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James I

James I was uniquely the King of Scotland, ruling as James VI for 36 years, before being crowned James I of England and Ireland, under which title he ruled for a further 22 years.

James I was born to Mary Queen of Scots and her second husband, Lord Darnley at Edinburgh Castle in 1566. When his mother was forced to abdicate just a year later, he was crowned King James VI of Scotland in Stirling at the tender age of just 13 months.

Inevitably the power of the throne was fiercely fought over by the nobles and regents who sought to advise and influence the young king. He grew up to be a shrewd and wary individual but he did succeed in controlling the warring factions within his court's nobility.

He firmly believed in the Divine Right of Kings but he did allow the Bishops to run the Scottish church. His burning ambition was to succeed to the English throne, and to this end he made little protest when Elizabeth I signed his mother's death warrant in 1587, removing her from the line of accession. James was a direct descendant of Henry VII through his daughter, Margaret.

James VI of Scotland (as he then was), married Anne of Denmark and had three sons and four daughters, although only three survived into adulthood. In 1603, Elizabeth I died and he acceded to the English throne as James I of England and Ireland, thereby bringing England, Scotland and Ireland under one rule.

James I preferred life in the English court and spent much of his time at the palace at Holdenby in Northamptonshire. He only returned to Scotland once, preferring to allow the Scottish parliament to govern under his command, but inevitably he rather lost touch with the Scottish situation.

Soon after taking the throne in England, James I and his government foiled the attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament at the State Opening of Parliament. Although James I was fairly tolerant on religious matters, this attempt on his life resulted in stricter penalties on Roman Catholics.

The name of James I is perhaps best remembered for the translation of the Bible which he had published in 1611. It is still known as the Authorised King James Version and is still in print today.

James I was also a great patron of the arts and he commissioned Inigo James, a famous architect of the early 17th century, to build a magnificent Banqueting House in Whitehall. Like many of his predecessors, James failed to put the royal treasury on a sound footing and his disputes with Parliament were well known.

The king used his powers to summon Parliament and dissolve it at will to suit his own wishes. The outbreak of what became known as the Thirty Years War in Europe in 1618 put James I under financial pressure and in 1621 he summoned Parliament. However when they tried to assert their right to formulate a foreign policy, James's solution to their opposition to his wishes was to dissolve it again.

After a period of illness James I died in 1625 at Theobald's House in Cheshunt which is now a hotel and conference centre. Upon his death, he was widely mourned, as his reign had been one of peace. However he left England on the brink of war with Spain. He was succeeded to the throne by his one surviving son who was crowned Charles I.

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