Konstantinos Gerakis

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Konstantinos Gerakis or Constantine Phaulkon (Greek Κωνσταντίνος Γεράκης; Gerakis is the Greek word for falcon) (1647 - June 5 1688) was a Greek adventurer, who became first counsellor to King Narai of Ayutthaya.

Born on Cephalonia (Greece) of Greek and Venetian parentage, Phaulkon came to Siam (today's Thailand) as a merchant in 1675 after working for England's East India Company. He became fluent in Thai in just a few years and began to work at the court of King Narai as a translator. Due to his experience with the East India Company, he was soon able to become a counsellor of the king.

Phaulkon's closeness to the king naturally earned him the envy of some Thai members of the royal court, which would eventually prove to be his undoing. When King Narai became terminally ill, a rumor spread that Phaulkon wanted to use the designated heir, Phra Pui, as a puppet and actually become ruler himself. As unlikely as this was, it provided an excuse for Pra Phetracha, the foster brother of Narai to stage a coup d'etat. Without the king's knowledge, both Phaulkon and his followers as well as the royal heir were arrested and executed on June 5, 1688 in Lopburi. When King Narai learned what had happened, he was furious -- but was too weak to take any action. Narai died several days later, virtually a prisoner in his own palace. Phetracha then proclaimed himself the new king of Siam and began a xenophobic regime which expelled almost all foreigners from the kingdom.

The different interpretations of Phetracha's motivation for ordering the arrest and execution of Phaulkon have made his position in Thai history somewhat controversial. Supporters of Phetracha's actions have depicted Phaulkon as an opportunistic foreigner who sought to use his influence to control of the kingdom on behalf of Western interests. More skeptical historians believe that Phaulkon was a simply convenient scapegoat -- a means for Phetracha to seize the throne from the rightful heir by capitalizing on the envy and suspicion Phaulkon had engendered.

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