James Stewart was King of Scotland from 1567, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and a descendant of Henry VII. He was crowned king at the age of thirteen months and regents appointed to conduct state affairs in his name; he was raised as a Protestant. He was the first king of the House of Stewart. As a young man James fell into disfavour with puritanical elements in the church, but he subsequently passed legislation to bolster his position as leader of both church and state. James supported Elizabeth of England in her dealings with the Spanish and the Armada enterprise, which gained him favour at the English court; he may already have been manoeuvring to secure the throne of England. He married Anne of Denmark in 1590 and the couple had three children together.
Negotiations between the English court and James were already underway when Elizabeth fell ill, and the seamless succession seems to have gained popular support. His previous distance from European affairs allowed him to bring the hostilities against Spain to a negotiated conclusion and to pursue overseas trade as a means to secure wealth.
Religious troubles did not entirely disappear: the ill-fated Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was designed to kill the king and his court and pave the way for the reinstatement of Catholic religious observance. The result of the failed plot was an increase in popular anti-popish sentiment and repressive measures enacted against Catholics, but James was equally demanding of his Protestant subjects due to his puritanical inclinations. He sanctioned the ‘authorized’ version of the Bible, which remains in use today and encouraged the establishment of permanent colonies in the Americas.
Towards the end of his life the king became increasingly autocratic despite relying on a handful of powerful advisers; the last of these, Buckingham, was at the king’s bedside when he died of a stroke.
Select from the coin links below to navigate around our catalogue: