Letter from the Phrakhlang on behalf of the King of Siam Narai (r. 1656-1688) to the Supreme Government in Batavia, 27 January 1683 and a reply from Batavia 11 May 1683



[fol. 141] Below follows a translation of the letter written by the Oya Berquelangh in Siam to His Excellency the Lord Governor-General. Above was a presentation of the salutations). This letter comes from Tsjauparaje Seri Derma Rava [fol. 142] Detsieh Tsjada Amataja Ratsjet Pipid Ritanrata Kosa Ribaedi Apie Piri Aer Germa Pahak Tsjauparaja Bergalang to the Governor-General Cornelis Speelman, Councillor of Asia and Captain of Batavia.

The Governor-General has dispatched Nerikpi as messenger to Siam with a letter and gifts consisting of a writing-slope of cinnamon wood, two long inlaid muskets, as well as two short side-arms of the same, and also 2 pikes and a bolt of damask embroidered with gold thread Japanese work, four pieces of gold and silver lace, and a chest of paper, on which can be either written or painted; a piece of red broadcloth with a piece of velvet, and I have received these same in the customary fashion. From the content of what is written in the letter, [I] understand that the Governor-General rules the city and countryside of Jaccatra in health and prosperity. I am greatly delighted and pleased with this. As well as with the contents of the letter about the opportunity for a ship or ships to depart for Siam, [namely] that when their cargoes have been loaded to sail will be yet longer delayed in order to await letters, [and I] request that the letters will swiftly be composed, without further delay, so that the ship or ships will be able to make sail right soon.

Now, concerning the ship which has arrived on this monsoon. As we were on the point of answering the letter, and wished that the ship might depart with all speed, as has been noted in the letter of the captain, the captain of the trading-post said that the vessel would not yet sail to Batavia, but would depart for Japan first. This is the happenstance whereby that letter has not been answered. Nevertheless, after this there will be no longer any such delays but all will be expedited with the utmost speed.

Furthermore, that the Company has assisted the son of the king of Mataram in his efforts to become king, that peace has been restored to the countries of Cirebon and Jepara and that the Company has also lent its assistance to the king of Jambi and Palembang, and [that] the Company had spent and bestowed a large sum in gold [on this enterprise] and that a contract has been drawn up with all three countries, so that [fol. 143] no other merchants might enjoy the privilege of trading there, but the Company alone, and that Bantam has now also been conquered by the Company and this development foreshadows that in all these places it will be able to make great profits and gains in the future. I desire to state that I have been greatly delighted to have taken note of these tidings.

And now concerning the royal junk which had been dispatched [from Siam] to Cirebon,

the same put in to Batavia, whence it sailed on to Cirebon, but two days into her voyage she was met by Javanese, attacked and burned, even though it was a junk which was the property of the king. After this [incident], it will be extremely problematic to send royal junks to places which lie in close proximity to the governorship of the country of Jaccatra. Nevertheless, the Governor-General knows best how he will deal with and remedy this [problem].

Furthermore, this letter also announces that a servant of the king had requested a Dutch licence to buy horses in Cirebon, but when this request was disallowed and he could not undertake his first voyage, he had journeyed first to Bantam and Palembang, and had returned to Jaccatra and from there once again submitted a request to the Governor-General for a licence [to trade] which would enable him to trade his textiles in Cirebon. Whereupon displaying extraordinary favour and goodwill the Governor-General had granted him such a licence. Wherefore he took large quantities of textiles to Cirebon, as a result of which the Company textiles which were in Cirebon remained unsold, and therefore the Company suffered great damage, and that henceforth [the Company] will no longer grant any more such licences.

That now that this sea captain had been granted a Dutch pass to enable him to sell horses in Cirebon, and did not go there directly but first sailed to another country is the fault of the captain himself. And upon his return [he] will also be punished for it and it was a great favour and courtesy of the captain of the lodge that [he] had granted him this licence, and is also in accordance with the path of reciprocal friendship and amity. And as far as the textiles which that sea captain [fol. 144] had brought with him, [these] were sold by him and spent on horses. These textiles did not amount to any great quantity, being worth at an estimate a capital of no more than 9 or 10 catties silver. And, when he was sent to purchase horses on the Coast of Java, it was not yet the right monsoon season, and the West monsoon had not yet ended. [It] was also only rarely that [we] sometimes send a few vessels elsewhere in the middle of the monsoon, but again sometimes do not. And therefore the matter is now closed.

Furthermore, the captain of the trading-post in Cirebon has said that if [we] wish to purchase horses [we] should make this known to the Governor-General, [and then he] will order that they be bought for us. Although this is a good way to arrange matters, nevertheless the Hollanders have a different choice and taste than the people of Siam and yet another in the purchase of horses and hence it will not be a success should the Hollanders buy them because [the horses] would then not be same as those the Siamese desired. The captain of the trading-post has said that he would send a royal servant with the Hollanders, and that that same [the servant] would then be brought back on a Dutch ship. However, the Dutch have no common language with the Siamese and therefore they might not be able to understand each other, and hence will fall into disputes and quarrels, and the reciprocal friendship and amity between both [peoples] will therefore be dented, even breached.

Furthermore, about the royal junk which set sail for Persia had foundered in Ceylon, the Governor of Ceylon has spent 7,200 silver pieces on her and also shown proof of other services to do with her. A decree has been passed here by which this silver will be repaid to the captain of the trading-post [in Siam]. Thereafter this vessel, when she had been rescued and repaired, sailed to Cochin where the captain was supplied with cordage and other nautical requirements, but we do not know precisely how many costs were incurred, but which can be estimated to amount to a goodly sum in silver. When we have exact [fol. 145] knowledge of this, [we] shall reimburse that amount to the captain of the trading-post in the great city of Siam, and repay this help from the Hollanders to the king’s servant with the same friendship and amity, as it has flourished since the beginning and in yesteryear.

Furthermore, the enterprise of the dispatch of such cargoes to Persia has been highly injurious to the Company and that in future [we] should like to abandon [it]. Therefore, whenever we desire anything from Surat, Persia, Bengal, Masulipatnam and Mokka, whither the Company dispatch its ships, henceforth we shall make this known to the captain of the trading-post. And that the in the wake of this Company will arrange these matters as the King of Siam would like them to be, so as to prevent any great damage or detriment to the Company were the Siamese themselves to dispatch ships and that then these Siamese ships would no longer be required to submit a request for Dutch passports for these waters.

What the Governor-General says accords with the path of true friendship in our country and also because the country of Persia, and of Hyderabad (which is Golkonda) also relate to each other in such harmony and have therefore agreed to engage in reciprocal trade with each other and to demonstrate it, so that we also desire the same. This is in accordance with the reciprocal friendship, but perhaps it will transpire to that we shall not receive a cargo corresponding with our preferences and taste, such as the piece of red broadcloth which last monsoon did not correspond in hue to that which we had really wanted, and therefore once again [we] had returned it. Therefore [the message] is passed on that this colour pleases none of the merchants and therefore has remained unsold to the detriment of the Company. If indeed several of His Majesty’s subjects might sail on the Dutch ships, as it was once agreed and set down in a contract. And indeed, even if [they, the servants] in fulfilment of this agreement be able to sail on the Dutch ships and had gathered together some goods to be loaded into the Dutch ship as a consequence [of this agreement], the Hollanders said that there were too many goods and chests and that [they, the Hollanders] could not take them on board, and so the matter was left [as it was before].

The Hollanders in Siam are also unacquainted with the [Siamese] language and are therefore cannot accompany the Siamese on the voyage [to Persia] [fol. 146], as various misunderstandings could arise, which might sour the friendship between both parties. Even though we might now pass on the knowledge of the goods required from those lands [and] even though the Company itself might carry them and order them, we do not know if these might deviate from the sample, and once again might have to be given back. And this [situation] might endure, [going] back and forth endlessly and always. However, as for the goods which only the Dutch can produce, [a message] about them could be sent to Holland, that they be made there. The dispatch of a royal ship to Persia, would bring us neither profit nor loss, as the sending of such a ship there and back is only intended to maintain the friendship which was cultivated in former years.

Furthermore, in the letter [from the Supreme Government] the subject of the contract which has existed from the very beginning up to the present time, under whose terms the people of the Company are granted permission to buy up deer skins and cattle hide has been raised, however these same are no longer be obtained [in such quantities] as once [was the case], because junks from Siam sail to Japan irrespective of the monsoon, and consequently the Hollanders are unable to purchase them in sufficient [quantities] as they once were, whereby the Company suffers great [financial] damage. Therefore, if [we] were able permit no other [traders] to participate in the purchase, and that if the merchants from the great city of Siam came to buy these same and send them to Japan in order to trade them there and if we were to grant anybody [permission] to take over and carry on, that same would have to [be prepared] to pay that sum which is the same as the price against which they would have been sold in Japan, to ensure that the Company will suffer no loss.

In this respect, the contract drawn up in De Bitter’s time has not changed, being said at the beginning of [this] written document that the Hollanders have been granted a royal warrant for deer skins and cattle hides, and that other traders are forbidden [to buy up] these wares, and that should a great many of them be procured, that the Hollanders can have 10,000 pieces for the purchase price [fol. 146] and they might send [these] to Japan with the royal junk or junks . Conversely, when the hides cannot be got in any quantity, the Hollanders will take no more than 7,000 skins. [In view of the fact that we] during the last four years have taken no more, and have sent [to Japan] an estimated 2,135 hides on the royal junks, therefore we have supplied the Hollanders with 18,725 fewer hides than the contract specifies. And when we realized that the Hollanders could procure so few hides, the treasury forbade the people to take any hides whatsoever from the Hollanders, who in the meantime have been able to procure the sum of 128,725 pieces in the space of eleven years.

And should this be the case that according to this calculation the skins taken by the Hollanders, as specified in the contract, and moreover transported to Japan and traded them there, so will [it, that is, the Company] will have made the very notable profit of 1,059 cattties, 122 taels and 1 maas profit. Therefore the previous high profit has become so much greater and more generous because the ban was put in place, namely not to take [parties of hides intended for] the Hollanders, to transport to Japan on junks, leaving these same for the Hollanders and they alone to procure and keep, and this [gesture] is more than enough to display the extraordinary favour of His Majesty. Although it might be that the captain in the great city of Siam has not explained this clearly enough to the Governor, the weaker supply of the hides cannot be interpreted as a change in the contract. Because, generally speaking, in trade it is usual for wares to be obtainable in greater or lesser quantities, depending on the numbers of buyers and sellers, and skilled people will certainly be able to procure a larger quantity. Because since the time of Captain Enogh [Enoch] Poolvoet, to that of Captain Johannes or Jansen, people have sought too great a margin on the profit of the Company, and will have informed the captain of the trading-post in the great city of Siam of this, adducing the unequivocal argument [fol. 147] of how matters really stand.

Furthermore, the captain of the trading-post will have also passed on the information that Chinese traders have bought up hides illegally and taken them to Japan, and that for this reason a shah bandar [harbour master] has been ordered to place a ban on all Chinese, and to notify the captain of the trading-post that when the season will have [arrived] to buy the hides, he will also have to have appointed a person to purchase the hides, and will also have installed a person to keep an eye on the contraband trade. Moreover, that the captain will also order someone among his personnel to stand guard and take care that no hides are procured illegally, and this is what has happened.

Also in the letter there was some mention that the Hollanders want to trade in the places Salang, Bang[g]erei and Tokut, therefore in a letter [we] have already given notification of the situation and what it is like [in these places], which is such that the Hollanders will not be able to trade for tin peacefully and undisturbed, because in those areas there is no tranquillity and the inhabitants are vicious and are also allied to people of other countries and correspond with them, yea even display their cruelty to the head of that country, and this is what foreign traders there have also often said. And should the Hollanders be permitted to reside there to trade, it could perhaps very well happen that they will be treated treacherously and villainously, and through this they will suffer damage to their goods, the which [would not be in agreement with] the path which leads to good friendship, and the relationship which corresponds with this, and indeed that same could also cause a breach or be broken off. And therefore for this reason, knowledge of it has been passed on to the captain who resides in the trading-post in the great city of Siam.

In relation to the viciousness and villainy of the people of Salang, Banggirei and Takut, from the beginning their [fol. 149] evil deeds have been told to the captain in writing so that he could make them known to the Governor, being again the usage and style of all countries in which mutual friendship has been made, that one must contribute to maintaining it and their discussion and thoughts lead to this and all affairs and actions are directed by it, so that no dissension and troubles will take root between them both and grow. And now I am bound to the [Governor-]General in friendship, and have remained in this from the beginning and shall continue in it. And in the countries of Salang, Bang[g]irei and Takut the situation is as has been declared above. Were [we] not to make this known, and thereby allowed the Hollanders to take up residence there, consequently this pernicious sort of people might have caused the Hollanders some harm, this would be contrary to our friendship, and at once stray from the path. This is the reason we pass on this notification, so that no harm might befall the Hollanders.


Finally in this [letter] the Governor-General is also informed that at this time the king of Jambi has offered some gold and silver flowers as sign of his tributary status, requesting that a servant of His Majesty recognize and shall also count his country as a vassal of the great city of Siam, praying most fervently as the gift of recognition of a tributary from His Illustrious Graciousness that he be lent a goodly sum and His High Illustrious Majesty has also cast his merciful eye upon him and has graciously granted him all he wished. Therefore, in this matter, will the Governor-General take into consideration our mutual friendship which has endure from the beginning up to the present, and concur with this. Should anything befall the king of Jambi, will the Governor-General also lend his aid, in view of the fact that now at this time the land of Jambi is subject to the great city of Siam.

In his graciousness, His Most Illustrious Majesty, My Lord, presents 32 bhaar of tin from the negeri of Ligor as a gift to the Governor, and I also personally send the Governor-General 7 bhaar of tin. Furthermore, may the mutual friendship between the both of us remain indestructible, until the Day of the Resurrection, as long and the sun and moon shall shine, and that the Governor-General will accept this in the spirit in which it is given.

This is written on 22nd day of the 11th month on a Friday in the Year of the Dog. Finis.



[fol. 474] The letter which the King has sent us was delivered to us on 18 January 1683 and was received with the usual state. The letter is in answer to our letter which we had written to His Majesty in 1682.

His royal Majesty is hereby thanked for maintaining the monopoly granted to the Company on the export of hides. [Also] that to that end the syahbandars have been instructed to hinder the smuggling by the Chinese and other nations, with permission to our captain to be allowed to supervise this. [Also] that the royal treasurers henceforth will not be allowed to seize any hides of the Company, but have the captain keep them, to be sent to Japan at the expense of the Company, since the Japanese rulers at Nagasaki buy these hides at very low prices, in great contrast with former times. The King has without doubt understood this, so that our captain is not at fault when he attempts to get the skins for a reasonable price in Siam.

From the fatherland the latest ships have, according to the models, brought us the requested 28 very fine castor hats [1], all varnished as indicated, and sent in a case lined with lead, with the instruction to our captain to deliver these so that they may be brought to Your Majesty with all haste for the satisfaction of your taste. We do not doubt that they will give very great satisfaction and be pleasing to Your Majesty.

Although we are certain that the King will already have had news about the ship that came to grief in the river of Surat, we did not wish to omit informing our captain in the great city of Siam about the facts of the case, so that he can communicate these to the King or the Phrakhlang if asked about it. The servants of the King there [in Surat] have asked a large sum of money, to the amount of 3,000 rupees from our director to build a new ship there. The director did not dare to decide this out of fear of displeasing the King, and also because the shipbuilding is not only very expensive but also takes a long time. Nevertheless he has offered them 15,000 rupees, or to let them depart with their goods on Company ships.

But the commander of Cochin has not yet informed us of what help was given to the royal ship there. The Governor-General and members of the Council of the Indies cannot recall that the servants of the King were refused permission to load their goods in Company ships because the quantity was too great. On the contrary, the Governor-General does remember well that some years ago the King’s servants were brought hither [to Batavia] from Surat with as much of their goods as could be stowed in Company ships, and that we did not demand the 2,000 rupiah that the director had fixed as freight charge, out of respect for the King. After being well entertained the servants have been transferred from here [Batavia] with their goods to Siam, and we shall never be remiss in this.

But now with regard to the king and the land of Jambi, last year in our letter to Your Royal Majesty we informed you of the situation between Jambi and the Company according to the recently made contract. [2] The king [of Jambi], and likewise the king of Palembang, the Susuhunan of Mataram [3] and the princes of Cirebon, has granted us free trade in his realm, to the exclusion of all other nations. He has also placed himself under the protection of the Company, as our captain in the great city of Siam would be able to further inform Your Majesty, if this was asked. [The king of Jambi] may not place himself under other lords without the prior knowledge and agreement of the Governor-General and the members of the Council of the Indies. It dismays us that he had sent his emissaries with golden and silver flowers with that aim, as a token of submission to Your Majesty, without doubt in order to borrow money thereby and for the gifts that he obtains on the return of his own emissaries and those of the Siamese. However, Your Majesty will understand well enough from what has been said above that we cannot accept this conduct of the king of Jambi to the detriment of the Company; and that we therefore also cannot recognize the land and the subjects or the people of Jambi as slaves or subjects of Your Majesty, seeing that actually they are under the protection of the Company, and the Company has incurred great expenses in order to ensure the [authority of] the king over his territory and the restore peace in the land [of Jambi]. Moreover the king and the inhabitants of Jambi still owe the Company a large sum of money. As well as this the people of Jambi have from very early times, as also the inhabitants of Palembang, been a vassal of the Susuhunan.

At the same time we inform Your Majesty that [the Susuhunan] has likewise been accepted under the protection of the Company. [4] Such is the situation with Jambi, and Your Majesty is invited to reflect on this. We have considered it necessary to explain this at length, so that no disputes should be caused by this. The rebels of Banten who had risen against their king [5] are now completely defeated and have been obliged by the Company’s weapons to humble themselves before their king, so that under the protection of the Company the land is likewise once more restored to peace, which it may please the Lord God to allow to continue.

As a return gift the Governor-General and members of the Council of the Indies have spared no trouble to select such curious items as in our estimation might please Your Majesty most of all, consisting of the following:

  • two very splendid and fine gilded flintlocks ordered expressly for the King from Holland
  • two pairs of splendid and fine gilded pistols
  • two fine gilded curved swords
  • two fine gilded straight swords
  • two fine gilded carbines
  • two mirrors of 1⅓ pounds with gilded frames with carved leafwork of flowers and fruit
  • one piece of aurora velvet
  • one piece of satin with lace of white and gold flowers
  • one splendid ebony box with fretwork and silver fittings
  • one heavy, valuable piece of gold worsted
  • one white boudaar [6] with closed golden flowers
  • one red boudaar with gold and coloured flowers
  • six very fine parrots with red heads
  • one little bottle of cinnamon oil
  • one little bottle of oil of cloves
  • one little bottle of mace-oil
  • one little bottle of oil of nutmeg

which oils are very necessary and expensive for maintaining the health and strengthening the body.


[1] Castor hat: or beaver (hat), a black hat made of felted beaver fur. The court of Siam began ordering European-style hats from the reign of King Narai onwards. It is not clear on which occasions these hats were worn.

[2] The contract of 20 August 1683 by Sultan Ingalaga (1679-1687) and the VOC in Corpus Diplomaticum, Volume 3 (1676-1691), pp. 280-282

[3] Susuhunan of Mataram was at this stage Amangkurat II.

[4] A reference to the contract of 25-28 february 1677 with the Susuhunan of Mataram Amangkurat II, see Corpus Diplomaticum, Volume 2 (Third part, 1676-1691), pp. 40-41 article 2.

[5] Abu Nasr Abdul Kahar or Sultan Haji (r. 1682-1687).

[6] Boudaar, not the same as the word boudoir. Perhaps boutidars, a soft cloth and expensive with eegant golden embroidery.