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James VI

James I

King of Scots

Held prisoner in England from the age of 12, James I returned to his country as king in 1424, heralding the return of effective government for the first time in over 30 years. He was the first in a series of effective and intelligent Stewart kings who energetically took royal authority to all corners of the country, and he introduced a mass of reforming legislation. But his avaricious appropriation of land made him unpopu­lar, and he was assassinated in Perth by disgruntled nobles.

James II

King of Scots

King in name at age six, James came into his authority in 1450 and marked the event by crushing the nobles who wielded power during his minority. He re-enacted many of his father’s laws and brought peace and prosperity to the country for a short time before his untimely death, killed in a freak explosion by one of his expensive import­ed cannons.

James III

King of Scots

Another active, able and voracious Stewart ruler, James’s seemingly incessant demands for money alienated the nobles, and his policy of pursuing peace with England, though visionary, was deeply unpopular. He was accidentally killed in a revolt by his nobles, led by his son, the future James IV.

James IV

King of Scots

The charismatic, charming and intelligent James IV was Scotland’s renaissance prince. A patron of the arts, he kept one of the foremost courts of his day; intro­duced legal reforms and expanded education; and travelled the country extensively to exercise his personal power. The humanist scholar Erasmus said of him, ‘He had a wonderful intellectual power, an astonishing knowledge of everything, and uncon­querable magnanimity, and the most abundant generosity.’ James’s marriage to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, ultimately brought the Stewarts to the throne of England. But it was the Auld Alliance with France that caused James to invade England in September 1513; James and many of his nobles died in pointless and muddy defeat at Flodden, leaving Scotland rudderless before the stormy
winds of religious and political change blowing in from Europe.

James V

King of Scots

James V shared the Stewart traits of efficiency and energy, and was another effective
ruler. Like his father, he was a patron of the arts, but unlike him he was also avaricious f and vindictive. In 1538 he married Mary of Guise; tragically, the couple’s first chil­dren, two sons, died within a month of one another in 1541. Relations with England deteriorated into war in 1542, but the Scots were defeated at Solway Moss. James’s already strained health was broken by the defeat, and he died six days after the birth of his new daughter.

James VI

King of Scots

Learned, moderate, vigorous and possessed of a first-class mind, James VI has stood the tests of history to emerge as one of the most successful of all Scottish monarchs.

His parentless early years were bleak, and when he came into his power James was forced to take on not just powerful nobles but the ambitious new Church of Scotland, too. He was more than a match for all, proving himself in the process the shrewdest of political operators. He ruled the country as effectively from Edinburgh as his hard-working and far-travelled predecessors had done by personal authority. In 1603 James succeeded to the English throne, but the more intimate and personal Scots style of rule did not suit the sense of dignity and reserve demanded of the English monarch, and James was often ridiculed and misunderstood. His policies in Ireland were also disastrous, with repercussions that continue to the present day.