King James I
On June 19, 1566 in Theobalds, Hertfordshire, England, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her only child, a boy whom she named James. James' father was Henry Stewart, also known as Lord Darnley. Darnley was killed in an unexplained explosion at his house when James was eight months old. Only seven months later, Mary Queen of Scots had to give up her throne because she was defeated by rebels. Mary left the country and James never saw her again. James took the throne of Scotland when he was only 15 months old and became King James VI of Scotland ("James I" 481).
James got most of his culture and education before he was 14 years old. During his early life, the boy king spent most of his time with Scottish lords and his tutors, especially George Buchanan, his favorite tutor ("James I, King of England" 1). He received a superior education and was known for his great knowledge. He always had a great respect for the Scottish lords that were around him as he grew up ("James I" 481).
James enjoyed writing. He wrote and published many poems and translated many long French works. Later in life he also wrote many books on topics such as kingship, theology, withcraft, and tobacco. He also ordered the translation of acient Greek and Hebrew versions of the Bible into English in the Authorized King James Version of the Bible ("James I, King of England"
He also enjoyed riding horses and hunting. This may be due to the fact that he was very frail and sometimes needed help walking. When he was on a horse, he was able to function normally. Despite his physical hinderances, King James was regarded as being very confident in his decisions. At the age of 15, James ordered the execution of a man suspected to have been involved with the death of Henry Stewart, James' father ("James I" 481).
James wanted to follow Queen Elizabeth I of England to the throne so badly that he would have done anything to keep peaceful relations with her. When his mother was beheaded in 1587, he merely made a formal protest and let the incident blow over ("James I, King of England"1).
In 1589, James was married with Anne of Denmark, the daughter of Fredrick II of Denmark. They had there first child, Prince Henry, in 1594 ("James I" 481). Prince Henry was an ideal prince and won the love of the people. Following Henry were Princess Elizabeth and Prince Charles. Prince Henry and Princess Elizabeth were both very beautiful children, but Prince Charles was a different story. Charles, like his parents, was a sickly child and had to have help walking when he was young (Chute 260). Apparently James was not very fond of women and never had a mistress ("James I" 481). The only time he ever paid a great deal of attention to his wife was when she converted to Roman Catholicism ("James I, King of England" 1).
King James was a very giving man. He liked to gain support from people by buying them gifts. In 1605, he spent 2530 pounds at two jewellers (Levi 4). Although he spent a lot of money, he was not very good at budgeting it ("James I" 481).
In 1603, King James VI got his wish. As Stanford E. Lehmberg states in the Grolier Electronic Encyclopedia, "Since Elizabeth had no children and there were no other descendants Guy 3 of Henry VIII, the Tudor line was extinguished upon her death. Throughout her reign Elizabeth refused to designate a successor, but it is clear that she expected King James VI of Scotland to follow her. When Elizabeth died on Mar. 24, 1603, James, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, but a Protestant, succeeded without incident as King James I of England" (1). King James I was also the first Stuart king of England. Many people came to see the new king's coronation in London. The town was bustling with people and unfortunately the plague. At the time the king was crowned, over 1100 people a week were dying from the plague (Chute 258).
There were two things that James loved even more than giving or receiving money; and those were peace and expansion. He tried his hardest to keep the peace. One of his men stated that he would "rather spend 100,000 pounds on embassies, to keep or procure peace with dishonor, than 10,000 pounds of an army that would have forced peace with honor" (Chute 261-2). King James greatly supported the expansion in America. He chartered the London Company in 1606. By doing this, he hoped to start a colony in North America. The London Company founded Jamestown in Virginia in 1607 ("London Company" 1).
King James I made many great contributions to the theater. Shortly after he became king, he made the Chamberlain's Men, a group of travelling actors who made their living preforming plays, royal servants. The Chamberlain's Men were changed to the King's Men. There were nine actors named to the elite group. Among them was none other than William Shakespeare. The King's Men were sponsered by James, which was a great relief for thier pocket books. They were issued scarlet cloth to make uniforms that represented the king. The royal family saw five times as many plays a year as Queen Elizabeth had (Reese 155).
Shakespeare made references to events surrounding King James in many of his plays. In 1605, the Gunpowder Plot was discovered. Someone planted several barrels of gunpowder under the Parliament. If their plan would have worked, King James, his family, and all of the Lords and Commons would have been killed. Shakespeare was thought to have based his play Macbeth on those events (Rowse 379). In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hamlet made a speech against Danish drunkenness. Once, when Christian of Denmark payed a visit to his son in law, King James I, he did not stay sober past dinner. His daughter, the Queen of England, passed out while dancing, three other women were too drunk to appear in masque, someone else was sick, and another woman spilt custard on the King. It quite an embaressment for James, but it made Shakespeare a great anecdote (Levi 219).
Although it appeared the King James I of England was a great ruler, it was said that the fall of English politics and religion that led to the English Civil War can be traced back to him. On March 27, 1625, after warning his heir, Charles I, of future dangers to the monarchy from the Parliament, King James I breathed his last breath ("James I, King of England" 2).
- Chute, Marchette. Shakespeare of London. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
- "James I." The New Encylopedia Britannica. Chicago: Encylopedia Britannica, Inc., 1992.
- "James I, King of England." Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 1.5. CD-ROM. Grolier Electronic Publishing. 1992.
- Lehmberg, Standford E. "Queen Elizabeth I." Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 1.5. CD-ROM. Grolier Electronic Publishing. 1992.
- Levi, Peter. The Life and Times of William Shakespeare. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988.
- "London Company." Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 1.5. CD-ROM Grolier Electronic Publishing. 1992.
- Reese, M. M. Shakespeare: His World and His Work. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980.
- Rowse, A. L. William Shakespeare: A Biography. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.