Famous Scots
- King James VI (1566-1625)

King James VI
Son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley, James was born on June 19 1566. He was proclaimed king at the age of one, following the enforced abdication of his mother. On July 29 1567 the young king was crowned at Scone - and was harangued by a long speech from John Knox.

The young James grew up in Stirling Castle. Like his grandfather, James V, the young King became hostage to various factions and saw a number of Regents being murdered. The first Regent was the Queen's half-brother, the Lord James Stewart, Earl of Moray who had forced Mary to abdicate. The Earl of Moray was murdered in 1570 and his grandfather, the Earl of Lennox, appointed Regent in his place, was carried, dying, into Stirling Castle in 1571. James escaped at the age of 14 and asserted his own authority (including the execution of the Regent Morton in 1581).

The Reformation of the church was largely complete, but James was not in favour of the extreme Protestants (who believed the King was "God's sillie vassal"). But he managed to gain control of the Church's governing body, the General Assembly, driving John Knox's successor into exile.

James had a considerable distaste for the Gaelic speaking Highlanders. In 1597, when he found the Clans Donald and Macleans fighting one another and families in Sutherland and Caithness at one another's throats, he demanded that all the chiefs should produce legal title to their lands. In some cases this could not be done and he settled many English speaking lowlanders in their lands, not always successfully. But where clan chiefs refused to take responsibility for the acts of their clansmen, writs of "Fire and Sword" were issued against them.

King James VI
His ambition to become King of England as well as Scotland meant that he did nothing to mitigate the fate of his mother who had been imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth and was ultimately executed by her.

In 1603, with the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Union of the Crowns took place. On 3 April 1603, he travelled to London (returning to Scotland only once). He took with him a retinue of Scottish court favourites, in particular Robert Carr who was known for his "stunning good looks and insolence." Carr became the first Scot to sit in the House of Lords in London. King James' suggestion that the two Parliaments should unite was quickly rejected by both bodies.

James married Anne of Denmark, younger daughter of Frederick II, in Oslo in 1589. They had seven children. The eldest, Henry, Duke of Rothesay and Prince of Wales, died of typhoid at the age of 18 and so it was their second son, Charles I, who inherited the throne.

Amongst his other actions, he established Protestant Scots and English in Ulster (thus creating the origins of the Irish sectarian conflicts) and colonies in Virginia in North America and commissioned an authorised version of the Bible. He also managed to avoid becoming embroiled in the "Thirty Years War" on the continent of Europe, which began in 1618.

James died on 27 March 1625. He was nearly 59 years old and had been a king for all but one of these years.

Return to the Index of Famous Scots

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line