|Paella and Silk: Spanish encounters with Ayutthaya
|16th Century - The Spanish and the Portuguese divided up the world in their quest for expansion and agreed upon to focus on different directions: Spain to
the west and Portugal to the east. Different papal bulls were decreed and agreements signed between the two Iberian neighbors in order to prevent conflicts
and to divide trading and colonizing rights for all newly discovered land between them to the exclusion of the other European nations. The Treaty of
Saragossa (1529) finally agreed that Spain would relinquish its claims to the Moluccas. To prevent Spain from encroaching upon Portugal's Moluccas, the
demarcation line was set 17° east of the Moluccas, passing through the islands of Las Velas and Santo Thome.  This divide was the main reason that
Spanish contacts with Siam were rather sporadic, as the latter was situated in the Portuguese sphere of influence, while the Portuguese tried to block
Castilian inroad in their region.
The Spaniards first gained a foothold in the Philippines in 1565. The Basque sailor Andres de Urdaneta discovered in the 1560’s a path across the Pacific
from the Philippines to Mexico (New Spain), which became known as "Urdaneta's route" (1). By discovering the Pacific route, the Spaniards could establish
an autonomous position in Asia without Portuguese aid, authorization or interference. Manila was founded in 1571. 
Already by 1586, Siam was mentioned as a possible target of commercial interests and colonial expansionism. The first contact between Spain and Siam
seemed to have taken place in that year. The latter was derived from a letter sent by Santiago de Vera (3), the sixth Spanish governor of the Philippines, to
King Philip II in which he wrote to have sent persons with presents to the neighboring kingdoms, including Siam, in order to establish contact with the aim to
open a trade route. Following a “Journal of the Siam Society”, this trade mission was enhanced with rank in order to ease protocol, but there is no further
reference to what happened to this “embassy”. (2)
End of the 1580's Manila send an expedition to mainland Southeast Asia, claiming officially that their purposes were to defend the Cambodian king from
Siamese attacks and to stimulate Christianity in Cochin China through royal protection. It was although obvious that the aim of the Spaniards was physical
King Naresuan of Siam had to settle a score with the Khmer King, after the latter did not respect an alliance made in 1585 and he invaded Cambodia in
1593. Pursat, Batambang and Siem Reap fell early, while Lovek - the Khmer capital - was only taken in the month of July 1594 after fierce battle. King
Naresuan returned to Ayutthaya with his army, leaving a Siamese garrison at Lovek. Booty that he could not transport by land, he sent to Ayutthaya by sea.
Spaniards and Cambodian prisoners of war were put aboard a junk, loaded with goods, a Siamese guard and Chinese sailors. When they were out at sea,
the three Spaniards (4), aided by the Chinese, made themselves masters of the junk, overwhelmed the Siamese guard and set course for Manila. 
A large number of prisoners, including Portuguese and Spaniards were brought back from Cambodia over land. Antonio de Morga relates that they proved
troublesome. Some Portuguese had serious quarrels with Siamese in the city and had killed one of the king's servants. The King had the culprits punished and
forbidden the other Portuguese and the religious to leave Ayutthaya. 
King Naresuan waited in vain for the arrival of his junk and was eager to know what had happened to it. Diego Belloso, one of the Portuguese captured in
Cambodia, proposed the king to find out what had happened to the junk and said he would establish friendship and commerce in the king's name with the
Spaniards. The king agreed and a junk was prepared with a Siamese envoy, two elephants for the governor of Manila, and other merchandise for sale. In
Malacca, the Siamese envoy hearing what had happened to the king’s junk, was not inclined anymore to go to Manila and intended to return to Siam. On a
morning he was found dead in the junk. Thereupon Diego Belloso left Malacca for Manila and presented the elephants to the acting Governor Don Luys
Dasmariñas. The other goods and merchandise were offered for sale by another Siamese who represented the Siamese King's service. The Governor
dismissed the Siamese, without any definite answer to the King of Siam and sent in return some appropriate presents. 
In 1596 Captain Juan de Mendoza Gamboa and Fray Juan Maldonado, a Dominican priest, arrived in Ayutthaya on a Spanish trading mission. Embassy
letters from the Governor of Manila - Governor Don Francisco Tello - were delivered, but received by the Siamese court with less courtesy as expected.
The Portuguese requested Maldonado to be smuggled secretly aboard the ship in order to escape Siam. After de Mendoza concluded his rather
unsuccessful business, they carried out the plan. At night the Portuguese priest and his companions were taken aboard somewhere downstream and the ship
hasted its way to the sea. King Naresuan, hearing that the Spanish ship departed without being notified and was taking away the Portuguese kept at his
court, was so angered that he sent forty fighting boats in pursuit. de Mendoza only moving slow on the river without oars, was quickly overtaken by the
Siamese. The fight lasted more than one week, day and night. Near the bar, all the remaining Siamese boats surviving the previous engagements, attacked in
a last effort. The Spaniards did not escape without severe losses; the pilot, Juan Martinez de Chave, the associate of Maldonado, and eight other Spaniards
died in the conflict. Fray Juan Maldonado and Captain Juan de Mendoza, both badly wounded, died on their return to Malacca. 
After the war with Burma (1592) and Cambodia (1593-94), King Naresuan had time to pay attention to his home affairs and realizing the importance of
foreign trade, he began to cultivate the friendship of the Spaniards and Portuguese, who had settled in Siam in considerable numbers, Don Tello de Aguirre
was dispatched in 1598 from Manila to Ayutthaya on a diplomatic mission. He succeeded in concluding a Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Spain
and Siam, along the same lines as the relation with the Portuguese. Since Spain and Portugal at that time were on friendly terms, Spaniards were allowed to
live in Ayutthaya, to trade and to carry out missionary work. This was the second Treaty between Siam and a European power; the first being concluded
with Portugal in 1518 during the reign of King Rama Thibodi II.  Although the arrival of the Dutch in the region, had a serious impact on the Iberian trade
and the relationship with the Siamese Court.
In 1624 Don Fernando de Silva’s ship, loaded with more than five hundred thousand ducados in merchandise, encountered a heavy storm on the return
voyage from Macao to Manila. Silva (5) was forced to port in Siam and his vessel was wrecked at the bar. In order to replace the ship, he bought two
others. As the season was advanced and they could not get away quickly, he dispatched a small vessel with eight Spanish sailors and some of the
merchandise to Manila. On the rumor that the Dutch captured his vessel, Don Fernando attacked the passing Dutch yacht “Zeelandt” at night. The Spaniards
entered the Dutch VOC ship with the loss of only one man. The crew and the merchandise aboard were captured. King Songtham of Siam, informed by the
Dutch director van der Elst, sent a message to Don Fernando de Silva stating that he should return the ship and set the crew free, since it was captured in
Siamese territorial waters. Don Fernando, answered he wouldn’t and used a terminology improper to the King. The King ordered then the Spaniards to be
attacked. A fleet of boats with hundreds of Siamese and Japanese troops swarmed down on the two Spanish galleons. The Spaniards tried to get away,
began to serve their artillery, but in the confusion one of the galleons ran aground, where up it was entered. A fierce battle raged wherein 150 Spaniards and
25 of the king’s troops were killed. Don Fernando de Silva was killed in battle, sword in the hand. The Siamese recaptured the “Zeelandt” and its crew from
the Spaniards and its cargo was unloaded in the king’s warehouses. The nine deaths and the wounded Dutch were brought to the Dutch “factorij”. The
remaining Spaniards were thrown in prison and their ships confiscated and pillaged. No action was taken by Manila to the matter on account of the death
Governor Don Alonso Fajardo at that time. The king returned after negotiating the “Zeelandt” to the Dutch, but its cargo remained locked in his warehouses.
In order to negotiate the cargo, the Governor General in Batavia sent Jan Van Hasel to Siam. The latter succeeded in partly recuperating the Dutch
merchandise.  The Spanish-Dutch incident would bring Siam on the brink of war with Spain, while at the same time Portugal lost their favorite status in
Siam and could no more obtain proper access to the Siamese Court .
Late 1625, Father Pedro de Morejon (6), a Spanish Jesuit, arrived in Manila from Rome over Siam, with the news of the incident occurred to Don
Fernando de Silva. The Governor of Manila, Fernando de Silva (7), wrote the Jesuit superiors in Macau to request the help of Father de Morejon in seeking
the release of de Silva’s men, ships and goods from Siam. Macau agreed with the mission of de Morejon, and he returned from Macau to Manila
accompanied by another Jesuit father, Antonio Cardin, with as complementary task to start a new Jesuit mission in Ayutthaya. The governor prepared a
vessel with some Spaniards of good standing, and dispatched them by the month of January 1626 to Siam. The Spaniards reached the court of Siam in
March and received a cordial reception. The Spanish embassy negotiated the delivery of the Spanish prisoners, as well as the artillery, and other goods
which the ships were carrying. Although the king ordered everything to be given up, the merchandise could not be recuperated, the soldiers having pillaged
and divided the goods among themselves. The Siamese returned only the value of ten thousand pesos. Father de Morejon was successful in getting the
release of the Spaniards and returned to Manila. He arrived there in August and delivered to the new Governor Don Juan Nino de Tabora (8), a present
given to them by the king of Siam. Antonio Cardin remained in Ayutthaya, received permission to establish his church and took up his ministry. .
King Songtham sends in 1627 an envoy to Manila, at that time still governed by de Tabora. The embassy was not considered by the Spaniards as high
leveled and likely had not much outcome, the more as the governor was not on very friendly terms with the Siamese as we will see here under.
The Jesuit chronicle of events for 1627-28 are of interest as it mentions that two galleons, on the return from Macao, pursue a semi-piratical career for
several months, capturing Siamese vessels with valuable cargoes, by way of reprisal for the injuries inflicted on Spaniards in Siam. The Governor of Manila,
de Tabora, was not very delighted with the non-return of the Spanish goods by Siam and was looking for reprisal. Don Juan de Alcaraso, on mission in
Macao, was tasked to retaliate against Siamese ships. A patache was bought locally and on 18 February 1628, two galleons and the patache sailed out to
pursue their voyage. The two galleons were commanded by de Alcarazo, while the patache was steered by Diego Lopez Lobo, a Portuguese.
The patache took its station in the bays of Tonkin and Cochin China, in order to await a Siamese ship returning from China and then to go with it in search of
the two galleons. The patache, carrying thirty Spaniards, waited two months, sailing around in the area. On Thursday, 20th of April, a large freight ship was
sighted and attacked. The Royal Siamese ship was on its return voyage from Canton to Ayutthaya after having delivered the yearly tribute for the King of
China and was loaded with silk and other commodities, carrying a crew of sixty Siamese and sixty Chinese. The crew surrendered having no defense against
the Spanish artillery and musketry. Half of the men were placed aboard the patache and Spanish soldiers were transferred from the patache to the Siamese
ship. The ships set out in search of the galleons, but the winds were contrary in that direction. Consequently, they sailed to Manila, reaching the city on 14th
of May. The cargo of the Siamese ship, worth about one hundred thousand pesos, was placed on deposit and excellent treatment was given to the Siamese
The two galleons, the San Ildefonso and the Nuestra Senora de Pena, went to the coasts of Ligor (Nakhon Sri Thammarat) and discovered three freight
ships. The ships were attacked, but an explosion occurred, in which seven Spaniards were killed and five wounded. The Spaniards drew back and the
freight ships could escape. Afterwards three other ships coming from Siam, carrying rice, pepper and cloth, were discovered and captured. Thereupon the
galleons, flying the Spanish flag, entered the bay of Siam, and found three other ships on the bar. One was a Japanese junk carrying drugs and merchandise.
It was captured, thus raising the tension between Manila and Nagasaki.  Another ship belonged to the Siamese King, and was loaded for a voyage to
China. The Spaniards were unable to get it outside of the bar, as it was very large and needed the high tide. They set fire to the ship and took the Siamese as
prisoners to the galleons. The third ship captured, was also Siamese and laden with pepper and tin. A reprisal was made of it. Finally, the two Spanish
galleons returned to port on 13 June after an eight months' voyage.
These pirate actions of the Spaniards made, that at the time of King Songtham's death at the end of that year, a state of war existed between Siam and
Spain. The Siamese considered the Portuguese “at par” with the Spaniards and many Portuguese for this reason were languishing in Siamese prisons.  The
increased hatred of the King and his mandarins against the Iberians made them confiscate in 1630 a Portuguese ship loaded with Chinese goods from Macao
under command of Casper Suarez. The Portuguese were kept in strict captivity during three years and made to go begging in the streets. King Prasat Thong
stood in a very isolated position at the beginning of his reign, having only the Dutch as foreign friends. He requested the Dutch for help. VOC Governor
General of Batavia, Jacques Specx agreed and sent in 1632 five well-armed ships to Siam to fight the Spaniards. 
In July 1633, the Portuguese in Malacca sent Captain Sebastiaan Moutos d’Avi1la as ambassador to Ayutthaya to request the release of the Portuguese
prisoners. He was received with little honor at the court, but the king agreed with the request and released the prisoners. Although seeing that his petition was
going to be refused, he fled in September with all the prisoners down the Chao Phraya. He was pursued but could escape to sea and left Siam in enmity. Van
Vliet wrote that the discontent of the king about the sudden departure, was so great, that from that moment he hated the Portuguese just as much as the
Spaniards; also because in that same year they blocked the river of Tenasserim with two frigates, prevented Cantonese junks from coming to Siam and
committed hostilities. 
The Siamese took revenge a few months later, when a Chinese junk with some high ranking Spaniards aboard heading to Manila, drifted to Ligor (Nakhon
Si Thammarat) after losing mast and helm. The Spaniards, of whom the most prominent was Don Luis de Guzman, sergeant mayor of the Spanish fortress
Illa Formosa (present Taiwan), were taken prisoner and the cargo - containing Chinese goods and 125 piculs rough silk - was stocked in the kings’
warehouses. In 1635 a Portuguese galley was driven to Tenasserim, whereupon the captain, Francisco Cotringh de Magalano, with 14 Portuguese and some
slaves were also brought to Ayutthaya. Like the Spaniards these prisoners were also kept very poorly, although they were not put in chains. 
As these hostilities had a bad influence on the trade with Canton and Coromandel, King Songtham had them all released and sent with an ambassador and
letters to Manila and Malacca to remind the governors of the former friendship. 
Finally, the Spaniards never got a foothold in Siam, while their expansionist and often hostile actions became a serious burden for their Portuguese neighbors
in their relationship with Siam. We can conclude that the Dutch merchant Jeremias Van Vliet’s profession in his “Description of the Kingdom of Siam” was
quite to the point when he wrote in 1638 that the Portuguese most probably would not regain their former influence in Siam’s region. The union of the
Spanish and Portuguese crowns dating since 1580 (9), would soon come to an end. In 1640 announcement of the separation (10) was followed by an
immediate revolt of all the Portuguese colonies from Spanish authority. The Iberian power met her end, to be replaced by a near Dutch hegemony in the
 European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and Its Dependencies to 1648 - Frances Gardiner Davenport (1917) Washington, DC:
Carnegie Institute of Washington - page 107-111.
 The Castilians Discover Siam - Journal of the Siam Society 2007 Vol. 95.
 A History of Siam – William A.R. Wood (1924) - Chalermnit Press.
 The Philippine Islands 1493 - 1898 Emma Helen Blair.
 Van Vliet’s Siam - Chris Baker, Dhiravat Na Pombejra, Alfons Van der Kraan & David K. Wyatt (2005) – Silkworm books.
Other consulted works:
1. The Jesuits in Thailand - Part I 1607 – 1767 By Pietro Cerutti, S.J.
2. Intelligence-gathering episodes in the Manila-Macao-Taiwan Triangle during the Dutch Wars - José Eugenio Borao.
3. The Survival of Empire: Portuguese Trade and Society in China and the South China Sea 1630-1754 - George Bryan Souza (2004) - Cambridge
(1) The Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade route between the Philippines and Mexico flourished from 1571 until 1815.
(2) In 1571 Governor-General Miguel López de Legazpi arrived at Maynila with his entire force (consisting of 280 Spaniards and 600 native allies). The
locals, seeing them approach, set the city on fire and fled to ancient Tondo and neighboring towns. The Spaniards occupied the ruins of Maynila and
established a settlement there. On 3 June 1571, Legaspi gave the title city to the colony of Manila. The title was certified on 19 June 1572. Under Spain,
Manila became the colonial entrepot in the Far East. The Philippines was a Spanish colony administered under the Viceroyalty of New Spain and the
Governor-General of the Philippines who ruled from Manila was sub-ordinate to the Viceroy in Mexico City.
(3) Dr Santiago de Vera - Native de Henares; alcalde of Mexico; arrives at Manila, 16 May 1584; establishes first Audiencia of Manila, 1584; sends
expedition to Maluco, 1585; constructs first stone fort, 1587; term as governor, 16 May 1584 – May 1590; appointed auditor in Mexico Audiencia.
(4) One man, a Castilian named Blaz Ruyz de Hernan Gonzalez, and the other two Portuguese called Pantaleon Carnero and Antonio Machado.
(5) This officer was a relative of the Governor of Manila, Fernando de Silva.
(6) Pedro de Morejon was born in 1562, at Medina del Campo. He entered his novitiate in 1577, and set out for the Indies in 1586, and spent more than
fifty years in the missions of the Indies and Japan. His associates were Jacques Chisai and Juan de Goto, who were martyred. In 1620 he was sent to Rome
as procurator of Japan, became rector of the college of Meaco in 1633, and died shortly after.
(7) Fernando de Silva - Native of Ciudad-Rodrigo, knight of the Order of Santiago, and former ambassador to Persia; appointed governor (ad interim) by
viceroy of Mexico; arrives at Manila, June, 1625; term as governor, June 1625-June 29, 1626.
(8) Juan Nino De Tabora - Native of Galicia, comendador of Puerto Llano, and knight of Order of Calatrava; master-of-camp in Flanders; arrives at
Manila, 29 June 1626; dispatches expedition against Moros, 1627-1630; builds Manila bridge and strengthens fortifications; death, 22 July 1632; term as
governor, 29 June 1626 – 22 July 1632.
(9) The Iberian Union is a modern day term that refers to the historical political unit that governed all of the Iberian peninsula south of the Pyrenees from
1580–1640, through a personal union, composed of the crowns of Portugal and Spain, along with their respective colonial possessions. To unite Iberia was
one of the ambitions of medieval monarchs of the Iberian Peninsula.
(10) The Portuguese Restoration War between Portugal and Spain ended the sixty year period of the Iberian Union, the dual monarchy between Portugal
and Spain under Spanish Habsburg rule.
|Text by Tricky Vandenberg