Full Name: James Charles Stuart
Born: 19th June 1566, Edinburgh Castle
Son of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
Married: Anne of Denmark, 1589
Reigned: 24th July 1567 (Scotland) 24th March 1603 (England & Ireland)
Died: 27th March 1625, Theobalds House, England
Buried: 7th May 1625, Westminster Abbey
James was the first monarch of both Scotland and England after the death of his mother’s cousin Elizabeth I. He became King of Scotland before he was a year old, after his mother was forced to abdicate, and ruled through a regency throughout his childhood. He began his personal rule in the 1580s as a knowledgeable teen, having been well educated at Stirling Castle. His tutor the Presbyterian George Buchanan, instilled in James the divine right of Kings, believing that James’ right to be ruler came directly from God. This was something James took very seriously. Throughout his reign, he was known to have never washed his hands, leaving them ‘black and silky’ as he felt this connected him to God.
In 1590 he married Anne of Denmark, the initial ceremony by proxy in Denmark and a later in person ceremony in Olso after Anne’s journey to Scotland was compromised. They had several children, three of which survived to adulthood. Their marriage was seen as a positive one, James appeared infatuated with Anne for the first few years of the their marriage, however he was always known as preferring to enjoy the company of men, having many favourites at court, whom Anne did not particularly like.
Elizabeth I died in 1603 with no direct heirs, leaving the throne of England to James. He left Scotland that year for London where he spent the rest of his reign. He was proud to unite Scotland and England, who had been historically waring nations. James is to be credited with bringing peace to both and his reign as James I of England brought with it the term ‘Great Britain’, which is regularly used today.
In many ways James was seen as a bit of an oddity. He was described as having a large tongue which meant he would dribble while speaking. This added to his eccentric behaviour and openly homosexual tendencies to male courters and his refusal to wash his blackened hands, meant he stood out, and not for the best reasons. His reign did see the championing of the arts, especially Shakespeare, with James becoming the patron of his theatre company, renaming it The King’s men. Shakespeare paid homage to James with the play Macbeth, published in 1606. James was involved with the scholars that produced the authorised version of the Bible in 1611, a major influence for the Church of England and dedicated to James.
Despite the positives of his reign, James main downfall was his belief in his right to rule with no advice from Parliament. As he got older he became more senile and died shortly after having a Stroke in 1625. He sadly had instilled his views in his son Charles, who had a difficult relationship with Parliament, which resulted in his demise.