"Kub Saepa King Naresuan the Great"

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King Naresuan The Great

Somdet Phra Naresuan Maharat or Somdet Phra Sanphet II (1555, 25 April - 1605) was the King of the Ayutthaya kingdom from 1590 until his death in 1605. Naresuan was one of Siam's most revered monarchs as he was known for his campaigns to free Siam from Burmese rule. During his reign numerous wars were fought against Burma, and Siam reached its greatest territorial extent and influence.

Early life

Prince Naret was born in the city of Phitsanulok on the 25th of April 1555. He was the son of King Maha Thammarachathirat of Phitsanulok and his queen Wisutkasat. His mother was a daughter of Maha Chakkrapat and Queen Sri Suriyothai. His father was a Sukhothai noble, who had defeated Vorawongsathirat in 1548 and put Maha Chakkrapat on the throne. He was therefore an influential figure.
Prince Naret was also known as the Black Prince (Thai: พระองค์ดำ) to distinguish him from his siblings. His younger brother Ekathotsarot was known as the White Prince, and his elder sister Suphankanlaya was known as the Golden Princess.
In 1563 Bayinnaung, the King of Pegu, led massive Burmese armies in an invasion of Siam. King Bayinnuang laid siege to Phitsanulok. Maha Thammarachathirat came to believe that the city would not be able to withstand a long siege, so he surrendered to the Burmese. King Bayinnuang took Phitsanulok and made the Kingdom of Sukhothai a Burmese tributary. Maha Thammarachathirat had to send his sons - the Black and the White Prince - to Pegu as captives to ensure the king's fidelity.

At Pegu

Naret, along with other captive princes from other kingdoms, were educated in martial arts and war strategy of Burmese and Portuguese style. He was later noted for his new tactics that enabled him to gain victory over the Burmese. Naret then found himself under competition with Bayinnuang's grandson (Nanda Bayin's son) Minchit Sra.
In 1569, Bayinnuang was able to take Ayutthaya and installed Maha Thammarachathirat as the King of Ayutthaya. After seven years of captivity, Prince Naret, along with his brother the White Prince, was released to Ayutthaya in exchange for his sister Supankanlaya as Bayinnuang's concubine.

Prince Naresuan declares independance from Burma at Kreang province
(A mural painting in ordination hall Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya)

King of Sukhothai

Maha Thammarachathirat made Naret the Uparaja and King of Phitsanulok as Naresuan in 1569, aged 14. In 1574, Naresuan joined his father in the expedition to conquer Vientiane but he suffered smallpox.
In 1581, Bayinnuang died, to be succeeded by his son Nanda Bayin. In 1583, Nanda Bayin's uncle who was the Lord of Innwa rebelled against his newphew at Pegu. Nanda Bayin then requested for Siamese troops and supports against Innwa. Naresuan marched the Siamese armies to Innwa but slowly to leave the rebellion defeated before he would reach Innwa or else the Lord of Innwa would get Nanda Bayin.
However, this raised Nanda Bayin's suspicions about Naresuan's loyalty. Nanda Bayin then secretly ordered his son Minchit Sra to defeat Naresuan's army and kill him upon reaching Pegu and ordered Kiet and Ram - the two Mons of the city of Kraeng on the Sittoung River - to attack Naresuan on the rear after he had passed Kraeng while Minchit Sra would attack the front.

Phra Saeng Dap Krap Kai (A mural painting in ordination hall Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya)

Naresuan reached Kraeng in 1584. However, Ram and Kiet were Naresuan's childhood acquintances, so they informed Naresuan about Nanda Bayin's plans. Naresuan, upon realising the intentions of Nanda Bayin, performed a ceremony to denounce Burmese tributary, saying;
All the holy deities with universal knowledge, the King of Hanthawaddi doesn't embrace the fidelity as the kings should do but is indeed intended to hurt me. From now on, the alliance of Ayutthaya and Hanthawaddi breaks, forever.
Naresuan then levied the Mons to join his campaigns under the leadership of Kiet and Ram and then marched to Pegu. However, Nanda Bayin had already defeated the Lord of Innwa and was marching back to Pegu. Naresuan decided to retreat but Minchit Sra himself led the Peguan army to follow Naresuan. The Burmese caught the Siamese at Sittoung River, culminating the Battle of Sittoung River. The legend says that Naresuan shot a fire at a Burmese general accurately across the Sittoung River - called the Royal Shot Across the Sittoung River (Thai: พระแสงปืนข้ามแม่น้ำสะโตง). After the death of his general, Minchit Sra retreated.
In 1583, Naresuan ordered all northern cities including Phitsanulok to be evacuated as it would became the warfronts between Ayutthaya and Pegu. So, Phitsanulok ceased to be the seat of Sukhothai kingdom and Naresuan became, therefore, the last king of Sukhothai.
In the same year Nanda Bayin ordered his uncle the Lord of Pathein and Noratra Mangsosri the Burmese King of Lanna to lead the Burmese armies into Siam but was defeated by the Siamese. In 1586, Nanda Bayin himself led the Burmese armies to Ayutthaya and laid siege on the city for 13 months and failed. In 1590, Maha Thammarachathirat died. Naresuan was crowned as the King of Ayutthaya as Sanphet II.

Reign as King of Ayutthaya

King Naresuan made his brother the White Prince the Uparaja with equal honor as Naresuan himself. In 1590, Minchit Sra marched into Siam through Chedi Sam Ong. Instead of taking defensives at Ayutthaya, Naresuan chose to march to Chedi Sam Ong. Minchit Sra, thinking that the Siamese would stay at Ayutthaya for defensive, marched unprepared. The Burmese were persuaded into a field and ambushed by Naresuan's armies. With his armies scatttered, Minchit Sra retreated back to Pegu.

This masterful mural in ordination hall of Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya, shows the brave
King Naresuan on elephant back defeating the Burmese Crown Prince (Phra Mahauparacha) in 1592


Battle of King Naresuan and Minchit Sra at Nong Sarai, Suphan Buri (mural painting by Phraya Anusatchitrakon, Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya).In 1592, Nanda Bayin ordered his son to attack Ayutthaya again. Minchit Sra, along with the Lord of Pyay, Natshinnaung the son of the Lord of Toungoo, and the Burmese King of Lanna, led the Burmese into Siam. Minchit Sra himself went through Chedi Sam Ong peacefully and reached Suphanburi, while other came from the north. Naresuan was planning to conquer Cambodia, but then he had to change his intentions. Naresuan encamped his armies at Nong Sarai. The Burmese then arrived, leading to the Battle of Nong Sarai.
During the battle, the elephants of Naresuan and Ekathotsarot went mad and ran into the midst of the Burmese. Siamese Chronicles stated that there were fake Minchit Sras but Naresuan pointed out the real one from the honorary decorations. Naresuan then urged Minchit Sra to fight with him:
My brother, why do you hide yourself in the canopy shadows? Let us fight the elephant battle for our own honors. No future kings will do what we are going to do.
The personal battle between Naresuan and Minchit Sra was a highly-romanticized historical scene known as Yuttahadhi, the Elephant battle. After narrowly missing Naresuan and cutting his hat (on display in Bangkok) Minchit Sra was slashed to death on the back of his elephant. This was on Monday, the 2nd waning day of the 2nd month of the Buddhist calendar Chulasakarat Era year 954. Calculated to correspond to Monday, 18 January, AD 1593 of the Gregorian calendar, this date is now observed as Royal Thai Armed Forces day. Naresuan then built a pagoda on the site of Yutthahadhi as a victory monument. However, modern historians are still unable to locate the pagoda.
Naresuan intended to execute all the soldiers in the battle of Nong Sarai who had provided no support to him and his brother. Somdet Phra Wannarat - a bhikkhu - calmed Naresuan to get him to lift the punishment. Naresuan then instead ordered them to take Tavoy and Tenasserim.

King Naresuan entered Hanthawadi (now Pegu), mural painting by Phraya Anusatchitrakon, Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya.

Tavoy and Tenasserim

In 1593, Naresuan sent Siamese forces to lay siege on Tavoy - a Mon city - by the Minister of Kromma Tha and Tenasserim and Mergui by the Samuha Kalahom , all quickly fell. Nanda Bayin lauched Burmese fleets to recapture the cities. The Samuha Kalahom then seized the galleons at Mergui to construct a fleet and sailed and marched his armies on land to counter Burmese attack from Martaban. The Siamese were then able to repel the Burmese.

Capture of Lovek

After Yuttahadhi, Naresuan then launched his campaigns to subjugate Cambodia. He sent four armies to capture Champasak, Banteymas (modern Ha Tien in Vietnam), Siem Reap, and Naresuan himself Battambang - all to be joined at Lovek. In 1594, they all reached Lovek and looted Lovek to the grounds. King Borommaracha V fled to Vientiene. Naresuan took Borommaracha's brother Sri Suriyopor as captive and took his daughter as his concubine.
Naresuan left a Siamese army at Oudong to oversee Cambodia, only to be driven out by Rama Chungprey in 1595.

Capture of Martaban

As Burmese control over the tributaries had weakened, the Mons took this opportunity to free themselves. The Mon governor of Moulmein rebelled against Pegu and requested Siamese support. Naresuan sent troops to take the Mon city of Martaban that sided with Pegu. Nanda Bayin sent the Lord of Toungoo to Martaban but was repelled and retreated. Capture of Martaban exerted Siamese control over the Mon state.[2]

Invasion of Pegu

King Naresuan entered Hanthawadi (now Pegu), mural painting by Phraya Anusatchitrakon, Wat Suwandararam, Ayutthaya.
Naresuan eventually marched his troops to Pegu in 1595. He laid siege on the city for three months but was unable to enter. The huge forces of the Lords of Pyay, Toungoo, and Ava then arrived to free Pegu. Naresuan decided to retreat.
The Lord of Pyay staged a rebellion against Nanda Bayin in 1595, followed by Toungoo, Rakhine, Lanna, and Lan Xang. King Nokeo of Lan Xang prepared to march through Lanna to Pegu to rescue the Laotian captives. Noratra Mangsosri of Lanna (Nanda Bayin's brother) then put his kingdom under Siamese tributary to get Ayutthayan supports. Naresuan sent Siamese forces to prevent Laotian forces from entering Lanna.
After the series of upheavals in the Burmese Empire, Naresuan decided to invade Pegu again in 1599. Naresuan allied himself with Rakhine. However, the Lord of Toungoo feared that if Naresuan had taken Pegu the Siamese power would have been too large and might engulf Toungoo itself. So, the Lord of Toungoo encouraged the Mons to rebel against Siam. Naresuan then had to subjugate the Mon rebellions.
Toungoo finally took Pegu the same year with the help of Rakhine. Toungoo took Nanda Bayin and left for Toungoo. When Naresuan reached Pegu, what he found was only the city ruins. He requested Toungoo to sent Nanda Bayin back to him but Toungoo refused.

Invasion of Toungoo and Lanna

Naresuan laid the siege on Toungoo but readily failed. Naresuan then went back. He sent his brother Ekathotsarot to calm Lanna inner conflicts.
As in 1600, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya reached the greatest extend.


Anaukpetlun crowned himself as the King of Ava to counter Toungoo and went on his campaigns to subjugate the Shans. However, the Shan King of Hsenwi was Naresuan's childhood friend. So, he marched armies to rescue Hsenwi. During his journey, however, Naresuan died in 1605.
According to Prince Damrong's Our Wars with the Burmese, King Naresuan died in 1605 during another battle with the Burmese, speared by Burmese soldiers as he attempted to climb over a garrison's wall in Tambon Thung Kaew, Mueang Hang.
However, recent studies of Burmese records by historians of Silpakorn University showed that he actually returned to Wiang Haeng, where he died of disease, probably smallpox.
His brother King Ekathotsarot became his successor as king.
According to the Shan, King Naresuan helped them win independence for the Shan State in 1600 with his ally, the Prince of Hsenwi. Both had been hostages at the Burmese court, and King Naresuan died while rushing to the aid of a friend of his youth, they say.
Many Shan believe King Naresuan was cremated and his ashes interred in a stupa in Mongton, in the southern part of the Shan State.

Don Chedi Monument
, Suphanburi


Warrior king remains a very modern mystery
Published on Apr 30, 2006
บทความจาก นสพ. The Nation ฉบับวันที่ ๓๐ เมษายน ๒๕๔๙

Four centuries after King Naresuan the Great died, scholars are still sparring over where exactly the warrior king passed away.
It's not an easy quarrel to settle. King Naresuan spent more time on the battlefield than in a palace. But as the scholars continue their dispute they are searching deeper for insights into his thinking as well as making bolder conjectures on just how far his outward-looking foreign policy stretched.
Besides the debate on where his remains lie, historians are also debating how much of his outlook was shaped inBurma, where he was held captive during his youth, and how much of his perspective he owed to the influences of the ancient capital Thai capital.
It was inAyutthaya last week, at the commemoration of the 401st anniversary of King Naresuan's death, that Thai historians discussed a novel view about his way of thinking.
The way he led his troops into battle was, well, quite Burmese, some said.
"Unlike other Thai kings, Phra Naresuan's way of thinking was like that of the Burmese kings," Sunait Chutin-taranond, a Chulalongkorn University historian, said at the seminar "Where did King Naresuan die, in Thailand, Burma or Mon?"
Scholars pondered arcane topics like the degree of King Naresuan's fluency in Burmese and his penchant for betel nut, as they discussed his demise in 1605 somewhere en route to Ava, where he was leading his troops to attack the then Burmese capital in what turned out to be his final campaign.
Some historians raised doubts about just how fluent the king's Burmese had actually been. Others suggested he had picked up a taste for betel nut and tea inAyutthaya, which, historian Thamrongsak Petchlert-anan was swift to point out, were popular in the Thai capital during the king's reign from 1590 to 1605.
Naresuan learned military strategy and political science during his nine years as a captive at the Burmese court at Pegu, according to "A History of Burma" by Maung Htin Aung.
According to Thai and Burmese accounts, Prince Naresuan was sent to live in Pegu in order to ensure his father Somdet Phra Maha Thammarachathirat remained loyal to Burmese King Bayinnaung.
Prince Naresuan returned toSiam when he was 16 and immediately committed his life to non-stop warfare. Nineteen years later he became king and embarked on continuous military campaigns, dying at the age of 50.
A study of King Naresuan's battles indicates that the warrior king looked at politics far beyond theChao Phya River basin, Sunait said.
"He didn't just defendAyutthaya: he actively attackedBurma. The king carried war into the Irrawaddy basin in order to maintain the stability ofAyutthaya," the historian said.
King Naresuan launched an attack on Ava to preventBurma's new king from becoming stronger than the preceding one, he added.
King Naresuan may have believed that a stableAyutthaya required a weakened Ava and launched his campaign to prevent his western rival from extending its power over theIrrawaddy and Chao Phya basins, Sunait said.
Historians agree that King Naresuan died before he arrived at the Burmese capital, but they disagree on the location.
The "father of Thai history" has King Naresuan dying inSiam, in tambon Thung Kaew, then known as Muang Hang. This is the established view set out in "The Biography of King Naresuan the Great" written in 1950 by Prince DamrongrajanubAChap.
According to Prince Damrong, King Naresuan and his younger brother Somdet Phra Ekathotsarot led their troops fromAyutthaya to Muang Chiang Mai, where they collected another 200,000 soldiers. The king then divided the troops into two armies, assigning his brother to lead one to Muang Fang while he headed to Muang Hang.
But while Thai historians say King Naresuan died at Muang Hang, the Shan people beg to differ. According to their popular history, King Naresuan died at the Shan town ofMongton while on his way to help Chao Kham Kai Noi, the Prince of Hsenwi, resist the Burmese.
Naresuan is still remembered by the Shan as the Thai king who helped them win independence for theShan State in 1600 with his ally the Prince of Hsenwi.
In the Shan version, their independence hinges on a deep friendship. The two Siamese princes and the Prince of Hsenwi forged a close bond while they were fellow hostages at the Burmese court, and King Naresuan died while rushing to the aid of a friend of his youth, they say.
The Thai chronicles are less appealing. They have the warrior king dying of a sudden illness, a toxic disease characterised by skin pustules.
According to the Shan, however, the Thai king and the Shan prince died side by side on the battlefield.
Many Shan believe King Naresuan was cremated and his ashes interred in a stupa in Mongton, in the southern part of theShan State. Shan soldiers still revere the Thai king as a hero who helped liberate them. Many wear King Naresuan amulets to protect them in their ongoing war with the Burmese junta.
Recent Thai scholarship, however, identifies the town where King Naresuan died as Wieng Haeng in Chiang Mai.
Villagers there even claim the "Royal Ceremonial Felt Hat" believed to have been worn by the king into battle was found in Wieng Haeng and has been kept there as historical evidence.
While some scholars continue to spar about the location of the warrior king's death, others are shifting the debate onto new planes and extending their research beyond his deathbed and his countless battles.
One new story even has the king expanding his foreign policy beyondSoutheast Asia. In October 1592 King Naresuan sent a mission toChina, offering to send the Siamese navy to helpKorea, then a tributary ofChina, repel the Japanese, this story says. The Chinese, however, turned down the king's offer in February 1593.
The proposal, however, demonstrated King Naresuan's comprehension of international relations and his policy of showing respect forChina's dominance inAsia at the time, according to the view of some contemporary historians.

Subhatra Bhumiprabhas
The Nation

Don Chedi Monument
, Suphanburi

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