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|James VI and I
monarch who united the thrones of England and Scotland and sponsored the most popular translation of the Bible ever published
James was born at Edinburgh Castle on June 19, 1566, the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry, Lord Darnley, who was murdered eight months after James's birth. Mary was deposed by Scottish lords in 1567 and fled to England, where she sought protection from her cousin, Elizabeth I, who instead put her in prison.
King James VI of Scotland
James became King James VI of Scotland upon the abdication of his mother, on July 24, 1567, and was formally crowned at the Church of the Holy Rood, Stirling, on July 29, 1567. Since he was only a year old at the time of his accession, the first years of his reign were managed by a series of regencies. He was educated by a series of tutors, including poet, dramatist and humanist George Buchanan and Peter Young, and developed a genuine love of learning, as well as some skill in the writing of poetry and prose. As was the political custom of the time, he was raised as a Scottish Presbyterian, despite his mother being an active Roman Catholic.
King James married Anne of Denmark by proxy on August 20, 1589, and in person on November 23, 1589. The couple eventually had eight children, but only three survived to adulthood -- Henry, Prince of Wales (February 19, 1594-November 6, 1612); Princess Elizabeth (August 19, 1596-February 13, 1662; her marriage to Frederick V, Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia, eventually resulted in the Hanoverian succession to the British throne); and Charles (November 19, 1600-January 30,1649, who succeeded his father as king).
As King of Scotland, James managed to reconcile the warring factions among his nobility with such success that he has been described as "the most effective ruler Scotland ever had." He was also one of Scotland's most literary rulers, publishing three books during his reign -- The Essays of a Prentice in the Divine Art of Poesy (1584), His Majesties Poetical Exercises at Vacant Hours (1591), and Bailikon Doron (1599) -- as well as numerous essays. Many of his writings were concerned with theology and justification of the theory of a ruler's Divine Right to Rule, but he also addressed other subjects. One, "A Counterblast to Tobacco" (1604), was one of the first attacks on smoking ever published.
King James I of England
Throughout his reign as King of Scotland, James's greatest ambition was to succeed Queen Elizabeth on the throne of England and unite Scotland and England under one ruler. His ambition was achieved when Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603, leaving him as the only legitimate heir to the childless queen. He moved south almost immediately, and was formally crowned as King James I at Westminster Abbey soon after. Although he had achieved his goal of uniting Scotland and England under one ruler, Scotland retained its own Parliament and church throughout his reign, and James only returned to Scotland once, in 1617. He also held the title of King of France, as had all his predecessors on the English throne since October 21, 1422, but by then the title carried no active legitimate claim to the French throne.
Major Events of His Reign
Soon after ascending to the throne, a plot to overthrow James in favor of his cousin Arabella Stuart was thwarted; Sir Walter Raleigh, once a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, was imprisoned for his role in the plot.
1604 The Somerset House Peace Conference brought peace between England and Spain.
1605 Guy Fawkes and other Catholic dissidents attempted to blow up Parliament.
1607 The English Parliament rejected a Union with Scotland. The colony of Jamestown, Virginia, was founded.
1611 King James I encouraged and financed the most popular translation of the Bible into English ever published.
1614 Scottish mathematician John Napier published his theory of logarithms.
1620 The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
February 8, 1622 King James I dissolved Parliament following a dispute involving parliamentary criticisms of the proposed marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Maria Anna of Spain.
King James I died at Theobalds Park, Hertfordshire, on March 27, 1625; he is buried at Westminster Abbey. He was succeeded by his second son, who took the throne as King Charles I.
This page was last updated on January 23, 2017.