James Stuart Early Life.
James (James I of England and VI of Scotland) was born on 19 June 1566 in Edinburgh Castle. James was king of Scotland until 1603, when he became the first Stuart king of England as well, creating the kingdom of Great Britain. His mother was Mary, Queen of Scots and his father her second husband, Lord Darnley. Darnley was murdered in February 1567. In July Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son. James’s tutor, the historian and poet George Buchanan, was a positive influence and James was a capable scholar.
A succession of regents ruled the kingdom until 1576, when James became nominal ruler, although he did not actually take control until 1581. He proved to be a shrewd ruler who effectively controlled the various religious and political factions in Scotland.
James VI and I was a hugely significant Stewart king, but has been overshadowed by his notorious relations: his predecessor in Scotland, his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots; in England, his cousin, Elizabeth I; and his successor in both kingdoms, Charles I.
James Stuart Biography and Profile
James, he was the product of Mary’s ill-fated marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley. Darnley’s assassination in early 1567, and Mary’s subsequent over-hasty marriage to one of its perpetrators, Lord Bothwell, triggered events that led to Mary’s downfall.
Mary was Queen of Scots (and descended from Henry VII’s daughter Margaret), had been King of Scotland for 36 years when he became King of England.
Although he was King of both countries, James’s attempt to create a full governmental union proved premature.
An able theologian, James ordered a new translation of the Bible which became known as the Authorised King James’s Version of the Bible.
In 1586, James and Elizabeth I became allies under the Treaty of Berwick. When his mother was executed by Elizabeth the following year, James did not protest too vociferously – he hoped to be named as Elizabeth’s successor.
In 1589, James married Anne of Denmark. Three of their seven children survived into adulthood.
James himself was fairly tolerant in terms of religious faith, but the Gunpowder Plot (an attempt by Guy Fawkes and other Roman Catholic conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament) in 1605 resulted in the reimposition of strict penalties on Roman Catholics.
As an arts patron, James employed the architect Inigo Jones to build the present Banqueting House in Whitehall, and drama in particular flourished at his court.
Although he believed that kings took their authority from God, James accepted that his actions were subject to the law. Unable, like many of his predecessors, to put royal finances on a sound footing, James was often in dispute with his Parliaments.
A proposed ‘Great Contract’ (1610), under which Parliament would provide a regular income to the Crown to meet government costs and maintain the navy and army, in exchange for modifying the monarch’s fundraising, came to nothing. The Addled Parliament of 1614 lasted eight weeks.
Thirty Years War 1618-48 in Europe
The outbreak of the Thirty Years War 1618-48 in Europe spread, and financial pressures forced James in 1621 to summon Parliament, but when the House of Commons tried to debate wider aspects of foreign policy and asserted their right to discuss any subject, James dissolved it.
A further Parliament, summoned in 1624, failed to resolve foreign policy questions. On James’s death in 1625, the kingdom was on the edge of war with Spain. James was succeeded by his son, Charles I.
In March 1603, Elizabeth died and James became king of England and Ireland in a remarkably smooth transition of power. After 1603 he only visited Scotland once, in 1617.
Authorised King James’s Version of the bible
One of James’s great contributions to England was the Authorised King James’s Version of the bible (1611) which was to become the standard text for more than 250 years. But he disappointed the Puritans who hoped he would introduce some of the more radical religious ideas of the Scottish church, and the Catholics, who anticipated more lenient treatment.
In 1605, a Catholic plot to blow up king and parliament was uncovered. James’s firm belief in the divine right of kings, and constant need for money, also brought him into conflict repeatedly with parliament.
James attempted to encourage European peace
Abroad, James attempted to encourage European peace. In 1604, he ended the long-running war with Spain and tried to arrange a marriage between his son and the Spanish Infanta. He married his daughter Elizabeth to the elector of the palatinate, Frederick, who was the leader of the German Protestants.
James’s eldest son Henry died
James’s eldest son Henry died in 1612 and his wife Anne in 1619. James himself died on 27 March 1625 and was succeeded by his second son, Charles.
James VI and I Quick Facts
- Born in Edinburgh Castle on 19 June 1566, James was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots and her second husband, Lord Darnley.
- James was less than a year old when he saw his mother for the last time, and thirteen months old when he was crowned King of Scots in Stirling after her forced abdication.
- His childhood was constantly disturbed by the struggles of the nobles who vied for control of him. Given a demanding academic education by his tutor George Buchanan (who tried to teach him to hate his mother) and advised by four successive regents, he grew up to be a shrewd, wary intellectual who managed to reconcile the warring factions among his nobility with such success that he has been described as ‘the most effective ruler Scotland ever had’.
- Other opinions were more mixed; David Hume wrote that ‘many virtues … it must be owned, he was possessed of, but no one of them pure, or free from the contagion of the neighbouring vices,’ whilst Henri IV of France called James ‘the wisest fool in Christendom’.
- James was a firm believer in the Divine Right of Kings and in the right of his bishops to run the Scottish Church; his response to Calvinist protests was ‘No Bishop, No King’. His great ambition was to succeed Elizabeth I on the throne of England, and so he made only a formal protest when she signed his mother’s death warrant in 1587.
- Two years later, he married Anne of Denmark. Happy together at first they had three sons and four daughters, but gradually drifted apart.
- On 24 March 1603 James achieved his lifelong ambition when Queen Elizabeth I died and he inherited the throne of England. He moved south immediately, and would have liked his two kingdoms to be completely united. However, Scotland retained its own parliament, established Church and legal and educational systems.
- James enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of the English court, and returned to Scotland only once, in 1617. He liked to boast that he now ruled his northern kingdom with a stroke of his pen, but in his later years he lost something of his grasp of the Scottish situation.
- When he forced through the 1618 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland his Five Articles of Perth, measures intended to bring the worship and government of the Church of Scotland into line with the Church of England, he met with strong opposition.
- Realising that he had made an error of judgement, he did not enforce the Articles, and did not try again to introduce ecclesiastical innovations. He died on 27 March 1625.
The Stuarts were the first kings of the United Kingdom. King James VI of Scotland became also King James I of England, thus combining the two thrones for the first time. The Stuart dynasty reigned in England and Scotland from 1603 to 1714, a period which saw a flourishing Court culture but also much upheaval and instability, of plague, fire and war.
It was an age of intense religious debate and radical politics. Both contributed to a bloody civil war in the mid-seventeenth century between Crown and Parliament (the Cavaliers and the Roundheads), resulting in a parliamentary victory for Oliver Cromwell and the dramatic execution of King Charles I. There was a short-lived republic, the only time that the country had experienced such an event.
The Restoration of the Crown was soon followed by another ‘Glorious’ Revolution. William and Mary of Orange ascended the throne as joint monarchs and defenders of Protestantism, followed by Queen Anne, the second of James II’s daughters.
The prospect of end of the Stuart line, with the death of Queen Anne’s only surviving child in 1700, led to the drawing up of the Act of Settlement in 1701, which provided that only Protestants could hold the throne.
The next in line according to the provisions of this act was George Elector of Hanover, yet Stuart Princes remained in the wings. The Stuart legacy was to linger on in the form of claimants to the Crown for another century
James VI and I Accomplishments
The most significant of all was his careful management of his peaceful succession to the English throne in 1603. In doing so, he brought the ‘auld enemies’, the kingdoms of Scotland and England, together under the kingship of one monarch. This dynastic or regnal union became known as the ‘Union of the Crowns’, which included that of Ireland too.
In 1604, James proclaimed himself King of Great Britain. So James’s reign produced the first Anglo-Scottish union (though this was not full political union) which helped to form the background to the formal union of 1707.
King James VI and I Family
James married Anna, the sister of the Danish king, Christian IV. They had numerous children, three of whom survived infancy: Henry, who died after a short illness in 1612, Charles who was to succeed James, and Elizabeth, who married Frederick, elector of Palatine, and the swiftly deposed King of Bohemia.
Romantically she has become known as the Winter Queen.