King James I of England and VI of Scotland

King James I of England and VI of ScotlandJames was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley he was born June 19, 1566 at Edinburgh Castle. His parent’s marriage was short-lived and Darnley was found murdered 8 months after James was born in June 1566. His mother married again, but in 1567 Mary was forced to renounce the throne of Scotland in favour of her infant son. James was crowned King of Scots at the age of thirteen months at the Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling, by Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, on 29 July 1567. The sermon at the coronation was preached by John Knox. In accordance with the religious beliefs of most of the Scottish ruling class, James was brought up as a member of the Protestant Church of Scotland. Mary left the kingdom on May 16, 1568, and never saw her son again, she fled to England where she was eventually executed following Catholic plots against Elizabeth I in 1587.

The young king was kept fairly isolated but was given a good education until the age of 14. He studied Greek, French, and Latin and made good use of a library of classical and religious writings that his tutors, George Buchanan and Peter Young, assembled for him. James’s education aroused in him literary ambitions rarely found in princes. His childhood and adolescence were unhappy, abnormal, and precarious; he had various guardians, whose treatment of him differed widely. His education, although thorough, was weighted with strong Presbyterian and Calvinist political doctrine. He also sought solace with extravagant and unsavoury male favourites who, in later years, were to have a damaging effect on his prestige and state affairs.

“I can make a lord, but only God can make a gentleman” - Quote by King James I

A suitable Queen was found for him in Anne of Denmark the, daughter of Frederick II of Denmark and Norway and they were married in 1589. They had three sons and five daughters of whom only three survived infancy, Henry, Elizabeth and Charles. When Elizabeth I of England died in 1603 unmarried, James moved to London and was crowned King James I of England the first of the Stuart Kings of the combined crowns of England and Scotland. When James became King of England, he was already a king - King James VI of Scotland. He was the first monarch to rule both countries and the first to call himself 'King of Great Britain'. However it was not until 1707 that an act of Parliament formally brought the two countries together.

He was a great supporter of literature and arts. William Shakespeare was among the ‘Kings Men’ troupe of actors who performed plays for their patron James. He commissioned the King James Authorized Version of the Bible which was published in 1611, and still remains one of the most important English translations of the Bible. He initially acted mainly upon the advice of Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, but on Salisbury’s death all restraint vanished. His religious policy consisted of asserting the supreme authority and divine right of the crown, and suppressing both Puritans and Catholics who objected. In 1605 the Gunpowder Plot was hatched - Guy Fawkes and his friends, who were Catholics, tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They were captured before they could do so, which helped produce an anti-Catholic reaction, which gave James a temporary popularity which soon dissapeared.

James’ foreign policy was aimed primarily at achieving closer relations with Spain, but this was not liked by Parliament who saw Spain as the Old Catholic enemy of the Armada and a competitor for world trade. During his reign the East India Company expanded, bringing spices from the East, and Jamestown. In 1612, James I instructed Sir Thomas Roe to visit the Mughal Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jahangir (r. 1605–1627) to arrange for a commercial treaty that would give the company exclusive rights to reside and build factories in Surat and other areas. In return, the company offered to provide the Emperor with goods and rarities from the European market, this mission proved highly successful.

James died on March 27, 1625 at Theobalds Park, Hertfordshire, aged 58 years, 9 months, and 7 days and was buried at Westminster. He had reigned for 22 years, and 3 days, and as King of Scotland for 57 years. The effects of many of his actions were long term, only becoming fully obvious after his death. James and Anne’s remaining children, the eldest son Henry died aged 18 of typhoid, and their daughter Elizabeth married Frederic V, Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia, was to result in the eventual Hanoverian succession to the British throne. Their second son Charles became Charles I after his death at the age of 25.

Image: King James I of England and VI of Scotland by John De Critz the Elder