James the Great was one of Britain's most transforming rulers. First as King of Scotland, he consolidated absolute power in the hands of one man, through a series of clever actions that won the support of the people. When he became King of England, James centralized the government, and also consolidated power in his hands. Finally, as King of Ireland, James settled what was left of the island and centralized his power. This story will cover his reign, and long after that.

Section 1: BirthEdit

The future James the Great was born on 19 June 1566, in Edinburgh Castle. He was the only child of Mary, Queen of Scots and her second husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Both of James's parents were descendants of Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England and older sister of Henry VIII of England. Mary's rule was, at the time, challenged by Protestant contenders, since she and Darnley were both Roman Catholics. Darnley secretly allied with the rebels and arranged the murder of David Rizzi, the Queen's Italian secetary, three months before James was born.

James automatically became Duke of Rothesay, Prince of Scotland, and Great Steward of the Royal Court at birth, since being the eldest son to the Scottish sovereign. He was baptised as Charles James Stuart on 17 December 1566 in a Catholic ceremony, held at Stirling Castle. His godparents included King Charles IX of France, Elizabeth I of England, and Emmanuel Philbert, Duke of Savoy, all of whom were repersented by various noblemen and diplomats. Mary refused to have the Archbishop of St Andrews, whom she believed was a "corrupt priest", spit in the child's mouth, as was then the custom.

James was barely a year old when his father, Lord Darnley, was murdered in a un-explained explosion at Kirk o' Field, Edinburgh, on 10 Feburary 1567. This was most likely arranged by disgruntled Protestant noblemen for Darnley's role in the murder of Rizzi. James became Duke of Albany and Earl of Ross, which had been Darnley's titles. Mary's small amount of popularity tanked, especially after she married James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell on 15 May 1567. Hepburn was widely believed to be the chief conspriator involved in organizing Darnley's murder. In June 1567 the people revolted and arrested Mary. She was imprisioned in Lock Leven Castle; she never saw baby James again. On 24 July, the rebels declared Mary abicated and awarded the Crown to her young infant son, James, who became King, with actual power being held in the person of the Regent, who originally was the Duke of Moray.

Section 2: RegenciesEdit

Baby King James was entrusted to the care of the Earl and Countess of Mar. He was to "be conserved, nutured, and brought up" in Sterling Castle. James was crowned King of Scots at the age of thirteen months at the Church of Holy Rude, Sterling, by Adam Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, on 29 July 1567. John Knox preached the sermon at the coronation. In accordance with the religious beliefs of much of the Scottish nobility and parliament, James was raised as a strict Protestant. The Privy Council selected John Buchanan as James' tudor. Buchanan was a strict teacher, subjecting James to regular beatings. James never forget what Buchanan did, and later had him strangled in 1582. But James came to love reading, writing, history, theology, political history, and science. The young lad also learned hawking, horse-riding, swimming, and fishing. Buchanan turned James into a Protestant, god-fearing king.

In 1568, with the assistance of some loyal nobles, Dowager Queen Mary escaped from prison, leading to a brief period of countryside violence and unrest. The Lord Regent, the Earl of Moray, defeated Mary and her troops at the Battle of Langside, almost capturing her. Mary however was able to flee to England. Queen Elizabeth promptly imprisioned the refugee Scottish Queen. On 22 January 1570, Moray was assassinated by a ardent supporter of Mary's, James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, to be succeeded as regent by James's paternal grandfather, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, who a year later was carried fatally wounded into Stirling Castle after a raid by several of Mary's remaining supporters. The next regent, John Erskine, 1st Earl of Mar, died soon after banqueting at the estate of James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, where he "took a vehement sickness", dying on 28 October 1572 at Stirling. It was suspected by many that Morton had poisioned his food. Morton, who was appointed Regent by the Privy Council, proved to be a efficent fill-in for the young King James. Morton made enemies because of his quick temper and agressive behavior. He fell from favor when a Frenchman, Esme Stewart, first cousin of James' father Lord Darnley, and future Earl of Lennox, arrived in Scotland and became the most powerful of James' male favorites. Morton was executed on 2 June 1581, supposedly for involvement in Lord Darnley's murder fourteen years prior.

Section 3: Rule in ScotlandEdit

On 1 July, James declared himself of age and assumed direct control. He declared I will use my progrative to the greatest extent possible, in all manners, to insure governance over my kingdom. On 8 August, James promoted the Earl of Lennox to the rank of Duke, the only such person in all of Scotland. The king was to remain influenced by Lennox for at least one more year.

Despite converting to Protestantism, Lennox was distrusted by many Scottish Calvinists, some of them nobles. They noted the physical displays of affection between the king and duke, saying "they were falling into homosexual lust". In August 1582, in what came to be known as the Ruthven Raid, the Protestant earls of Gowrie and Angus lured James into Ruthven Castle, imprisioned him, and forced Lennox to leave Scotland. James was freed in June 1583 and he promptly had both Gowrie and Angus arrested and executed.

James promptly began his rule. As he had declared, he jumped into expanding his power. King James used manipulation and bribes to push laws through the Estates of Scotland (the Scottish Parliament) to gain absolute power:

  • Religious Control Act-This act insured the king's absolute control over the Church of Scotland. The act granted the king supreme supervision, review, and control of all Scottish bishops and archbishops. The Kirk was to be subject to the king's mandate, and would conduct all matters and affairs only with the king's assent and approval.
  • 'Financial Provisions Act-This act insured the king's absolute control over all Scottish finances. The king was granted the sole power to control the treasury, to levy and modify taxes, duties, and imposts, and to govern the nation's military finances. A Royal Commission was created to manage Scottish finances day to day, but it was to be u

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