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James I of England

Civilization:British: England
Era: Stuart
1566–1625Field of Renown:monarch: King
James I
 James I and his Queen, Anne of Denmark.

James I of England was the first of the Stuart kings. He was over thirty-five when he came to the throne of England, but had been sole monarch of Scotland, (there known as James VI), since his first year. Scotland was a far poorer and ruder country than England at the time, and the transition was a somewhat difficult one. James was very well educated, and the Stuarts were known as a refined and somewhat poetical family. It Scotland, they were considered very high-bred. In far wealthier, and more sophisticated England, however, where dozens of nobles lived in higher estate than the King of Scotland, they were considered rubes.

In Scotland, James' reign was relatively successful. He had brought many of the ever-rancorous Scottish barons to bay, and had prevented the totalitarian strain of Knox's Calvinism to take firm hold by asserting the predominance of the state over religion and refusing to allow the Presbyterian preachers unlimited political power. He managed to be on good terms with the Church of England while allowing the Scottish Kirks to manage own affairs, and he had brought most of the religion-based civil wars to an end.

England, however was in an different political condition than Scotland, and his methods of government were not entirely successful there. The Tudors, particularly Henry VIII, and Elizabeth, had been exceeding powerful and flamboyant rulers, and James I was unable to command their level of respect. Plots were laid against him from the beginning, and as some of the leaders of parliament grew in power, he neither acquiesced, nor won them over to his side. One of the unfortunate legacies that he left to his son Charles was a history of bad relations with parliament. This conflict did not break out into war during James reign, but it did under his son.

Although of necessity James had tolerated the Calvinists in Scotland, they annoyed him terribly because in essence, they failed to recognize the ideas of tradition and authority, which were central to the legitimacy of the monarchy. As king of England, he was a strong backer of the Anglican Church and supported the persecution of Puritans and non-conformers. Many puritans, including the Mayflower pilgrims, in fact, left England during the reign of James I to settle the new world. James even preferred Catholics to the inexorable puritans, although he stepped up his persecutions of Catholics after the gun-powder plot was discovered.

In short, James was a good and effective king of Scotland, but a considerably ineffective king of England. In the absence of a personally powerful king the influence of parliament was certain to grow, and many, in retrospect, consider this a good thing. It was James personal ambition to be remembered for his literary contributions as well as his kingship, and he left a larger body of writings than any other king of England, but his writings reflect the dual nature of his legacy—exemplary by Scottish standards, but mediocre by English standards. He was a Stuart poet, in the age of Shakespeare, Bacon, and Johnson.

Key events during the life of James I of England (a.k.a James VI of Scotland)

Year Event
1566 James VI of Scotland born to Mary, Queen of Scots.
1567 Mary deposed. James crowned, but controlled by a Protestant regent.
1581 Assumed responsibilities of King of Scotland.
1587 Execution of Mary, the mother of James.
1589 Married to Anne of Denmark.
1600 Birth of Charles I.
1601 Proclaimed King of England on death of Elizabeth.
1605 Gunpowder plot is foiled.
1611 King James Bible published.
1612 Death of Salisbury
1616 Death of Shakespeare
1623 Charles I and Buckingham travel to Spain.
1625 Death of James I.


Story LinksBook Links
How Englishmen Fought a Duel with Tyranny  in  This Country of Ours  by  Marshall
James VI.—King's Men and Queen's Men  in  Scotland's Story  by  Marshall
His Childhood and Youth  in  Charles I  by  Abbott
James I., the First Stuart King  in  Story of England  by  Harding
Misrule of the Stuarts: James I  in  Tudors and Stuarts  by  Synge

Image Links
King James I  in Queen Elizabeth James I  in Sir Walter Raleigh James I. of England  in Builders of our Country Vol. I
James I. and his Queen, Anne of Denmark  in Tudors and Stuarts The Stuart Kings and Queens  in Tudors and Stuarts

Contemporary Short Biography
William Shakespeare Greatest dramatist in the history of the English language.
Francis Bacon Chancellor of England, and advocate of the scientific method of experiment and induction.
John Knox Religious leader in Scotland who embraced Calvinism, founder of Presbyterian Church.
Mary I of Scotland Queen of Scotland. Deposed and exiled. Held captive and executed by Queen Elizabeth.
Earl of Mar Raised James as a child, in Stirling Castle.
Sir Walter Raleigh Courtier of Queen Elizabeth. Explorer, mastermind of the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
Robert Cecil Chief minister of James I. Son of William Cecil, chief minister of Elizabeth I.
Duke of Buckingham Notorious favorite of James I and his son Charles I.