King James VI

(James I of England)

1566 - 1625

King James VI
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

King James VI

First Protestant ruler of Scotland and first British monarch. Born in Edinburgh Castle, the son of the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, but brought up as a Protestant. His father was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (1545-67). James became King of Scotland on the forced abdication of his mother in 1567, when he was just one year old. He was crowned in the Church of the Holy Rude in Stirling on 29th July 1567. A series of Regents ruled in his name (the Earls of Moray, Lennox, Mar and Morton respectively) until James reached majority. Thereafter, he took time to assert his authority over the nobility, who had become used to wielding power.

James married Anne of Denmark in 1589, but it was not a happy marriage and they lived apart from the early years of the 17th century. Anne did however produce heirs, although their eldest son Henry, who was born in Stirling Castle in 1594, died in 1612 leaving the King distraught.

In 1603, on the death of Queen Elizabeth I, he acceded to the English throne as James I. This came through Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII of England who, slightly incestuously, was James' great-grandmother both through his mother and father. Although this "Union of the Crowns" resulted in James being King of both countries, the countries remained constitutionally separate for another 104 years. James moved to Whitehall Palace in London with his court, who settled around the palace in an area which became known as 'Scotland Yard'. Despite promising to return to Scotland at least every three years, James quickly became distant from his homeland, returning only once in 1617 to press for acceptance of the Five Articles of Perth which attempted to impose English Episcopalian practices on the Scottish church.

James' inconsistent attitude towards Catholicism gave rise to much criticism, and the famous Gunpowder Plot. He is also remembered for the translation of the Bible which became known as the authorised or King James version.

He lies buried in Westminster Abbey in London and was succeeded by his second son Charles I (1600-49).

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