(1566 – 1625) Childhood (W7:D3): Every family is different, and some have more apparent problems than others - issues that are seen by the public eye, and some that are not. You may have a family that struggles; King James I, though royalty, had a very difficult family and childhood.
He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots (Scotland), and Henry Stuart, Lord Damley; they were both grandchildren to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII, and sister of Henry VIII. Now, because they were born and ruled in different kingdoms, Henry VIII was of the House of Tudor, while James VI was of the house of Stewart; when his cousin, twice removed, died, he ascended from one throne to two thrones. Did you get all that? At his birth, England and Scotland were split kingdoms, and James’s ascension to the English throne brought them together, to be ruled under one crown.
Now James VI’s parents were both Roman Catholic, but as the Protestant population grew, it strained the kingdom - and the marriage - of these two monarchs. In 1566, his father even plotted with the Protestants to murder Mary’s private secretary, because of infidelity, just before James was born. This act nearly ripped the country in two, and was the demise of Mary’s reign.
Three months after the murder, on June 19, 1566, James was born. Five days later, he was baptized as “James Charles,” Duke of Rothesay and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. Less than one year later, his father, Damley, was murdered, and James inherited his father’s title, Duke of Albany. Three months later, Mary married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was suspected of murdering her husband, as revenge for murdering her private secretary. For these acts, and others, a group of Protestants kidnapped and imprisoned the queen in Loch Leven Castle, where she was never to see her son again. She was forced to abdicate her throne to her infant son, on July 24, 1567. Mary’s half-brother, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, as regent, was to care for the throne until James was old enough to do so. In 1568, Mary escaped and gathered her troops to attack Stewart. She lost, forcing her to escape to England, where she was captured by Queen Elizabeth, her sister. Stewart was assassinated in 1570, and the regency was given to three others, who were murdered in different ways, all before James reached the age of adulthood, 13, and took the throne, in 1579. FYI, his last regent was executed in 1582, in connection with the murder of James’s father. James was raised a Protestant, as were most Scottish nobles.
Early Adulthood: Now jump forward a little, for the next few years are full of James being locked in a tower, and being blasted from the pulpit by priests he put in charge, cursing him for his horrible behavior. His finances were an absolute mess; he was a rebellious and irresponsible adolescent, who was given a throne and great responsibility at a very young age.
In 1586, he signed a treaty with his neighboring kingdom of England, also ruled by distant relatives, and the next year his mother was executed. It is said that all these things needed to happen for him to receive the English crown from Queen Elizabeth when she died. She, on the other hand, paid him to gain influence over the Scottish crown. He even supported her efforts during the 1588 Spanish Armada wars.
As part of his plan to take England, he married Anne of Denmark; her father was Fredrick II, Protestant King of Denmark. As she traveled to him by sea, a storm forced her ship to turn around. James, desiring to see and marry her, took his own ships to bring her to Scotland. They were married on November 23, 1589. Historians record their endearing love for each other. They had three children, who survived to adulthood.
Now before much of this nobility took power in England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, the land was full of pagans, spanning from the Celtics to the Anglo-Saxons. When Roman Catholic monarchs took over, they desired to push out the pagan faiths, and witchcraft became commonplace. For this reason, the Witchcraft Act of 1563 was enforced throughout the kingdoms. James became interested in these witch hunts, spanning from his in-law’s kingdoms to his own. He wrote about it quite extensively, and that writing supposedly helped impact Shakespeare to write the Tragedy of MacBeth.
While King of Scotland, James VI also fought to unite the islands west of Scotland, and forcibly dissolve their kingdoms. Believing that they were “barbarians,” he sent colonists to take over the land, and set up their own settlements throughout the isles. While the local forces kept them out for a while, the colonists continued until successful. Remember that most of these kingdoms were owned by James’s distant relatives, and if they resisted, they were imprisoned or executed.
Ascension to the Throne: In 1601, Queen Elizabeth was notably dying, and knowing that James VI was to ascend the throne, they began a campaign to show the world that he was the natural successor. On March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died, and James made his way south to take the throne, arriving in London only 9 days after her funeral, on May 7th. There was no uprising or invasion, as some had feared; it was a smooth transition. His coronation was on July 25th, making him now James I, King of England. But, due to the plague spreading through the land, the planned festivities were canceled. This did not, however, stop the men and women of England from coming out and celebrating the new King and Queen.
The kingdom came with many issues: the government’s taxation of the people was strangling commerce and the livelihood of its people; the corporations were given too many favors, and were monopolizing the smaller businesses; and because of a war with Ireland, they were massively in debt. Though people were hoping for change, those who secretly prepared James I for his throne in 1601 were also kept in power, though James I added some of his own trusted advisors. This included many noblemen from Scotland, to help him unite the two kingdoms, which was one of his highest priorities. In his first year, James I survived two plots to take his throne, the most notable by Sir Walter Raleigh, the man who unsuccessfully settled the colony on Roanoke Island.
His desire to unite the kingdoms was fought by both Parliaments. After being denied the title “King of Great Britain,” he forcibly assumed
it, and forced Scotland to accept it, though England would not. He did find more success in his foreign policy, as he worked to end the Anglo-Spanish War and sign a peace treaty with Spain. This included the possibilities of privateering British vessels to take Spanish vessels on the open water, or fight the Spanish colonies in the Americas. With that treaty, came the freedom of Catholic worship again in England, though oppression continued. A plot was set forth by Catholic rebels to blow up Parliament, from the cellar beneath, which was full of barrels of gunpowder. One rebel, Guy Fawkes, was caught, as if he was to set off the explosion, but it is unknown his exact role, because he died denying involvement.
James I and England’s struggles continued to grow well beyond the debt, now, as the inflation of the value of their money was growing. Their money was not worth much, and so food was becoming more expensive every day. When Parliament would not grant him the money he required, especially to pay off his debts, he first sent politicians. Then, when Parliament was taking too long, he dismissed them all. He gathered a new Parliament, and after 9 weeks, dismissed them, as well, due to nothing being resolved, and him not getting the funding he desired. He then began to rule without a Parliament, but instead used corporate leaders who could raise money and provide him with what he needed. James also continued to try to strengthen his connection with Spain, by offering Charles, Prince of Wales, to marry Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, which the Catholics loved.
Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned multiple times, from 1591, until his full release, in 1617. He was finally released and paid to search for gold in South America. He was given strict instructions not to engage the Spanish, due to their treaty. His expedition was an utter disaster, as one of his ships attacked a Spanish fort. During the battle, Raleigh’s son was killed, and Raleigh was sent back to be executed, to appease the Spanish for this mistrust of their treaty. Though given chances, Raleigh would not escape imprisonment. Relations also soured when the Spanish attacked James I’s son-in-law, in Bohemia, of which James I called a Parliament to help fund troops to support his son-in-law. With a Parliament again in session, they called for all-out war on Spain, to refill their finances, remembering the income that came from attacking Spanish treasure ships full of gold. They didn’t stop there; they desired to end the courtship of Charles, wanting him to marry a Protestant, and reinstate the anti-Catholic laws. They fought over this for days, and Parliament wrote up a petition for their freedom of speech, which James I quickly ripped up, and then dissolved Parliament once again.
By night, Charles traveled to Spain to win favor with his betrothed. She ended up detesting him, and sent him home. With this insult, he - and those he had influence over - called to end the treaty with Spain, and increase the anti-Catholic policies. They forced James I to open Parliament, once again, and the sentiment grew. He was not only struggling with Catholics, but also the Puritans, as they were pulling him in the opposite direction; he would not have it. He began to fight them and many were forced to leave England, along with their riches and taxes they would have paid. To quell this rebellion, he agreed to a few of their demands, including the creation of an English translated Bible, with books that were not the same as the Catholic church. In 1604, he authorized the
translation and publishing of the King James Version of the Bible, which excluded the apocrypha.
English Puritans decided to set sail and settle in the New World, namely Jamestown, with the London Company in 1607, at Culper’s Cove in 1610, and Plymouth, outside of Cape Cod, in 1620. Though they were given patents by the king to settle the area just east of the Hudson, they found a better location, unclaimed by the British, and so claimed Plymouth for their faith. From there, Puritans spread to other colonies throughout North America, including the Bahamas, and anywhere they weren’t threatened by the King or Catholic rule.
England and Spain again returned to fighting, and privateering was again legalized against the Spanish treasure ships sailing from the new world. Though James I fought almost his entire life to bring the countries together, those also in power were fighting against him. James was racked with disease, arthritis, gout, and kidney stones, due to his heavy drinking. He finally succumbed to his ailments and died, in 1625.
Activity: Genealogy of History - The next four days will be an exploration into your understanding of history, and how one event or person can affect so much throughout history. To accomplish this assignment, you will need to visit: huntthepast.com/genealogy-of-history