A Little bit of Thai History: The warrior queen

by gonzotrooper

Another month, another installment: Here’s another payoff on my debt of honor!  As a repayment of a favor I write a little bit about  the history of Thailand every month. Today I’ll write about intrigue, sacrifice, and an elephant duel.

In 1524 Siam was mess. Two years after the previous king Chairacha had died, the rule of his son Yot Fa was usurped. Given that the king in question was an 11 year old kid and his mother Sri Sudachan, the chief consort of  Chairacha was the one actually calling the shots, we shouldn’t blame little Yot too much. Also, the one deposing him WAS said mother. So what can you do?

The rumors around the de facto queen are murky. A lot of courtiers died mysteriously, and she is said to have poisoned the more troublesome rivals at court. Including her lover, king Chairacha. What we do know is that she outright executed several prominent officials while in power,replacing them with her own loyal people. When it was impossible for her to conceal being pregnant, she staged a coup against her son the king. He was quietly poisoned by mommy while her new lover Phan But Si Thep was crowned king under the name Worawongsathirat.

His glorious reign lasted all of 42 days.  A relative to the dead king Chairacha, Khun Phiren Thorathep plotted a scheme to lure the king, his concubine Sri Sudachan the poisonmurdery and their new born daughter. He planted a rumour of a really huge elephant in the jungle, and as the king and his loved ones sailed up the river by royal barge to capture it (as previously mentioned, Thai royalty has a thing for elephants) they were ambushed and horribly murdered.

(Oh and by the way: King Chairacha became king by deposing and executing his nephew the king. Who was aged five. Being an infant did not protect you if you belonged to an inconvenient bloodline).

So  the ringleader Khun Phiren Thorathep, a distant relation to the last king… Then gave the throne to ANOTHER prince,  Thianracha,who was crowned as Maha Chakkrapat (just before giving a cushy vassal king-title to his buddy Thorathep).

So at this point, we are only one huge invasion force across the border from this being  “Game of Thrones” with elephants.

Which is just as well, because at this point a huge invasion force crossed the border from Burma. It turned out that Burma had had a stable period of empire building,and figured Siam was next on the list. The Burmese attacked with some 12000 men, 2400 horses and 60 elephants. There was no way the border garrisons could stop that, so the Burmese were met with little resistance until they came to a village named Suphanburi near the capital Ayutthaya.  There, the king waited for them and counterattacked.

As well as the king, his queen  Sri Suriyothai  were leading the Siamese army on elephants.  The king and the enemy general started the battle as the tradition was at the time: Single combat on elephant back. Unfortunately, the king’s elephant panicked and ran. When the queen saw the Burmese general chasing the king, she spurred her elephant on, blocking his way and engaging him instead. Oh,and her daughter too, by the way. Yep: The royal backup was his queen in armor and general regalia. Her backup was her teenage daughter, also armored and in the same war elephant gondola as her mom. The warrior Queen special.

It would have been nice if she defeated him. But the Burmese general was a professional soldier,and cut her from the shoulder to her heart in one blow with his spear, killing her instantly and fatally wounding her daughter. The king got control of his elephant eventually, rallied the Siamese forces, and turned away the Burmese army. He managed to withdraw to the capital with the bodies of his wife and daughter.

After the war ended, the king built a temple,  Sri Suriyothai, to  house the remains of his queen. Boththe temple and the stupa adjoining it exists to this day. One of the later names of this war  is The War that Led to the Loss of Queen Suriyothai.