James I of England and VI of Scotland Facts & Worksheets

James I of England and VI of Scotland facts and information activity worksheet pack and fact file. Includes 5 activities aimed at students 11-14 years old (KS3) & 5 activities aimed at students 14-16 year old (GCSE). Great for home study or to use within the classroom environment.

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    • Early years and succession to the Scottish throne
    • Rule in Scotland
    • Succession to the English throne

    Key Facts And Information

    Let’s know more about James I of England and VI of Scotland!

    • Upon the forced abdication of his mother Mary, Queen of Scots, James VI of Scotland was crowned at only one year old in 1567. From his early years as king of Scotland until 1578, several regents took charge of the reign. When the last Tudor monarch of England, Queen Elizabeth I, died childless in 1603, there was a smooth succession as he became James I of England. He faced many difficulties in England, like his incapability at effectively dealing with Parliament, the incompetence of his court in managing royal finances, and the Catholic plots against his rule.
    • Whilst he failed in his ambition to formally establish Great Britain, James was credited for various achievements such as the translation of the Bible into English, known as the King James Version, and his authorship of treatises and theological works.

    Early years and succession to the Scottish throne

    • On 19 June 1566, James was born to Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stuart, Duke of Albany at Edinburgh Castle. His father, commonly known as Lord Darnley, was Mary's second husband. As a firstborn son, James automatically became Duke of Rothesay, Prince, and Grand Lieutenant of Scotland.
    • At the time of James' birth, the situation in Scotland was turbulent. His Catholic parents, whose marriage was problematic from the beginning, encountered rebellion from Scottish nobles, mostly Calvinists.
    • Before he was born, Lord Darnley allied with rebels who were involved in the murder of David Rizzio, Mary's private secretary and close friend.
    • He was baptised in a Catholic ceremony and received the name of Charles James. Queen Elizabeth I, as godmother in absentia, sent a significant amount of gold to Edinburgh as a gift for James' baptism.
    • When James was only eight months old, Henry, his father, was assassinated at Kirk o’ Field on 10 February 1567, likely over the death of David Rizzio.
    • After the death of her husband, Mary married for a third time with James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who was suspected of being the architect of Lord Darnley’s assassination.
    • This made the queen even more unpopular. In June 1567, Protestant rebels arrested Mary and imprisoned her in the castle of Loch Leven.
    • Here, the queen was forced to abdicate the throne in favour of her son James, who was only one year old.
    • On 29 July 1567, the young king was formally crowned as James VI of Scotland in the Church of the Holy Rude, in Stirling.
    • Following the religious faith of the majority of the Scottish ruling class, he was brought up as a member of the Protestant Church of Scotland.
    • He was educated under the instruction of the historian and poet George Buchanan.
    • During his early years, power was held by a series of regents, the first of which was his uncle, James Stuart, Earl of Moray.
    • In 1568, his mother escaped from prison beginning a brief period of violence.
    • The Earl of Moray crushed Mary’s troops at the Battle of Langside, forcing the queen to flee to England where she was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth.
    • When the regent was assassinated by one of Mary’s supporters in 1570, James’ paternal grandfather, Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox, took power. He faced the same fate as the Earl of Moray the following year.
    • The king’s third regent, John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar, fell ill and died in 1572.
    • Finally, the regency passed to James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, who during the two previous regencies had been the most powerful Scottish nobleman and proved to be the most effective of the regents.
    • Lord Morton succeeded in defeating the families that continued to support Mary.
    • However, Morton’s fall was not caused by the queen’s supporters but by the courtiers that were close to the king.
    • In fact, they made the young king aware of his regent’s power and encouraged him to reclaim his authority and sovereignty.
    • The courtiers accused Morton of being involved in the assassination of James’ father: he was tried, sentenced and executed in 1581.
    • From that moment onwards, the power, at least in theory, was held by the king himself rather than by a regent.

    Rule in Scotland

    • Although there was no need for a regent, James continued to be influenced by people in his court. He did not reign directly: he relied on the advice of his closest courtiers, such as his cousin Esmé Stuart, Duke of Lennox, and James Stuart, who received the title of Earl of Arran for his testimony against Morton.
    • Since Lennox was Catholic, and Arran favoured episcopalism, the Scottish Presbyterian lords disliked the government.
    • During the Ruthven Raid of 1582, some Presbyterian nobles, led by William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie, imprisoned James for almost a year in Ruthven Castle in Perthshire.
    • Arran was also held captive while Lennox was forced into exile in France.
    • In 1583, the king and Arran managed to escape: Gowrie was executed whilst the rebels were forced to flee to England.
    • The Scottish Parliament, which was loyal to the king, promulgated the Black Acts, which placed the Church of Scotland under the king’s control.
    • The acts were extremely popular but were opposed by the clergy who denounced the king. In fact, the church was trying to keep James’ influence under control before he became powerful and bold enough to attack Presbyterianism.
    • In 1586, an alliance was made between James and Queen Elizabeth through the Treaty of Berwick.
    • James decided to continue to support the virgin queen of England, since, as a descendant of Margaret Tudor, he was a potential successor to the English crown.
    • Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, feared that the English crown would fall under the sovereignty of the Stuarts.
    • To prevent this, he excluded Margaret and her descendants from the line of succession in his will.
    • Nonetheless, since they were Elizabeth’s closest relatives, both Mary and James were serious contenders for the Crown of England.
    • Following Mary’s execution for her involvement in a plot against Elizabeth, James was considered as the queen of England’s heir.

    • The Scottish supporters of Mary became weak and James could use this to reduce the influence of Catholic nobles in Scotland.
    • He grew even more pleasing to the Protestants by marrying Anne of Denmark, daughter of Frederick II of Denmark and the princess of a Protestant nation.
    • The marriage was celebrated by proxy in 1589 and in 1590 in person, when James visited Denmark.
    • Initially, James' marriage to Anne of Denmark was happy but it gradually turned strained.
    • The couple had five children and only three lived to adulthood, namely Henry Frederick, Elizabeth and Charles.
    • With the death of their last daughter in 1607, the couple completely drifted apart.
    • James attended the North Berwick witch trial, in which some people were convicted of using witchcraft in an attempt to cause a storm and wreck the ship that the king and queen were travelling on.
    • Witches and witchcraft worried the king and he even wrote a treatise on demonology.
    • As a result, hundreds of women were sentenced to death for witchcraft.
    • In 1588, James faced a Catholic rebellion and was forced to reconcile with the Church of Scotland, agreeing to abolish the Black Acts in 1592.
    • Fearing that he would provoke excessive hostility of English and rebel Catholics, James reunited with his opponents causing ire with the Protestants.
    • In 1600, James faced a conspiracy headed by the son of the 1st Earl of Gowrie, John Ruthven, who was executed along with his accomplices after the failure of the conspiracy. Thereafter, Protestant nobles restrained themselves before the king.

    Succession to the English throne

    • At the time of the death of the last Tudor monarch, James was powerful enough to claim the English throne. In fact, since 1601, influential politicians of the English court, particularly the queen's chief minister Sir Robert Cecil, had contacted James to prepare him for a smooth succession.
    • In 1603, a few hours after Elizabeth’s death, a succession council proclaimed James the successor of the English throne. He was crowned on 25 July in Westminster Abbey.
    • This did not, however, formally unite Scotland and England into a single kingdom.
    • A closer union between the two countries remained James' great ambition: he even assumed the title King of Great Britain which was refused by the English Parliament but accepted in Scotland.
    • James’ chief minister was Robert Cecil, who was made Earl of Salisbury in 1605. Salisbury strictly supervised the day-to-day running of the government to prevent financial disaster whilst focused on other policies.
    • The king created new titles of nobility to reward his courtiers: in total, there were 62 compared to 50 during the reign of Elizabeth I.
    • By signing the Treaty of London in 1604, James sought to put an end to the British involvement in the Eight Years’ War.
    • Moreover, he was almost immediately confronted with the religious conflicts of England: after his ascension to the throne, a petition was presented asking to tolerate the Puritans.
    • In 1604, during the Hampton Court conference, James decided not to tolerate them. Instead, he granted them an official translation of the Bible, known as the King James Version.

    • He also extended penalties against those who exercised any invocation or conjuration with the Witchcraft Act of 1604.
    • James also provoked the Catholics’ anger. Although he was fair to Catholics, his Protestant subjects made sure that Catholics were not granted equal rights.
    • Thus, in the first years of his reign, when his subjects ignored his tolerant policies towards Catholicism, there were several plots to remove him from power, the most famous of which was the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
    • The Catholic conspirators, led by Robert Catesby, planned an explosion in the Parliament at a time when the king and the members of both houses would be present.
    • James’ daughter, Elizabeth, whom they hoped could be converted to Catholicism, would then be placed on the throne as an absolute monarch. However, the conspiracy was discovered.
    • Following the Gunpowder Plot, James employed harsh measures to control English Catholics with the Popish Recusant Act in 1606.
    • The act required any citizen to take an Oath of Allegiance denying the Pope's authority over the king.
    • However, he tolerated crypto-Catholicism at court recognising that he might need the support of English Catholics to remain in power.
    • James became embroiled in a series of conflicts with Parliament. Before succeeding to the throne, he had written The True Law of Free Monarchies in which he argued that the divine right of kings was sanctioned by apostolic succession.
    • Accustomed to the reserved Scottish Parliament, he despised working with the aggressive English Parliament.
    • His mother had always considered herself an absolute monarch: she believed that her actions could only be judged by God and that she was not obliged to consult with anyone. James adopted the same attitude until his death.
    • His lectures about his royal prerogatives to both houses of Parliament were regarded as offensive.
    • As his government encountered financial pressures due to inflation and the incompetence of his court, Salisbury put forward a scheme, known as the Great Contract, which would exchange the king’s feudal revenues for a fixed annual sum from Parliament to pay off the king’s debts.
    • When negotiations failed, James lost his patience and dissolved Parliament in 1611.
    • With the death of Salisbury in 1612, he never had another chief minister who was as experienced and influential.
    • Apart from the short-lived Addled Parliament of 1614, he ruled without parliament until 1621.
    • With the absence of parliamentary grants, unpopular measures were employed by the Crown such as the sale of monopolies and baronetcies to raise funds.
    • During this period, he submitted to the influence of Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and later to George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham. Due to male favouritism, these men were rumoured to be his lovers.
    • In later years, James undertook a foreign policy that put him in a difficult position.
    • Sir Walter Raleigh travelled to Guiana in search of gold and came into conflict with the Spaniards, who at the time were at peace with England.
    • The Spanish ambassador, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, Count of Gondomar, persuaded the king to have Raleigh executed once back in England. James sided with Gondomar to the indignation of the English people.
    • With the encouragement of Gondomar and other Catholic-leaning ministers, he then developed a plan to marry his second son and heir Charles, Prince of Wales to Infanta Maria Anna of Spain.
    • Moreover, he intended to join with Spain in negotiating the Thirty Years’ War, which would be favourable to his son-in-law, Frederick, Elector Palatinate, whose lands were occupied by Spain.
    • In 1621, he summoned a third Parliament to aid these plans but was met with disapproval for his attempts to ally England with Spain. Once again, James dissolved the Parliament in anger.
    • Prince Charles and the Duke of Buckingham formed an alliance in the later years of James’ reign.
    • As James quickly aged and exercised less power, the two decided most issues in the kingdom.
    • In early 1625, the king fell seriously ill and died at his favourite country residence in Herefordshire on 27 March.
    • His funeral took place at Westminster Abbey on 17 May.

    Image sources:

    1. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw03419/King-James-I-of-England-and-VI-of-Scotland?LinkID=mp02390&role=sit&rNo=4
    2. http://www.sath.org.uk/edscot/www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/renaissancereformation/execution/index.html
    3. https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw70430/King-James-I-of-England-and-VI-of-Scotland-in-Parliament