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King James I (1603 - 1625)

Name: King James I
Born: June 19, 1566 at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Parents: Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley
Relation to Charles III: 10th great-grandfather
House of: Stuart
Ascended to the throne: March 24, 1603 aged 36 years
Crowned: July 25, 1603 at Westminster Abbey, also as James VI of Scotland at Stirling Castle on July 29, 1567
Married: Anne, Daughter of Frederick II of Denmark and Norway
Children: Three sons and five daughters, of whom three survived infancy; Henry, Elizabeth and Charles
Died: March 27, 1625 at Theobalds Park, Hertfordshire, aged 58 years, 9 months, and 7 days
Buried at: Westminster
Reigned for: 22 years, 3 days, King of Scotland for 57 years 1567-1625
Succeeded by: his son Charles

James was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. He was descended through the Scottish kings from Robert the Bruce, and the English Tudors through his great grandmother Margaret Tudor sister of Henry VIII. 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 was forced to renounce the throne of Scotland in favour of her infant son. James became King James VI of Scotland aged 13 months in July 1567, and was crowned at Stirling. Mary fled to England where she was eventually executed following Catholic plots against Elizabeth I in 1587.

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, and his character – highly intelligent and sensitive, but also fundamentally shallow, vain, and exhibitionist – reacted violently to this. 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. A suitable Queen was found for him in Anne of Denmark and they were married in 1589. As King of Scotland, he curbed the power of the nobility, although his attempts to limit the authority of the Kirk (Church of Scotland) were less successful.

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. The English courtiers were wary of his Scottish favourites, affairs with male courtiers and uncouth ways. He was however a 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, published in 1611, which 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. Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605 produced an anti-Catholic reaction, which gave James a temporary popularity which soon dissipated.

His foreign policy aimed primarily at achieving closer relations with Spain was not liked by Parliament who saw Spain as the Old Catholic enemy of the Armada and competitor for world trade. During his reign the East India Company expanded trade bringing spices from the East, and Jamestown was founded in Virginia. His willingness to compromise politically, even while continuing to talk in terms of absolutism, largely accounts for the superficial stability of his reign. However, the effects of many of his actions were long term, becoming fully obvious only after his death. James and Anne had 8 children only three of whom survived infancy. Their eldest son Henry died aged 18 of typhoid, and their 2nd son Charles became King Charles I. The marriage of their daughter Elizabeth to Frederic V, Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia, was to result in the eventual Hanoverian succession to the British throne.

King James I's Signature


What God hath conjoined let no man separate. I am the husband and the whole isle is my lawful wife' - James VI of Scotland who also became James I of England on the union of the crowns of Scotland and England, 1603

‘[Smoking is] hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, and dangerous to the lungs.” – King James I

’I can make a lord, but only God can make a gentleman’ – King James I

‘God’s wounds! I will pull down my breeches and they shall see my arse!’ – King James I (on being told that his subjects wanted to see his face)

’Kings are justly called gods for they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth’ – King James I

Timeline for King James I

Year Event
1603James VI of Scotland becomes King James I of England, Scotland, and Ireland after the death of Elizabeth I uniting the thrones of Scotland and England.
1603The Millenary Petition is presented to James I. It expresses Puritan desires for reforms to the Church of England.
1603Plot against James to set his cousin Arabella Stuart on the throne. Sir Walter Raleigh is implicated and imprisoned.
1604The Somerset House Peace Conference results in peace between England and Spain.
1604The Hampton Court Conference fails to settle the doctrinal differences between the Anglican Church and its Puritan critics.
1604James proclaims that smoking is harmful to the lungs and imposes a tax on tobacco
1605Guy Fawkes and other Catholic dissidents attempt to blow up King and Parliament in The Gunpowder Plot. They are betrayed and arrested.
1606The Gunpowder plotters are executed. 120 colonists sail for America.
1607The Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel end their rebellion against English rule of Ireland and flee to Europe; Ulster is colonized by Protestant settlers from Scotland and England.
1607The English Parliament rejects Union with Scotland.
1607Common citizenship of English and Scottish persons is granted to those born after the accession of James VI of Scotland to the English throne.
1607Jamestown found in America by the Virginia company
1609Scottish and English Protestants are encouraged to settle in Ulster
1609Shakespeare completes the Sonnets.
1611The King James Authorized Version of the Bible is published.
1611Dissolution of the first Parliament of James I.
1611Arabella Stuart secretly marries William Seymour. When James finds out Seymour is imprisoned but escapes with Arabella. They are captured on the way to France and imprisoned in the Tower of London. Arabella starves herself to death there in 1615.
1612Henry, Prince of Wales, dies of typhoid. His younger brother, Charles, becomes heir to the throne.
1612Heretics are burned at the stake for the last time in England.
1613James' daughter Elizabeth marries Frederick V, Elector of Palatine. Their descendants in House of Hanover will eventually inherit the British Throne.
1613The Globe Theatre in London burns during a performance of Henry VIII
1614Second Parliament of James I meets.
1614Scottish mathematician John Napier publishes his theory of logarithms simplifying calculations for navigators.
1615George Villiers becomes James’s favourite.
1616Playwright William Shakespeare dies.
1616Raleigh is released from prison to lead an expedition to Guiana in search of El Dorado
1617George Villiers becomes the Earl of Buckingham.
1618Raleigh fails in his expedition and on his return is executed for alleged treason at Westminster.
1620The Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America in the Mayflower. They land at Cape Cod and found New Plymouth.
1625Death of James I, aged 58.