Blessed Joseph Vaz: Part 8 – The Apostle of Sri Lanka Arrested at Weuda on the Way to Kandy


Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Image source: blejosephvaz.wix.com
Image source: blejosephvaz.wix.com

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The Kingdom of Kandy

Located in the central and eastern part of the island, the Kingdom of Kandy known in Sinhalese as Mahanuwara Rajadhaniya, was an independent monarchy founded in the late 15th century. It was initially a dependent kingdom of the Kingdom of Kotte. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Kingdom of Kandy established itself as an independent monarchy. To ensure its survival the Kingdom at various times allied itself with the Jaffna Kingdom, the Madurai Nayak Dynasty of South India, Kingdom of Sitawaka, the Portuguese and finally the Dutch.

The capital of the Kingdom of Kandy has been known by various names. Some scholars suggest that the original name was Katubulu Nuwara. However, the more popular historical name officially is Senkadagala Siriwardhana Mahanuwara (meaning ‘the great city of Senkadagala of growing resplendence’).  This long name is generally shortened to ‘Mahanuwara‘ (meaning ‘Great City’ or ‘Capital’) or simply as “‘Nuwara‘.

The Sinhalese called the region “Kanda Uda Rata” (“the land on the mountain”) and “Kanda Uda Pas Rata” (“the five counties/countries on the mountain”). The Portuguese shortened this to ‘Candea‘ and used it as the name for both the kingdom and its capital. The English transformed the Portuguese word to ‘Kandy’.

The rugged terrain of the  kingdom of Kandy.
The rugged terrain of the kingdom of Kandy.

Through the thick jungles and the many mountains only a few paths led to the capital of the Kingdom of Kandy. Due to the mountainous terrain was easy to defend the few roads. The subjects of the kingdom kept these routes secret, and they were aware that revealing any paths to a foreigner was an offense punishable by death.

The mountains and the thick forests hindered commerce with neighbouring kingdoms and movement of goods to and from ports and harbours. But this encumbrance proved to be an invaluable asset in guaranteeing the safety of the Kingdom of Kandy from attacks by its neighbours and by the marauding foreign colonialists.

The English East India Company
First flag of the Honourable East India Company (1600 - 1707).
First flag of the Honourable East India Company (1600 – 1707).

The English were first of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to enter the East India trade. The English East India Company was founded in 1600 as The Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies. It gained a foothold in India in 1612 after the fourth Mughal Emperor Nur-ud-din Mohammad Salim, known by his imperial name Jahangir, granted it the rights to establish a factory or trading post, in the port of Surat on the western coast.

The Dutch East India Company
Flag of the Dutch East India Company (1602 - 1800)
Flag of the Dutch East India Company (1602 – 1800)

In 1602, the Dutch  established the Dutch East India Company or the United East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC).   The States-General of the Netherlands granted the chartered company a 21-year monopoly to carry out trade activities in Asia.

Flag of the French East India Company's coat of arms. The motto reads FLOREBO QUOCUMQUE FERAR ('I will flourish wherever I will be brought')
Flag of the French East India Company’s coat of arms. The motto reads FLOREBO QUOCUMQUE FERAR (‘I will flourish wherever I will be brought’)

France was the last of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to enter the East India trade. Six decades after founding the English and Dutch East India companies, and at a time when both companies were multiplying factories on the shores of India, the French still did not have a viable trading company or a single permanent establishment in the East.

In 1642, to revive commercial intercourse with the East, Cardinal Richelieu formed a new Company named “La Compagnie des Indes” for the sole purpose of trading in the Indies. Letters patent, dated June 24, 1642, accorded it privileges for 20 years. On December 4, 1642 Cardinal Richelieu died.

In 1664, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Minister of Finances, restructured the Company and designated it as La Compagnie française des Indes Orientales (The French East India Company) to compete with the English (later British) and Dutch East India companies in the East Indies. He sent an expedition to Madagascar, discovered by Marco Polo in 1298, and then forgotten.

In 1667, the French East India Company sent out another expedition, under the command of François Caron. The French reached Surat in 1668 and established the first French factory in India. In 1673, the French acquired the area of Pondicherry from the Kiladar of Valikondapuram under the Sultan of Bijapur and thus laid the foundation of Pondichéry.

The French in Ceylon

François Caron had spent 30 years working for the Dutch East India Company, including more than 20 years in Japan. He suggested to Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Minister of Finances that set a firm foot in India, it was necessary to capture some land and hold it in absolute possession. The captured place he said should be unassailable by the natives. Then they could use it as a stronghold for commercial operations with the inhabitants of the mainland. For this purpose, like Albuquerque, he favoured the occupation of the island of Ceylon, then partly occupied by the Dutch. He also pointed out the commercial advantages which France would gain by participating in the spice trade.

The war between King Louis XIV and Holland served as a pretext for the French to attack the Dutch in India and to make an attempt to get for themselves a slice of the wrecked Portuguese Empire.

When Colbert approved Caron’s project, a fleet under the command of Admiral de la Haye, a man with a bad reputation who had quit high civil employment to gratify his passion for warlike operations, was placed at the disposal of Caron to carry out his design.

French Capture Trincomalee

On March 21, 1672, Admiral de la Haye appeared before Batticaloa with a squadron of 14 ships. Seeing Batticaloa Fort well defended, he did not stop there. After saluting the Dutch flag, which salute was returned from the fort, he set sail for Trincomalee.

Having cast anchor in the Bay of Kottyar, Admiral de la Haye landed his troops there because he knew that Trincomalee belonged to the King of Kandy and not to the Dutch.

Overjoyed at the news of the landing of the French, King Rajasinghe II, conceived the plan of an alliance with them to drive out the Dutch.

On March 25, 1672, three days after the French landed in the Bay of Kottyar, King sent a high dignitary of his Court to Trincomalee to welcome Admiral de la Haye and enter into friendly relations with him.

Admiral de La Haye returned the compliment by sending to Kandy three officers, Dorgeret, de La Garde and Fontaine. King Rajasinghe II received them cordially. During the audience, he placed on the neck of each a rich chain of gold and presented them with swords and muskets of the finest Kandyan workmanship. Two of the officers remained in Kandy, the third returned to Trincomalee, accompanied by an ambassador who had full power of concluding with de la Haye a treaty to expel the Dutch from Ceylon.

The King’s ambassador was closely followed by a messenger bearing a Charter by which King Rajasinghe II gifted the Bay of Kottyar and of the surrounding territories to the French.

On May 17, 1672 they planted the French flag both at Kottyar and in Trincomalee taking possession of those places in the name of Louis XIV King of France and of Navarre.

Just when the French finished landing the guns necessary to defend the fortress, a Dutch fleet of 14 vessels under Commodore Rylackoffe van Goens, came in sight. The Dutch officer asked the French to evacuate Ceylon. Admiral de La Haye refused and prepared to defend Trincomalee and Kottyar, and he waited for  King Rajasinghe’s army to arrive to help him fight the Dutch. Thus, three weeks passed.

Meanwhile, the position of the French admiral was becoming more and more difficult. He did not have enough troops. Four hundred soldiers and sailors had become invalids. From some skirmishes with the Dutch, the admiral had already seen how little he could rely on the badly armed Kandyan troops.

The Dutch received reinforcements from Colombo. , Under these circumstances the French admiral deemed it more prudent to give up the contest, at least for the time being.

When the King requested Admiral de la Haye to remain in Ceylon, he replied that he would return soon with a larger army and in the meantime he was sending to Kandy, Monsieur de Laisne Nauclairs de Lanerolle who would stay at the King’s Court as ambassador of King Louis XIV, the King of France.

Admiral de la Haye weighed anchor on July 9, 1672, and the Dutch fleet positioned in battle order, saluted the French flag. Admiral de la Haye set sail for Mylapore, then known as St Thomé or San Thome, on the Coromandel coast. He left behind a few soldiers to guard the garrison at Trincomalee. The French soldiers who had been left behind, had no other alternative than to cede Trincomalee and the garrison to the Dutch fleet.

Monsieur de Laisne Nauclairs de Lanerolle

Nauclairs de Lanerolle was a worthless person. He was a Huguenot, a rabid protestantprotestant

Lanerolle’s conduct from the very beginning clearly showed that he had been ill-chosen to represent the interests of France in the Kingdom of Kandy. He made himself obnoxious to all by his stupid vanity.

It was the custom in Kandy that no one could pass in front of the royal palace except on foot. There was certainly nothing disparaging in it, a simple show of respect to the King. Lanerolle and his suite had to pass through that street to reach the quarters, which the King had allotted for him and his men. When asked, Lanerolle refused to dismount. Uttering profanity (words of contempt), he rode under the balcony of the King’s apartment. The rascal had forgotten that the French fleet was no longer in Trincomalee and that he was  at the absolute mercy of the King of Kandy. The King was much embittered by the Frenchman’s attitude, but pretended to ignore his bravado.

A few days later, Lanerolle and his men arrived at the palace. The Court dignitaries received them. It was the custom that every foreign envoy should await the royal audience for two hours.

Even though Lanerolle knew of this strange etiquette, yet after a few minutes expressed his surprise that the King did not appear. After having waited for about fifteen minutes, he exclaimed that it was an insult to leave him waiting so long, and left the hall. All the entreaties from the gentlemen of his suite had no effect. Some officials of the Court, wishing to avoid a scandal, tried to stop him. But when the vain Frenchman drew his sword, they let him go, and he returned to his quarters without having seen the King.

The King felt much offended, ordered Lanerolle to be seized and flogged until he fainted. After the flogging was over, Lanerolle and his men were put in chains and cast into prison.

The gentlemen of Lanerolle’s suite managed to explain that they did not approve the conduct of their Ambassador. They said that they had done all they could to prevent this stupid conduct of their Chief. When the Court officials corroborated to this fact, they were set free of the chains, but Lanerolle had to spend six months in prison in chains. After that, there was no more chance of their return to France, and they were kept prisoners in Kandy.

They were supposed to be maintained at the King’s expense, but in reality they were so neglected that in order not to starve, they distilled arrack and sold it to the natives. They bitterly reproached to Lanerolle to have been the cause of their distress, and scandalous quarrels arose among them.distilled arrack and sold it to the natives. They bitterly reproached to Lanerolle to have been the cause of their distress, and scandalous quarrels arose among them.

Such was the state of things when Robert Knox came to Kandy.

Nauclairs de Lanerolle, remained in Kandy. He married and settled there and later gained some influence at the King’s Court. He tried to influence some Catholics to embrace Calvinism, among them being the family of the relative of Antonio Sottomayor who had befriended Joseph Vaz.

Joseph Vaz arrested at Weuda

Joseph Vaz hoped to make Maha Nuwara, the capital of the Kingdom of Kandy, the centre of his future missionary activities.

In August 1692 after his apostolate of one year and nine months in the Puttalam area, Joseph Vaz along with his servant John and his new acquaintance Antonio Sottomayor left for Maha Nuwara, the capital of the Kingdom of Kandy, ruled by King Vimaladharmasurya II, who had succeeded his father, King Rajasinghe II.

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Puttalam to Kandy via Weuda
Puttalam to Kandy via Weuda

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The distance between Puttalam and Kandy is about 82 miles (132 km). On their way, they had to pass through the village named Weuda situated 18 miles from Kandy. Weuda was an important check-post before entering the capital. In this village, Antonio Sottomayor had a house and was staying there with his family. It took them about eight days to walk from Puttalam to Weuda.

Leaving Joseph Vaz and John with his family, Sottomayor went to Kandy to get the visa for the priest to enter the city. Meanwhile, Vaz started preaching to Sottomayor’s family and their neighbors.

Antonio Sottomayor was not aware that  Nauclairs de Lanerolle had converted his relative to Calvinism. As soon as the French Huguenot, learned that Sottomayor wanted to bring a Catholic priest into Kandy he went to the King’s court. He told the king that Antonio Sottomayor was trying to help a Portuguese spy to enter Kandy in the garb of a Priest.

The king directed his soldiers to arrest Sottomayor first and then go to Weuda and bring the priest and his servant staying in his house.

Joseph Vaz and John bound in chains were taken to the Capital by the king’s soldiers. Charged as Portuguese spies, they were incarcerated along with Sottomayor in the “Maha Hiragé” (“Great prison”).

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Next → Part  9:   The Apostle of Sri Lanka in Prison in Kandy

← Previous: Part  7 – The Apostle of Sri Lanka in Puttalam

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21 thoughts on “Blessed Joseph Vaz: Part 8 – The Apostle of Sri Lanka Arrested at Weuda on the Way to Kandy”

  1. Dear Author,
    Kindly give us the authentic original reference to Sieur Nanclers de la Nerolle using profanity in the Kandyan Court in 1672. We would like to say that Mong. Zaleski( Courtney) does not say such a thing.If you can give a new source that will be great!
    Thanks,
    A.M.

    Like

    1. Mr. Amarekone Mudiyanse,

      I am glad that you read my 18-part-series of articles on Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka in particular “Blessed Joseph Vaz: Part 8 – The Apostle of Sri Lanka Arrested at Weuda on the Way to Kandy”.

      The information I gathered about Monsieur de Laisne Nauclairs de Lanerolle can be found on Pages 429-431 in “History of Ceylon: An Abridged Translation of Professor Peter Courtenay’s Work By M. G. Francis.

      Here is the link:

      https://books.google.co.in/books?id=J3vhBYsssYoC&pg=PA429&lpg=PA429&dq=Monsieur+de+Laisne+Nauclairs+de+Lanerolle&source=bl&ots=0IUVnF-iJz&sig=aP2kqBDrwM6ZZnUXYTvwOkc7Fyo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=0M-fVbayD8zbuQTq6LfwBA&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Monsieur%20de%20Laisne%20Nauclairs%20de%20Lanerolle&f=false

      To make it easy for you and my other readers, I am giving below the transcript of pages 429-431:

      At Raja Singha’s urgent request to remain in Ceylon de La Haye replied that he would soon return with a stronger army. In the meanwhile he was sending to Kandy, Monsieur tie Laisne Nauclairs de Lanerolle who would reside at the King’s Court as ambassador of the King of France Louis XIV.

      Lanerolle left for Kandy. We would not have mentioned this worthless individual, had he not been destined to play an odious part in the course of this history. He was a Huguenot, a rabid protestant; his sole religion was unrelented hatred against the Catholic Faith. He left Trincomalee with a brilliant suite among whom four gentlemen of noble families: Du Plessy, de Serle, de la Roche and John de Bloom.

      Lanerolle’s conduct from the very beginning clearly showed that he had been ill-chosen to represent the interests of France in Ceylon. He made himself obnoxious to all by his stupid vanity.

      It was the custom in Kandy that no one could pass in front of the royal place except on foot. There was certainly nothing disparaging in it, a simple show of respect to the King. Lanerolle’s retinue had to pass through that street to reach the quarters which Raja Singha had had prepared for him. When Lanerolle was asked to dismount, he refused uttering words of contempt and rode under the balcony of the King’s apartment.

      The wretch seems to have forgotten that the French fleet was no longer in Trincomalee and that he was entirely at the mercy of the King of Kandy. Raja Singha pretended to ignore this bravado, but was much embittered against the Frenchman.

      A few days later, the King had to receive him in solemn audience. They formed a grand procession. It was evening and the whole street was illuminated with innumerable torches. Lanerolle arrived at the palace and was received by the Court dignitaries. Here again it was the custom that every foreign envoy should await the royal audience for two hours, when he was served refreshments and was entertained by the dignitaries of the Court. Lancrolle had been informed of this strange etiquette, nevertheless, after a few minutes, he expressed his surprise that the King did not appear. Then having waited for about fifteen minutes, he rose, exclaiming that it was an insult to leave him waiting so long, and left the hall. All the entreaties of the gentlemen of his suite had no effect. Some officials of the Court, wishing at all cost to avoid a scandal, took profit of this altercation to have the elephants ranged in front of the palace gate, so that he might not be .able to pass through it. But Lanerolle drew his sword, saying he would pass at all hazards. They let him go, and he returned to his quarters without having seen the King.

      Raja Singha felt much offended, ordered Lanerolle to be seized and flogged till he fainted, then he and his suite were loaded with chains and cast into prison.

      The gentlemen of his retinue managed to explain that, far from 1675 having approved the conduct of their Chief, they had done all the could to prevent this stupid conduct of their Chief and the fact being corroborated by the testimony of the Court official, they were set free, but Lanerolle passed six months in prison in chains. There was after that no more question of their return to France, they were kept prisoners at Kandy. They were supposed to be maintained at the King’s expense, but in reality they were so neglected that in order not to starve, they kept a drinking shop where they were selling arrack to the natives. They bitterly reproached to Lanerolle to have been the cause of their distress, and scandalous quarrels arose among them.

      Such was the state of things when Knox came to Kandy.

      The rest of the Frenchmen, he writes, seeing how the ambassadors imprudent carriage had brought them to this misery, refused any longer to dwell with hint, and each of them, by the King’s permission, dwells by himself in the city, being maintained at the Kings charge.

      Like

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