James I

1566-1625, king of England and Ireland 1603-25; as James VI, king of Scotland 1567-1625 (son of Mary Stuart).

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I
born 1394
died Feb. 20/21, 1437, Perth, Perth, Scot.

King of the Scots (1406–37).

The son and heir of Robert III, he was captured by the English in 1406 and held prisoner in London until 1424. During the 13 years in which he truly ruled Scotland (1424–37), he established the first strong monarchy the Scots had known in nearly a century. He weakened the nobility but did not entirely subdue the Highland lords, and he greatly improved the administration of justice for the common people. His murder in a Dominican friary by a group of rival nobles led to a popular uprising in favour of his widow and six-year-old son, who succeeded him as James II.
II
born June 19, 1566, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scot.
died March 27, 1625, Theobalds, Hertfordshire, Eng.

King of Scotland, as James VI (1567–1625), and first Stuart king of England (1603–25).

He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Lord Darnley, and at age one James succeeded his mother to the Scottish throne. Controlled by a succession of regents, he became the puppet of contending intriguers
Roman Catholics, who sought to bring his mother back to the throne, and Protestants. In 1583 he began to pursue his own policies as king, allying himself with England. On the death of Elizabeth I, he succeeded to the English throne as great-great-grandson of Henry VII. He quickly achieved peace and prosperity by ending England's war with Spain (1604). He presided over the Hampton Court Conference (1604), rejecting most of the Puritans' demands for reform of the Church of England but permitting preparation of a new translation of the Bible, the King James Version. His policies toward Catholics led to the Gunpowder Plot, and his growing belief in royal absolutism and his conflicts with an increasingly self-assertive Parliament led to his dissolution of Parliament from 1611 to 1621. With the death of Robert Cecil, he came under the influence of incompetent favourites.
III
Spanish Jaime known as James the Conqueror

born Feb. 2, 1208, Montpellier, County of Toulouse
died July 27, 1276

King of Aragon and Catalonia (1214–76).

The most renowned of the medieval kings of Aragon, he was educated by the Knights Templar, and his great-uncle ruled as regent until 1218. James helped to subdue rebellious nobles and took over the government of his kingdoms in 1227. He reconquered the Balearic Islands (1229–35) and Valencia (1233–38) but renounced his claims to lands in southern France. He also helped Alfonso X to suppress a Moorish rebellion in Murcia (1266), and he undertook an unsuccessful Crusade to the Holy Land (1269).

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▪ king of Aragon
byname  James The Conqueror,  Spanish  Jaime El Conquistador 
born Feb. 2, 1208, Montpellier, County of Toulouse
died July 27, 1276, Valencia, Valencia
 the most renowned of the medieval kings of Aragon (1213–76), who added the Balearic Islands and Valencia to his realm and thus initiated the Catalan-Aragonese expansion in the Mediterranean that was to reach its zenith in the last decades of the 14th century.

      James was the son of Peter II of Aragon and Mary of Montpellier. When Peter, allied with the Albigensian heretics, died fighting against the crusaders sent against them at the Battle of Muret, James was only five years old and was at Carcassonne, Fr., in the hands of the crusaders' leader, Simon de Montfort. James was released in April 1214 and recognized as sovereign in Aragon and Catalonia; placed under the protection of the Knights Templars at Monzón, he was cared for and educated by them. The regency was exercised by his great-uncle, Count Sancho of Roussillon (in Aragon, now in France), until 1218, when Sancho resigned in the face of opposition from some Aragonese and Catalonian nobles. The ensuing rebellions, during which the King often found himself in great danger, formed a hard school for the forging of his character. Fearless even as a youth, he fought an Aragonese noble in hand-to-hand combat, took part in the siege of the port of Castejón in 1222, and three years later tried to seize another port.

      In 1227 James took over the effective government of his kingdoms and at once began the first of his great campaigns of reconquest—that of the Balearic Islands. Majorca was captured in December 1229, and the occupation was rounded off in 1235 by the conquest of Ibiza by the Bishop of Saragossa. Thenceforward, the islands were a bulwark to defend the Catalan coasts and a base from which trade and political expansion could be launched eastward.

      In 1233 James began a second war of reconquest—against the Saracen rulers of the Kingdom of Valencia. The campaign lasted three long years and suffered various interruptions before the capital itself was captured in 1238. The occupation of the kingdom was completed later with the capture of other towns, and in 1244 a treaty was signed by which the boundaries of Aragon and Castile were delimited in the newly conquered areas.

      James I married twice. In 1221 he married Leonor, daughter of Alfonso VIII of Castile, but he later divorced her and in 1235 married the daughter of Andrew II of Hungary, Yolande, by whom he had many children. In 1248 and 1262 he divided his realms among his sons but only succeeded in causing virulent civil strife. In the second division, his elder son, Peter (Peter III), received Aragon, Valencia, and Catalonia, and his younger son, James, received the Balearic Islands, Roussillon, and other Pyrenean counties that he was to hold in fief from Peter. This division of realms among his heirs was not James's only political blunder. By the Treaty of Corbeil (1258) he renounced his claims to territories in the south of France, thus abandoning the traditional policy that the Catalan dynasty had hitherto pursued across the Pyrenees. He was, however, able to develop relations and promote trade with the states of North Africa; and, with a clear view of the future, he married his principal heir, Peter, to Constance of Sicily, thus making it easy for the latter kingdom to be added in later years to the crown of Aragon. Always a chivalrous soldier, James helped his son-in-law Alfonso X of Castile to suppress the rebellion of the Moors in the Kingdom of Murcia (1266); he also set out on a crusade to the Holy Land (1269), though this was a failure.

      A soldier of extraordinary courage and great gifts of leadership, James was a stout man, strong and handsome; he has been criticized for his many love affairs that caused him to be described as an home de fembres (“lady's man”). On balance, his reign was very beneficial. The important code of maritime law called the Llibre del consolat del mar was compiled; the Kingdom of Valencia received its own legal system; various cities, including Barcelona, acquired their own civic administrations; and the Cortes—the representative assembly—came into being. The King protected men of letters, inspired the chronicle that bears his name (though he did not himself write it), and brought his different peoples to a degree of political and cultural maturity that can reasonably be described as admirable.

Emilio Sáez

Additional Reading
Robert I. Burns (ed.), The Worlds of Alfonso the Learned and James the Conqueror: Intellect & Force in the Middle Ages (1985).

▪ king of England and Scotland

born June 19, 1566, Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scot.
died March 27, 1625, Theobalds, Hertfordshire, Eng.
 king of Scotland (as James VI) from 1567 to 1625 and first Stuart king of England from 1603 to 1625, who styled himself “king of Great Britain.” James was a strong advocate of royal absolutism, and his conflicts with an increasingly self-assertive Parliament set the stage for the rebellion against his successor, Charles I.

      James was the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. Eight months after James's birth his father died when his house was destroyed by an explosion. After her third marriage, to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, Mary was defeated by rebel Scottish lords and abdicated the throne. James, one year old, became king of Scotland on July 24, 1567; Mary left the kingdom on May 16, 1568, and never saw her son again. During his minority James was surrounded by a small band of the great Scottish lords, from whom emerged the four successive regents, the earls of Moray, Lennox, Mar, and Morton. There did not exist in Scotland the great gulf between rulers and ruled that separated the Tudors and their subjects in England. For nine generations the Stuarts had in fact been merely the ruling family among many equals, and James all his life retained a feeling for those of the great Scottish lords who gained his confidence.

      The young king was kept fairly isolated but was given a good education until the age of 14. He studied Greek, French, and Latin and made good use of a library of classical and religious writings that his tutors, George Buchanan and Peter Young, assembled for him. James's education aroused in him literary ambitions rarely found in princes but which also tended to make him a pedant.

      Before James was 12 he had taken the government nominally into his own hands when the Earl of Morton was driven from the regency in 1578. For several years more, however, James remained the puppet of contending intriguers and faction leaders. After falling under the influence of the Duke of Lennox, a Roman Catholic who schemed to win back Scotland for the imprisoned Queen Mary, James was kidnapped by William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie (Gowrie, John Ruthven, 3rd earl of), in 1582 and was forced to denounce Lennox. The following year James escaped from his Protestant captors and began to pursue his own policies as king. His chief purposes were to escape from subservience to Scottish factions and to establish his claim to succeed the childless Elizabeth I upon the throne of England. Realizing that more was to be gained by cultivating Elizabeth's goodwill than by allying himself with her enemies, James in 1585–86 concluded an alliance with England. Thenceforward, in his own unsteady fashion, he remained true to this policy, and even Elizabeth's execution of his mother in 1587 drew from him only formal protests.

      In 1589 James was married to Anne (Anne of Denmark), the daughter of Frederick II of Denmark, who, in 1594, gave birth to their first son, Prince Henry. James's rule of Scotland was basically successful. He was able to play off Protestant and Roman Catholic factions of Scottish nobles against each other, and through a group of commissioners known as the Octavians (1596–97), he was able to rule Scotland almost as absolutely as Elizabeth ruled England. The king was a convinced Presbyterian (Reformed and Presbyterian churches), but in 1584 he secured a series of acts that made him the head of the Presbyterian church in Scotland (Scotland, Church of), with the power to appoint the church's bishops.

 When James at length succeeded to the English throne on the death of Elizabeth I (March 24, 1603), he was already, as he told the English Parliament, “an old and experienced king” and one with a clearly defined theory of royal government. Unfortunately, neither his experience nor his theory equipped him to solve the new problems facing him; and he lacked the qualities of mind and character to supply the deficiency. James hardly understood the rights or the temper of the English Parliament, and he thus came into conflict with it. He had little contact with the English middle classes, and he suffered from the narrowness of his horizons. His 22-year-long reign over England was to prove almost as unfortunate for the Stuart dynasty as his years before 1603 had been fortunate.

      There was admittedly much that was sensible in his policies, and the opening years of his reign as king of Great Britain were a time of material prosperity for both England and Scotland. For one thing, he established peace by speedily ending England's war with Spain in 1604. But the true test of his statesmanship lay in his handling of Parliament, which was claiming ever-wider rights to criticize and shape public policy. Moreover, Parliament's established monopoly of granting taxes made its assent necessary for the improvement of the crown's finances, which had been seriously undermined by the expense of the long war with Spain. James, who had so successfully divided and corrupted Scottish assemblies, never mastered the subtler art of managing an English Parliament. He kept few privy councillors in the House of Commons and thus allowed independent members there to seize the initiative. Moreover, his lavish creations of new peers and, later in his reign, his subservience to various recently ennobled favourites loosened his hold upon the House of Lords. His fondness for lecturing both houses of Parliament about his royal prerogatives offended them and drew forth such counterclaims as the Apology of the Commons (1604). To parliamentary statesmen used to Tudor dignity, James's shambling gait, restless garrulity, and dribbling mouth ill-befitted his exalted claims to power and privilege.

      When Parliament refused to grant him a special fund to pay for his extravagances, James placed new customs duties on merchants without Parliament's consent, thereby threatening its control of governmental finance. Moreover, by getting the law courts to proclaim these actions as law (1608) after Parliament had refused to enact them, James struck at the houses' legislative supremacy. In four years of peace, James practically doubled the debt left by Elizabeth, and it was hardly surprising that when his chief minister, Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury (Salisbury, Robert Cecil, 1st earl of), tried in 1610–11 to exchange the king's feudal revenues for a fixed annual sum from Parliament, the negotiations over this so-called Great Contract came to nothing. James dissolved Parliament in 1611.

      The abortive Great Contract, and the death of Cecil in 1612, marked the turning point of James's reign; he was never to have another chief minister who was so experienced and so powerful. During the ensuing 10 years the king summoned only the brief Addled Parliament of 1614. Deprived of parliamentary grants, the crown was forced to adopt unpopular expedients, such as the sale of monopolies, to raise funds. Moreover, during these years the king succumbed to the influence of the incompetent Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset. Carr (Somerset, Robert Carr, earl of) was succeeded as the king's favourite by George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham (Buckingham, George Villiers, 1st Duke of), who showed more ability as chief minister but who was even more hated for his arrogance and his monopoly of royal favour.

      In his later years the king's judgment faltered. He embarked on a foreign policy that fused discontent into a formidable opposition. The king felt a sympathy, which his countrymen found inexplicable, for the Spanish ambassador, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, Count of Gondomar (Gondomar, Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, Count de). When Sir Walter Raleigh, who had gone to Guiana in search of gold, came into conflict with the Spaniards, who were then at peace with England, Gondomar persuaded James to have Raleigh beheaded. With Gondomar's encouragement, James developed a plan to marry his second son and heir Charles (Charles I) to a Spanish princess, along with a concurrent plan to join with Spain in mediating the Thirty Years' War in Germany. The plan, though plausible in the abstract, showed an astonishing disregard for English public opinion, which solidly supported James's son-in-law, Frederick, the Protestant elector of the Palatinate, whose lands were then occupied by Spain. When James called a third Parliament in 1621 to raise funds for his designs, that body was bitterly critical of his attempts to ally England with Spain. James in a fury tore the record of the offending Protestations from the House of Commons' journal and dissolved the Parliament.

      The Duke of Buckingham had begun in enmity with Prince Charles, who became the heir when his brother Prince Henry died in 1612, but in the course of time the two formed an alliance from which the king was quite excluded. James was now aging rapidly, and in the last 18 months of his reign he, in effect, exercised no power; Charles and Buckingham decided most issues. James died at his favourite country residence, Theobalds, in Hertfordshire.

      Besides the political problems that he bequeathed to his son Charles, James left a body of writings which, though of mediocre quality as literature, entitle him to a unique place among English kings since the time of Alfred. Chief among these writings are two political treatises, The True Lawe of Free Monarchies (1598) and Basilikon Doron (1599), in which he expounded his own views on the divine right of kings. The Poems of James VI of Scotland, 2 vol., were edited by James Craigie (1955–58). The 1616 edition of The Political Works of James I was edited by Charles Howard McIlwain (1918).

The Most Rev. David Mathew Ed.

Additional Reading
A good though unflattering biography is D.H. Willson, King James VI and I (1956). Antonia Fraser, King James VI of Scotland, I of England (1974), argues for a reinterpretation in the light of new research. Maurice Lee, Jr., Great Britain's Solomon: James VI and I in His Three Kingdoms (1990), contains corrective essays on aspects of his life, personality, and career. David M. Bergeron, Royal Family, Royal Lovers: King James of England and Scotland (1991), examines his life and family relationships.

▪ king of Scotland

born 1394
died Feb. 20/21, 1437, Perth, Perth, Scot.
 king of Scots from 1406 to 1437. During the 13 years (1424–37) in which he had control of the government, he established the first strong monarchy the Scots had known in nearly a century.

      James was the son and heir of King Robert III (reigned 1390–1406). In 1406 Robert decided to send him to France, presumably to keep him out of the reach of the powerful and treacherous Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. On the way, James was captured by English sailors and taken as a prisoner to the royal court in London. Robert died shortly thereafter, and Albany, who became regent, had no desire to ransom young King James. Upon Albany's death in 1420, his son Murdac held the regency until James was released in 1424.

      James immediately took harsh measures to break the power of the Scottish nobility. In 1425 he arrested many of the leading lords; a few—including Murdac and other members of his family—were executed. The king even attempted, with limited success, to assert his authority over the fiercely independent Highland lords. He acquired the resources that he needed to run his government by confiscating the estates of his enemies, by eliminating graft in the collection of customs, and by bringing the chief financial officers of the realm under his personal supervision. His attempts to prevent church revenues from being sent to Rome involved him in a long series of disputes with the papacy. The popularity that James enjoyed rested to a large extent on his improvements in the administration of justice for common people. Nevertheless, he was assassinated by a group of conspirators led by Walter, Earl of Atholl, who aspired to win the crown for himself. No general uprising followed the murder, and the king's widow quickly had the conspirators captured and executed. James was a highly cultured man; he is usually accepted as the author of the long vernacular poem The Kingis Quair (“The King's Book”).

Additional Reading
E.W.M. Balfour-Melville, James I, King of Scots, 1406–1437 (1936).

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Universalium. 2010.

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