James was king of Scotland as James VI from 1567 and the first Stuart mon­arch in England as James I from 1603. Though derided as the "wisest fool in Christendom," he was a genuine scholar and patron of the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible (1611). James was born on 19 June 1566 in Edinburgh, the only child of Mary Stuart* (Mary Queen of Scots) and Lord Darnley, who was murdered in 1567. Mary then married the earl of Bothwell but, facing rebellion, abdicated the throne and in 1568 fled to England, becoming Elizabeth I's* prisoner until her execution (1587). A turbulent regency in Scotland lasted until 1578, the same year that Presbyterianism was established there. In 1579 James fell under the influence of Esme Stuart, later duke of Lennox, and in 1582 he was kidnapped by the radical Presbyterian Ruthven Raiders, who opposed Lennox's pro-French, Cath­olic influence. After escaping in 1583, James assumed real power, though he faced further challenges in the 1590s from sorcerer and would-be kidnapper Francis Stewart, earl of Bothwell, and from the Catholic northern earls of Angus, Erroll, and Huntly, acting in collusion with Philip II* of Spain. He dealt with them all in 1595—96 but was kidnapped briefly again in the Gowrie Conspiracy of 1600. Meanwhile, he gradually asserted authority over the Kirk (Scottish church), virtually independent under the radical Andrew Melville, and the Scot­tish Parliament. In 1589 he married Anne of Denmark, who gave birth to Henry (1594), Elizabeth (1596), and Charles (1600).
While James was highly effective in Scotland, his regime in England tradi­tionally has been regarded as incompetent, though recently some historians have tried to rehabilitate that reputation. Certainly the reign was not without turmoil, beginning with his feud with Puritans at the Hampton Court Conference (1604), the Gunpowder Plot (1605), the refusal of his first English Parliament (1604 - 10) to approve the union of England and Scotland, and fiscal problems that the earl of Salisbury's abortive Great Contract (1610) failed to solve. English disdain for Scots was compounded by James's generous patronage to Scottish support­ers. He had a penchant for unpopular favorites like Robert Carr, earl of Somerset (1607—14), and George Villiers, duke of Buckingham (1614—25). His pro-Spanish foreign policy aroused opposition, as did his refusal to enter the Thirty Years' War on the Protestant side. The Addled Parliament of 1614 accomplished nothing, and the Parliaments of 1621 and 1624 were acrimonious, with impeach­ment of Sir Francis Bacon and the Commons Protestation marking the former, impeachment of the earl of Middlesex and conflict over Arminianism in the latter, and disputes over foreign policy, monopolies, and Buckingham in both. James died on 27 March 1625.
James's contributions to Western culture are considerable. The arts and schol­arship flourished in Jacobean England, thanks partly to royal patronage (William Shakespeare* being a prominent example). James's own famous works (c. 1598—99) are Basilitkon Doron, a manual on kingship written for Prince Henry, and The True Lawe of Free Monarchies, a defense of divine-right monarchy, rejecting the resistance theories of John Knox* and George Buchanan.* He also wrote essays on poetry, scriptural commentaries, a treatise on demonology, an attack on tobacco, and an apology for the oath of allegiance that sparked con­troversy between Cardinal Robert Bellarmine and Bishop Lancelot Andrewes.* Perhaps his most important legacy is the King James Bible, a translation uniquely revered by Protestants throughout the English-speaking world, a lit­erary masterpiece even if viewed from a purely secular perspective, and one of the most powerful formative influences on the development of the modern En­glish language.
M. Lee, Jr., Great Britain's Solomon: James VI and I in His Three Kingdoms, 1990. R. Lockyer, James VI and I, 1998.
William B. Robison

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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