Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

James VI & I


King James VI of Scotland was proclaimed King James I of England on the 24th of March, 1603.

Charles James Stewart was the only child of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Lord Darnley. He was born on the 19th of June, 1566, and brought up in Stirling Castle, which is where he last saw his mother, in April, 1567. She was abducted by James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, on her way back to Edinburgh after paying a visit to see her wee Jamie. Not long after, in June, Mary was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, who then became James VI just after his first birthday. He was crowned
the following month at the Church of the Holy Rood, in Stirling.

As with almost all of the six Jameses, he came to the throne as a minor and, therefore, power was exercised, on his behalf, by a series of Regents appointed by Parliament. The first of these was James Stewart, the 1st Earl of Moray, but the most durable was yet another James, the 4th Douglas Earl of Morton. The poet, dramatist and humanist, George Buchanan, was employed to look after James' education assisted by Peter Young. James chafed against Buchanan’s formidable and overbearing methods, but in later years would boast that he had been the great man's pupil. Under the influence of these two, James developed a genuine love of learning, some skill in writing poetry, and a lively prose style.

One of the pieces he wrote, as long ago as 1604, mind you, was "A Counterblast to Tobacco". This was one of the first attacks on smoking ever written. Smoking, he claimed with some precision, is "…a custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless". Good for him!

Buchanan instilled in James the idea that the King is beholden to the people for his power, a notion enshrined in the ‘Declaration of Arbroath’, nearly three hundred years previously. Nevertheless, James later rejected this in favour of his own theory of the Divine Right of Kings. An unfortunate theory, in many ways, not least because of it’s disavowal of the spirit of the Arbroath letter, and which was later to cause his son, Charles, to lose his heid. Here is James on monarchy: “(It) is the greatest thing on earth. Kings are rightly called gods since just like God they have power of life and death over all their subjects in all things. They are accountable to God only ... so it is a crime for anyone to argue about what a King can do”.

At the age of 15, James took personal control of his Realm, after Morton was implicated in the murder of James father, Lord Darnley, tried and executed. Incidentally, Morton was beheaded by his own device, a type of guillotine he had installed in Edinburgh. There were a lot of ‘goings on’ during James’ reign; far too many to mention here. Really, he makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in history. Nigel Tranter portrays him well in various novels, particularly in ‘The Wisest Fool’ and a trilogy centered on the Master of Gray, who was a kind of Scottish Machiavelli and Scarlet Pimpernel rolled into one.
Religious conflict had a lot to do with what went on during James’ rule and, perhaps, goes some way to explain why he only made a very low key protest when Elizabeth signed the death warrant of his Catholic mother in 1587. On the other hand, raw ambition and greed for access to the wealth of the Protestant English Court meant he had to stay on the right side of Elizabeth I if he wanted to succeed her as heir.
He was born a Catholic, but was brought up a Scottish Presbyterian, for official purposes at any rate. However, he retained close friends and advisors who were not as staunchly Protestant as some would have liked. In particular, The Gordon, Earl of Huntly, was a confidant and devoutly Catholic. This of religion influenced state and court affairs and, of course, interfered in international relations, particularly between England and Spain. James also had the Scottish Parliament make the Church of Scotland directly accountable to the King, under what were called the ‘Black Acts’.
So James VI of Scotland became James I, the first Stuart King of England, after Elizabeth I of England died childless, in 1603. Her father, Henry VIII, sought to exclude Mary, Queen of Scots, and James from succeeding to the English crown, but Jamie Saxt was the only serious candidate. Elizabeth is said to have breathed his name on her deathbed and that was enough for an ‘Accession Council’ to meet and grant James his life’s ambition. When he left for England, he promised to return every three years. In fact, he returned just once during the twenty-two years until his death, in 1617.

Known as 'The wisest fool in Christendom', James could be remembered for many things. Apart from his poetry and writings: he authorised and participated in the translation from Greek and Hebrew of what came to be known as ‘The King James Bible’; he patronised the arts and sciences, sponsoring Shakespeare (MacBeth was James’ idea) and encouraging Francis Bacon; he and ‘Jingling’ Geordie Herriot made a fortune, charging 300 people for a knighthood on the way to London; the Gunpowder Plot was an attempt to assassinate him; he never went to war, maintaining peace with Europe; he increased national prosperity, except in Scotland; he settled the Church, after a fashion; rooted out (an imaginary) witchcraft; he had a lifelong passion for hunting, yet a fear of naked steel; and he loathed the sight of blood.

James died of gout and senility in London, in 1625, and was succeeded by his son, Charles I. He was buried in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey.

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