King James I


James VI of Scotland and James I of England (Charles James) (19 June 1566–27 March 1625) was a king who ruled over England, Scotland, and Ireland, and was the first sovereign to reign in the three realms simultaneously.

He ruled in Scotland as James VI from July 24, 1567 until his death, and in England and Ireland as James I from March 24, 1603 until his death. James I was the first English monarch of the Stuart dynasty, succeeding the last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, who died unmarried and childless.

James's chief advisor was Robert Cecil, 1st Baron Cecil of Essendon (the younger son of Elizabeth I's favored minister, Lord Burghley), who became Earl of Salisbury in 1605. James was an extravagant spender; only the skill of the Earl of Salisbury could avert financial disaster. He also created numerous peerage dignities to reward his courtiers. In total, sixty-two individuals were raised to the English Peerage by James—his predecessor, Elizabeth I, had only created eight new peers during a reign which lasted for almost fifty years.

Furthermore, James embroiled himself in numerous conflicts with Parliament. Before his succession to the throne, he had written "The True Law of Free Monarchies," where he argued that the divine right of kings was sanctioned by the apostolic succession, and, being accustomed to a timid Scottish Parliament, he did not like working with its more aggressive English counterpart.

One of James's first acts was to end England's involvement in the Eighty Years' War, with the signing of the Treaty of London in 1604. He was almost immediately faced by religious conflicts in England; upon his arrival, he was presented with a petition requesting the tolerance of Puritans.

In 1604, at the Hampton Court Conference, James was found to be unwilling to agree to the demands of the Puritans. He did, however, agree to fulfill one request by authorizing an official translation of the Bible, which came to be known as the King James Version. Also in 1604, he broadened Elizabeth's Witchcraft Act to bring the penalty of death without benefit of clergy to anyone who invoked evil spirits or communed with familiar spirits.

James also incurred the wrath of Roman Catholics. Though he was careful to accept Catholism, his Protestant subjects ensured that they would not get equal rights. Thus, in the early years, when many of his subjects did not know James' policies—only that he had an extreme Protestant background—there were a number of plots to remove James from power, such as the Bye Plot and the Main Plot.

In 1605, a group of Catholic extremists led by Guy Fawkes developed a plan, known as the Gunpowder Plot, to cause an explosion in the chamber of the House of Lords, where the King and members of both Houses of Parliament would be gathered for the State Opening. The conspirators sought to replace James with his daughter, Elizabeth, whom, they hoped, could be forced to convert to Catholicism.

One of the conspirators, however, leaked the information regarding the plot, which was consequently foiled. Terrified, James refused to leave his residence for many days. Guy Fawkes was put to death, and there is now an annual "Guy Fawkes Day" in the United Kingdom to remember the failed plot. James took care not to strongly enforce anti-Catholic doctrine and this ensured that there were no more plots after 1605.

Following the dissolution of the "Addled Parliament," James ruled without a Parliament for about seven years. Faced with financial difficulties due to the failure of Parliament to approve new taxes, James sought to enter into a profitable alliance with Spain by marrying his eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales, off to the daughter of the King of Spain.

The proposed alliance with a Roman Catholic kingdom was not well-received in Protestant England; James's unpopularity, furthermore, was augmented by the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh. In Scotland, James was despised for his insistence on the passage of the Five Articles of Perth, which were seen as attempts to introduce Roman Catholic and Anglican practices into Presbyterian Scotland.

From 1618 onwards, the religious conflict known as the Thirty Years' War convulsed Europe. James I was forced to become involved because his daughter, Elizabeth, was married to the Protestant Frederick V, Elector Palatine, one of the war's chief participants. During the conflict between Protestants and Catholics, James' attempt to ally himself with Catholic Spain fostered much distrust.

Queen Anne died on March 4, 1619 at Hampton Court Palace and was buried at Westminster Abbey. Rumours were later spread that James was little moved by her death because he had romantic affections for George Villiers. The two met in 1614 and James is said to have nicknamed the young man "Steenie" and bestowed honour upon honour to him, ending with the dukedom of Buckingham in 1623. George Villiers was the first non-royal duke to be created for over a century.

The third and penultimate Parliament of James's reign was summoned in 1621. The House of Commons agreed to grant James a small subsidy to signify their loyalty, but then, to the displeasure of the King, moved on to other matters. Villiers, by now James' primary advisor, was attacked for his plan to have the Prince of Wales marry a Spanish Infanta.

The practice of selling monopolies and other privileges was also deprecated. The House of Commons sought to impeach Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, who was implicated in the sale of such privileges during his service as Lord Chancellor, on charges of corruption. The House of Lords convicted Lord St. Albans, who was duly removed from office. Although the impeachment was the first in centuries, it occasioned no opposition from James, who believed that sacrificing Lord St. Albans could help deflect his parliamentary opposition. In any event, James released Lord St. Albans from prison and granted him a full pardon.

A new constitutional dispute arose shortly thereafter. James was eager to aid his son-in-law, the Elector-Palatine, and requested Parliament for a subsidy. The House of Commons, in turn, requested the King to abandon the alliance with Spain. When James declared that the lower House had overstepped its bounds by offering unsolicited advice, the House of Commons passed a protest claiming that it had the right to debate any matter relating to the welfare of the kingdom. James ordered the protest torn out of the Commons Journal and dissolved Parliament.

In 1623, the Duke of Buckingham and the Prince of Wales traveled to Madrid in an attempt to secure a marriage between the latter and the daughter of the King of Spain. They were snubbed, however, by the Spanish courtiers, who demanded that the Prince of Wales convert to Roman Catholicism. They returned to England humiliated, and called for war with Spain. The Protestants backed them and James summoned Parliament, which granted some funding for the war. Parliament was prorogued, on the understanding that it would later return to grant more funds.

Parliament, however, never actually met when scheduled. The Prince of Wales had promised that, even if he would marry a Roman Catholic, he would not repeal political restrictions which applied to Roman Catholics. When, however, he agreed to marry the Catholic French Princess, Henrietta Maria, he reneged on his earlier promise and undertook to abolish the same religious qualifications. The Prince of Wales then ensured that Parliament did not actually meet, in order to avoid a confrontation over the diverging promises.

James lapsed into senility during the last year of his reign. Real power passed to Charles, Prince of Wales and to the Duke of Buckingham, although James kept enough power to ensure that the projected war did not happen while he was King. James died in 1625 of ague, probably brought upon by kidney failure and stroke, and was buried in the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey. Charles, Prince of Wales succeeded him as Charles I. James had ruled in Scotland for almost sixty years; no English, Scottish or British monarch, with the exceptions of Victoria and George III, has surpassed his mark.

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