Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The First Stuart King - The Wisest Fool in Christendom II

Teenage Years     

Esme Stuart
There were two important outcomes from James’ upbringing; his deep heartfelt attachment to the Protestant religion and his need for love wherever he could find it. James latent homosexuality was stirred by Esmé Stuart, one of his cousins, whom he encountered at the age of thirteen.

The Catholic Esmé, Seigneur d’Aubigny, was visiting Scotland to deal with a dispute over the earldom of Lennox. The 37 year old father of four was an instant hit with the young king. James was fascinated by Esmé’s sophistication and the two would sit up late laughing and drinking. Esmé gave James affection and James responded with devotion. Esmé encouraged James to write to his mother

Esmé was able to re-order the Scottish court on the French model and encouraged James interest in poetry. In return Esmé joined the Privy Council and was made Earl of Lennox on 5th March 1580 and on 5th August 1581 he was made Duke of Lennox. At the same time as he was upsetting the Scottish nobles by his rise Lennox was propitiating the Scottish burghs[i].

Lennox was persuaded by James to change his religion in an attempt to reduce hostility to his Catholic favourite. The English envoy Sir Henry Widdrington was horrified by Lennox’s growing power[ii];

‘He [James] can hardly suffer him out of his presence, often times he will clasp him about the neck, with his arms and kiss him.’[iii]

The Kirk went further;

‘The Duke of Lennox went about to draw the King into carnal lust.’[iv]

Basilikon Doron
It is impossible to know whether Lennox and James, or indeed any of the King’s future favourites knew each other in carnal lust. But, despite James’ advice in the Basilikon Doron[v], addressed to Charles, condemning homosexuality as a sin;

‘That ye are bound in conscience never to forgive,’[vi]

James was well known for his blasphemous oaths and failure to live up to much of the advice he gave Charles

Malign Influences

Earl of Lennox

 Lennox’s boon companion James Stewart was made Earl of Arran; the two men persuaded James to have Morton tried for his part in the murder of James’ father. Found guilty Morton was executed on 2nd June 1581.

The Kirk and its supporters viewed the triumvirate of Lennox, Arran and James with disfavour, especially as Lennox encouraged James to believe that the church was encroaching on his authority.

 Elizabeth made a formal approach to James demanding that he remove ‘the professed Papist’ Lennox. Although normally wary of offending Elizabeth James ignored her demand.

Kirk and king fell out over James’ choice of Robert Montgomery as Bishop of Glasgow. The nominee was unacceptable in the eyes of the Presbyterian general assembly. On the 22nd August 1582 James was kidnapped by the Earl of Gowrie in what became known as the Ruthven raid.

Ruthven Castle
James was forced to issue a proclamation against Lennox and Arran. The Master of Glamis ignored James’ tears of humiliation and loss, saying;

‘Better that bairns should weep than bearded men.’[vii]

The heartbroken James wrote a heartfelt poem bemoaning his loss as Lennox returned to France[viii], whilst his subjects railed against Lennox who had, according to Andrew Melville, held the king,

‘In a misty night of captivity and black darkness of shameful servitude.’[ix]

Those opposing James and Lennox did so more for political purposes rather than moral indignation. Lennox had been spending money like water and Gowrie was owed £33,000[x]. The regime cut James’ household expenses claiming;

"Havand respect to the order of the hous of your hieness goudsire King James the fifth of worthie memorie and to the possibilitie of your majesties present rents,"[xi]

The Gowrie regime was supported, somewhat ineffectually by Elizabeth and the French court, hoping to influence the choice of James’ bride, offered Gowrie a pension[xii].

But the Earls of Gowrie and Mar and their supporters did not enjoy the heady experience of power long. They moved James around the country but the backlash was headed by James’ supporters. A consortium of lairds including the earls of Atholl, Huntly[xiii], Montrose, Crawford and Rothes rescued James from his kidnappers in July 1583.

The Gowrie regime and their followers were dismissed from court and James was finally in control. In May 1584 Gowrie was executed after conspiring again against James and at this point the Casket Letters fell into government hands.

The King’s Mother
20 year old James
One of the biggest problems facing James upon his assumption of power was the vexed issue of his mother, still a prisoner in England. When his mother’s emissary, Monsieur de Fontenay, visited James’ court in August 1584 he was astonished that James asked no questions about his mother;

‘Neither of health, nor of the way she is treated, nor of her recreation nor of any similar manner.’[xiv]

Fontenay judged James;

‘Three qualities of mind he possesses in perfection: he understands clearly, judges wisely and has a retentive memory……….overconfident of his strength and scornful of other princes.’[xv]

Mary by Nicholas Hilliard
But James had been so indoctrinated in his youth that he had no filial feelings for his mother, viewing her solely as a threat to his throne. He was able to deride Buchanan for the lies told in his Detectio and in his Basilikon James castigated Moray for his unnatural rebellion against his half-sister, but James’ upbringing had assured that he was unable to love his mother. And Mary’s messenger, Patrick Gray[xvi], saw which way the wind was blowing and switched over to support James.

Ruling Alone

James was profligate and spent money with abandon; Elizabeth paid him a total of £58,000[xvii] in the years from 1586 to her death. Mary’s hope that her son would invite her home[xviii] was dashed by the Treaty of Berwick signed on 6th July 1586, which granted James a pension of £4,000 per annum[xix]. It is believed by some that the treaty was meant to soften the blow of Mary’s death.

The question of religion also reared its ugly head; a decision taken during James’ minority to allow a limited form of episcopacy was not to the taste of Andrew Melville, an ecclesiastical leader who believed that the Scottish church should follow the true Presbyterian model without bishops.

Andrew Melville
In 1561 a form of bishops or superintendants had been allowed but in 1581 this was reversed under Melville’s influence. Melville held that it was up to the clergy to;

‘Teach the magistrate [James].’[xx]

But in 1584, after Gowrie’s fall, the monarch was reaffirmed as head of the church. As Archbishop of St Andrews, Patrick Adamson’s influence expanded whilst that of Melville’s diminished; he fled to England after being summonsed to be tried for seditious preaching.

The Extremist lairds, exiled after the overthrow of the Ruthven coup, were returned to Scotland by Elizabeth. They challenged Arran’s power and James was forced to remove Arran from his post as chancellor. Although obliged to pardon the exiles, James was still able to hold his kingship above them.

The Death of Mary

Following her involvement in the Babington Plot, an attempt to overthrow Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne, the stage was set for Mary’s final scene. On 25th September 1586, less than three months after the signing of the Treaty of Berwick, Mary was transferred to Fotheringhay castle to await trial. Thirty six commissioners assembled there on 11th October to try Mary, who declared that

‘It seemeth strange to me, that the Queen should command me as a subject, to submit my self to a Trial. I am an absolute Queen, and will doe nothing which will be prejudicial to Royal Majesty, or to other Princes of my place and rank, or my son.’[xxi]

Nevertheless the trial took place on 15-16th October after an intervention by Elizabeth. Mary denied all the charges but the result was a foregone conclusion. Before the commissioners were able to give their verdict a message from Elizabeth arrived proroguing the outcome to the Star Chamber at Westminster. There on 25th October Mary was found guilty and on the 29th parliament ratified the verdict and pressed for Mary’s execution.

Contemporary sketch of Mary's execution
The warrant for the execution was finally signed on 7th February 1587 and Mary was told to prepare for death the next day. It is possible that James communicated to the English that he would not sacrifice the alliance between the two countries in the event of his mother’s death.

When he was informed of his mother’s death by her servants James cut all communication between Scotland and England. Elizabeth sent her cousin Sir Robert Carey to James; he carried a letter from Elizabeth in which she swore that she had signed the death warrant on the understanding that it was only to be used in the event of an invasion force. Carey was forced to wait at the border for days before James agreed to see him.


The Early Stuarts – Godfrey Davies, Oxford University Press 1987

Elizabeth & Mary – Jane Dunn, Harper Perennial 2003

King James – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1974

Mary Queen of Scots – Antonia Fraser, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1978

Robert Cecil – Alan Haynes, Peter Owen Publishers 1989

Walsingham – Alan Haynes, Sutton Publishing 2004

After Elizabeth – Leanda de Lisle, Harper Perennial 2006

Mary, Queen of Scots – Alison Weir, BCA 2003

[i]. In July 1580, the English diplomat Robert Bowes reported that Lennox had obtained fishing rights in Aberdeen, which the deposed Regent Morton had formerly given to his servant George Affleck of Balmanno, and then he arranged for the King to give this valuable source of income to the town
[ii] A faction at the English court feared that Lennox was the forerunner of an attack on England from Scotland, led by the powerful de Guise family; Esmé had been escorted to his ship bound for Scotland by the Duc de Guise
[iii] After Elizabeth – de Lisle
[iv] Ibid
[v] Originally meant for Prince Henry the Basilikon reiterated James’ belief in the Divine Right of Kings and criticised both Catholics and Protestants. It advised on dress and behaviour of the monarch
[vi] Ibid
[vii] King James - Fraser
[viii] Dying in Paris in May 1583
[ix] King James - Fraser
[x] This is Scottish pounds and the calculation of worth is in English pounds; In 2011, the relative value of £33,000.0s.0d from 1582 ranges from £7,802,000.00 to £2,382,000,000.00
[xii] A yearly pension of 100,000 crowns for the state, 2,000 crowns personally, and a lump sum of 10,000 crowns
[xiii] Later Marquess of Huntly
[xiv] King James - Fraser
[xv] After Elizabeth – de Lisle
[xvi] Also known as the Master of Gray, originally a supporter of Mary
[xvii] In 2011, the relative value of £58,000 0s 0d from 1603 ranges from £11,450,000.00 to £2,478,000,000.00. All monies calculated at 1603 rates
[xviii] Offering her acknowledgement of James as King of Scotland, something she had never done; Mary claimed that she was forced to abdicate her throne
[xix] In 2011 worth historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £804,600.00
economic status
value of that income or wealth is £33,540,000.00
economic power value of that income or wealth is £269,800,000.00; taken at 1586 rates
[xx] King James - Fraser
[xxi] Elizabeth & Mary - Dunn

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The First Stuart King - The Wisest Fool in Christendom

The King’s Mother
Mary Queen of Scots
James VI of Scotland was only thirteen months old when he ascended the throne of Scotland. His 24 year old mother Mary had been forced to abdicate after the murder of James’ father Henry, Lord Darnley.
The former queen of France, more French than Scottish, returned to her country upon the death of her first husband Francis II. In a haze of sexual attraction Mary married the 20 year old Darnley in 1565 in opposition to her advisers and to the queen in England, Elizabeth[i].

Mary soon had cause to hate her jealous, lonely and arrogant husband. Darnley isolated, by Mary’s courtiers, joined with her enemies; he was involved in the murder of Mary’s secretary David Rizzio in March 1566; an event which took place in front of the pregnant queen. James was born three months later on 19th June after a long and difficult labour.

David Rizzio
The Young Prince
In the afternoon Mary was visited by a crush of noblemen wanting to congratulate her on James’ birth. In response to rumours that the child was not Darnley’s[ii] Mary pushed for recognition from her husband;

‘My Lord, here I protest to God, and as I shall answer to Him at the great Day of Judgement, this is your son and no other man’s son. And I am desirous that all here bear witness, for he is so much your son that I fear it will be the worse for him hereafter.’[iii]

Mary and Darnley
She then informed Sir William Stanley, an English envoy;
‘This is the son whom I hope shall first unite the two kingdoms of Scotland and England.’[iv]
James was christened on 17th December 1566 at Stirling Castle, according to the Catholic rites; Darnley did not attend. The new Comte de Brienne[v] stood proxy for King Charles of France, one of James’ godparents. The Englishman, proxy for Elizabeth, stood outside the chapel door away from possibility of Papist contagion.

Husband Number Three
Kirk o'Field
Having tired of the Darnley Mary turned to the Earl of Bothwell, who arranged Darnley’s murder. The young king consort was recovering from a bout of either smallpox or syphilis and was living apart from his wife when he was blown up at Kirk o’ Field on 10th February 1567.
Elizabeth was not impressed by the death of one of her subjects;

‘The Queen expresses sorrow at the death of the King [Darnley], and she thinks that, although he married against her wish, yet, as he was a royal personage and her cousin, the case is a very grave one, and she signifies her intention to punish the offenders.’[vi]
Loch Leven castle
Marrying Darnley’s murderer turned the majority of her lords against Mary. Following the defeat of her and Bothwell’s army at Carberry Hill on 15th June Mary’s brother the Earl of Moray was made Regent for James while Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven castle[vii]. On 2nd May 1568 Mary escaped and on 13th May the army that Bothwell had hastily put together was defeated at the battle of Langside. On 16th May Mary landed in England and two days later was confined at Carlisle castle[viii].
The Young King

Earl of Moray
James saw his mother for the last time in April 1567; the small child, around eleven months old, can never have had any memories of his mother. On 23rd January 1570 James’ uncle and Regent was assassinated[ix] and then his grandfather, the Earl of Lennox became Regent. Lennox died in September 1571 wounded in a foray. The post of Regent was then taken by the Earl of Mar, who died of natural causes in October1572[x].
The Earl of Mar
The Earl of Mar was appointed Governor of the young prince and his upbringing was left to the Countess of Mar, a strict and harsh surrogate parent. James was brought up strictly in a loveless environment; his material wants were not neglected, as a baby James had a nurse and four persons to rock his cradle. His bed was curtained in black and his pillows edged with black. But despite the dour household James was to find a friend in Mar’s son, whom James nicknamed Jocky o’Sclaitis; Jocky was eight years older than the young king.

James had weak lower limbs and until he was seven could barely walk[xi]. He also had problems eating and drinking as a child and may have suffered from cerebral palsy. James may also have suffered from ADHD[xii], as evidenced by his restlessness, inability to concentrate on routine work and obsession with hunting. He had an allegedly lion shaped birthmark on his arm.

Sir Edward Wotton[xiii] saw in James;
‘In his eyes and in the outward expression of his face…..a certain natural goodness.’[xiv]
While the English courtier Roger Wilbraham[xv] claimed that James had;

‘The sweetest, pleasantest and best nature that ever I knew.’[xvi]

George Buchanan
One of James’ tutors, the gentle Peter Young, was much liked by his pupil and he eventually moved to London with James in 1603 and took charge of the young Charles. But the senior tutor was George Buchanan, a brilliant but embittered and brutal old man, who bitterly hated Mary and was said to exact vengeance against those who offended him, including the young king.
Buchanan even claimed that Mary wanted to give James into the care of Bothwell and that she was prepared to consider infanticide;

‘Bothwell did not consider it to his own security to protect a boy [James] who might one day become the avenger of his father’s death; and he wanted no other to stand in the way of his own children in line of succession to the throne. The Queen, who could refuse him nothing, personally undertook to have the boy brought back.’[xvii]
This was totally untrue and Mary had left strict instructions that James was to be surrendered to no-one other than herself.

The author of Detectio Mariae Reginae was unlikely to encourage James to think well of his mother[xviii]. The toys that Mary sent her child never reached him and as an adult James was to deal with the issue of his mother unemotionally. Just before Moray’s death Mary sent her son a pony and a letter that Elizabeth did not allow out of England;
‘Dear Son, I send three bearers to see you and bring me word how ye do, and to remember you that ye have a loving mother that wishes you in time to love know and fear God.’[xix]
Through use of the rod Buchanan instilled more learning in the young king, who ended up resenting the old man and much of what he stood for; James wrote a number of theological and political works on the divine right of kings that countered Buchanan’s views[xx]. But Buchanan taught James that his mother had murdered his father, that she was an adulteress and worst of all was a standard bearer of a wicked and heretical religion; lessons that were never to leave him.

the young James
James’ day would start with prayers and then a lesson of Greek. This was followed by breakfast and then a Latin lesson. After dinner James would study composition, then arithmetic and cosmography[xxi] or dialectics or rhetoric. By the age of eight James could discourse on knowledge and ignorance to the astonishment of his auditors. He would do so while walking up and down holding Lady Mar’s hand. Naturally in this Calvinistic household James’ religious education was not neglected and his interest in religion was to be life-long.
Buchanan, the finest Latin scholar in Europe, had his five year old pupil address the Scottish parliament in Latin within a year of commencing his studies. After the speech the observant and necessarily precocious child noticed a hole and informed his lairds;

‘This parliament has a hole in it.’[xxii]
A few days later James’ grandfather the Earl of Lennox was brought back to the castle, dying of wounds received during fighting with his mother’s supporters. Mar was replaced by the Earl of Morton, one of Darnley’s murderers.

On the 4th March 1578 the Earls of Atholl and Argyll appeared in full armour in Stirling castle and advised James that, at the age of nearly twelve, he was now old enough to rule for himself and that James should abolish the Regency. James was nothing loath, but Morton was reluctant to put down power. On 26th April James was woken by the sound of fighting; Morton and Jocky o’Sclaitis had come to seize the king and castle and in this they were successful. This mêlée troubled James’ sleep for some time afterwards.
Buchanan stopped teaching James in 1579, which must have been a relief for the young king; but he owed his scholarship to the brilliant but brutal scholar.

The Early Stuarts – Godfrey Davies, Oxford University Press 1987

King James – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1974
Mary Queen of Scots – Antonia Fraser, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1978

After Elizabeth – Leanda de Lisle, Harper Perennial 2006
Mary, Queen of Scots – Alison Weir, BCA 2003

[i] Mary was Elizabeth’s closest blood relation and had every expectation that she would be Elizabeth’s heir in default of Elizabeth bearing children
[ii] There were also rumours that James had died at birth and the son of the Earl of Mar John, Lord Erskine, had been substituted for the dead prince
[iii] Mary, Queen of Scots - Weir
[iv] Ibid
[v] Henri-Auguste, his father had died the previous month
[vi] Mary, Queen of Scots - Weir
[vii] Bothwell fled to Denmark where he was imprisoned and died insane
[ix] An event that pleased Mary so much that she paid the assassin a yearly stipend thereafter
[x] After a banquet given by the Earl of Morton
[xi] A problem he passed on to his second son, Charles
[xii] Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
[xiii] Later Comptroller of the Queen’s Household
[xiv] After Elizabeth – de Lisle
[xv] Solicitor General for Ireland under Elizabeth and holding several posts under James
[xvi] After Elizabeth – de Lisle
[xvii] Mary, Queen of Scots - Weir
[xviii] Buchanan was heavily involved in the affair of the Casket Letters
[xix] Mary Queen of Scots - Fraser
[xx] That kings derived their power from their subjects and could be deposed
[xxi] Including geography and astronomy
[xxii] After Elizabeth – de Lisle