King James I of England
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" 1).
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"
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
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
"James I." The New Encylopedia Britannica. Chicago:
Britannica, Inc., 1992.
"James I, King of England." Multimedia Encyclopedia Version
CD-ROM. Grolier Electronic
Lehmberg, Standford E. "Queen Elizabeth I." Multimedia
Version 1.5. CD-ROM.
Grolier Electronic Publishing. 1992.
Levi, Peter. The Life and Times of William Shakespeare. New
York: Henry Holt and Company,
"London Company." Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 1.5.
CD-ROM Grolier Electronic
Reese, M. M. Shakespeare: His World and His Work. New York:
Martin's Press, 1980.
Rowse, A. L. William Shakespeare: A Biography. New York: