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James I(1603 - 1625)
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James I(1603 - 1625)JAMES - SON OF HENRY STUART, Lord Darnley, and Mary Queen of Scots - became King James VI of Scotland in 1567, the year after his birth. He then waited patiently for Elizabeth I to die, when the thrones of England and Scotland might be joined, and in 1589 married Anne of Denmark. The couple had seven children.

James was greeted with enthusiasm in 1603 when he rode south. A popular king of Scotland, he loved England, but the English were soon less sure about him. Physically awkward, spluttering in speech and slobbering over his food, James was intelligent, but a bundle of phobias. His behaviour with courtiers was effusively homosexual, and his favourites - notably Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham - were disliked by many.

James had strong opinions - the French ambassador called him 'the wisest fool in Christendom'. He believed in the Divine Right of Kings (that consecrated kings are the direct representatives of God) and in bishops: 'no Bishop, no King,' he had lectured Scots Calvinists. He detested tobacco smoking and feared witchcraft, but is best remembered for lending his regal stamp to the Authorized (King James's) Version of the Bible - and for not being blown up by Guy Fawkes.

In England, James was treated with more grandeur than in Scotland, but power was increasingly shared between king and Parliament. Failure to step delicately around this constitutional pitfall was to prove fatal for James's son and successor, Charles I.

'Now surely in my opinion, there cannot be a more base and hurtful corruption in our country than is the vile use of taking Tobacco in this Kingdom.'
A Counterblast to Tobacco, James 1,1604

In May 1604, five Catholic plotters met at the Duck and Drake tavern in London. Even by modern terrorist standards, gang leader Robert Catesby's plan was spectacular - to blow up the Houses of Parliament with the king and his lords inside them. Though most of the plotters were amateurs, Guido (Guy) Fawkes was a professional soldier. James I had failed to relax anti-Catholic laws, so they hoped to replace him (and his sons) with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, who at nine years old could be raised as a Catholic and marry another.

Catesby was being watched, and aroused suspicion by casual recruiting of new plotters. Then an anonymous letter to Lord Mounteagle, a Catholic lord, warned him not to attend the Opening of Parliament. The letter went to Sir Robert Cecil, James's chief minister.

On the morning of 5 November 1605, Guy Fawkes was caught in the vaults beneath the House of Lords with 36 barrels of gunpowder. The other plotters fled, but were either killed resisting arrest or brought to London for torture and death. The gunpowder proved to have decayed; even if lit, it may not have exploded.

James's claim to the English throne came from his great-grandmother Margaret (died 1541), sister of Henry VIII. Elizabeth had accepted him as her heir.

James I(1603 - 1625)

James speaking to Parliament after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, as the plotters are arrested below. The House of Lords' cellars are still ceremoniously searched before the State Opening of Parliament.

James I(1603 - 1625)

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