James VI of Scotland becomes I of England

James VI of Scotland and I of England and his wife, Anne of Denmark.
James VI of Scotland and I of England and his wife, Anne of Denmark.

On Monday July 25th 1603 James VI of Scotland became the I of England after he and his beautiful Anna of Denmark were crowned King and Queen of England at Westminster Abbey. James arrived to London on May of that year, his wife was not with him at the time because she was heavily pregnant but she arrived in time for their coronation. There had not been another joint coronation in almost a century. The last being the one with his predecessor’s father with his first spouse, Katherine of Aragon in 1509. He was also the first Scottish King to see the stone of Scone again. (The stone had been taken by the English under Edward I and placed in the coronation chair.) As usual, the archbishop of Canterbury (John Whitgift) was in charge of the ceremony, anointing the couple with the holy oils before placing the crowns of the St Edward and St Edith on their heads.

James VI

James VI had a terrible childhood, much like his forebears, including his great-grandfather. He had been used and abused by his tutors who were just looking to someone to manipulate and to mold into their little puppet. He was then told that his mother was the most horrible person in the world to the point that he did not know what the truth was anymore. When he was a teenager he became very independent and learned to hide his feelings very well but he also started working for his mother’s release.
Who knows what really went through his mind. Did he really care about her? Or was he was just looking to release her because he was worried that her execution and her bad reputation would also affect him and his chances to get the throne? There is some reason to believe this last one because Fontenay, the French Ambassador, noted that whenever James talked about his mother, he never “inquired anything of the queen or of her health, or her treatment, her servants, her living, and eating, her recreation, or anything similar.”
And how could he when he never knew her and the people who raised him kept telling him ugly stuff about her?

Elizabeth-I_Rainbow-Portrait

Whichever was, Elizabeth I was never going to release MQS anytime soon and she must have made this very clear because the following year in 1585, when James was 19, he agreed with her decision to keep his mother in prison and even called Elizabeth “Madame Mother”. This made MQS go ballistic because this was her only son, the only hope she had to get free, calling her jailer ‘mother’. It was at this point that she started looking for other means to be released.

NPG 1766,Mary, Queen of Scots,by Unknown artist

“In all Christendom I shall find enough heirs with talons strong enough to grasp what I may put in their hand.”

Something we know ended in failure and with her eventual execution. But that July was her son’s day. In an ironic twist, Henry VII and his mother’s prayers of seeing his descendants on the throne of England for centuries did come true but not through his male heir and his descendants, but through his eldest daughter Margaret Tudor’s brood.

“When he [James VI] entered London for the first time on that spring morning in 1603” Linda Porter writes, “he was fulfilling the hopes of the marriage of James IV to Margaret Tudor a century before that the two crowns might, one day, be united.” And she is right. Henry VII did a lot to ensure peace between both kingdoms and agreed to prosecute border criminals in courts of law that would include Scottish and English jurors (to avoid bias). He also worked with Scottish noblemen to ensure that there would be less raids on England’s Northern borders and Scotland’s Southern border. It is hard to say though, that Henry VII would have ever envisioned this future for his country. Maybe Porter is right and he did. His ancestor Edward I certainly tried this when he negotiated a marriage between the maid of Norway (who died before she could be crowned Queen of Scots) and his heir, Edward of Caernarfon (future Edward II). Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII, almost succeeded but Mary of Guise was a lot smarter than he thought, and she sent her daughter away to France to marry the Dauphin, instead of his heir.

Henry VII, first monarch of the Tudor Dynasty and his eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor.
Henry VII, first monarch of the Tudor Dynasty and his eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor.

James VI was twice descended from Henry VII through both his parents. Mary, Queen of Scots as you all know, descended from Margaret Tudor’s first marriage to King James IV of Scotland, while Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley descended from her second to the Earl of Angus.

Although Elizabeth never named an heir, James became the most obvious choice and her councilors started having secret correspondence with him since 1601. After Bess’ death in 24 March 1603, parliament declared in favor of James and Robert Cecil sent a messenger to Scotland less than a month later to tell the King of Scotland of the recent events. James immediately set out for England. On the day of his coronation, he and Anne were gorgeously dressed, and even though there was an outbreak of plague, “the streets seemed paved with men and women” wrote one observer, that were eager to see their new king and queen.
This was after all, the end of an era -the Tudor era- and the start of a new one.

Sources:

  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Dynasty by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor England by Claire Ridgway by Claire Ridgway
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