Ayutthaya: Capital of a Kingdom Part 10
Luang Sorasak:The 'Tiger' King
King Narai, the Great, had long since passed away and, likewise, his First Minister Constantine Phaulkon had been executed for treachery and treason. At one time during King Narai's reign a regular troop training exercise in martial skills (see separate article) was taking place. As it was very much a 'friendly' exercise, First Minister Phaulkon participated and was challenged to box by one of the teenage Court Nobles. The young boy was far from 'friendly' to the First Minister and soon severely rattled Phaulkon's teeth. King Narai was furious that his esteemed First Minister should be treated with such savagery during a friendly boxing match and ordered that the aggressive teenager be executed.
The boy would have been put to death had it not been for the intercession of King Narai's 'wet nurse' Princess Dusit, the Princess Mother who asked that the teenage boy's life be spared. And so it happened that the boy Luang Sorasak survived to eventually become The 'Tiger' King of Siam. rasak had been executed in his youth because his reign as The 'Tiger' King proved to be one of the gloomiest and darkest in the history of Ayutthaya. It was a time when the Kingdom of Siam was at peace with its neighbors and that situation perhaps increased internal Court plotting and counter plotting.
Luang Sorasak was a cunning, bullying schemer. When the reigning Monarch King Petraja was on his deathbed, he had designated his nephew, Pichai Surin, to be his successor. In fact, the dying King had expressly disinherited Luang Sorasak from the throne. However, when King Petraja died, Luang Sorasak had so terrorized the rightful heir to the throne that pichai Surin never accepted the Monarchy but, instead, offered it to Luang Sorasak. Thus, in 1703, a tyrannical, egotistical, bully of a man crowned himself as the new King of Siam.
One of King Luang Sorasak first commands was that his Court and subjects refer to him as The 'Tiger' King or King Tiger! This title did not reflect the nobility or grace of the great cat but, rather, its cruelty and baser animal savagery. King Tiger was very much an outdoor person; he enjoyed the pursuits of hunting, killing wild game, fishing and, in particular, Muay Thai kickboxing (see separate article 'Siamese Science of Defense'). Some of these recreations put the King at odds with Buddhist teaching which regards the taking of any life form as sinful.
Also, it was sometimes his habit to travel incognito outside the Royal Palace (perhaps the better to catch his subjects unawares). On one such occasion King Tiger accompanied by several trusted retainers and all dressed as ordinary citizens came across a village boxing tournament. The King, Probably after shouting insulting comments at the boxers, was challenged by two local boxing champions to 'put up or shut up'. King Tiger accepted the challenge and proceeded to brutally kick, punch and punish both local boxers into bloody submission. For this he was rewarded with the prize money of one tical (about two baht) which delighted him greatly!
King Tiger had two sons; the eldest he appointed Viceroy (Wang Nah) and gave number two son the title of Phra Buntun-Noi. One time when out chasing wild elephants, the hunting party came to a wide swamp. King Tiger, refusing to go the long way around the marsh, ordered his two sons to strengthen a path across the wet ground. The party camped overnight while the two royal sons, and their helpers, worked diligently to have a suitable dry passage ready by daybreak.
Unfortunately, when King Tiger proceeded, atop a mighty royal elephant, the path could not carry the weight of the heavy elephant and the beast squelched into the mire. The King was beside himself with anger and accused his eldest son, the Viceroy, of trying to destroy his Monarch. So saying, he took a swipe at his son with a hunting lance but his younger son, Phra Buntun-Noi, parried the blow and saved his elder brother. In panic and fear, both royal princes ran off. King Tiger commanded that the boys be hunted down and they were soon captured and imprisoned.
The Viceroy and his brother were both sentenced to thirty strokes with a rattan cane, morn, noon and night. They would have died from the severity of this harsh punishment had not the aging Princess Mother (by a strange quirk of fate, the same lady who had saved King Tiger from the wrath of King Narai) interceded on the boy's behalf. The 'Tiger' King had great respect for the Princess Mother so agreed to her wishes and, afterwards, the two royal princes went to live at the residence of the Princess Mother.
Within the palace walls, King Tiger was noted not only for his tyranny but, in particular, his sexual excesses. Young girls, who were kidnapped if they did not respond to the royal command to wait upon His Majesty, were 'cannon fodder' in the King's bedroom. Ravished, raped and brutalized in the most perverse sadistic manner, many young girls (including children) did not survive the ordeal. The torn and destroyed youthful bodies were removed in sorry regularity from the Royal Palace. A small door, set in the palace wall, was from where the corpses were carried it continues to be known as 'The Gate of Spirits'
Another event records that King Tiger sometimes had good moods and displayed kindly benevolence. He had been on a fishing expedition, in swift running water, when control of the Royal Barge escaped the helmsman. Fast, changing currents had caused Norasingh, the helmsman, to misjudge a maneuver that resulted in the barge hitting the river bank and damaging the bow. Knowing that the punishment for such an error was death, Norasingh jumped ashore and bowed his head before King Tiger and the executioner's sword. The King, in benign good humor and to everyone's surprise, pardoned the man.
But Norasingh, a great respecter of the law, duty and tradition, insisted that he should be beheaded for his carelessness. Again King Tiger granted pardon and, in consideration of his helmsman's faithfulness to accepted Siamese law, had a clay effigy made and had the effigy beheaded! Very strangely, Norasingh insisted that this was not an acceptable punishment as it was a joke would bring the law into disrepute. Finally, possibly in frustration at having his royal pardon thrown back in his face, the King had the man's head lopped off! A spirit house was erected on the river bank in memory of Norasingh's misguided loyalty to the law.
Throughout the reign of The 'Tiger' King, the Kingdom of Siam, and its Royal Capital of Ayutthaya, remained at peace with neighboring countries but peace was not to be found within the Kingdom. After the Golden Period during the reign of King Narai, the Great, Ayutthaya had begun its long, slow slide to ruin under the sovereignty of The 'Tiger' King. King Lung Sorasak King Tiger died in 1709 after a short, six-year reign of tyranny, terror and debauchery. He was 44 years of age. In a closing twist of destiny, his Viceroy son whom he hated so much succeeded King Tiger. The Viceroy became King Tai-sra and duly appointed his younger brother, Phra Bantun-Noi, as the new Viceroy, heir and successor to the Throne of Siam. So closed another chapter in the glorious, golden history of Ayutthaya Capital of a Kingdom but the slope to destruction was now slippery!