James VI and I (DNB00)
JAMES VI (1566–1625), king of Scotland, afterwards James I, king of England, son of Henry Stuart, lord Darnley, and Mary Queen of Scots, was born on 19 June 1566, in Edinburgh Castle. On 24 July 1567 he became king by his mother's enforced abdication, and was crowned at Stirling on 29 July. The child was committed to the care of the Earl and Countess of Mar. The regency was given to the Earl of Moray, the illegitimate brother of James's mother, and in 1570, on Moray's murder, to James's paternal grandfather, the Earl of Lennox, whose accession to power was followed by a civil war. On 28 Aug. 1571 the young king was brought into parliament, and, finding a hole in the tablecloth, said that ‘this parliament had a hole in it’ (History of James the Sext, p. 88). This childish remark was thought to be prophetical of the death of Lennox in a skirmish in September. Mar succeeded as regent, and on his death was followed by Morton, who in 1573 put an end to the civil war. On Mar's death the care of James's person was entrusted to Mar's brother, Sir Alexander Erskine, under whom the education of the young king was conducted by four teachers, of whom the most notable was George Buchanan [q. v.] Buchanan made his pupil a good scholar, and James felt considerable respect for his teacher, though he afterwards expressed detestation of his doctrines. At the age of ten James had a surprising command of general knowledge, and was ‘able extempore to read a chapter out of the Bible out of Latin into French and out of French after into English’ (Killigrew to Walsingham, 30 June 1574, printed in Tytler, Hist. of Scotland, ed. Eadie, iii. 97). Buchanan wanted to make of James a constitutional king, subject to the control of what he called ‘the people.’ As a matter of fact, neither was James fitted by character to assume that part, nor did the times demand such a development. There was in Scotland a strong body of nobles still exercising the old feudal powers, and lately gorged with the plunder of the church. The parliament, which consisted of a single house, was at that time virtually in the hands of the nobles, and a merely constitutional king would therefore have been no more than the servant of a turbulent nobility. On the other hand, the only popular organisation was that of the presbyterian church, in which the middle class, small and comparatively poor as it was, took part in the kirk sessions and presbyteries, and thus acquired an ecclesiastical-political training. It was, however, guided by the ministers, naturally hostile to the lawless nobles who kept them in poverty, and also fiercely intolerant of anything savouring of the doctrines and practices of the papacy.
With elements thus opposed to one another there was no possibility of parliamentary union. There were, so to speak, two Scottish nations striving for the mastery, and only a firm royal government could moderate the strife and lay the basis of future unity. Something of this kind was attempted by Morton as regent, but he made enemies on both sides, and was compelled on 8 March 1578 to abandon the regency, the boy king, now nearly twelve years of age, nominally taking the government into his own hands [see Douglas, James, fourth Earl of Morton]. Before long, however, Morton regained his authority, but on 8 Sept. 1579 the situation was changed by the arrival in Scotland of Esmé Stuart, a son of a brother of the regent Lennox.
It was not only in domestic matters that Scotland was divided. The old policy of leaning upon France was confronted by the new policy of leaning upon England. Morton strove, as far as Elizabeth would let him, to be on good terms with England. Esmé Stuart was sent by the Guises to win the boy king back to the French alliance. Temporarily at least he succeeded. He was created earl and afterwards duke of Lennox, and an instrument of his, James Stewart, was made earl of Arran. Morton was seized, and on the charge of complicity with Darnley's murder was condemned to death, and executed on 2 June 1581.
Lennox had attempted to disarm the hostility of the clergy by professing himself a protestant. He soon found it impossible to overcome their suspicions, and the conflict between himself and the ministers came to a head in 1582, when he induced James to appoint Robert Montgomery to the vacant bishopric of Glasgow. The general assembly, with Andrew Melville at its head, resisted, and before long many of the Scottish nobility, indignant at the predominance of a favourite, joined the party of the ministers. The result was the so-called Raid of Ruthven. On 22 Aug. 1582 James was seized by the Earl of Gowrie and his allies. Though he was treated with all outward respect, he was compelled to conform to the will of his captors and to issue a proclamation against Lennox and Arran. Before the end of the year Lennox retired to Paris, where he shortly afterwards died. Arran was for the present excluded from power.
James was now in his seventeenth year, a precocious youth, whose character was developed early under the stress of contending factions. His position called on him to continue the policy of Morton—on the one hand, to reduce to submission both the nobles and the clergy; and on the other, to cultivate friendship with England, which might lead to the maintenance of his claim to the English throne after Elizabeth's death. If he had attempted to carry out this policy with a strong hand he would probably have failed ignominiously. As it was, he succeeded far better than a greater man would have done. He was, it is true, inordinately vain of his own intellectual acquirements and intolerant of opposition, but he was possessed of considerable shrewdness and of a desire to act reasonably. Moreover, in seeking to build up the royal authority he had more than personal objects in view. He regarded it as a moderating influence exercised for the good of his subjects, and employed to keep at bay both the holders of extreme and exclusive theories like the presbyterian clergy, and the heads of armed factions like the Scottish nobles. The love of peace which was so characteristic of him thus attached itself in his mind to his natural tendency to magnify his office. His life, though his language was sometimes coarse, was decidedly pure, so that he did not come into conflict with the presbyterian clergy on that field of morality on which they had obtained their final victory over his mother. On the other hand, there was a want of dignity about him. If he had not that extreme timidity with which he has often been charged, he certainly shrank from facing dangers; and this shrinking was allied in early life with a habit of cautious fencing with questioners, without much regard for truth, which was the natural outcome of his position among hostile parties. Add to this that he was to the end of his life impatient of the intellectual labour needed for the mastery of details, and therefore never stepped forward with a complete policy of his own, and it can be easily understood how, though he was never the directing force in politics, he was able by throwing himself on one side or the other to contribute not a little to his special object, the establishment of peace under the monarchy.
James in the custody of the raiders professed to have discovered the enormity of Lennox's conduct, and the obvious explanation is that he spoke otherwise than he thought. It is not, however, quite impossible that explanations given to him on one point may have changed his feelings towards Lennox. Lennox had been the channel through which he had received a proposal for associating his mother with himself in the sovereignty over Scotland, and some progress had been made in the affair. Objections made to the scheme by his new guardians, on the ground that by accepting it he would derogate from the sufficiency of his own title to the crown, would be likely to sink into his mind; and it is certain that when Bowes, the English ambassador, attempted to gain a sight of the papers relating to the proposed association, the young king baffled all his inquiries. (For a harsher view of James's conduct, see Burton, Hist. of Scotland, p. 458.)
James I in any case did not like being under the control of his captors, and this dislike was quickened by an equally natural dislike of the presbyterian clergy, who under the guidance of Andrew Melville put forward extreme pretensions to meddle with all affairs which could in any way be brought into connection with religion. The Duke of Guise, who wanted to draw James back to an alliance with France, sent him six horses as a present. An alliance with France meant hostility to protestantism. The horses, therefore, in the eyes of the ministers, covered an attack on religion, and two of their number were sent to remonstrate with the king. James promised submission, but kept the horses. On 27 June 1583 he slipped away from Falkland and threw himself into St. Andrews, where he was supported by Huntly and Argyll, together with other noblemen hostile to Gowrie and to the other raiders. There were always personal quarrels enough among Scottish nobles to account for any divisions among them; but the leading difference was hostility to the rising power of royalty on the one side, and hostility to the clergy on the other.
James had now placed himself in the hands of those who were hostile to the clergy. Of course the clergy lectured him on what he had done, and James, knowing that the lords from whom he had escaped were friendly to Elizabeth, wrote to the Duke of Guise in approbation of a design for setting his own mother free, and for establishing the joint right of her and himself to the English crown (James to the Duke of Guise, 9 Aug. 1583, Froude, xi. 592). James soon recalled Arran to favour. Gowrie and his allies, anticipating evil, made a dash at Stirling Castle. They were anticipated by Arran, and most of them fled to England. Arran was made chancellor. Melville was ordered into confinement in the castle of Blackness; but he too succeeded in escaping to England.
In February 1584 James made fresh overtures to the Duke of Guise, and even wrote to the pope, holding out no expectation that he intended to change his religion, but asking the pope to support his mother and himself against Elizabeth (ib. xi. 637–40). James was himself always in favour of a middle course in politics and religion. He had no love for either papal or presbyterian despotism. Before long Arran took advantage of James's greatest moral weakness, his love of pleasure and his dislike of business. He persuaded James to amuse himself with hunting instead of attending the meetings of the council, and to receive information of affairs of state from Arran alone. Arran made use of his master's confidence to entrap the Earl of Gowrie into a confession of treason, on promise that it should not be used against him, and then had him condemned to death and executed (Bruce, ‘Observations on the Life and Death of William, Earl of Gowrie,’ in Archæologia, vol. xxxiii.) [see Ruthven, William, first Earl of Gowrie].
James's subserviency to the base and arrogant Arran was, far more than his subserviency to Esmé Stuart, an indication of the most mischievous defect in his character. It was not that James weakly took his views of men and things from his favourites. He thought very badly of Gowrie, and was glad that Arran should assail him; but he took no pains to investigate the points at issue for himself, or to understand the character and motives of those with whom he had to deal. His character at this time is admirably painted by a French agent, Fontenay: ‘He is wonderfully clever, and for the rest, he is full of honourable ambition, and has an excellent opinion of himself. Owing to the terrorism under which he has been brought up, he is timid with the great lords, and seldom ventures to contradict them; yet his especial anxiety is to be thought hardy and a man of courage. … He dislikes dances and music and amorous talk, and curiosity of dress and courtly trivialities. … He speaks, eats, dresses, and plays like a boor, and he is no better in the company of women. He is never still for a moment, but walks perpetually up and down the room, and his gait is sprawling and awkward; his voice is loud and his words sententious. He prefers hunting to all other amusements, and will be six hours together on horseback. … His body is feeble, yet he is not delicate; in a word, he is an old young man. … He is prodigiously conceited, and he underrates other princes. He irritates his subjects by indiscreet and violent attachments. He is idle and careless, too easy, and too much given to pleasure, particularly to the chase, leaving his affairs to be managed by Arran, Montrose, and his secretary. … He told me that, whatever he seemed, he was aware of everything of consequence that was going on. He could afford to spend time in hunting, for that when he attended to business he could do more in an hour than others could do in a day’ (Letter of Fontenay to Nau, in Froude, xi. 457).
It was not in James's power to maintain Arran in authority long. The nobles and the clergy were alike hostile to the favourite. Circumstances soon involved James in a policy which drew him in another direction. A crisis was approaching in the struggle between the two great forces into which Europe was divided, and of these forces the representatives in Britain were Elizabeth and Mary. Mary hoped to make her son an instrument in her designs, and had for that object favoured the rise successively of Lennox and Arran. James thought far too much of himself and of his crown to accept the subordinate position which was assigned to him, and of filial affection there could be no question, as he had never seen his mother since he was an infant. He entered into communication, through a rising favourite, the Master of Gray, with Queen Elizabeth, and though Arran took part in these negotiations, their tendency was manifestly hostile to himself. In April 1585 an English ambassador, Edward Wotton, arranged terms with James. He was to have a pension of 5,000l. a year, and to ally himself with England. Then there was a disturbance on the border, in which Lord Russell was killed. Wotton declared that Arran was implicated in the affair, and demanded and obtained his arrest. James had to choose between an alliance with England and Elizabeth and an alliance with the Guises and the catholic powers. Not heroically, but with some consideration for the interests of his country, as well as his own, he preferred the former. Before the end of July the estates agreed to a protestant league between England and Scotland. James, however, was still personally attached to Arran, and, releasing him from confinement, refused Elizabeth's demand for his surrender. On this Elizabeth let loose upon him the banished lords of the party of the Ruthven raiders. At the head of eight thousand men they, with loyalty on their lips, secured, on 4 Nov., the person of the king at Stirling. Arran fled, and disappeared from public life.
James soon recovered his equanimity. A treaty with England, which had been authorised by the estates in July 1585, and again by the estates which met in December of the same year, after the fall of Arran, was pushed on, and a treaty between the crowns was at last signed at Berwick on 2 July 1586. James was to have a pension of 4,000l. a year from Elizabeth, and Elizabeth engaged, in terms intentionally vague, to do nothing or allow anything to be done to derogate from ‘any greatness that might be due to him, unless provoked on his part by manifest ingratitude.’
James's alliance with Elizabeth and protestantism necessarily brought with it a complete breach with his mother and her catholic allies. Mary, foreseeing what was coming, had disinherited her son in May, as far as any word of hers could disinherit him, and had bequeathed her dominions to Philip II of Spain (ib. xii. 233, 234). The discovery of the Babington conspiracy followed. The bequest to Philip having come to light, Elizabeth took care that James should be informed of it. On this James declared that, though ‘it cannot stand with his honour to be a consenter to take his mother's life,’ he would not otherwise interfere in her favour (the Master of Gray to Archibald Douglas, 8 Sept. 1586, Murdin, p. 568). The English authorities gathered from this letter that he would not interfere even if his mother were put to death.
Sentence of death having been pronounced on Mary on 25 Oct. 1586, James thought it time to protest, and authorised his ambassadors in England to intercede with Elizabeth. On 8 Feb. 1587 he despatched the Master of Gray and Sir Robert Melville to England with the same object; but he took care not to instruct them to use anything like a threat, which, indeed, he was hardly in a position to carry into effect. Still, there were people about him who wanted him to throw in his lot with his mother and the Catholic League, and, though he does not seem deliberately to have bargained for the recognition of his title to the English succession as the price of his surrender of his mother's life, his pressing the matter at such a time showed how little chivalry or even respect for decency there was in his nature (Letters of the Master of Gray, Murdin, pp. 569, 571, 573). In Scotland itself the clergy were bitterly opposed to any intervention on Mary's behalf, and when James ordered the ministers to pray for his mother, ‘they refused to do it in the manner he would have it to be done—that is, by condemning directly or indirectly the proceedings of the queen of England and their estates against her, as of one innocent of the crimes laid to her charge.’ James then ordered Adamson, archbishop of St. Andrews, to make the prayers; but when Adamson appeared in the church he found his place occupied by one of the hostile ministers, John Cowper, who only gave way at the express order of the king. James afterwards had to explain that he had only bidden the ministers to pray for the enlightenment of his mother, and ‘that the sentence pronounced against her might not take place’ (Calderwood, iv. 606, 607).
Mary was executed on 8 Feb. 1586–7, and James had no difficulty in reconciling himself to the event. The Master of Gray was condemned to death, partly on the charge that he had urged the English ministers to put the queen to death, though he had been sent to prevent that catastrophe. His sentence was, however, changed to that of banishment [see Gray, Patrick, sixth Lord Gray].
On 19 June 1587 James reached the age of twenty-one. He celebrated the event by an attempt to reconcile the feuds between the nobility by making the bitterest enemies walk through the streets of Edinburgh hand in hand. In July the estates passed an act revoking all grants made to the injury of the crown during the king's nonage.
In 1588 the approach of the Spanish Armada threw Scotland as well as England into consternation. In opposition to the Earl of Huntly in the north and to Lord Maxwell on the western borders, James took his stand against Spain. He rejected the demand of Huntly that he should change his officers, and when Maxwell attempted resistance he marched against him and reduced him to submission (ib. iv. 677, 678). The Armada was ruined before Scotland could be affected by its proceedings.
The bequest of the Scottish crown by Mary to Philip II had probably done more than anything else to wean James from his reliance on favourites like Lennox and Arran, who had been in the confidence of the catholic powers of the continent; and his knowledge that his chance of succession to the English crown would be endangered if he placed himself in opposition to Elizabeth, drew him in the same direction. Ever since 1585 negotiations had been in progress for a marriage between James and Anne, the second daughter of Frederick II, king of Denmark. These negotiations had been hampered by the objections of Elizabeth; but James resolved to persevere, and the marriage was celebrated by proxy at Copenhagen on 20 Aug. 1589. The young queen was, however, driven by a storm to Norway, and James, impatient of delay, set sail from Leith on 22 Oct. to see what had become of her. He found her at Opslo, near the site of the modern Christiania, where the pair were married on 23 Nov. The winter was spent in Denmark, and on 21 April 1590 James and his queen sailed for Scotland, landing at Leith on 1 May [see Anne of Denmark ].
The old problem of dealing at the same time with the nobles and the clergy awaited James on his return, and it was perhaps the success with which he had tided over the danger from the Armada which threw him this time, to some extent, on the side of the clergy. In August 1590 he delivered a speech in the general assembly in which he praised the Scottish at the expense of other protestant churches (ib. v. 106). James was at this time thoroughly in accord with the clergy in matters of doctrine, but he was constantly bickering with them on account of their interference with his personal actions. Yet in 1592 he consented to an act of parliament, said to have been promoted by his chancellor, Maitland of Thirlestane, annulling the jurisdiction of bishops and establishing the presbyterian system of discipline in all its fulness. The lawyers, of whom Maitland was a fair representative, gave warm support to James's notions of establishing order through the royal authority, just as the French lawyers did when the French monarchy was struggling with feudal anarchy in the middle ages.
From the end of 1591 James suffered from personal attacks directed against him by Francis Stewart, a nephew of his mother's third husband, to whom he had given the title of Earl of Bothwell [see Hepburn, Francis Stewart]. James had no armed force at his disposal, and was at the mercy of any nobleman who could gather his followers, unless he could rouse other noblemen to take his part. How much unruliness this implied was seen when letters of fire and sword were given to the Earl of Huntly to suppress Bothwell after his attack on Holyrood House. He did not suppress Bothwell, but he used his powers to attack and slay the Earl of Moray, a personal enemy of his own. Popular rumour ascribed the contrivance of the slaughter to James, on the ground that ‘the bonny Earl of Moray’ was ‘the Queen's luve.’ For this scandal there appears to have been no foundation, but popular opinion in Edinburgh was much excited against the king, as Huntly was the leader of the catholic nobility, and regarded in the capital with deep suspicion. James had to send for some of the ministers, and to protest that he had no more to do with Moray's death than David had to do with the slaughter of Abner by Joab (ib. v. 145).
James was doubtless wise in refusing to levy war, as the clergy wished him to do, against Huntly and the other powerful Roman catholic nobles, whose strength was too great to be easily shaken, and who might, if pushed hard, throw themselves into the hands of foreign states; but he could hardly conceal the truth that he looked on these very Roman catholic nobles as useful allies against the clergy themselves. As to foreign affairs, James held, in opposition to the clergy, the opinion that it was wise to cultivate the civil friendship of Roman catholic governments; but partly because this opinion was obnoxious to the clergy, partly because he thought much more of his own private interest in the English succession than of any avowable broad course of policy, he had to carry out his ideas in this respect by secret intrigues, which whenever they came to light increased the general distrust of his character.
Such an intrigue there had lately been carried on with the king of Spain by Lord Semple and his cousin, Colonel Semple (Burton, Hist. of Scotland, vi. 54, n. 1), and in 1592 Scottish protestants were frightened by the so-called ‘Spanish blanks,’ or blank papers, signed by Huntly and others, apparently to be filled up with letters addressed to the king of Spain, inviting him, as was believed, to send an army to be used in an attack on England. Moreover, James himself in 1593 published certain letters of a dangerous tendency, addressed for the most part to the Duke of Parma (Pitcairn, Criminal Trials, i. 317), and, though he actually marched against the northern lords, the clergy complained that he did not push home the advantages which he gained.
James's difficulty with the clergy about the northern earls remained a cause of irritation. In 1594 he again marched against Huntly, and had pressed him so hard that on 19 March 1595 Huntly and other lords left Scotland [see Gordon, George, sixth Earl and first Marquis of Huntly]; but James did not proceed to declare the lands of Huntly and his allies forfeited, which was what the ministers wanted. James's financial condition was at the same time deplorable, and early in 1596 (Calderwood, vi. 393) he appointed a committee, the members of which, being eight in number, were known as the Octavians, to improve his revenue. The Octavians pursued their work for about a year and a half, but they failed to increase the revenue of the crown to any appreciable extent. Their appointment irritated the clergy, as ‘some of the number were suspected of papistry’ (ib. vi. 394). In August 1596 a convention of estates was held at Falkland, at which, in the teeth of the protests of Andrew Melville, the most pertinacious of the presbyterian ministers, it was resolved that the exiled lords should be called home, ‘the king and the kirk being satisfied’ (ib. vi. 438). Andrew Melville came over, unbidden, to Falkland to testify in the name of ‘the king, Christ Jesus, and his kirk’ against these proceedings, and in September, an assembly being held at Cupar Fife, a deputation of four ministers was sent to Falkland to remonstrate with the king. James told them that their assembly was ‘without warrant and seditious.’ On this Andrew Melville broke in, telling James that he was ‘but God's silly [i.e. weak] vassal,’ and in outspoken language upheld the right of the clergy to tell him the truth about his own conduct (James Melville, Diary, pp. 368–70).
The position of the kirk became more difficult to defend when, on 19 Oct., the Countess of Huntly offered, in the presbytery of Moray, on behalf of her husband, that he would be ready to make his submission, Huntly himself having by that time returned to Scotland, and being in hiding in his own district [see Gordon, George, sixth Earl and first Marquis of Huntly].
But the ministers' sermons increased in bitterness, and on 16 Dec. the four ministers who served Edinburgh were ordered to leave the town (Calderwood, v. 540), and seventy-four of the Edinburgh burgesses were to share the same fate. Consequently, there was on 17 Dec. a tumult in Edinburgh, which was put down without difficulty. On the 18th James went off to Linlithgow, leaving behind him a proclamation announcing that in consequence of the tumult he had removed the courts of justice from Edinburgh, which was no longer a fit place for their peaceful labours. The announcement cooled the ardour of the townsmen in defence of the clergy. During the king's absence the ministers, especially Robert Bruce, had been violent in their invectives; after which Bruce and the more outspoken of his colleagues, hearing that the magistrates had orders to commit them to prison to await their trial, took refuge in England. On 1 Jan. 1597 James returned to Edinburgh completely master of the situation (ib. v. 514–21; Spotiswood, iii. 32–5). In the course of the year he obtained the restoration of Huntly and the northern earls, on condition of their complete submission to the kirk, and their hypocritical acceptance of its religion and discipline.
With a view to reconciling the pretensions of the church and state, James astutely summoned an assembly to meet at Perth on 29 Feb. 1597. The Scottish clergy were poor, and as travelling was expensive, assemblies were always most fully attended by those ministers who lived in the neighbourhood of the place of meeting. The northern clergy would therefore be in a majority at Perth, and they would be unwilling to displease the powerful Roman catholic northern earls, or were themselves less inclined to high presbyterian views than were the ministers of Fife and the Lothians.
James having obtained a decision in his favour on the question whether the assembly, having been convened by royal authority, was lawfully convened, proposed thirteen queries, to which he obtained satisfactory replies. The answers limited the claim of the clergy to denounce persons by name from the pulpit, and forbade them to find fault with the king's proceedings unless they had first sought a remedy in vain. Moreover, the king was to have the right of proposing to future assemblies any changes he thought desirable in the external government of the church. Speaking broadly, the result of this assembly was to establish constitutional relations between the king and the clergy, thereby cutting at the root of the theory of ‘two kingdoms,’ which Melville had propounded. Of course Melville and his allies denounced the meeting at Perth as no true and free assembly of the kirk (Calderwood, v. 606–21; Melville, Diary, pp. 403–14; Book of the Universal Kirk, p. 889).
James, having thus felt his way, gathered another assembly at Dundee in May, and accepted a proposal for the appointment of certain ministers as commissioners of the church, authorised to confer from time to time with the king on church affairs. During the remainder of the year everything seemed settling down into peace: the Edinburgh clergy were allowed to reoccupy their pulpits; the northern earls were restored; nothing was heard of foreign intrigue or domestic disorder.
The next step was to bring the church into constitutional relations with parliament. Doubtless by agreement between James and the new commissioners of the church, a petition was presented to the parliament which met on 13 Dec. 1597, asking that the church might have representatives of its own in parliament. Parliament, however, was very much under the control of the nobles, and replied with a counter-proposition—which it embodied in an act (Acts of Parl. of Scotland, iv. 130)—that such ministers ‘as at any time his Majesty shall please to provide to the office, place, title, and dignity of ane bishop, abbot, or other prelate,’ should have votes in parliament. Nothing imported the allowance of any spiritual jurisdiction to the prelates, though a wish was expressed in the act that the king should treat with the assembly on the office to be exercised by them ‘in their spiritual policy and government of the church.’ James had therefore to choose between throwing in his lot with the old nobility, who wanted posts and dignities for their younger sons, and the new clerical democracy, which he had discovered to be, after all, less liable than he had once feared to be led away by the extreme zealots.
For some months James seems to have hoped to follow the latter course. On 7 March 1598 an assembly met at Dundee. There was the usual amount of manœuvring on the part of James, and Andrew Melville was excluded by an unworthy trick. The assembly agreed, though only by a small majority, that fifty-one representatives of the church should sit in parliament, and that a convention of a select number of ministers and doctors should decide on the mode of their election, the decision of the members only to be binding in case of unanimity. The convention met at Falkland on 25 July 1598, and decided that each representative should be nominated by the king out of a list of six; but the convention was not unanimous, and the question was thus relegated to the next general assembly (Calderwood, vi. 17).
In the autumn of 1598 James adopted the opposite idea of keeping the clergy in order by nominees of his own. How completely this alternative policy soon took possession of James's mind appears from the ‘Basilikon Doron,’ a book written by him as a guide for the conduct of his eldest son, Henry, when he became a king. This book, which, though not published till 1599, was in existence in manuscript in October 1598 (Nicholson's Advices, October 1598; State Papers, Scotl. lxiii. 50), is full of hard hits at those ministers who meddled with state affairs, and acted as tribunes of the people against the authority of princes. To remedy this disorder he advised his son to ‘entertain and advance the godly, learned, and modest men of the ministry … and by their provision to bishoprics and benefices’ to banish the conceited party; and also to ‘re-establish the old institution of three estates in parliament, which cannot otherwise be done.’
In another book, ‘The True Law of Free Monarchies,’ published anonymously in September 1598 (Calderwood, v. 727), James set forth more distinctly his theory of government. Kings were appointed by God to govern, and their subjects to obey; but it was the duty of a king, though he was himself above the law, to conform his own actions to the law for example's sake, unless for some beneficial reason. Further, though subjects might not rebel against a wicked king, God would find means to punish him, and it might be that the punishment would take the form of a rebellion.
The chief resistance to the crown at this time came from the clerical zealots. In November 1599 James held a conference of ministers at Holyrood, urging them to consent to the appointment of representatives of the church, to hold seats in parliament for life, and to give to their representatives the name of bishops. James's proposal was, however, rejected (ib. v. 746), and though an assembly held at Montrose in July 1600 agreed to the appointment of parliamentary representatives, it limited their appointment to a single year, and tied them down by restrictions which made them responsible to the assembly for their votes (ib. vi. 17).
In the course of the year James was once more brought into violent collision with the clergy. The Earl of Gowrie and Alexander Ruthven were the sons of the Earl of Gowrie who had been executed early in the reign, and bore a deep grudge against James on account of their father's death. On 5 Aug. 1600 Alexander Ruthven enticed James to his brother's house in Perth, and induced him to come into a chamber in a tower, locking the doors behind him. It is probable that the intention of the brothers was to keep the king there, and then, after persuading his followers to disperse by telling them that he had ridden off, to put him in a boat on the Tay and to carry him off by water to the gloomy and isolated Fast Castle, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, where they might murder him or dispose of him at their pleasure. (The whole story is discussed in Burton's Hist. of Scotland, vi. 90.) The plan was, however, frustrated by the king's struggles, in the course of which he contrived to reach a window and to call his followers to his help. The arrival of a few of them on the scene was followed by a fray, in which Gowrie and his brother were both slain by a young courtier, James Ramsay. The 5th of August was appointed to be held as a day of annual thanksgiving for James's escape. But five ministers refused to accept his story as true, or to express their belief in it in the pulpit. After trying his best to convince them of their error, he threatened them with punishment, and finally drove the most persistent of them, Robert Bruce, into exile.
This conflict with the ministers, by whom the Gowrie family was regarded as specially devoted to the defence of the presbyterian system, seems to have strengthened James in his resolution to meet the resolutions of the assembly of Montrose by the direct appointment of three bishops in November 1600. These bishops had seats in parliament, but they in no way represented the church, as the representatives whose appointment had been suggested at Montrose would certainly have done. More regrettable was the king's settled hostility to Gowrie's brothers and sisters. Two of the sisters were at once turned out of the queen's service, and two Ruthven boys, brothers of Gowrie, had to take refuge in England, where they did not venture to appear in public.
James's eye had for some time been fixed on the English succession. His hereditary right, combined with his protestantism, gave to his claim a weight which left him the only competitor with any chance of acceptance. Under these circumstances a man of common sense in James's position would have patiently waited till the succession was open. But James, unable to restrain himself, engaged in a succession of intrigues to secure what was virtually already his own. He had many counsellors who were anxious to bring about an understanding between him and the pope, thereby to secure the assistance of the Roman catholics in England as well as in Scotland. To this James made no objection, though he refused to sign a letter in which the pope was addressed as ‘Holy Father.’ In 1599 a letter so addressed was carried to Rome by Edward Drummond, in favour of the appointment of William Chisholm III [q. v.], the Scottish bishop of Vaison, to the cardinalate, and this letter bore James's signature; but it was subsequently, and, as there is every reason to believe, truthfully asserted by him that the signature had been surreptitiously obtained from him by James Elphinstone [q. v.], his secretary of state (Gardiner, Hist. of England, 1603–42, i. 81, ii. 31). James also entered into secret negotiations with prominent English statesmen and courtiers, among them, fortunately for his prospects, Sir Robert Cecil, Elizabeth's secretary of state, who did his best to keep him patient (Bruce, Correspondence of James VI, Camden Soc.).
At last, on 24 March 1603, Elizabeth died, and James was at once proclaimed in England by the title of James I, king of England, though he subsequently styled himself, without parliamentary authority, king of Great Britain. He left Edinburgh for his new kingdom on 5 April. Coming from a poor country, he fancied that the wealth and power of an English king was far greater than it really was, and before long he scattered titles and grants of money and land with unjustifiable profusion. As he passed through Newark he ordered a cutpurse to be hanged without trial, fancying that the royal authority, so hampered in Scotland, must be without limit in England. As a matter of fact, the tide of public opinion in the two countries was making in opposite directions. In Scotland it was favourable to the creation of a monarchy somewhat after the French type, in opposition to the nobles and clergy. In England, all that a strong monarchy could do had been accomplished, and opinion was therefore in favour of imposing restrictions upon the existing royal authority.
The first test of James's statesmanship lay in the selection of his councillors. Elizabeth had filled her council with representatives of all parties. James kept those whose opinions agreed with his own. He was himself for peace, and he consequently dismissed Raleigh as a partisan of war, and kept Cecil, who was ready to promote peace. He ordered the cessation of hostilities with Spain, though peace was not actually concluded till 1604. Cecil remained to the day of his death James's trusted councillor [see Cecil, Robert, Earl of Salisbury ]. Raleigh was charged with high treason, and condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted by James to that of imprisonment [see Raleigh, Sir Walter].
The first purely political question which confronted James was that of toleration. He had led the English catholics to expect better treatment from him than they had had from Elizabeth; and though James does not seem to have given any express promise of setting aside the recusancy laws, he had used language in writing to the Earl of Northumberland which implied a disposition to show them reasonable favour (Degli Effetti to Del Bufalo, July 16–26, Roman Transcripts, Record Office). Cecil, however, was in favour of the old system, and for some time after James's accession the recusancy fines were still collected. James's language continued favourable, but the action of his government did not respond to his words, and in June a plot for his capture and an enforced change of his system of government was discovered to have been formed by a catholic priest named Watson, and other catholics. The information which led to the discovery had been given by the jesuit, John Gerard [q. v.], who still hoped much from the king; and on 17 June James, in gratitude, informed Rosny, the French ambassador, of his intention to remit the fines. It was not, however, till 17 July, when a catholic deputation waited on him, that James openly announced that the fines were to be remitted. In August he received assurances from the nuncio in Paris that the pope would do all in his power to keep the catholics obedient subjects of the king, and on this James despatched Sir James Lindsay to Rome, to ask Pope Clement VIII to send to England a layman to confer with him on the subject of obtaining the excommunication of turbulent catholics.
Unfortunately, James was liable to be led away from a great policy by personal considerations. The queen, much to his annoyance, was secretly a Roman catholic, and in January 1604 Sir Anthony Standen arrived from Rome with objects of devotion for her. Shortly afterwards James learnt that the pope refused to agree to allow sentence of excommunication to be passed on catholics at the instance of a heretic king, and James, irritated at the failure of his plan, and at the domestic discord, which he attributed to Standen's mission, was at the same time alarmed by the discovery that the number of priests and of catholic converts had greatly increased since the removal of the fines. Though he did not at once reimpose the fines, he issued on 22 Feb. 1604 a proclamation banishing the priests.
The condition of the puritans was forced on James's attention as much as that of the catholics. On his progress from Scotland the so-called Millenary Petition was presented to him, asking, not for permission to hold separate worship, but for such a permissive modification in the services of the church as might enable puritan ministers to comply with their obligations without offending their consciences. Bacon pleaded in favour of the change, and on 14 Jan. 1604 James met them and the bishops at the Hampton Court conference. James was quite ready to agree to changes, and he signified as much in his conversation with the bishops on the first day. On the second day, however, when four representatives of the puritan clergy were admitted, his old antagonism with the Scottish clergy influenced his mind, and though, in the actual discussion, he took up a position as mediator between the parties, the unlucky use of the word ‘presbyters’ by one of the puritans sent him off into more scolding. ‘If this be all they have to say,’ he declared of the puritans after he had driven them out of the room, ‘I shall make them conform themselves, or I will harry them out of the land.’ The phrase of ‘No bishop, no king,’ became an integral part of his policy.
James, however, did not as yet take refuge in unyielding conservatism. He authorised a new translation of the Bible, and made up his mind to ask the consent of parliament to various alterations in the prayer-book.
The temper of parliament, when it met on 19 March 1604, was not favourable to work in combination with James. The House of Commons not only favoured the whole of the puritan demands, but urged James to abandon his lucrative feudal rights, for what he considered to be an inadequate compensation. It also set itself against a scheme for a union with Scotland which he had much at heart, with the result that on 7 July he prorogued parliament, after administering a good scolding to the House of Commons.
Before the end of 1605 the puritan clergy who refused to conform had been expelled from their livings. In 1604 the treaty with Spain was signed, and James talked with the ambassadors about his desire to marry his eldest son to the eldest daughter of Philip III of Spain. In the ‘Basilikon Doron’ he had denounced marriages between persons of different religions, as harmful to the parties. But he was now especially gratified by being treated as an equal by the king of Spain, and was perhaps also attracted by a scheme for putting an end to the religious wars which had devastated Europe, by means of the closest possible alliance between himself and Philip.
None the less James deliberately drew back from his policy of conciliating the English catholics. His proclamation banishing the priests (February 1604) was not put in execution for some weeks, but when a bill providing for a stricter course with priests and recusants was offered to him, he gave it the royal assent. Still, however, he restrained himself from taking actual steps against the catholics. In the summer he talked with an agent of the Duke of Lorraine about the means of converting into reality that ignis fatuus of diplomatic churchmen, the reunion of the churches of Rome and England on terms satisfactory to both (Del Bufalo to Aldobrandino, 11–21 Sept., Roman Transcripts, Record Office). Just at this time, however, judges and juries were condemning catholics to death, and in September James, who had probably not authorised the action of the judges, again took alarm at the increase of the numbers of the catholics, and issued a commission to banish the priests. In November he ordered the exaction of the fines from the wealthiest of the catholic laity, and early in 1605, being annoyed by learning that the pope had taken his loose talk about a reunion of the churches to signify a desire of personal conversion, replied, announcing on 10 Feb. his intention to execute the whole of the recusancy laws.
Long before this severe measure was taken there had grown up in the minds of certain catholics a design to destroy the king and his young sons, by blowing them up with the Houses of Lords and Commons when parliament was next opened [see Fawkes, Guy ]. Gunpowder plot, as it was called, was revealed to the council on 26 Oct. 1605, and on 3 Nov. the ministers, in informing James of their discovery, took care to allow him to pride himself on being the first to penetrate the secret. In 1606 parliament retaliated by a recusancy act of increased severity, though its operation was intended to be modified by a new oath of allegiance, which was to make a distinction in favour of such catholics as refused to uphold the power of deposing kings, said to be inherent in the papacy.
The bringing forward of an oath of allegiance at a time of general exasperation with the catholics was the outcome of the conciliatory tendencies of James's mind. In the same spirit he refused to ratify a collection of canons drawn up by convocation in 1606, in which the doctrine of non-resistance was taught, on the ground that obedience was due to the king actually in possession (Bishop Overall, Convocation Book). To this James objected, not merely on the ground that hereditary right was a better basis of authority than actual possession, but because he denied that tyranny could ever exist by the appointment of God. Although ideas so completely out of accord with all the fanaticisms of the day could never be popular, yet, in this very session of 1606, a rumour that James had been murdered called forth, as soon as it proved to be false, an outburst of enthusiasm in the House of Commons, which took visible form in the grant of a supply of money.
It was not, however, only by living in an intellectual world of his own that James failed to gain a hold on the hearts of Englishmen. The riotous profusion of his court gave wide offence. In July 1606, when his brother-in-law, Christian IV of Denmark, visited him, ladies who were to act in a dramatic performance before the two kings were too drunk to play their parts, and the offence was left uncorrected. His own life was a double one. He liked the company of the learned, who could discuss with him questions of theology and of ecclesiastical politics, but he also liked the boon companionship of the hunting-field; and though his own life was pure, and his own head, according to his physician's report (Mayerne, Diary), too hard to be affected by wine, he himself indulged in coarse language, and took no pains to avoid the society of evil-livers.
James's anxiety to pursue the work of assimilation between Scotland and England now led him to continue his work of reducing the independence of the Scottish clergy. For some years after his appointment in Scotland of bishops without jurisdiction he had apparently abandoned all attempts to bring the ministers under a real episcopacy, and after his removal to England had contented himself with prohibiting the meetings of general assemblies. Against this the more active clergy rebelled, and on 2 July 1605 nineteen ministers met at Aberdeen and declared themselves a lawful assembly, though they prorogued themselves to September. James forbade the meeting, and ordered the prosecution of the leading ministers who had been present at Aberdeen, and who subsequently declined to submit to the judgment of a civil court. In 1606 six ministers, after a trial in which every species of unfairness was practised, had a verdict recorded against them, and were sent into perpetual banishment, while eight others were placed in confinement. Towards the end of 1606 James, summoning to Linlithgow a body of ministers nominated by himself, obtained from them the concession that the presbyteries and synods should always have a ‘constant moderator,’ instead of appointing one at each meeting. As the existing bishops were elected as moderators of the presbyteries in which they resided, men got in the habit of seeing them in places of authority, though no formal inroad on the presbyterian system had been made. James owed his success in part to the influence which he had gained over the Scottish nobility by his removal to England. On the one hand, it was no longer in their power to capture him, while, on the other, he had pensions and estates to give away to their younger sons.
James also attempted to bring about a political union between the two countries. He learnt, however, that English prejudice was against the complete union which he would have preferred, and in 1606–7, during the third session of his first parliament, he contented himself with asking for four concessions, of which the two most important were freedom of trade between the two countries, and the naturalisation of Scotsmen in England and of Englishmen in Scotland. On both these the House of Commons proved obdurate, and in 1608 James obtained from the judges in the exchequer chamber a decision that the post-nati, that is to say Scotsmen born after his own accession to the throne of England, were natural subjects of the king of England. At the same time, James's partiality to worthless Scotsmen, if only they were sprightly and active, was shown by the rapid rise in favour of Robert Carr [q. v.], to whom, in January 1609, he granted the estate of Sherborne, which he took away, though not without compensation, from Raleigh.
The other side of James's nature appeared in the controversy in which he engaged with Cardinal Bellarmine. After Gunpowder plot (1605) he published anonymously ‘A Discourse of the Manner of the Discovery of the Powder Treason,’ and in February 1606 he published, also anonymously, ‘An Apology for the Oath of Allegiance,’ in answer to two breves of Paul V, in which the new oath of allegiance was denounced, and also to a letter from Bellarmine to the archpriest Blackwell. This ‘Apology’ was answered by Bellarmine under the name of one of his chaplains, Matthew Tortus, and the answer reached James in October 1608. The view of the matter taken at Rome was that no catholic ought to be asked to swear that the pope had no right to absolve from allegiance to kings. But the controversialists on that side laid greater stress on any thing which might discredit their royal antagonist. Tortus had accordingly pointed out that when James was still in Scotland his ministers had held out hopes of his becoming a catholic, and that he had himself written a letter to the pope of that day recommending the Bishop of Vaison to the cardinalate. James soon obtained from his former secretary, Elphinstone, now Lord Balmerino, an acknowledgment of having foisted that letter on him and hid one of his Scottish favourites, Hay, in a neighbouring room, of which the door was left open, so that the confession might not be without witnesses. James was overjoyed at this proof of his cleverness and innocence (see extracts from the Hatfield MSS. in Gardiner's Hist. of Engl. 1603–42, ii. 33). In 1609 he reissued his ‘Apology,’ this time with his name attached to it, together with ‘A Premonition to all most Mighty Monarchies, Kings, Free Princes, and States of Christendom,’ in which he warned his brother sovereigns of the danger of acknowledging the claims of the papacy to exert authority over themselves.
James's view of the position of the monarchy at home, as that of a moderating power to avoid conflicts between administrative and judicial officers, was thrown into prominence by the claim of the common law courts to issue prohibitions annulling the action of the ecclesiastical courts. In 1605 Archbishop Bancroft presented to James certain articuli cleri directed against these proceedings, and in November 1607 James, having had an altercation on the subject with Chief-justice Coke, told him ‘he thought that the law was founded on reason, and that he and others had reason as well as the judges.’ On Coke's argument for the supremacy of the law, which practically meant the supremacy of the judges, James replied in heat: ‘Then I shall be under the law, which it is treason to affirm.’ In February 1609 there was a still hotter argument, and in the following July the whole matter was discussed before the king. James expressed his wish to be impartial, but ordered that for the present the issue of prohibitions was to cease.
To maintain the position which he had taken up James needed the strength of popularity behind him, and that he had taken no pains to secure. Moreover, his finance was in a deplorable condition, and when he met parliament for its fourth session, in 1610, Cecil, who was now earl of Salisbury and lord treasurer, as well as secretary of state, attempted to choke the deficit by what was known as the Great Contract, a bargain with the commons by which the king was to sacrifice his feudal revenue, most of which arose from the court of wards, and to receive in return 200,000l. a year. The contract was agreed to in general terms, on the understanding that parliament was to meet again in November to consider the manner in which the new grant was to be raised. The House of Commons would not have proceeded so far as this unless James had been conciliatory in another matter. In 1606 the court of exchequer had decided in Bate's case that the crown had a right to levy impositions—that is to say, customs duties—without a parliamentary grant, and in 1608 Salisbury, taking advantage of this decision, had ordered the levy of new impositions bringing in about 70,000l. a year. In 1610 James agreed to abandon the most burdensome of them, reducing his income from that source, and to consent to a bill declaring illegal all further levying of impositions without consent of parliament, provided that they would confirm by a parliamentary grant those impositions to which he now laid claim. This, too, was left over to the winter session. When that arrived a dispute broke out between the king and the commons on the Great Contract, which was therefore abandoned. Warm language was used in the house, and on 9 Feb. 1611 James dissolved the first parliament of his reign.
It is possible that a feeling of weakness consequent on this breach with the House of Commons had something to do with James's harshness towards his cousin, Arabella Stuart, who in 1610 married William Seymour. Both husband and wife had some sort of claim to the throne, and James, who was determined that no child should be born of this marriage to contest the claims of his own offspring, imprisoned the bride, and kept her in confinement till her death [see Arabella ].
In dealing with the continental powers there was the same absence of strength, conjoined with the same desire to mediate between extreme parties. He had done his best to bring about a peace between Spain and the Dutch republic, and on 16 June 1608 he agreed to a defensive league with the latter, binding him to give direct military assistance if Spain attacked the republic after peace had been made. When peace appeared to be unattainable, James joined the French government in recommending both parties to agree to a long truce, which was ultimately signed at Antwerp on 30 March (April 9) 1609.
The strife which threatened to break out in Germany in 1609 in consequence of a disputed succession in Cleves and Juliers, and which threatened to bring about a general European war, caused James some trouble. After the murder of Henry IV he consented to pay four thousand English infantry, which were at that time in the Dutch service, to be employed under Sir Edward Cecil, in combination with a Dutch force, to rescue Juliers from the Archduke Leopold, in order to place it in protestant hands. Juliers was captured on 22 Aug. (1 Sept.), and James then did his best to negotiate a final settlement of the dispute; but he found it impossible to induce any of the claimants to abate their pretensions, and the annoyance which he felt led him to seek for the maintenance of peace by allying himself with the catholic powers.
The policy on which James thus deliberately entered led to the worst errors of his reign. It was, indeed, not altogether a new one. The talk about a marriage between his eldest son Henry, who was created Prince of Wales in 1610, and a Spanish princess had never quite died out. When a Spanish ambassador proposed a marriage between him and the eldest daughter of Philip III, James sent Sir John Digby to Madrid in 1611 with instructions to treat for the alliance. No doubt James's quarrel with the House of Commons and his consequent impecuniosity made him eager for a rich marriage portion; but when Digby arrived in Madrid, and found that the Infanta Anne was already engaged to Louis XIII of France, and that her younger sister Maria, whom the Spaniards proposed to substitute for her, was not yet six years old, James let the matter drop. He was, however, still anxious to be on good terms with the followers of both religions on the continent, and before the end of 1611 he was negotiating for the hand of a Tuscan princess for his son, and had engaged to marry his daughter Elizabeth to Frederick V, the leader of the German Calvinists. In following up the latter alliance he entered on 28 March into a defensive alliance with the protestant union of German princes.
On 24 May 1612 Salisbury's death deprived James of what was, on the whole, a steadying influence. James, thinking it a fitting moment to assert his own authority, put the treasury in commission, and declared his intention of being his own secretary of state. Unlike Louis XIV when he announced a similar resolve on the death of Mazarin, he threw the influence which ought to have been his own into the hands of a favourite, Carr, whom he had created viscount Rochester, but he retained the general direction of policy. On 6 Nov. 1612 his eldest son, Henry, died of typhoid fever (Norman Moore, M.D., The Illness and Death of Henry, Prince of Wales), and on 14 Feb. 1613 his daughter Elizabeth was married to the elector palatine. For a time James inclined to the continental protestants. At his request the Dutch, on 6 May, signed a defensive treaty with the union, and a corresponding coolness between himself and Spain was the natural result.
During these years of fluctuating foreign policy James had at last secured the hold on the Scottish church which he had long coveted. In 1610 the assembly at Glasgow consented to the introduction of episcopacy, and on 21 Oct. of that year three Scottish bishops received consecration at the hands of English prelates. In Ireland, after the flight of the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel and the rising of O'Dogherty, James had favoured the colonisation of Ulster by English and Scottish immigrants, a measure which, whatever might be its ultimate results, gave him for the moment a stronger hold upon Ireland than any of his predecessors had had. This increased power, however, brought an increase of expense, and to provide for this he instituted the order of baronets, each of whom was to pay 1,080l. to be employed in keeping thirty foot-soldiers in Ireland for three years. The idea that James made a personal profit by the sale of baronetcies is erroneous. As soon as the need was past in Ireland, he invariably repaid to the new baronets the sums at which they were assessed (Receipt and Issue Books of the Exchequer, Record Office).
Before the end of 1613 increasing financial difficulties turned James's thoughts in the direction of summoning another parliament. In vain Bacon reminded him of the necessity of having a popular policy if he was to conciliate popular feeling. When the new parliament met in 1614, James offered merely to repeat on a smaller scale the policy of bargaining with the House of Commons which had been at the bottom of the failure of the Great Contract in 1610. He also, through certain influential personages known as the Undertakers, attempted to influence the elections. The House of Commons, instead of voting subsidies in return for small concessions, declared the impositions to be illegal, and asked for the restoration of the nonconforming clergy. After a short session James dissolved his second parliament, which, as it passed no acts, is known in history as the Addled parliament.
The dissolution took place on 7 June. Before he ventured on the step he had sent for Sarmiento, the very able Spanish ambassador, who was afterwards known as the Count of Gondomar, asking him whether he could depend on the support of the king of Spain. It was a new and by no means a fortunate departure in James's English career, though it was in accordance with his readiness to rely on foreign aid when he was king of Scotland alone. Hitherto he had sought a good understanding with Spain to support his continental policy; he now sought it to support him against his own subjects.
As the Spanish alliance was to be sealed by a Spanish marriage between James's surviving son, Charles, and the Infanta Maria, Digby was sent back to Spain to see what chance there was of the scheme proving acceptable there. A Spanish bride might bring with her a considerable portion. In the meanwhile James was in great extremities. He sent to the Tower four of the most violent of the opposition in the late House of Commons. To Sarmiento he unbosomed himself of his grievance in having to tolerate a parliament so disorderly, and then, on the ground that fresh troubles were breaking out in Cleves and Juliers, he appealed to the country to make him voluntary gifts under the name of a benevolence, an appeal which, after considerable pressure from the government, resulted in bringing in about 66,000l., none of which was spent in assisting protestants in Cleves and Juliers.
The scission which was declaring itself between James and his subjects led to increased severity on one side and to increased outspokenness on the other. In 1614 Oliver St. John was sentenced to fine and imprisonment for denying in violent and unbecoming language the legality of the benevolence, though his punishment was remitted on his acknowledging his offence. In the same year a clergyman named Oliver Peacham [q. v.] was committed to the Tower for having written, though he had not preached or published, a sermon in which he attacked James's government. Peacham's affair led to a new stage in the dispute between Coke and the king. The judges had been hitherto considered the fit counsellors of the king on questions of law, and in January 1615 James wished to have their advice on legal questions arising out of Peacham's case. At Bacon's recommendation, however, James took the unusual course of ordering that they should be separately consulted, in order to prevent them from being no more than the echo of the overbearing and self-opinionated Coke. Coke, of course, was very angry, and delivered an opinion as opposed as possible to that which the court lawyers desired to elicit from him.
Moral causes were contributing with political differences to sap James's position in England. In 1613 his favourite, Rochester, was anxious to marry Frances Howard, wife of the Earl of Essex, and the marriage with Essex was annulled by a commission which James appointed for the purpose. Before the end of 1613 Rochester was married, and created earl of Somerset. By his marriage he became closely allied to the family of Howard, most of the members of which were catholics or semi-catholics, and warmly in favour of the Spanish alliance. The opponents of the Spanish match consequently set themselves against him by putting forward young George Villiers as a rival favourite, and in 1616 had the satisfaction of seeing both the earl and countess convicted of the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury [q. v.] James commuted the death-penalty into one of imprisonment. They were afterwards released, but James never saw either of them again [see Carr, Robert, Earl of Somerset ]. At the time of the trial James exhibited signs of great anxiety, as if he feared lest Somerset should reveal some dangerous secret. It is probable that his anxiety was caused by his knowledge that Somerset knew more about his dealings with Spain than he cared to have openly told. The Spanish negotiations, indeed, were being pushed steadily on, and in 1616 James sent Hay to Paris to break off a negotiation which had been previously entered on for a marriage between Charles and Christina, the sister of Louis XIII, as a preliminary to a more formal procedure in the Spanish treaty.
In the same year James finally settled accounts with Coke, who was now chief justice of the king's bench, and in that capacity assumed a right of interfering with the chancery when it gave a decision in contravention of one already delivered in the king's bench. At his instigation, too, the judges proceeded to deal with a case relating to commendams, though they had been ordered by James, through Bacon, to stop the trial till they had spoken to the king. James summoned all the judges before him, and asked them whether they would acknowledge that they ought, in a case which concerned the king, to stay proceedings till he could consult with them. Coke alone refused to submit, and on 30 June was suspended from the chief-justiceship, from which he was ultimately dismissed [see Bacon, Francis, and Coke, Sir Edward ]. On 20 June James had declared in the Star-chamber his views on the relation between the crown and the judges. ‘As in the absolute prerogative of the crown,’ he said, ‘that is no subject for the tongue of a lawyer, nor is it lawful to be disputed. … It is presumption and high contempt in a subject to dispute what a king can do, or say that a king cannot do this or that; [he must] rest in that which is the king's will revealed in his law.’
Meanwhile James persisted in an unpopular foreign policy. In March 1617 he finally decided upon opening formal negotiations for his son's marriage with the Infanta Maria; and in the course of the year he charged Digby to carry them on at Madrid [see Digby, John, first Earl of Bristol]. In part, at least, he was actuated by his desire of acquiring a large marriage portion. For the same reason, no doubt, he in 1616 liberated Raleigh at the request of Villiers, giving him leave to seek a gold mine on the Orinoco, but leaving him exposed to the penalty of death pronounced on him for treason in 1603 in case of his doing any injury to the lands or subjects of the king of Spain [see Raleigh, Sir Walter ].
At home the most striking feature of court life was James's inordinate fondness for Villiers, who was rapidly promoted in the peerage, till, in 1623, he became duke of Buckingham. James heaped riches on his new favourite, and entrusted him with the patronage of the crown, while he kept the direction of policy in his own hands [see Villiers, George, Duke of Buckingham ]. Buckingham soon discovered that James would support him in his quarrels whether he was right or wrong, and in 1617 James took his part in a question arising out of a proposed marriage between one of his brothers and Coke's daughter, a marriage to which Bacon was opposed. With James's help Buckingham brought Bacon on his knees.
During the progress of this dispute James was on a visit to Scotland. Not content with the establishment of episcopacy in Scotland, he had come to desire the introduction of some of the rites of the church of England into his native country. In 1614 and 1615 he ordered that all persons in Scotland should receive the communion on Easter-day; and in 1616 he called on an assembly which met at Aberdeen to adopt five articles which he sent down. The communion was to be received in a kneeling posture; it was, in cases of sickness, to be administered in private houses; baptism was, if necessary, to be administered in the same way; there were to be days set apart in commemoration of the birth, passion, and resurrection of the Saviour; and, finally, children were to be brought to the bishop to receive his blessing. Resistance to these proposals at once declared itself, and James postponed their consideration. He gave, however, no little offence by sending an organ before him to be set up in the chapel at Holyrood, and the force of public opinion compelled him to withdraw an order for the erection of some figures of patriarchs and apostles in the same chapel.
In spite of these preliminary difficulties James was well received in Scotland, where he laid the foundation of future trouble by enforcing kneeling at the reception of the communion on great persons attending the court at Edinburgh. He lectured the nobility on the patriotism that they would show if they surrendered their heritable jurisdictions, and though he attempted in vain to get an act passed acknowledging his own power to determine all matters relating to the external government of the church ‘with the actions of the archbishops, bishops, and a competent number of the ministry,’ he at once claimed the power as inherent in the crown in default of legislation. The best thing that he did was to increase the low stipends of the clergy; but this was afterwards used as a lever to make them subservient. In 1618, after he had himself returned to England, James obtained from an assembly held at Perth an acceptance of his five articles, partly by pressure put upon the ministers by the nobility, but also by threatening them with lowering the increased stipends of those who voted against his wishes. In 1618 Raleigh returned from Guiana. Not only had he completely failed in the object of his search, but his men had burnt a Spanish village. Gondomar complained, and James ordered an inquiry into Raleigh's conduct. There were legal difficulties in the way of bringing Raleigh to a formal trial, but it was possible to accuse him in public and to allow him to answer in his defence. James, however, preferred to send him to the block on the old sentence of 1603, because he feared lest Raleigh should denounce him as an accomplice of Spain [see Raleigh, Sir Walter].
James's project for a Spanish alliance was by this time at a standstill. What the Spaniards wanted was to secure the conversion of England, and when, in May 1618, Digby returned to England, he brought information that Philip was ready to give a marriage portion of 600,000l., on condition that James would promise, among other things, to obtain an act of parliament repealing all laws against the catholics. James neither could nor would do this, though he was prepared to promise to do everything in his own power to alleviate their lot. On 15 July Gondomar left for Spain.
The higher side of this unhappy marriage treaty lay in James's desire to maintain peace with all nations on terms equitable to all alike. In the spring of 1618 he issued a little book named ‘The Peacemaker,’ much of which, as far as may be judged by its style, was written by Andrewes, some perhaps by Bacon, some by James himself. It was the manifesto of a king who preferred peace to war.
In the course of 1618, besides questioning Raleigh and discussing the Spanish proposals with Gondomar, James was engaged in removing the influence of the Howards from his domestic administration. During this and the following year one Howard after another was, on one pretext or another, deprived of office, the result being that all power was practically accumulated in the person of Buckingham. The change was, no doubt, accompanied by a series of administrative and financial reforms, conducted mainly by Lionel Cranfield [q. v.], afterwards lord treasurer and earl of Middlesex. For the first time in James's reign his receipts nearly balanced his expenditure.
About the same time James became involved in difficulties connected with the outbreak of a revolution in Bohemia, which proved to be the opening scene of the thirty years' war. His attitude towards the contending parties was that of a man sincerely desirous of peace, and hopeful of conciliating adverse interests by a cheap profession of general principles, without real knowledge of the characters of men or of the forces by which his contemporaries were swayed. In September he accepted the office of mediator between the Bohemians and their king, the Emperor Matthias, at the request of the Spanish government—a request which was made in the hope that England would thereby be kept from giving material aid to the Bohemians. James was thus attracted to the side of Spain, and continued to think the Spanish marriage desirable. In January 1619 he threw cold water on the schemes of his son-in-law, Frederick, the elector palatine, for raising a general conflagration in Germany, informing the elector's ambassador, Christopher Dohna, that though he was ready to assist his son-in-law and the other princes of the union in defending themselves against attack, he would not support aggression. In February he despatched Doncaster [see Hay, James, Earl of Carlisle] to Germany to mediate on his behalf, and in April he rejected a proposal made through De Plessen, one of Frederick's agents, that he should support a plan for giving Bohemia to Charles Emmanuel, duke of Savoy, and for procuring for him the imperial crown in succession to Matthias, who had recently died.
On 2 March 1618–19 the queen died [see Anne of Denmark]. The difference of religion between the pair after Anne became a Roman catholic had for some years been a bar to any close intercourse of affection, and when the queen died James was lying ill at Newmarket. At one time he was thought to be dying, but by the middle of April he was well enough to be moved to Theobalds, and on 1 June appeared in London, where his popularity was still sufficient to gather unusual crowds to attend a thanksgiving sermon at Paul's Cross. The Banqueting House at Whitehall, completed in this year by Inigo Jones, was the unfinished beginning of a great palace which James hoped to complete.
For the moment all looked hopeful. Spain and France were, in outward show, bidding for his help, and he could flatter himself that his influence was at least strong enough to restrain the ambition of his son-in-law. But in July 1619 James found that not only was Frederick drifting towards interference in Bohemia, but that his own ambassador, Doncaster, approved of Frederick's vague hopes and plans. James refused to countenance these proceedings, but it was not long before he learnt that his optimistic hopes of the restoration of peace in Bohemia were unlikely to be realised. Ferdinand of Styria, a bigoted Roman catholic, who had succeeded Matthias in his hereditary dominions, and who counted Bohemia among them, rejected Doncaster's mediation, and on 18 Aug. was elected emperor at Frankfort. Two days before (on 16 Aug.) Frederick was chosen king of Bohemia by the Bohemian Diet. In September Dohna arrived in England as Frederick's ambassador, to implore James's assistance in making good this new claim. James laid the matter before the privy council, but on 10 Sept., before a decision was arrived at, news came that Frederick had accepted the crown; and on the 12th James told his council that, as the winter was coming on, there was no need for coming to an immediate conclusion. James wanted an excuse for keeping the peace, and he found it in the rash act of his son-in-law. He told Dohna when he took his leave that he expected to be furnished with evidence of the legality of Frederick's election. His own opinion of his son-in-law's action was revealed in the order given by him to Doncaster to seek out Ferdinand to congratulate him on his election as emperor. Yet he was large-minded enough to perceive that there were two sides to the question, but he was not strong-minded enough to decide on which side the balance of argument or advantage lay.
The change which had passed over James's mind during 1619 appears clearly in two little books which he wrote and printed at the interval of a year. Early in 1619 he gave to the world ‘Meditations on the Lord's Prayer.’ The spirit with which it is pervaded is buoyant, and it contains, along with pious observations, attacks on the puritans and stories from the hunting-field. Another small book, ‘Meditations on vv. 27–29 of the 27th chapter of St. Matthew,’ is written in a far more melancholy strain. There are no jokes in it, no assaults on the puritans; but the crown of thorns is spoken of as the pattern of the crowns of kings, whose wisdom should be applied to tempering discords into a sweet harmony.
James had not yet lost his old self-reliance. On 21 Feb. 1620 Buwinckhausen arrived in London, as an emissary from the princes of the union, to ask James to defend their territory if Spain should attack the Palatinate, the elector palatine being the chief member of the union. James hesitated, and took refuge in an investigation of Frederick's title to Bohemia. In the meanwhile Englishmen were growing excited, and wanted to send help of some kind to the protestant husband of an English princess. James refused permission to Dohna to raise for Frederick a loan in the city, and also refused to allow Sir Andrew Gray to levy soldiers for Bohemia. He told Buwinckhausen that the danger of the union resulted from Frederick's aggression in Bohemia, and that he could therefore do nothing for the princes.
Early in March James changed his mind, giving Gray leave to raise the men he needed, and sending an ambassador to the king of Denmark to borrow money for the defence of the Palatinate. On 5 March, however, Gondomar landed in England on a second embassy, and soon made himself master of James's irresolution by a mixture of firmness and compliment. The marriage treaty was again under discussion, and on 14 March James refused help to Buwinckhausen, on the ground that he hoped to bring about a general peace, which would make warlike preparations needless. On the other hand, he allowed a voluntary contribution to be raised for the princes, and volunteers to be enrolled for the defence of the Palatinate. On 23 March he finally dismissed Buwinckhausen with an answer which bound him to nothing.
As usual there was something to be said both for a policy of war and for a policy of peace. There was nothing to be said for a king who, after putting forward exorbitant claims to be far wiser than his subjects, shifted his ground from day to day, and, claiming to be the indispensable leader of the nation, showed no signs of capacity to lead it. Gondomar was fixing the toils around him, and, without committing himself to any direct engagement, contrived to persuade him that the preparations made in the Spanish Netherlands for a military expedition under Spinola were not directed against the Palatinate. James was busy with many things, and in his anger at the maltreatment of English sailors by the Dutch in the East, he allowed himself in July to be talked over by Gondomar into a plan for a joint attack on the Dutch by the combined forces of Spain and England, the English receiving the promise of Holland and Zealand as their share of the spoil. He then sent forth a whole band of ambassadors to mediate peace on the continent, while he allowed Sir Horace Vere to embark with a regiment of volunteers for the defence of the Palatinate, though he expressed himself with extreme bitterness against his son-in-law.
In September James learnt that Spinola had actually invaded the Palatinate. He was very angry, and publicly announced his intention of helping the princes; but he soon drew back, declaring that his help would be conditional on Frederick's withdrawal from Bohemia. Yet he resolved to summon parliament to support him if he found it necessary to engage in war. In the meanwhile he called on his subjects to furnish him with a benevolence a second time. On 6 Nov. he issued a proclamation summoning parliament to meet on 21 Jan. Before that date the question of the Bohemian crown had been settled. On 29 Nov. it was known in London that Frederick had been defeated on the White Hill, near Prague, and was a fugitive from his new kingdom.
James's chief moral difficulty was now at an end. He sent an embassy to the princes of the union, assuring them that he would do everything possible on their behalf, and in January 1621 appointed a council of war to draw up a scheme for the defence of the Palatinate. The session of the new parliament was opened by James on 30 Jan. with a long, rambling speech, in which he proclaimed his intention to treat for peace, but with sword in hand. For this reason money would be wanted to strengthen his position. The speech sounded so uncertain a note that the House of Commons was not very enthusiastic over it; but they voted two subsidies, and then waited to see what James would do. James, in fact, was falling back on his old policy of mediation, and soon found the difficulty of inducing the various powers embroiled to do precisely what he thought they ought to do. Frederick continued to lay claim to the crown of Bohemia, and refused to go to the Palatinate to defend his hereditary dominions; while Charles IV of Denmark thought scornfully of James's proposal to negotiate first, and to prepare for war only after the negotiation had reached its inevitable stage of failure.
The commons, having no longer to think of preparations for war, fell on the abuses of the court and government. James's indolence and favouritism had made his court a hotbed of corruption, and the attendant evils were popularly believed to be even worse than they were in reality. The commons began by questioning various patents conferring monopolies and regulating trade, and finding that these had been referred, before they were granted, to certain committees of the privy council, they demanded inquiry into the conduct of ‘the referees’—that is to say, of the members of these committees. On 10 March James addressed to them a speech resisting inquiry, finding fault with the commons as disrespectful to himself. The commons, however, persisted in their demand, and Buckingham at last grew frightened, and by his persuasion James sent a message to the commons on the 13th declaring his readiness to redress the grievances of which they complained. Soon afterwards Bacon was charged with corruption [see Bacon, Francis]. On 19 March James asked that the case of his chancellor might be referred to a commission appointed in a special way, but when this plan was resisted he abandoned it. On 26 March he made a conciliatory speech to the house, and protested his readiness to deal strictly with actual abuses. He stood aloof while the monopolists were punished, and Bacon impeached and condemned.
In another matter in which James came into collision with the House of Commons he gained his end. The commons took steps to punish Edward Floyd [q. v.] for using scornful expressions against Frederick and Elizabeth. On 2 May the king denied their authority to punish any one, not being one of their own members, who had neither offended their house nor any one of its members. On this the commons gave way, and left the matter to the House of Lords. On 4 June the houses, by James's direction, adjourned themselves to the winter, to give him time to exercise his diplomatic skill.
Digby, who was sent to Vienna [see Digby, John, first Earl of Bristol], failed to separate the combatants, and before he returned home Frederick's general, Mansfeld, having abandoned the Upper, fell back on the Lower Palatinate. Digby, as soon as he reached England, advised James to ask the commons for supplies enough to pay Mansfeld during the winter, and, unless peace could be obtained, to prepare for war on a large scale in the summer of 1622. On 20 Nov. 1621 the houses reassembled, and it soon appeared that there was a difference between the policies of James and the commons. James wanted to proceed with the Spanish match, and to trust to the honesty of Philip IV, who in 1621 had succeeded his father, Philip III, as king of Spain, to help him to make Frederick again the undisputed master of both Palatinates. The commons, believing that Spain was the real originator of the mischief, wanted an immediate breach with that country. On 3 Dec. they adopted a petition on religion asking that James should take the lead of the protestant states of the continent, should suppress recusants at home, and marry the prince to one of his own religion.
Already Gondomar had called on the king to punish the authors of the petition, and James, willing enough to comply with the request, sent a message to the house telling it that it had entrenched on his prerogative, and threatening the members with punishment if they behaved insolently. On 11 Dec. James received at Newmarket a deputation from the house which had been sent to explain the first petition. ‘Bring stools for the ambassadors,’ he cried out as the members entered his presence, indicating his belief that the house by which they were sent was claiming sovereign power in asking for the direction of foreign policy. The discussion grew warmer as it proceeded, and at last turned on the question whether or no the commons had a right to debate all matters of public policy, as the house affirmed, though it disclaimed any right to force an answer from the king; or whether, as the king affirmed, it had only a right to debate such matters as he thought fit to lay before them. On 18 Dec. the commons entered on their ‘Journals’ a protestation setting forth their view of the case. On the 19th the house was adjourned. On the 30th James tore the obnoxious protestation out of their ‘Journal Book.’ Gondomar was triumphant, and wrote home that James's quarrel with the parliament was ‘the best thing that had happened in the interests of Spain and the catholic religion since Luther began to preach heresy.’ Some of the leading members of the House of Commons were imprisoned in the Tower, and others sent on a disagreeable mission to Ireland. On 6 Jan. 1622 James dissolved his third parliament.
As no subsidy had been voted, James increased the impositions and called for another benevolence. He then despatched more ambassadors abroad, with as slight results as in former years. He could not pay Mansfeld, and Mansfeld's army could not exist without plundering, thus raising enemies on every side. Before the end of the summer of 1622 Mansfeld, who was now accompanied by Frederick, was driven out of the Palatinate, and all Frederick's allies defeated. Only three fortified posts were held in Frederick's name in the Palatinate—Heidelberg, Mannheim, and Frankenthal. James still expected the recovery of all that had been lost through the good offices of Spain.
Gondomar had left England in May 1622, after inviting Prince Charles to come to Madrid and woo the infanta in person, in the hope that he would change his religion in Spain. The Spanish government was almost in as great difficulty as James. Philip IV did not want war with England, and at the same time he could not join protestant states in a war against the catholic emperor and the Catholic League. Consequently, he temporised, but the necessity of decision soon became pressing, both in England and Spain. Heidelberg, defended by an English garrison in Frederick's service, was taken by Tilly on 6 Sept., and Mannheim was surrendered by Sir Horace Vere on 28 Oct. On 29 Sept., when James heard of the fall of Heidelberg, he summoned Philip to obtain its restoration within seventy days, and on the 30th he wrote to Pope Gregory XV, urging him to put his hand to the pious work of restoring peace. Fresh news from Spain, however, brought assurances that the Spanish government intended to make all reasonable concessions in various points of dispute arising out of the marriage treaty, which was now being negotiated at Madrid by Digby, who had recently been created earl of Bristol. James, in his love of peace, was anxious to accept the hand held out to him; but the privy council, led by Buckingham and Charles, declared against it, and James found himself face to face with an opposition which he could not get rid of as he had got rid of successive parliaments.
Under these circumstances James procrastinated. He sent orders to Bristol to remain at his post, even if he received an unfavourable answer about the Palatinate, and on 7 Oct. he sent Endymion Porter to Madrid, with instructions to come to an understanding, if possible, with the Spanish minister, Olivares. Before an answer was received the news of the fall of Mannheim arrived to aggravate James's difficulties; but it was not till 2 Jan. 1623, when Porter returned to England, that James was in a position to come to a resolution on the two questions of the marriage treaty and the Palatinate. As to the former, he accepted certain alterations proposed by Spain, and he and his son signed the articles of marriage, together with a letter in which they promised to relieve the English Roman catholics from the operation of the penal laws as long as they abstained from giving scandal, a letter which was to be kept in Bristol's hands till the dispensation for the marriage arrived from Rome. In the Palatinate, only Frankenthal remained untaken, and James now proposed that it should be sequestered in the hands of the Infanta Isabella, the governess of the Spanish Netherlands, to be retained by her till terms of peace could be agreed on.
While James was catching at straws he was suddenly informed that Buckingham and Charles had resolved to start for Madrid, in order to put the professions of the Spaniards to a test. James's consent was most unwillingly given. When his son and his favourite had once left England control over the relations between Spain and England practically passed out of James's hands; but he continued to write to the pair letters of advice and warning, which they took into account just so far as it suited them to do so (Hardwicke, State Papers, vol. i.). He was ready, he wrote on one occasion, to acknowledge the pope as chief bishop if he ‘would quit his godhead and usurping over kings,’ but he himself was ‘not a monsieur who can shift his religion as easily as he can shift his shirt when he cometh from tennis.’
The full consequences of Charles's journey revealed themselves slowly to James. In March he ordered bonfires to be lighted in London upon his son's arrival in Madrid, and in April directed the equipment of the fleet which was to fetch the infanta to England. In May he made Buckingham a duke. Yet he did not altogether like the terms which the Spaniards were now attempting to exact from him. ‘We are building a temple to the devil,’ he said, in speaking of the chapel which was being raised for the infanta's Roman catholic worship. On 14 June Cottington arrived with news that the Spanish government wanted Charles to remain another year in Spain. On this he wrote a piteous letter to his ‘sweet boys’ (his son and Buckingham), urging them to come away, ‘except ye never look to see your old dad again.’ The thought of recovering his boys was now uppermost in his mind. He engaged to sign the marriage articles as they had been altered in Spain, and wrote to Charles that he might be married and come home. If the Spaniards kept the infanta from soon following him, it would be easy to divorce him here.
On 20 July James signed the articles. The public articles had included permission to the infanta to have a church open to all Englishmen, while the secret articles relieved the English catholics of all penalties for worshipping in private houses, and in all other respects relieved them from the pressure of the penal laws. James, however, explained to the Spanish ambassadors that he should hold himself free to put the laws in execution if state necessity occurred. James had thus in a roundabout way slipped back into his own policy. There was to be toleration for the catholics as long as they were not dangerous. It was precisely what he had offered in 1603 with no favourable results.
This explanation was not likely to smooth Charles's way in Madrid. It soon appeared that if Charles was married he would have to return without the infanta, and without any definite promise about the Palatinate. Hurrying back in anger, Charles and Buckingham returned to England, and on 6 Oct. found James at Royston, when they urged him to declare immediate war against Spain. Gradually, and sorely against his inclination, James gave way. His own policy of regaining the Palatinate with the help of Spain had broken down too completely to be capable of resuscitation. The king of Spain was still ready to give vague promises, but would engage himself to nothing definite. At last, on 28 Dec., James summoned parliament. On 19 Feb. 1624 he opened the session with a speech in which he made the best of his failure, and left it to Buckingham to unfold the actual state of affairs.
On 3 March the houses were ready to present a petition for the breaking off of the negotiations with Spain; but it was not till the 23rd that James declared, under much pressure, that the treaties were dissolved. From this time James ceased to be in any real sense the ruler of England. Power passed into the hands of his son and his favourite. He himself acted, when he acted at all, as a restraining influence, though that influence was usually exerted in vain. Towards the end of March and in the beginning of April he had interviews with two Spanish agents, Lafuente and Carondelet, who told him that he was a mere tool in the hands of Buckingham, and was thereby inclined to hold back the despatch ordering his ambassador in Spain to break off negotiations. Charles, however, insisted on its being sent out on 6 April. How powerless James had now become was shown when his lord treasurer, Middlesex [see Cranfield, Lionel, Earl of Middlesex], supported the Spaniards against Buckingham. Charles and Buckingham set the commons on to impeach Middlesex, and James, much against his will, had to submit to the disgrace of a minister to whom he was attached. In the same way, he was obliged to allow the prosecution of Bristol, on charges brought against him in connection with his embassy in Spain.
With respect to the new policy, James, as far as he was allowed to have a policy at all, occupied a position of his own. The commons were for a maritime war exclusively directed against Spain. Buckingham was for a war against Spain and all the catholic powers of the continent. James was for a war limited to an effort to recover the Palatinate by land. Whatever shape the war was to take, it would be advisable to be on good terms with France, and overtures were therefore made to the French court for a marriage between Charles and the sister of Louis XIII, Henrietta Maria. Both James and Charles, however, promised the House of Commons that in this case there should be no toleration for any catholics in England, excepting for the bride and her household. On 29 May parliament was prorogued, on the understanding that in the course of the summer James was to ascertain what allies he could find, and to hold a session in the autumn to lay his plans before parliament and ask for the necessary supplies. That this undertaking was not carried out was owing to James's incapacity to resist the combination between Charles and Buckingham. When it appeared that Richelieu insisted on a secret article in the French marriage treaty, in which religious liberty should be assured to the English catholics, James would have refused his assent, but gave way before the insistence of his favourite and his son. On these terms the marriage treaty was actually signed on 10 Nov. 1624, and it was therefore impossible to hold a session of parliament, because the houses would at once have denounced the leniency shown to the catholics.
Without a parliamentary grant it was in vain to hope for the regaining of the Palatinate. Yet, in combination with France, James prepared to send an expedition with that object under Mansfeld. Soon, however, disputes with France arose. The French king wanted to divert the expedition to the relief of the Dutch fortress of Breda, then besieged by the Spanish general Spinola. James refused to come to an open breach with Spain, and Mansfeld's English troops sailed on 31 Jan. 1625, with orders to make for the Palatinate, and to leave Breda alone. The whole expedition, however, soon collapsed for want of money and supplies. James's efforts to stir up allies for the recovery of the Palatinate were scarcely more successful. Each of the continental powers who were likely to join him had objects in view more important than the recovery of the Palatinate; while James wanted them to make the replacement of his daughter and her husband at Heidelberg the main object of their policy.
On 5 March 1625 James was attacked by a tertian ague. Buckingham's mother attempted to doctor him, and thus brought upon her son, and even upon Charles, the ridiculous accusation of combining to poison him. James's condition varied from day to day, but on 27 March he died at Theobalds. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 5 May.
James had too great confidence in his own powers, and too little sympathetic insight into the views of others, to make a successful ruler, and his inability to control those whom he trusted with blind confidence made his court a centre of corruption. He was, however, far-sighted in his ideas, setting himself against extreme parties, and eager to reconcile rather than divide. In Scotland he, on the whole, succeeded, because the work of reconciliation was in accordance with the tendencies of the age. In England he failed, because his Scottish birth and experience made him stand too much aloof from English parties, and left him incapable of understanding the national feeling with regard to Spain; while his feeble efforts to reconcile the continental powers, at a time when the spirit of division was in the ascendant, exposed him to the contemptuous scorn of his own subjects.
During his reign in Scotland, and for some time after his arrival in England, James was doctrinally Calvinistic, and he took up a position of strong antagonism against Arminius. In later life his views were affected by the loyalty and the moderate spirit of the English church. In 1622 he issued an order to the vice-chancellor of the university of Oxford, which had a great influence on the rising generation of students, that those who designed to make divinity their profession should chiefly apply themselves to the study of the holy scriptures of the councils and fathers and the ancient schoolmen; but as for the moderns, whether jesuits or puritans, they should wholly decline reading their works. Yet it was the pliable Williams, not the unrelenting Laud, who was his favourite prelate.
For a list of James's children, see Anne of Denmark, except that the name of the youngest, Sophia, is there omitted. She only lived for one day, and was buried on 23 June 1607 in Westminster Abbey.
James was the author of: 1. ‘Essays of a Prentice in the Divine Art of Poetry,’ 1584. 2. ‘A Fruitful Meditation, containing a Plain … Exposition of the 7, 8, 9, and 10 verses of the xx. chap. Revelation,’ 1588. 3. ‘A Meditation upon the xxv–xxix. verses of the First Book of the Chronicles,’ 1589. 4. ‘Poetical Exercises,’ 1591. 5. ‘Demonology,’ 1597. 6. ‘Basilikon Doron,’ 1599. 7. ‘The True Law of Free Monarchies,’ 1603. 8. ‘A Counterblast to Tobacco,’ 1604. 9. ‘Triplici Nodo Triplex Cuneus; or, an Apology for the Oath of Allegiance,’ 1607. 10. ‘Declaration du Roy Jacques I … pour le droit des Rois,’ 1615. His collected works were published by Bishop Montague in 1616, with the addition of earlier speeches and state papers. After that date appeared ‘A Meditation upon the Lord's Prayer,’ 1619, and ‘A Meditation upon the 27, 28, 29 verses of the xxvii. chapter of St. Matthew,’ 1620.
Numerous portraits of James I are extant. Four are in the National Portrait Gallery, one at the age of eight by Zucchero, and another at the age of fifty-five by Paul van Somer. Van Somer and Marc Gheeraerts the younger [q. v.] were liberally patronised by James, and portraits of the king by the former are also at Windsor, Holyrood, and Hampton Court. From a miniature by Hilliard (1617) Vandyck painted a portrait, which was engraved by F. White. A painting by George Jameson belongs to the Marquis of Lothian. Prints were engraved by Vertue after Van Somer, and by R. White after Cornelius Janssen.
[The materials for the reign are very extensive. The following are specially worthy of attention: The History and Life of King James, being an Account of the Affairs of Scotland from the year 1566 to the year 1596, with a short Continuation to the year 1617, Bannatyne Club, 1825; Memoirs of his own Life, by Sir James Melville of Halhill, 1549–93, Bannatyne Club, 1827; Papers relative to the Marriage of King James VI of Scotland with the Princess Anna of Denmark, Bannatyne Club, 1828; Diary of Mr. James Melville, 1556–1601, Bannatyne Club, 1829; Letters and Papers relating to Patrick, Master of Gray; Memorials of Transactions in Scotland, 1569–73, by Richard Bannatyne, Bannatyne Club, 1836; Original Letters relating to the Ecclesiastical Affairs of Scotland, 1603–1625, Bannatyne Club, 1851; State Papers of Thomas, Earl of Melros, Abbotsford Club, 1837; Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland, Wodrow Soc. 1842–9; Row's History of the Kirk of Scotland, Wodrow Soc. 1842; Spotiswood's History of the Church of Scotland, vols. ii. iii., Spottiswoode Soc. 1851; Correspondence of Robert Bowes, Surtees Soc. 1842; Papiers d'État … relatifs a l'Histoire de l'Écosse, tome ii. iii. Bannatyne Club; Correspondence of King James VI of Scotland with Sir R. Cecil and others, Camden Soc. 1861; History and Life of King James the Sext, Bannatyne Club, 1825; Secret History of the Court of James the First, Edinburgh, 1811; Court and Times of James I, London, 1848 (full of misprints); Goodman's Court of King James I, London, 1839. Above all the State Papers, the Scottish series for James's reign in Scotland, the Domestic and Foreign series for his reign in England, should be diligently consulted. Particulars of other sources of information will be found in the references to m'Crie's Life of A. Melville, Burton's History of Scotland, vols. v. and vi., and Gardiner's History of England, 1603–42, vols. i–v. Spedding's Letters and Life of Bacon, vols. iii–vii., throw light on many points in James's career in England. The popular estimate of James's character is chiefly derived from Sir Walter Scott's Fortunes of Nigel.]