James VI of Scotland (June 19, 1566 - March 27, 1625, reigned July 24, 1567 - March 27, 1625) and James I of England and Ireland (reigned March 24, 1603-March 27,1625) was the first king of both England and Scotland.

James succeeded Elizabeth I as the closest living relative of the unmarried childless English monarch, through his descent from Henry VIII's sister Margaret Tudor. He was a popular monarch, but less skilled at governing than Elizabeth I had been. His taste for political absolutism, his mismanagement of the kingdom's funds, and his cultivation of unpopular favorites laid much of the groundwork that would lead to the deposition and execution of his son Charles I during the English Civil War. During James' own life, however, the government of the kingdom was relatively stable.

James VI
King of Scotland from 1567
James I
King of England, Ireland from 1603

Table of contents
1 King of Scotland
2 Marriage
3 King of England
4 Relations with Parliament
5 Intellectual Interests
6 Miscellaneous
7 'Queen James'
8 Death
10 Additional Reading
11 External links

King of Scotland

James became king of Scotland on July 24, 1567, at the age of 13 months, after his mother Mary, Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate. She fled to England, where she was imprisoned for the next 19 years. His father, Lord Darnley, was assassinated under mysterious circumstances shortly after James was born. James was formally crowned at the Church of the Holy Rood, Stirling on July 29, 1567. In deference to the religious proclivities of most of the Scots ruling class, he was brought up as a member of the Scottish protestant Kirk and educated by men with Presbyterian sympathies, though his mother was a Roman Catholic.


James married Anne of Denmark by proxy on August 20, 1589, and in person on November 23, 1589 and again in person in January 21, 1590. They had eight children, of whom only seven survived long enough to be named; only three lived beyond infancy:

King of England

The eldest, Henry Stuart, became Prince of Wales when James VI was invited to take the English throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in
1603. One of his first acts was to end England's involvement in the Eighty Years' War, with the signing of the Treaty of London in 1604.

James established a residence at Royston a town he stayed in on his progress to London.


Henry died in 1612, during the preparations for the marriage of James's daughter, Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662) to Frederick V, Elector Palatine. This wedding was negotiated at Royston, and has been connected to the rise of Rosicrucianism, which was a secret society in support of protestant illumination across Germany and Bohemia. Prince Henry had been at the head of the war party at the court of king James, but his death dissolved their power. Frederick V became embroiled in the election of the new Holy Roman Emperor by claiming the throne of Bohemia. However he was opposed by Archduke Ferdinand who duly succeeded as Emperor. After the Battle of White Mountain, the couple went into exile and were known as the "Winter King" and "Winter Queen", taking up residence in The Hague. Germany was then sunk in the Thirty Years War, while the new union of England and Scotland developed its maritime empire.

Relations with Parliament

James had enormous difficulties in coping with parliamentary criticism. The structure of English government made it impossible to raise sufficient revenue without parliaments, but his belief in the Divine Right of Kings made him unwilling to listen to criticism of his unpopular diplomatic schemes. His 1622 parliament was dissolved because of parliamentary criticisms of the Spanish Match, the proposal to marry his prince Charles to Princess Maria Anna of Spain.

Intellectual Interests

Along with Alfred the Great, King James is considered to have been one of the most intellectual and learned individuals ever to sit on any English, Scottish or British throne, and as a partial result, much of the cultural flourishing of Elizabethan England continued. James himself was talented scholar, and published several books in Latin. He is also remembered for authorizing the production of the King James Version of the Bible, the highly popular English translation from Greek and Hebrew; beyond that, he wrote several books himself. However, he lacked Elizabeth's business skills. His expenditures always outran his revenue, and after the death of the capable Earl of Salisbury there were no real attempts to put the government on a sound financial footing.


Union Flag (blue colour too dark)

He also held the title of King of France, as had all his predecessors in the English throne since October 21, 1422 although by his time the title didn't come with an active claim of this throne. His own successors would hold the title till the 1801 Act of Union.

James was responsible for the building of the Banqueting House at the Palace of Whitehall.

On April 12, 1606 the original Union Flag (then simply known as the British flag, rather than Union Flag / Union Jack), combining the red cross of St. George of England and the saltire of St. Andrew of Scotland, was created for James.

'Queen James'

One area of James VI/I's life that for many years remained clouded in controversy was allegations that James in fact homosexual. While his close relationships with a number of men were noted, earlier historians questioned their sexual nature.

Few modern historians cast any doubt on the King's homosexuality and the fact that his sexuality and choice of male partners both as King of Scotland then later in London as King of England were the subject of gossip from the taverns to the Privy Council. His relationship as a teenager with fellow teenager Esmé Stuart, Seigneur d'Aubigny, Earl of Lennox was criticised by Scottish church leaders, who were part of a conspiracy to keep the young King and the young French courtier apart. Lennox, facing threats of death, was forced to leave Scotland. In the 1580s, King James openly kissed Francis Stewart Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. Contemporary sources clearly hinted their relationship as sexual. When James inherited the English throne from Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, it was openly joked of the new English monarch in London that Rex fuit Elizabeth: nunc est regina Jacobus (Elizabeth was King: now James is Queen.)

Historians have debated whether James was unwise in his choice of male partners, from page-boy-turned-Gentleman-of-the-Bedchamber Robert Carr (made Earl of Somerset) to royal-cupbearer-turned-Earl-of-Buckingham, George Villiers, whose relationship with the King was discussed at the Privy Council (James called Villiers his 'wife' and he Villiers' 'husband'.) Buckingham in particular came to play a major part in the governance of the English kingdom, though historians differ on whether Buckingham's impact was positive or negative.


James VI/I died in 1625 of gout and senility and is buried in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey. When on 23 August 1628 Buckingham was assassinated, he was buried in a tomb to King James' right in the Henry VII chapel. Another of James' male favourites was buried in a tomb on the King's left.

James's second son, Charles, succeeded James on the throne as King Charles I, in 1625.


Additional Reading

  • Fraser, Antonia. King James VI of Scotland and James I of England (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974)
  • Lee, Maurice. England's Solomon: James VI and I in his Three Kingdoms (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990)
  • G.P.V. (ed.). Letters of King James VI & I. (Berkeley : University of California Press, 1984)
  • Young, Michael B. King James and the History of Homosexuality. (New York : New York University Press, 2000)

External links

Preceded on the English throne by:
Elizabeth I
List of British monarchs Succeeded by:
Charles I
Preceded on the Scottish throne by:
Mary, Queen of Scots