King James VI and I of Scotland and England (1566-1625)

His reign changed history.

Music is from The Island, ‘My Name Is Lincoln’ by Steve Jablonsky, was also used in the making of ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE.

JAMES I (1566-1625), king of Scotland (as James VI) from 1567 to 1625 and first Stuart king of England from 1603 to 1625, who styled himself “king of Great Britain.”

He was the first monarch of the House of Stewart (or Stuart) and succeeded Queen Elizabeth I, the last monarch of the House of Tudor. James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stewart, Duke of Albany (known as Lord Dunley). James became the king of Scotland at age one (1567), when his mother was forced to abdicate the throne, and finally assumed real power himself in 1583. As a young king he survived several assassination attempts and strengthened the power of the crown over Parliament. He allied himself with England’s Elizabeth (making only a token objection when she executed his mother), and when the childless queen died, her throne went to James. (He was her distant cousin as the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor, elder sister of England’s Henry VIII, the father of Elizabeth.)

In 1611 he dissolved Parliament and, excepting what was called the Addled Parliament (1614), ruled without one until 1621. Raised a Protestant in Scotland, James angered Puritans with his support of the Anglican Church, and he frustrated both Catholics and Protestants with inconsistent policies.

The colonization of America began during his reign. Despite all the turmoil, he is probably best-remembered for commissioning the translation into English and publication (in 1611) of what is called the Authorized or King James version of the Bible.

James was a strong advocate of royal absolutism, and his conflicts with an increasingly self-assertive Parliament set the stage for the rebellion against his successor, Charles I. His wrote a number of influential works, and authorized the highly important King James Version of the Bible.

James I was the most experienced monarch to accede to the English throne since William the Conqueror as well as one of the greatest of all Scottish kings. A model of the philosopher prince, James wrote political treatises like The Trew Law of a Free Monarchy, debated theology with learned divines, and reflected continually on the art of statecraft. He governed his poor nation by balancing its factions of clans and by restraining the enthusiastic leaders of its Presbyterian church. In Scotland, James was described as pleasing to look at and pleasing to hear. He was sober in habit, enjoyed vigorous exercise, and doted on his Danish wife, Anne, who had borne him two male heirs.

When James V1 of Scotland became James 1 of England in 1603 he had reigned in his native land almost as long as had the great Elizabeth herself. His eventful but highly successful rule in Scotland is often neglected by historians who see his main significance only in terms of his English experience. But not only was he a good, almost a great King of Scotland; he was in England very far from the royal pedant of popular imagination. He showed both vision and determination in pursuing his major political goals; he believed in the concept of a united Britain the unification of two kingdoms and a foreign policy based on peace rather than bellicose chauvinism.

But for all of these qualities, James I was viewed with suspicion by his new subjects. Centuries of hostility between the two nations had created deep enmities, and these could be seen in English descriptions of the king. There he was characterized as hunchbacked and ugly, with a tongue too large for his mouth and a speech impediment that obscured his words. It was said that he drank to excess and spewed upon his filthy clothing. It was also rumored that he was homosexual and preyed upon the young boys brought to service at court. This caricature, which has long dominated the popular view of James I, was largely the work of disappointed English office seekers whose pique clouded their observations and the judgments of generations of historians.

In fact, James showed his abilities from the first. In the counties through which he passed on his way to London he lavished royal bounty upon the elites who had been starved for honors during Elizabeth’s parsimonious reign. He knighted hundreds as he went, enjoying the bountiful entertainments that formed such a contrast with his indigent homeland. He would never forget these first encounters with his English subjects, “their eyes flaming nothing but sparkles of affection” On his progress James also received a petition, putatively signed by a thousand ministers, calling his attention to the unfinished business of church reform.”

As for his learning, the King James Bible the Authorized Version represents a lasting monument to his enthusiasm for scholarship and literature