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James VI

of scotland) and I (of England) (1566-1625. King of Scots from 1567, his descent from Henry VII made him the nearest heir when Queen Elizabeth of England died in 1603. Although he assumed the title James I of Great Britain, the kingdoms were not united until 1707.

Son of Mary, Queen of Scots* and Lord Darnley, he was proclaimed king by the nobles who forced his mother's abdication and placed him under the tutorship of George Buchanan.* Four regents followed in quick succession, and even after James' coming of age in 1578 rival groups made bids for power by seizing his person. With this background James was determined to become a “universal king”-king of the whole nation and beyond the power of factions. This view conflicted with the “Two Kingdoms” theory of Andrew Melville* and the Presbyterians which meant that the secular kingdom of the state should not interfere with the spiritual kingdom of the church. Despite Buchanan's constitutional teaching, James was unwilling to have any area excluded from his jursidiction and aimed at the “One Kingdom” which he would rule under God alone. As he was a notable exponent, therefore, of the Divine Right of Kings,* his political ideas found expression in his Trew Law of Free Monarchies (1598) and Basilikon Doron (1599).

Astute use of opportunities and nicely calculated gifts of the church temporalities which had been annexed to the Crown in 1587 enabled him to break the power of the Scottish nobility and to impose various forms of episcopacy over the Presbyterian structure of the Scottish Church. Thus, when he went to England he boasted that he was able to rule Scotland by his pen which others had not done by the sword.

James seemed much less able to assess the political and ecclesiastical situation in England. His policy of peace with Spain and his extravagant expenditure on his favorites led to quarrels with Parliament. His attempts to improve the lot of Roman Catholics were unpopular and ineffectual enough to provoke the Catholic Gunpowder Plot* (1605). At the Hampton Court Conference* (1604) James astonished the English divines with his theological learning, but failed to understand the Puritans' viewpoint. Confusing them with Presbyterians, he sternly ordered them to conform in ceremonial matters. A positive result of the conference was the planning of the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible, which was published in 1611.

In Ireland James was responsible for the settlement of Protestant English and Scots in Ulster and indirectly for its modern divisions.

See D.H. Willson, James VI and I (1956), and D. Mathew, James I (1967).