without the knowledge of the King, and the impertinent acts of the Chinese whom were used by Okya Phichit to besiege the Dutch lodge. The King had been unaware of the abuses at the court, okya Phichit fell out of grace immediately and was punished later.

The day after the ceremony the Dutch and Siamese officials started to draft the text of a new treaty, which was signed on 22 August 1664. The Treaty of 1664 arranged for unlimited trade with all traders in Siam, Ligor (Nakhon Si Thammarat) and Ujung Salang (“Junkceylon” or Phuket), without any increases of toll in the future. The King promised not to use any Chinese on board his junks to Japan, Canton, Cochin China or Tonkin. The most important article was the exclusive right of the VOC, to the exclusion of all other traders, no matter of what nationality, to the export of deerskins and cowhides. The VOC was not allowed to attack or display any hostility to any foreign ships or junks entering Siam’s waters. The full text of this treaty was inserted in the Daily Journals of Batavia Castle immediately after the arrival of the Zirkzee on 30 November 1664. [4] In a sentence after the treaty it is reported that the King had stressed – via the Phrakhlang – that with this treaty his authority was challenged.

The years after the Treaty of 1664 show business as usual. The Princesse Royale went back to Siam in August 1665 and other ships destined for Tonkin, Japan and Hoksieuw also called at Ayutthaya in the following years. King Narai sent his regular letters to Batavia in December 1665, December 1666, November 1667, and October/November 1668.

The diplomatic letter from King Narai from 1668 came with outgoing executive trader Enoch Poolvoet, who received permission to bring his children (from a Siamese woman) with him to Batavia. Poolvoet arrived on the ship Goeree with a good load of sappanwood and four elephants as a gift from the King. Only ten days after the arrival of the Goeree, the flute Elburgh arrived in the roads of Batavia with a smaller cargo, namely 1,400 pikuls of sappanwood, 63 loads of rice and 2,490 martavans of coconut oil. It delivered the second letter from King Narai in a month, and a letter from Nicolaes de Roy, executive trader in Ayutthaya (1669-1672), dated 16 November 1668. In this letter the King’s appreciation for Enoch Poolvoet is expressed.

In comparison to the 18th century royal letters, those from the period of King Narai were always short and seldom contain clear political considerations. The fragments of this letter from 1668 show some of the main concerns of the King. He frequently requested skilled workers or military specialists from Batavia, or asked for luxury goods and gadgets.



Brummelhuis, Han ten, Merchant, Courtier and Diplomat. A History of the Contacts between the Netherlands and Thailand (Lochem-Gent: de Tijdstroom, 1987).

Dhiravat na Pombejra, “The Dutch-Siamese Conflict of 1663-1664: A Reassessment”, in Leonard Blussé (ed.), Around and About Formosa (Taipei: T’sao Yung-ho Foundation for Culture and Education, 2003), pp. 291-306.


[1] [DKB] Dagh-Register gehouden int Casteel Batavia Anno 1663, Bataviaasch genootschap 1891, pp. 435-436. The background of this was of course the humiliating conquest by the Chinese warlord Coxinga (aka Zheng Chenggong) of Fort Zeelandia on Formosa. The Fort was handed over on 1 February 1662.

[2] DKB 1663, pp. 655.

[3] DKB 1664, 10 June 1664, pp. 236-237.

[4] DKB 1664, 30 November 1664, pp. 523-525.

Hendrik E. Niemeijer, “Letter from King Narai (r. 1656-1688) to the Supreme Government in Batavia, (received) 1 December 1668”. In: Harta Karun. Hidden Treasures on Indonesian and Asian-European History from the VOC Archives in Jakarta, document 22. Jakarta: Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, 2016.