King James VI and I
King of Scots, King of England, and King of Ireland
Reign 24 March 1603 - 27 March 1625
Born June 19, 1566
Edinburgh Castle
Died March 27, 1625
Predecessor Mary, Queen of Scots (Scotland)
Elizabeth I (England)
Successor Charles I
Consort Anne of Denmark
Issue Henry Frederick, Elizabeth of Bohemia, Margaret Stuart, Charles I, Robert Stuart
Royal House Stuart
Father Lord Darnley
Mother Mary, Queen of Scots

James VI and I (James Stuart) (June 19, 1566March 27, 1625) was King of Scots, King of England, and King of Ireland. He was the first to style himself King of Great Britain. He ruled in Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567; from the 'Union of the Crowns', he ruled in England and Ireland as James I, from 24 March 1603 until his death. He was the first monarch of England from the House of Stuart, succeeding the last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, who died without issue.


James was a successful monarch in Scotland but experienced difficulties in England. He was involved in many conflicts with the more active and hostile English Parliament. His taste for political absolutism, his inability to manage the kingdom's funds and his cultivation of unpopular favourites established the foundation for the English Civil War, during which James' son and successor, Charles I, was tried and executed. During James' own life, however, the governments of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland were relatively stable. He also exercised a degree of religious tolerance during his reign, but after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, strict penalties were reimposed on Roman Catholics [1].

Under James, much of the cultural flourishing of Elizabethan England continued; science, literature and art, contributed by individuals such as Sir Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare grew by leaps and bounds during his reign. James himself was a talented scholar, writing works such as Daemonologie (1597), The True Law of Free Monarchies (1598), Basilikon Doron (1599) and A Counterblaste to Tobacco (1604). King James was known by the epithet “the wisest fool in Christendom’’.

Childhood as King James VI of ScotlandEdit


James was the only child of Mary I, Queen of Scots and of her second husband, Henry Stuart, Duke of Albany, more commonly known as Lord Darnley. James was a descendant of Henry VII through his great-grandmother Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. (Margaret Tudor was mother of Margaret Douglas, the future countess of Lennox and mother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.) James' mother was an insecure ruler, as both she and her husband, being Roman Catholics, faced a rebellion of Protestant noblemen. Their marriage, furthermore, was a particularly difficult one. While Mary was pregnant with James, Lord Darnley secretly allied himself with the rebels and murdered the Queen's private secretary, David Rizzio.

James was born on 19 June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle, and as the eldest son of the monarch and heir-apparent, automatically became Duke of Rothesay and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. He received the name Charles James, the first name in honour of his godfather Charles IX of France, thus becoming the first British monarch to have more than one forename.

James' father was murdered on 10 February 1567 at the Hamiltons' house, Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, perhaps to avenge Rizzio's death. Mary's marriage on 15 May of the same year to James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was widely suspected of murdering the Duke of Albany, contributed further to her unpopularity. In June 1567, the Protestant rebels arrested Mary and imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle. Mary was forced to abdicate the throne on 24 July in favour of James, who was still a baby.

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James was formally crowned as James VI, King of Scotland at The Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling, on 29 July 1567 at the age of thirteen months. In deference to the religious beliefs of most of the Scottish ruling class, he was brought up as a member of the Protestant National Church of Scotland, and educated by men with Presbyterian sympathies.

During his minority, power was held by a series of regents, the first of whom was James Stuart, 1st Earl of Moray, his mother's illegitimate half-brother. Historian and poet George Buchanan was responsible for James' education.

In 1568, Mary escaped from prison, leading to a brief period of violence. Lord Moray defeated Mary's troops at the Battle of Langside, forcing her to flee to England where she was imprisoned by Elizabeth I. Lord Moray was assassinated by one of Mary's supporters in 1570. He was succeeded by James' paternal grandfather, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, who suffered a similar fate in 1571 as did the subsequent guardian, John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar, who died in 1572. The last of the regents was James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, who during the two previous regencies had been the most powerful Scottish nobleman. When Lord Morton was executed in 1581 for his ostensible part in the murder of James' father, power was thenceforth held by the King himself.

Catholic uprisingEdit

James faced a Roman Catholic uprising in 1588, and was forced to reconcile with the Church of Scotland, agreeing to the repeal of the Black Acts in 1592. James, fearing that dealing too harshly with the Catholic rebels might anger many English Catholics, agreed to pardon some of his opponents, which angered the Protestant Church. In 1600, a conspiracy was formed by John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie (son of the Earl of Gowrie, executed in 1584). Upon the failure of the plot, Lord Gowrie and his associates were executed, and even the Protestant nobles began to be repressed by the King.

Ascent to the throne of EnglandEdit

Relationship with Elizabeth IEdit

In 1586, James VI and Elizabeth I became allies under the Treaty of Berwick. James sought to remain in the favour of the unmarried Queen of England, as he was a potential successor to her Crown. Because Henry VIII had feared that the English Crown would go to a Scot, in his will, he excluded Margaret Tudor, James' great-grandmother, and her descendants from the line of succession. Although technically excluded by the will—which, under an Act of Parliament, had the force of law—both Mary, Queen of Scots, and James were serious claimants to the English Crown, as they were Elizabeth I's closest relatives.

Also in 1586, Mary was implicated in the Babington Plot, a scheme which sought to put her on the throne of England after murdering Elizabeth. Elizabeth had previously spared Mary's life after the Ridolfi Plot but could no longer tolerate the danger she posed. Consequently, Mary was executed for her crimes in 1587. But for the will of Henry VIII, James was the Heir Presumptive to the English Crown.

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Following Mary's execution and the decline of her sympathisers in Scotland, James managed to reduce significantly the influence of the Roman Catholic nobles in Scotland. He further endeared himself to Protestants by marrying Anne of Denmark and Norway—a princess from a Protestant country and daughter of Frederick II of Denmark and Norway—by proxy in 1589. Another marriage ceremony, this time with both parties personally present, occurred on 23 November 1589 in the Old Bishops' Palace in Oslo during James' visit to the Kingdom of Norway.

The couple produced eight living children and one who was stillborn. Only three survived infancy: Henry, Prince of Wales who died of typhoid in 1612 aged 19; Charles, who was to succeed his father as Charles I; and Elizabeth, later Queen of Bohemia.

Witch trials and Sodomy ActEdit

James returned from Denmark via Leith on 1 May, and soon after, he attended the North Berwick Butt Trial, in which several people were convicted of having used witchcraft to create a storm in an attempt to sink the ship on which James and Anne had been travelling. James became obsessed with the threat that witches and witchcraft might pose to him and his country. During this period, he wrote a treatise on demonology, as a result of which hundreds of Scottish men and women were put to death for witchcraft, their bodies later being found in what was then called Nor Loch, now Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

Intent on strengthening the Church of England and reaffirming the Buggery Act 1533, James adopted a severe stance towards sodomy. His book on kingship, Basilikon Doron 1598, lists sodomy among those “horrible crimes which ye are bound in conscience never to forgive.”

Proclaimed James I of EnglandEdit

Upon the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, under the terms of Henry's will, the Crown should have passed to Lady Anne Stanley, a descendant of Henry VIII's sister Mary Tudor. (Elizabeth's second cousin once-removed, Viscount Beauchamp, son of Lady Catherine Grey, was more senior, but he was considered illegitimate because his parents' marriage was annulled.)

As neither Beauchamp nor Lady Anne nor any other was powerful enough to defend a claim, an Accession Council met and proclaimed James King of England. He and his wife were crowned on 25 July 1603 at Westminster Abbey. Scotland and England remained separate states (see Personal union); it was not until 1707 that the Acts of Union merged the two nations to create a new state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Early reign in EnglandEdit

Political challengesEdit

James' chief political advisor was Robert Cecil, 1st Baron Cecil of Essendon, the younger son of Elizabeth I's favoured minister, Lord Burghley, and a noted homosexual [citation needed]. He was created Earl of Salisbury in 1605. Cecil's place as James I's primary advisor ought to have provided continuity between the parliament of Elizabeth and that of James. However, James I embroiled himself in numerous conflicts with Parliament. Being accustomed to a timid Scottish Parliament, he did not like working with its more aggressive English counterpart.

Before James' accession to the English throne, he had written The True Law of Free Monarchies, in which he argued that the divine right of kings was sanctioned by the apostolic succession. This appears to have been the primary factor in James' difficulty in sharing power with his government. His written work would earn him the title 'The Scottish Solomon'; however, historians such as J.P. Kenyon suggest that the title was often used sarcastically, citing a rumour that Henri IV of France, upon hearing the title used, commented "'that he hoped he was not David the fiddler's son' - a reference to Mary Stuart's music-loving secretary, David Rizzio" and to the fact that the biblical Solomon, with his fabled wisdom, was the son of King David, a harpist and composer.

On October 20th, 1604, James proclaimed himself "King of Great Britain", the first monarch to do so [2], although the United Kingdom of Great Britain would not exist until the Acts of Union in 1707.


In 1605, Parliament voted four subsidies to the King, who still considered this to be inadequate revenue. He imposed customs duties without parliamentary consent, although no monarch had taken so bold a step since the reign of Richard II (1377-1399). The legality of such an action was challenged in 1606 by the merchant John Bates; the Court of Exchequer, however, ruled in the King's favour. The decision of the court was denounced by Parliament. Relations between James I and Parliament were also soured by the latter's refusal to pass the King's plan to allow free trade between England and Scotland.

In the last session of the first Parliament of his reign (which began in 1610), Lord Salisbury proposed the Great Contract, which would have led to the Crown giving up feudal dues in return for an annual parliamentary subsidy. The plan failed because of factionalism in Parliament. Frustrated by the members of the House of Commons and by the collapse of the Great Contract, James dissolved Parliament in 1611.

With the Crown deep in debt, James openly sold honours and titles to raise funds. In 1611, he used letters patent to invent a completely new dignity: that of Baronet, which one could become upon the payment of £1,080. One could become a Baron for about £5,000, a Viscount for about £10,000, and an Earl for about £20,000. James created new dignities to reward his courtiers. In total, sixty-two individuals were raised to the English Peerage by James, in contrast to Elizabeth, who created only eight new peers during her 45-year reign.

The Addled ParliamentEdit

In 1612, Lord Salisbury, one of James' chief advisors, died. James then began to involve himself in matters previously handled by his ministers but his personal government was disastrous for his finances, and a new Parliament had to be called in 1614 in order to obtain the imposition of new taxes. This Parliament, the second of James' reign, was known as the Addled Parliament because it failed to pass any legislation or impose any taxes. James dissolved Parliament when it became clear that no progress could be made.

Subsequently, James ruled without a Parliament for seven years. Faced with financial difficulties he sought to enter into a profitable alliance with Spain by marrying his eldest surviving son, Charles, Prince of Wales, to the daughter of the King of Spain. The proposed alliance with a Roman Catholic kingdom was not well-received in Protestant England. James' unpopularity increased with the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.

Religious challengesEdit

Upon James I’s arrival in London, he was almost immediately faced by religious conflicts in England. He was presented with the Millenary Petition, a document which it is claimed contained one thousand signatures, by Puritans requesting further Anglican Church reform. He accepted the invitation to a conference in Hampton Court, which was subsequently delayed due to the Plague. In 1604, at the Hampton Court Conference, James was unwilling to agree to most of their demands. He did, however, agree to fulfil a request which was to have far-reaching effect by authorizing an official translation of the Bible, which came to be known as the King James Bible (published in 1611).

During this year, James broadened Elizabeth's Witchcraft Act to bring the penalty of death without benefit of clergy to any one who invoked evil spirits or communed with familiar spirits. That same year, he ended England's involvement in the twenty year conflict known as the Anglo-Spanish War by signing the Treaty of London.

In 1612, the Baptist leader Thomas Helwys presented the King with a copy of his book, ‘A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity’, possibly the first ever English text defending the principle of religious liberty. He died in prison for his pains. In that same year, two other Protestant dissenters, Bartholomew Legate and Edward Wightman, were burnt at the stake for heresy. “Both men emerge as the victims of a complex series of events: the king's desire to be seen as orthodox in the light of the Vorstius affair; the in-fighting for control of the ecclesiastical establishment on the elevation of George Abbot to the archbishopric of Canterbury; and the campaign of the emerging anti-Calvinist group around Bishop Richard Neile against puritans”[2].

Relationships with Roman CatholicismEdit

Though James was careful to accept Catholics in his realm, his Protestant subjects encouraged him not to give the Catholics equal rights. In the early years of his reign, many of his subjects did not know his policies — only that he had an extreme Protestant background — and there were a number of plots to remove him from power, such as the Bye Plot and the Main Plot.

Gunpowder, treason and plotEdit

In 1605, a group of Catholic extremists led by Robert Catesby developed a plan, known as the Gunpowder Plot, to cause an explosion in the chamber of the House of Lords, where the King and members of both Houses of Parliament would be gathered for the State Opening. The conspirators sought to replace James with the Spanish Infanta, who was Catholic and one of the other possible heirs to the throne after Elizabeth. One of the conspirators, however, leaked information regarding the plot, which was consequently foiled.

Terrified, James refused to leave his residence for many days. Guy Fawkes, whose responsibility had been to execute the plot, was tortured on the rack until he revealed the identities of the other conspirators, all of whom were executed or killed during capture. Fawkes is still annually burned in effigy during Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night), celebrated in the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, to commemorate the failed plot. James' care not to strongly enforce anti-Catholic doctrine thereafter ensured that there were no more plots after 1605.

Later yearsEdit

Continuing problems with ParliamentEdit

The third and penultimate Parliament of James' reign was summoned in 1621. The House of Commons agreed to grant James a small subsidy to signify their loyalty, but then, to the displeasure of the King, moved on to personal matters directly involving the King. The practice of selling monopolies and other privileges was also deprecated. The House of Commons sought to impeach Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, who was implicated in the sale of such privileges during his service as Lord Chancellor, on charges of corruption. The House of Lords convicted Bacon, who was duly removed from office. Although the impeachment was the first in centuries, James did not oppose it, believing that sacrificing Bacon could help deflect parliamentary opposition. In the end, James released Bacon from prison and granted him a full pardon.

Thirty Years' WarEdit

From 1618 onwards, the religious conflict known as the Thirty Years' War engulfed Europe. James was forced to become involved because his daughter, Elizabeth, was married to the Protestant Frederick V, Elector Palatine, one of the war's chief participants. He was also put under pressure to join the religious war because England, at the time, was one of the major protestant nations.

A new constitutional dispute arose as a result. James was eager to aid his son-in-law, the Elector-Palatine, and requested Parliament for a subsidy. The House of Commons, in turn, requested that the King abandon the alliance with Spain. When James declared that the lower House had overstepped its bounds by offering unsolicited advice, the House of Commons passed a protest claiming that it had the right to debate any matter relating to the welfare of the Kingdom. James ordered the protest torn out of the Commons Journal, and dissolved Parliament.

Relationship with SpainEdit

In 1623, the Duke of Buckingham and Charles, the Prince of Wales, travelled to Madrid in an attempt to secure a marriage between the latter and the Infanta. They were snubbed, however, by the Spanish courtiers, who demanded that Charles convert to Roman Catholicism. They returned to England humiliated, and called for war with Spain. When James' Spanish marriage plot failed, a humiliated Prince Charles and George Villiers urged James and his parliament to go to war. From a financial perspective, James could not afford to go to war with Spain. England would eventually join the war after James had died.

The Church in ScotlandEdit

In Scotland, James' attempt to move the Church, whose form of worship tended to be based on free-form Calvinism, in a more structured High Church direction with the introduction of the Five Articles of Perth, met with widespread popular resistance. Always the practical politician in Scottish matters, the king, while insisting on the form of the law, did little to ensure its observance.

Personal relationshipsEdit

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Nonconformists said of him "Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen" (Rex fuit Elizabeth, nunc est regina Jacobus) and this quote has survived[3]. Growing up James did not have any parents, for his father, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was murdered and his mother, Mary I of Scotland was forced to flee when she married the suspected murderer, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. His grandfather was assassinated during his boyhood and he had no siblings. However, throughout his life he had deep emotional relationships with his male courtiers, beginning with his older relative Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox. At the same time, he was not much interested in his wife. At first, James and Queen Anne were close, but gradually they drifted apart. After the death of their daughter Sophia they agreed to live separately.

His behavior with the late Lennox and his distancing himself from his wife attracted wide attention. Francis Osborne noted in a memoir not published until many years later during Cromwell’s day that “The love the King showed men was amorously conveyed as if he had mistaken their sex and thought them ladies, which I have seen Somerset and Buckingham labour to resemble in the effeminateness of their dressings; though in whorish looks and wanton gestures they exceeded any part of womankind my conversation did ever cope withal. Nor was his love, or whatever posterity will please to call it… carried on with a discretion sufficient to cover a less scandalous behaviour; for the king’s kissing them after so lascivious a mode in public, and upon the theater, as it were, of the world, prompted many to imagine some things done in the tiring house that exceed my expressions no less than they do my experience, and therefore left them upon the waves of conjecture, which hath in my hearing tossed them from one side to another.”

A diary entry by Sir Simonds D'Ewes after speaking with James said “I discoursed with him of the things that were secret, as of the sin of sodomy, how frequent it was in the wicked city (London), and if God did not provide some wonderful blessing against it, we could not but expect some horrible punishment for it; especially it being, as we had probable cause to fear, a sin in the prince as well as the people, which God is for the most part chastiser of himself, because no man else indeed dare reprove or tell them of their faults.”

Responding to deflect the growing criticism over his sexuality James adopted a severe stance towards sodomy using English law. His book on kingship, Basilikon Doron, lists sodomy among those “horrible crimes which ye are bound in conscience never to forgive”. Jeremy Bentham in an unpublished manuscript denounced James as a hypocrite after his crackdown. King James also singled out sodomy in a letter to Lord Burleigh giving directives that Judges were to interpret the law broadly and not issue any pardons saying that “no more colour may be left to judges to work upon their wits in that point.”

Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of LennoxEdit

At the age of thirteen James made his formal entry into Edinburgh. Upon arriving he met the thirty-seven year old, married, father of five children, French lord Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox who Sir James Melville described as "of nature, upright, just, and gentle". The two became extremely close and it was said by an English observer that "from the time he was fourteen years old and no more, that is, when the Lord Stuart came into Scotland… even then he began… to clasp some one in the embraces of his great love, above all others" and that James became "in such love with him as in the open sight of the people oftentimes he will clasp him about the neck with his arms and kiss him".

The King first made Stewart a gentleman of the bedchamber, then went on to the Privy Council, earl and finally duke of Lennox. In Presbyterian Scotland the thought of a Catholic duke irked many and Lennox had to make a choice between his Catholic faith and his loyalty to James. At the end Lennox chose James and the king taught him the doctrines of Calvinism. The Scottish Kirk remained suspicious of Lennox after his public conversion and took alarm when he had the earl of Morton tried and beheaded on charges of treason. The Scottish ministry was also warned that the duke sought to “draw the King to carnal lust.”

In response the Scottish nobles plotted to oust Lennox. They did so by luring James to Ruthven Castle as a guest but then kept him as prisoner for ten months. The Lord Enterprisers forced him to banish Lennox. The duke journeyed back to France and kept a secret correspondence with James. Lennox in these letters says he gave up his family "to dedicate myself entirely to you"; he prayed to die for James to prove "the faithfulness which is engraved within my heart, which will last forever." The former duke wrote "Whatever might happen to me, I shall always be your faithful servant… you are alone in this world whom my heart is resolved to serve. And would to God that my breast might be split open so that it might be seen what is engraven therein."

James was devastated by the loss of Lennox. In his return to France Lennox had met a frosty reception as an apostate Catholic. The Scottish nobles had thought that they would be proven right in their convictions that Lennox's conversion was artificial when he returned to France. Instead the former duke remained Presbyterian and died shortly after, leaving James his embalmed heart. James had repeatedly vouched for Lennox's religious sincerity and memorialized him in a poem called "Ane Tragedie of the Pheonix", which said he was like an exotic bird of unique beauty killed by envy.

Following Esme’s death James married Anne of Denmark in 1589 to produce heirs for the throne. The two had eight children with the last being born during 1607. By then James had lost interest in his wife and it was said that she led a sad, reclusive life, appearing at court functions on occasion.

Robert Carr, 1st Earl of SomersetEdit

A few years later after the controversy over his relationship with Lennox faded away and he began a relation with Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset. In 1607, at a royal jousting contest, seventeen-year-old Robert Carr, the son of Sir Thomas Carr or Kerr of Ferniehurst, was knocked from a horse and broke his leg. According to the Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Howard, James fell in love with the young man, and as the years progressed showered Carr with gifts. Carr was made a gentleman of the bedchamber and he was noted for his handsome appearance as well as his limited intelligence. His downfall came through Frances Howard, a beautiful young married woman. Upon Carr’s request James stacked a court of bishops that would allow her to divorce her husband in order to marry Carr. As a wedding present Carr was named earl of Somerset.

During the next two years the relationship between Carr and James became troubled as Carr increasingly preferred his wife. In 1615 James fell out with Carr. In a letter James complained, among other matters, that Carr had been “creeping back and withdrawing yourself from lying in my chamber, notwithstanding my many hundred times earnest soliciting you to the contrary” and that he rebuked James “more sharply and bitterly than ever my master Buchanan durst do.”

At this point public scandal erupted when the underkeeper of the tower revealed that Carr’s new wife had poisoned Sir Thomas Overbury, his best friend who had opposed the marriage. James angered over Carr’s attachment to his wife exploited the opportunity and forcefully insisted that they face trial.

On the eve of the trial, Carr threatened to reveal publicly that the King had slept with him. The next day, as he gave testimony before the Lords in Westminster Hall, two men were stationed beside him with cloaks, ready to muffle him in case of an indiscrete outburst. This was done on instructions of the King to the Lieutenant of the Tower. Carr, however, conducted himself with dignity. His wife confessed to the deed and they were sentenced to death. The King reprieved them both but held them in the tower for seven years and then pardoned them and granted the pair a country estate.[4]

George Villiers, 1st Duke of BuckinghamEdit

The last of James’s three male favorites was George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, the son of a Leicestershire knight. They had met in 1614, around the same time that the situation with Carr was deteriorating. Buckingham was described as exceptionally handsome, intelligent and honest. In 1615 James knighted him and eight years later he was the first commoner in more than a century to be to be elevated to a dukedom.

The King was blunt and unashamed in his avowal of love for Buckingham:

I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.

Contemporary commentators, such as the homosexual Théophile de Viau did not mince words in describing the king's relationship. In his poem, Au marquis du Boukinquan, de Viau writes: "Apollo with his songs / debauched young Hyacinthus, … And it is well known that the king of England / Fucks the Duke of Buckingham."

Buckingham became good friends with James’s wife Anne, she addressed him in affectionate letters begging him to be “always true” to her husband. In a letter to James, Buckingham said "sir, all the way hither I entertained myself, your unworthy servant, with this dispute, whether you loved me now… better than at the time which I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed’s head could not be found between the master and his dog." James in some letters addressed him as his spouse saying that "I desire only to live in this world for your sake… I had rather live banished in any part of the earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you… God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband."[5] A few years later James died with Buckingham at his side.


Queen Anne died on 4 March 1619 at Hampton Court Palace and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

James lapsed into senility during the last year of his reign. Real power passed to Charles and to the Duke of Buckingham, although James kept enough power to ensure that a new war with Spain did not occur while he was King. James died at Theobalds House in 1625 of 'tertian ague' probably brought upon by kidney failure and stroke, and was buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Charles, Prince of Wales, succeeded him as Charles I. James had ruled in Scotland for almost sixty years; the only English, Scottish or British monarchs to have surpassed this mark have been Victoria and George III.


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Almost immediately after James I's death, Charles I became embroiled in disputes with Parliament. The disputes escalated until the English Civil War began during the 1640s, culminating in Charles I's execution for treason. The following Parliamentary period lasted for eleven years, 1649-1660. The Stuart dynasty was restored in 1660 with Charles I's son, Charles II coming to the throne. Some historians, particularly whig historians, blame James for the Civil War. However, the general view now is that Charles I was more responsible for the state of affairs in 1640 than his predecessor.

Religious and literaryEdit

James I’s religious tolerance, compared with that of his predecessors, permitted the continued existence of Catholicism in England and Scotland, the continuation of Calvinism in Scotland and the growth of Puritanism in England, while encouraging liturgical formality and ‘’High Church’’ practices.

The ‘’King James Bible’’ became the standard edition of the Bible throughout the English-speaking world, replacing the Great Bible of Henry VIII, the Geneva Bible and other translations. The beauty of its language makes it stand as one of the greatest works of English literature.

On the other hand, James’ paranoia over witchcraft eventually contributed, during the Parliamentary period, to the appointment of Matthew Hopkins, known as the Witch-finder General, and the execution of many people, mostly women, often for no greater crime than being widowed and owning a cat.[citation needed]

Shakespeare continued to write under James I as he had in the reign of Elizabeth. It is not surprising that one of his most popular plays Macbeth, shows a would-be monarch beset by witches. Shakespeare’s witches, however, fulfil a prophetic role; it is personal ambition that causes the ensuing chaos, not spells and incantations.

The king also designed the British flag in 1603 by combining England's red cross of St. George with Scotland's white cross of St. Andrew. [3] Some conclude that the term Union Jack may have come from James' name, Jac meaning Jacobus which is Latin for James, i.e. King Jac's Union [4].


In the Virginia Colony in the New World, the Jamestown Settlement, established in 1607, and the James River were named in honour of James I. In 1611, Sir Thomas Dale named his new promising "Citie of Henricus" (sic) in honour of his son, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, who died in 1612. Although Henricus was wiped out in the Indian Massacre of 1622, its naming survives as Henrico County, Virginia in modern times.

Popular cultureEdit

King James was played by Dudley Sutton in the 1992 film Orlando and by Jonathan Pryce in the 2005 film The New World. Jim Cummings voiced James in Disney's direct-to-video film Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, which (quite un-historically) portrayed James as a pompous idiot.

Criticism and revisionismEdit

Lacey Baldwin Smith in "This Realm of England” talks about James’ paternalism and political absolutism, including the breaking of traditional ties between the monarchy and old families, in order to decrease the political power of Catholicism. Despite his unpopularity with both Catholics and Puritans, Lacey Baldwin Smith indicates that it was his currying favour with those whom he felt could politically help him that earned the title of “The wisest fool in Christendom.” Traditionally, Historians such as Samuel Rawson Gardiner and D. H. Wilson viewed James I as a poor King. This interpretation was almost solely depended on the writings of Sir Anthony Weldon. Weldon, dismissed by James for his writings against Scotland, wrote 'The Court and Character of King James'. This book influenced early 20th century historians who overlooked Weldon's bias.

Miriam Allen deFord, in her study, The Overbury Affair, writes “This slobbering, lolling King, …. a glutton and a spendthrift … came to England as a man comes to a banquet; he left government to others and occupied himself with processional visits, routs, and masques. And freed from the firm hand of Elizabeth, the courtiers ran riot, and provided under James’ influence one of the most corrupt and dissolute courts in English history.” (5)

Recent historical revisionism has argued to the contrary. Historians Gordon Donaldson and Jenny Wormald have argued for a revision of opinion towards King James in the light of his successful rule in Scotland. A changed view of him has emerged since the 1970s. Also the historian Barry Coward has said 'of all the political problems in James I's reign, he dealt with religious non-conformity most successfully.'

Style and armsEdit

Formally, James was styled "James, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc." (The claim to the Throne of France, which had been maintained since the reign of Edward III, was merely nominal.) By a proclamation of 1604, James assumed the style "James, King of Great Brittaine, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, etc." for non-statutory use.

James' English arms, whilst he was King of England and Scotland, were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); II Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland). James also introduced the unicorn, a symbol of Scotland, as an heraldic supporter in his armorial achievement; the other supporter remained the English lion. In Scotland, his arms were: Quarterly, I and IV Grandquarterly, Or a lion rampant within a tressure flory-counter-flory Gules (for Scotland); II Azure three fleurs-de-lis Or (for France) and Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or (for England); III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent (for Ireland), with one of the unicorns of Scotland being replaced as a heraldic supporter by a lion.


Henry, Prince of Wales19 February 15946 November 1612 
Unnamed childJuly 1595July 1595 
Elizabeth Stuart19 August 159613 February 1662married 1613, Frederick V, Elector Palatine; had issue
Margaret Stuart24 December 1598March 1600 
Charles I19 November 160030 January 1649married 1625, Henrietta Maria; had issue
Robert, Duke of Kintyre18 February 160227 May 1602 
Unnamed sonMay 1603May 1603 
Mary Stuart8 April 160516 December 1607 
Sophia Stuart22 June 160628 June 1606 


  1. The Royal Household: "JAMES I (r. 1603-25).", accessed 9 December 2006
  2. Atherton, Ian; Como, David (2005) "The Burning of Edward Wightman: Puritanism, Prelacy and the Politics of Heresy in Early Modern England", English Historical Review, Volume 120, Number 489, December 2005, Oxford University Press, pp. 1215–1250(36).
  3. [1]
  4. H. Montgomery Hyde, The Love That Dared not Speak its Name; pp. 44 and 143
  5. Bergeron, King James, p. 175.

Reference books and further readingEdit

  • Chambers, Robert (1856). “James VI”, Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen. London: Blackie and Son.
  • Fraser, Antonia (1974). King James VI of Scotland, I of England. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-76775-5.
  • Lee, Maurice (1990). Great Britain's Solomon: James VI and I in his Three Kingdoms. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-01686-6.
  • Stewart, Alan (2003). The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-6984-2.
  • Williamson, David (1998). The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England. London: National Portrait Gallery. ISBN 1-85514-228-7.
  • Willson, D. Harris (1956). King James VI and I. London: Jonathan Cape.

External linksEdit

See alsoEdit

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Template:Start box |- |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Preceded by:
Elizabeth I |width="40%" align="center"|King of England
1603–1625 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="3"|Succeeded by:
Charles I |- |width="40%" align="center"|King of Ireland
1603–1625 |- |width="30%" align="center"|Preceded by:
Mary I |width="40%" align="center"|King of Scots and Lord of the Isles
1567–1625 |}

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