King James VI
King James VI - King of Scotland
James VI (1566 - 1625) James was James VI of Scotland from 1567 and James I of En gland from 1603. He was the son of Henry Stuart, Lord Darney and of Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of James V. In Scotland James succeeded as a baby to an uneasy inheritance on his mother's forced abdication. His long minority (the seventh in an extraordinary succession of minorities) was a period of prolonged disturbance in which the young King learned by experience the arts of political survival. Both Catholic and Protestant lords were alternately successful in their struggle to control the King, while the Protestant Kirk pressed towards a system of Presbyterian Church government which would terminate royal control of the clergy. But James received a rigorous, if joyless, education and he learned to relish theological dispute.
James reached his majority in 1587, the year in which his mother was executed by Elizabeth; two years later he travelled to Oslo to meet and marry Anne of Denmark. James and Anne had seven children. Tehir eldest child, Henry (who died in 1612), was born in 1594; Charles was born in 1600.
During the 1590's the King's position was skilfully strengthened; he was well served by his chancellor, John Maitland, and before his death in 1595 they had surmounted the crisis of an unholy alliance between the Earl of Bothwell and the Catholic lords. Maitland was the last of James's masterful advisers; from his death onwards the King felt well able to trust to himself. Indeed James gegan to see himself as schoolmaster: in Basilikon DOron (1599) he instructed five-year-old Prince Henry in the arts of kingship, and especially in self-defence against an interfering kirk.
James undoubtedly looked forward to succeeding on the throne of England. He had once wistfully compared the two kingdoms, to the disadvantage of his own: ' St George surely rides on a towardly riding horse, where I am daily bursten in daunting a wild unruly colt.' So James progressed south, in april 1603, with magnificence. At York he was met by Robert Cecil and thus began his relations with the last generation of Elizabeth's councillors.
James's new kingdom was not without its problems and the King's first mistake was to underestimate them. Royal income had been inadequate under Elizabeth, the Church settlement had been maintained with difficulty against Puritan criticism, and both Court and Parliament required cautious handling. Although James was active and energetic, he was ill prepared for the English throne. He was shifty, not diplomatic; he enjoyed popularity, but lacked Elizabeth's grace and courtesy and his popularity did not endure. In contrast with his son Charles I, James made no irreprable mistakes, but he did much to erode the credit of both Court and Crown.
In the hands of an efficient minister, like Cecil until his death in 1612 and then Lionel Cranfield, affairs seemed well conducted. But the King himself had no taste for the work involved in close supervision of the Council, and the faction divisions, apparently even under Elizabeth, were fostered by the King's negligence and his infatuation with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. It was this palsy at the centre that shook the Crown's relations with Parliament and made it suspicious of his policies. James, who prided himself on his debating skill, failed in the essential work of communicating his intentions to the political community of landowners and merchants.
The Parliaments of the reign were fiascos. The King's hectoring manner drew from his first Parliament the 'Form of Apology and Satisfaction' in which the Commons acidly reminded James (lest he had perhaps been misinformed!) of the privileges. Further, while James made no concessions to the Puritans, he favoured a rapprochement with Spain, and Catholics were prominent at Court. The suspicions that ensued might have been dispelled by more careful preparation of the King's business in Parliament. It was just this that a divided Council, or an overpowering favourite, could not provide.
In 1621 Parliament once more expressed dissatisfaction with their exclusion from an influence on policy. James was tirred of lecturing them on the royal prerogative - and Parliament equally tired of his lectures - and he went down to Westminster to tear their Protestation from the journal of the House of Commons. The failure of the projected Spanish marriage for Charles put the Parliament of 1624 in a better humour, but the situation required victims. Thus Cranfield (created Earl of Middlesex in 1622), who had held the royal finances together while parliamentary subsidies were unobtainable, was now impeached for corruption. It scarcely mattered. James had lost his grip upon affairs. A pathetic, self-indulgent figure, torn between jealousy and adulation of both his son and Buckingham, James lost the respect even of the Court. He died at Theobalds in March 1625, and, on the lines of his father's own extravagance, was given a lavish ceremonious funeral by his son. The theory of the divine right of kings, which James had elaborated intellectually in contrast with the conditions of his youthful reign in Scotland but which he was ever ready to compromise in practice, was to bring disaster to his more sincere but much less astute son.