Ayutthaya Capital of a Kingdom, Part 17
King Rama 1 delegated
responsibilities to his ministers and advisers
King Rama's Queen and consorts help him
go restore Buddhism. They built and rebuilt many
temples. A complete set of Tripitaka was revised.
Aside from having revitalized the Buddhist hierarchy (mentioned in an earlier article), King Rama I delegated responsibility, for regional running of the country, to six new ministries. In making appointments to head each new ministry, the King was careful to integrate noble, and extremely wealthy, families whose ancestry went beyond Siam. Members of the Brahman family (from India) were responsible for the Ministry of the Palace and Ministry of Lands. The Bunnag family (from Persia) handled the Krom Muang (responsible for the Greater Bangkok region). Whichever position was offered the appointee, Siamese, Chinese, Persian or Indian, had close, personal links to the Monarch which, at later dates, became strongly consolidated by inter-family marriages.
Ladies Mook and Jaan, commanded and defended Phuket from the Burmese invasion during the reign of King Rama 1. The Burmese tried again but King Rama 2 sent the troopsto fight back and well restored the kingdom.
King Rama 1's younger brother and
Jao Gawila's younger sister become the first love
and family bonding between Thonburi, Bangkok and Lanna
Rama I passed away peacefully in 1809 and was succeeded by his son, Phrabuddha Lert-Lah, who became King Rama II. The new king was not an aggressive monarch and, during the first year of his reign, he lost part of his kingdom to invading Burmese. The Burmese seized an area of Southern Thailand (Takau-Pa and Thalang in Phuket) and it was not until much later that Rama II restored them to Siam. Politically, and to ensure a personal power base of his own supporters, King Rama II reshuffled or dismissed his father's appointed ministers. Prized government positions were given to those he preferred (especially to royal kin on his mother's side) and thus the platform of strength, on which sat Siam's noble families, was increased in size and importance.
King Rama 2 devoted his time and energy
towards the reconstruction of Siam through
trade, foreign relationship, art and literature.
Dramatic arts, poetry, sculpture and writing were all encouraged. Rama II personally sculpted many Buddha images and wrote the legend of "Manee Pichai and Sangthong, the Prince in a Conch Shell" (a story still read in Thai schools). Nakorn niello ware takes its name from the time King Rama II introduced niello-ware and sent his craftsmen to Nakorn Sri Thammarat to establish a production unit.
Overall, the reign King Rama II may be regarded as one of relative peace for the Kingdom of Siam. It was a reign of "catching one's breath" between the hectic changes and upheavals of Rama I's reign and the continuing changes which would occur under the rule of Rama III. It was a reign of emphasizing the cultural aspects of life and, perhaps, not facing the hard choices. On his deathbed, Rama II had still not faced the decision to name his successor. As the King had fathered a total of 73 children (from 38 mothers) including 38 sons, many of whom were possible heirs, it was left to the Noble Families to decide who would be their next king. In 1824, gentle as his reign, King Rama II fell into a coma and quietly slipped away. Thus ended the first forty-odd year period in the building of the New Siam!
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