James I of England, James VI of Scotland (b.1566 r.1603-1625)
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James I of England, James VI of Scotland (b.1566 r.1603-1625)

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He was the author of his line -
He wrote that witches should be burnt
He wrote that monarchs are divine
And left a son who proved they weren't.
Rudyard Kipling, James I.

Additional Information on
James I of England, James VI of Scotland (b.1566 r.1603-1625)

James I of England, VI of Scotland, was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and was already King of Scotland (had been for 36 years) when he ascended the English throne in 1603. James had been brought up under Elizabeth I's instruction and so had an extremely Protestant upbringing. This was due to the fact that Elizabeth, having no child of her own, was desperate to ensure that after her death the throne would pass to a Protestant heir. In Scotland, James had ruled by the Divine Right of Kings - a doctrine with the belief that Kings were appointed by God and so were not answerable to men. Unfortunately he still held this belief when he came to the English throne and this was to be the most serious of his failings, causing no end of difficulties during his reign, especially with Parliament whom he argued with over everything.

James was seen to be rather vain and conceited in nature and was small, awkward and ungainly in stature. He also slobbered and spluttered and had a speech impediment - none of which made his persona particularly enticing to the English public. It is noted that James was intelligent and well educated but put none of this to practice, and so he earned his nickname - 'The Wisest Fool in Christendom'.

James was known to behave harshly to both the Catholics and Puritans, several Catholic plots against him being exposed - for instance the Gunpowder plot in 1605 when Guy Fawkes and other Catholics were found in the cellars of the House of Commons in preparation to blow up both King James and Parliament. To his credit, James did order a new translation of the Bible (1611) which is still in use today. However, by 1614 James' relationship with Parliament had got so bad that the Parliament of that year could not agree on anything (the Addled Parliament) and so no acts were passed. James now ruled without one at all. He only recalled Parliament in 1621 because he was in desperate need of money.

James became more and more unpopular as his reign progressed. His subjects saw him as a weak and foolish king - an alcoholic who relied only on his favourites e.g. the Duke of Buckingham, and thought far more about himself than his people.


I am sure ye would not have me renounce my religion for all the world. I am not a Monsieur who can shift his religion as easily as he can shift his shirt when he comes in from tennis.
- Himself, attrib.

Sound as also his head, which was very full of brains; but his blood was wonderfully tainted with melancholy.
- Anon., Post-mortem on the King.

Of James the First, as of John, it may be said that, if his administration had been able and splendid, it would probably have been fatal to our country, and that we owe more to his weakness and meanness than to the wisdom and courage of much better sovereigns.
- T.B. Macaulay, History of England.

This King James, with his large hysterical heart, with his large goggle-eyes, glaring timorously-inquisitive on all persons and objects, as if he would either look through them, and, so to speak, start forth into them, and spend his very soul and eyesight in the frustrate attempt to look through them, - remains to me always a noticeable, not unlovable, man. For every why he has his wherefore ready; prompt as touchwood blazes up, with prismatic radiance, that 'stonishing lynx-faculty.
- Thomas Carlyle, Historical Sketches.

James I slobbered at the mouth and had favourites; he was thus a very bad king.
- W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1066 And All That.

The wisest fool in Christendom.
- Henry IV of France, of James' foreign policy, 1604.

His sense of humour matches his personal habits; always coarse and anatomical, it rose sometimes to "a fluorescence of obscenity".
- J.P. Kenyon, The Stuarts 1958, quoting D.H. Wilson, James VI and I.

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