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Chapter 1: The Scottish King of England
Chapter 1: The Scottish King of England

From The Union of Crowns by Robert William Johnson

“It was in January of 1603 when Queen Elizabeth, first of her name, had first developed a bad cold and had been advised by her physicians and her chief astrologer, Dr. Dee to move from Whitehall to Richmond – one of her more warmer palaces, out of fear for her degrading health. Once there she seems to have refused all sorts of medicine, fearing that they would exacerbate her situation, and as the Earl of Northumberland informed King James VI in Scotland, her physicians were concluding among themselves that ‘if this continues, she must fall into a distemper, not a frenzy rather a period of dullness and lethargy.’


Queen Elizabeth I of England

The deaths on the 25th of February, of the Countess of Nottingham, the Queen’s closest female confidante served to compound her illness as grief took hold and while all of Scotland stirred in happy anticipation of her demise, the Queen merely sat down reclining on floor cushions refusing Robert Cecil’s instructions and pleas to take to her bed. ‘Little man.’ She had told him it seems. ‘The word must is not to be used on princesses.’ She was 69, plagued with fever, worn by worldly cares and frustrations and most assuredly dying – so that even she was forced to at least accede to the demands and pleas of her secretary. Then, in the hectic hours of 24th of March, 1603, as the Queen’s labored breaths slackened even further, worrying the Royal Council even further, Father Weston, a Catholic Priest who had been imprisoned at that time in the infamous Tower of London, noted how ‘a strange silence has descended upon London…….not a bell rang out, not a bugle sounded at all, frightening even the most patient of men.’ Her council was in attendance, and at frantic request of both the council and Cecil, the Queen finally accepted James VI as her successor as Monarch and Sovereign of England, after years of holding her mind about the topic.


Sir Robert Cecil.

At Richmond Palace, leaving at dawn that day, Sir Robert Carey was informed by the Royal Council that he was to move north to the Scottish Kingdom to inform James VI that he was now going to succeed his cousin as Monarch of England. Carey covered 162 miles before he slept that night at Doncaster. Next day further relays of horses, all carefully prepared in advance guaranteed that he covered another round of 136 miles along the ill kept and ill maintained track known as the Great Northern Road which connected London and Edinburgh. After another night at Widdrington in Northumberland, which was his own home, the saddle weary traveler marched north in the last leg of his exhausting yet fast and breakneck journey. He was in Edinburgh by the next evening and though the King was newly gone to bed, the messenger was hurriedly conveyed to the Royal Bedchamber after the Royal Seal of England was shown. There, said Carey, ‘I kneeled by him and saluted him by his title of England, Scotland, France and Ireland.’ In response to which James VI gave Carey his hand to kiss and bade him welcome to the northern kingdom.

James VI had dwelt upon the potential difficulty of the fact that his succession wouldn’t be clear cut neither would it be clean, and as a result the idea of invading the northern English marches to press his claim to the country was still a tangible fear and as a result, the Abbot of Holyrood the next day, was urgently dispatched to take the possession of Berwick, the gateway to the south as it was called back then, as his English councilors pressed the new King to make haste for plans for James VI’s transfer to London were complete.

Summoning those nobles who could be contacted in the time available, he placed the government in the hands of his Scottish council and confirmed the custody of his children to those already entrusted with them. Likewise, his heir, Prince Henry, was offered words of wisdom upon his new status as successor to the throne of England. ‘Let not this news make you proud or insolent,’ James informed the boy, ‘for a king’s son and heir was ye before, and no more are ye yet. The augmentation that is hereby like to fall unto you is but in cares and heavy burdens; be therefore merry but not insolent.’ Queen Anne, meanwhile, being pregnant, was to follow the king when convenient, though this would not be long, for she miscarried soon afterwards in the wake of a violent quarrel with the Earl of Mar’s mother, once again involving the custody of her eldest son – whereupon James finally relented and allowed the boy to be handed over to her at Holyrood House prior to their joining him in London.


James I and VI of England and Scotland.

Before his triumphant journey to England however, James VI had other things to attend to as well. On Sunday, the 3rd of April, he had to attend the High Kirk of St. Giles in Edinburgh to deliver a speech in which he asked his subjects to continue in ‘obedience to him and agreement amongst themselves’. There was a public promise too, that he would return to Scotland every three years, and a further suggestion that his subjects should take to heart upon his departure since had had already settled the matters of Kirk and Kingdom. All that remained after that address to his subjects was the plea to the council for monetary resources, since he barely had sufficient funds to get him past the old border, and a series of meetings with both English and Scottish officials and a mounting flood of suitors already seeking lavish rewards and promises forced the council’s hand in giving James VI the money he required. In the first category, Sir Thomas Lake, Cecil’s secretary, who was sent north to report the King’s thoughts as he became acquainted with English affairs and businesses, and the Dean of Canterbury who was hastily dispatched to ascertain James VI’s plans for the Church of England. To the second belonged a teeming self seeking thong of lower nobility. ‘There is much posting that way.’ Wrote John Chamberlain, a contemporary recorder of the public and private gossip of the time. ‘And many run thither of their own errand, as if it were nothing else but first come first served, or that preferment were a goal to be got by footmanship.’

In the event, James’s progress south might well have dazzled many a more phlegmatic mind than his, since it was one unbroken tale of rejoicing, praise and adulation. Entering Berwick on the 6th of April in the company of a throng of Border chieftains, he was greeted by the loudest salute of cannon fire in any soldier’s memory and presented with a purse of gold by the town’s Recorder. His arrival, after all, represented nothing less than the end of an era on the Anglo-Scottish border. In effect, a frontier which had been the source of bitter and continual dispute over nearly a millennia had been finally transformed by nothing more than an accident of birth, and no outcome of James’s kingship before or after would be of such long-term significance. That a King of Scotland, attended by the wardens of the Marches from both sides of the Border, should enter Berwick peacefully amid cries of approval was almost inconceivable – and yet it was now a reality for the onlookers whose forebears’ lives had been so disrupted and dominated by reprisal raids and outright warfare between both sides of the now former border, by all rights.


Widdrington Castle, Newcastle.

The new King continued his march south, not allowing the growing rain to dampen his spirits as many thought it would. He stopped in Northumberland at Sir Robert Carey’s Widdrington Castle, Newcastle on his way to York where he attended the local nobility and sermons and bishops as he continued his triumphant march to the south. On the 14th of April, James VI reached York by which point he was already extremely impressed by his new kingdom. The vast abundance of countryside, the richness of English land compared to Scotland’s rugged and barren territories and even the quaint little villages that he passed was much in contrast to Scotland, delighting the new English monarch.

On his way to London, James VI continued to entertain nobility and commoners of high rank with his entourage. Queen Elizabeth I had controlled the stem of giving away titles, such that of Knighthood with ever growing presence, yet James VI gave away knighthoods and titles of chivalry as he pleased with his entourage. During the entire reign of the Virgin Queen, only 878 knighthoods were given out to the country, whilst James VI’s entire march from the Scottish border to London saw around 906 knighthoods given out by the new King. It was a quite careless gifting of titles to people who did nothing but flatter their new monarch, however it did allow James VI to gain some amount of prestige and popularity among the high ranking commoners, who benefitted most from the knighthoods. James VI was most definitely giving away knighthoods because he was happy and flattered, of that there is no higher doubt, and however we cannot solely identify his reasons of giving away titles so frivolously as simply being flattered. New research into historical figures have analyzed and have come to believe that James VI was trying to imitate the cult of personality that Elizabeth I had built around herself by gaining some modicum of early popularity in his new kingdom.


Londoners dying of plague.

But what should have been the climax of the entire trip down to London, was met with an anti-climactic end. London, the capital of England and said to be the flower of the British Isles, was ridden with plague and the death toll in the city remained somewhere between 500 to 800 dropping dead every day. As a result, the entry of King James VI of Scotland, soon to be King James I of England and VI of Scotland, was delayed until the next season, spring, as the royal entourage hovered around London, accompanied by around 500 to 1000 citizens of the outskirts of London. The new Prince of Wales, Prince Henry was sent off to Norfolk so that he would not catch the potential plague that was indiscriminate in its attack against humanity, whether they be commoners, peasants, nobles or royalty.


The Coronation of James I/VI

Even so, as the plague in London claimed the lives of around 30,000 Londoners, the coronation that occurred on the 25th of July, 1603, the feast of St. James the Great, was held in its normal grandeur and splendor, as citizens of London, many of whom had forgotten how a coronation looked like due to Elizabeth I’s long reign, came out in droves, despite the plague, to watch the coronation from the streets of the capital city.

By the time that James I/VI set out of London alongside his queen to go on a tour of the Southern Counties and Shires after the coronation period, the signs that the honeymoon period of James I/VI was coming to an end already beckoned the new monarch. The fact that James had already spent around 10,000 pounds on his journey to the south and had literally given away another 14,000 pounds in lavish gifts to nobles and oligarchs compounded with the fact that Elizabeth I’s massive funeral required 17,000 pounds to complete made the Royal Council and some members of the English Parliament grumble behind James I/VI’s back. The 400,000 pounds that stood in debt due to the previous Irish campaigns and attacks on the continent also compounded the financial situation of England. Robert Cecil wrote anxiously on the 18th of August, to the Earl of Shrewbury writing, ‘Our new sovereign, is going to spend nearly 100,000 pounds a year on his new mansion, which won’t even cost 50,000 in the worst of monetary days. Now think what the country feels and so much for that. The King must be reined in from these lavish spending.’

Some flaws of James I/VI’s characters also began to come up as the new King settled down in his new Kingdom. Some petitioners in Northampton who wanted to see their new king and petition him to act against some local corrupt clergymen who were exploiting the people, James I/VI had the surprised petitioners hauled up and rebuked for their manners, which was deemed to be little less than treason. James wasn’t inclined to play to the crowds either. Upon his entry to the capital after his southern tour, historian Thomas Wilson writes that the people started to miss the affability of their now dead queen, as the new King was much harder to speak with in the capital. James didn’t like to be looked on, that much was obvious by this point. Sir John Oglander also writes in his memoirs that, ‘Some people had come to the cathedral during our visit to see His Royal Person. Then, when His Majesty heard the news, he cried out in Scottish, ‘Gods Wounds! I will put down by breeches and they shall also see my arse!’”


Sir John Oglander

Yet if James’s improvidence and ineffability and disaffection to some of his Kingly duties were already emerging, other facets of his personality remained and continued to create a favorable first impression among many in the government and the country. The clergymen that the petitioners had asked to be investigated were in fact investigated and charged with corruption and exploitation and the facile and witty as well as oratory skills of James I/VI impressed many such as Sir Thomas Lake and Sir Roger Wilbraham. Even the critical and displeased eye of Sir Francis Bacon, who was displeased to have a Scottish man on the English throne, remained generally positive of the new King during his first meeting with the new King in Broxbourne. Foreign Ambassadors such as the Venetians, Tuscans and Neapolitans sang praises of James I/VI in their letters back to Venice, Florence and Naples.

Many liked the boyish attitude that James showed, seemingly a new breath of air for the formal and dreary courts of early modern Europe, however whilst this allowed the new king to create a new rapport among the people and nobility as well as the parliament, it also crossed the lines of decorum sometimes and embarrassed the king behind his back. For instance, when his favorite Sir Philip Herbert, whom he had created the Earl of Montgomery, married Lady Susan de Vere, who was also liked by the new King, in Whitehall in early 1604, the Scotsman was overcome with boyish high spirits and gave the new bride scores of gifts. He also wrote to Sir Dudley Carleton, ‘If Sir Philip won’t have her and was unmarried, I would keep her myself.’ It was a fatherly comment and an endearing one at that as it seems that Susan de Vere and James did have a father daughter like relationship with one another, but many doubted the light heartedness of the comment when heard through third and fourth hand sources, and began to spread rumors.


Susan Herbert nee De Vere, the Countess of Montgomery

Yet the adulation with which many Englishmen looked upon their new monarch, fake as it may have been on many occasions, perplexed the new king and definitely made James I/VI crave for more. In Scotland, the Lords and Nobles of the Highlands and the Clans could openly and frankly dispute words with their monarch and even sometimes usurp His power, however in England, courtly intrigues made such frankness impossible, and those who disagreed with their monarch spoke about it through twisting words, not speaking against their king directly. However James I/VI was also suspicious of his new realm and knew the inherent differences between the Scottish and English parliaments and knew that he would have to tread lightly between the two to make sure that he could consolidate his hold on both sides of his new realm. Sir Robert Cecil, the Secretary of the State of England under Elizabeth I was kept in his position and James I/VI very reluctantly under the influence of the new Earl of Montgomery and Earl of Shrewsbury, as well as Sir Thomas Lake, decided to take a small tutorship from his Secretary of State to understand the niceties of the English state that he would have to learn. James I/VI was definitely averse to the smaller niceties of kingly business, as his reluctance to meet commoners shows, however he was neither a fool nor a man who was out of the so called loop. As a result, together with Robert Cecil, Sir Thomas Lake and the two aforementioned earls, alongside other prominent members of English society, such as Sir Adam Newton (who despite being Scottish knew about English Laws quite extensively), and Sir Robert Carr (future Earl of Somerset), began to tutor the new English monarch on English Law and how to act in coordination between the Royal Prerogative and the Parliament of England, which placed subtle limits to royal power rather than the blunt limits placed in Scotland. [1]


Sir Adam Newton and Sir Robert Carr.

By and large, James I/VI would leave behind a mixed legacy, as many things he did were excellent and good for the nation and many things he did sparked controversy as well, however the tutorship that he took from the Englishmen undoubtedly aided in his endeavor of the fact that he is generally well regarded today in the British Isles.


[1] – Our Primary PoD. James I/VI was asked to be tutored in English law and niceties but was avoided otl, something that was taken up ittl, making James VI more aware of the situation in England around him rather than the somewhat clueless monarch that he was otl.

Considering with covid-19 isolation, i have a lot of time, i thought i would try my hand at this time period of English and British history. The era is filled to the brim with PoDs. So basically my aim here ittl, is to get an early acts of the union and its consequences. Thoughts?
Interesting, can't wait to see where this goes. Hopefully Henry lives, so that the disaster that was the reign of Charles I and later Cromwell is avoided.
An area of interest but not expertise for me - far from it! So some thoughts/questions:

Does this more 'clued up' House of Stuart butterfly away the English Civil War?
Does that eventually have knock on effects on the Glorious Revolution and the development of the British constitution/power of Parliament?
Do we get an earlier Act of Union with Ireland?
Earlier unification of England and scotland? Watched!
it will certainly have geopolitical ramifications that's for sure
Interesting, can't wait to see where this goes. Hopefully Henry lives, so that the disaster that was the reign of Charles I and later Cromwell is avoided.
Prince Henry was said to have the stubborn streak of Charles I with the flexibility of James I, so that's definitely a plus. Besides his devout protestantism basically ends the religious scandals of Charles I, so yeah Henry would be far better than Charles.
Good start.
Watched. Always exciting to see a new Sārthākā timeline.
Does this more 'clued up' House of Stuart butterfly away the English Civil War?
Most certainly by this point
Does that eventually have knock on effects on the Glorious Revolution and the development of the British constitution/power of Parliament?
Yes. The Parliament and Monarchy will be working more in tandem with one another rather than the cold detachment.
Do we get an earlier Act of Union with Ireland?
It's possible. James I was initially supportive of reconciliation with the Gaelic Lords before the Flight of the Earls and the O'Doherty Rebellion.
the biggest problem to tackle will be the issue of unifying the Church of Scotland and England. Any suggestions on that?

Deleted member 147978

If the churches of England and Scotland were to united, then I suppose that both of them must be either Anglican or Calvinist in doctrine.
Chapter 2: The Peacemaker
Chapter 2: The Peacemaker

From The Union of Crowns by Robert William Johnson

“Though James I/VI was still getting to know England’s laws and parliament as he studied with Carr, Montgomery and Cecil about English Law and the Royal Prerogative, he was well equipped already to grasp the elements of struggle for power in the Whitehall and all the subtleties by which his predecessor had managed to maintain a fragile balance of powers and forces around her council table. The enmity between Cecil and Raleigh, for example, was in any case certainly less noisy than the kind of knuckleduster fuming he had been forced to contend with in Scotland, and he had been kept informed about multiple events by the letters of both Cecil and Henry Howard. Moreover, his opening moves on the broader front were wisely non-committal. One the one hand, he at once, provisionally confirmed the existing council in office, while choosing to release Lord Southampton and Sir Henry Neville from the Tower of London, where they had been languishing since the end of the Essex Rebellion. As a further gesture towards healing old wounds, and offering new beginnings, he also announced his intention of bringing up Essex’s heir in his own household – restored in blood and title, and reared in the companionship of Prince Henry, the Prince of Wales.


The 3rd Earl of Essex was raised in personal company of Henry I of Great Britain.

In the meantime, the immediate shape of the new king’s government had been decided on 3 May at Theobalds when he stopped at the home of Sir Robert Cecil on the final leg of his journey from Edinburgh to London. It was there that he had withdrawn with Cecil to a ‘labyrinth-like garden, compact of bays, rosemary and the like’ for an hour’s intimate conversation to confirm the latter’s primacy and seal, in the process, the rather more disconcerting triumph of Henry Howard – soon to become Earl of Northampton – and his sailor nephew, Thomas, who was swiftly promoted to the earldom of Suffolk. Charles Howard, too, who had commanded the English fleet against the Spanish Armada as Lord Howard of Effingham, duly retained the office of Lord Steward of the Household under his new title of Earl of Nottingham. In James’s view, it would have been the ultimate folly to discard those very men who had so strikingly demonstrated their level-headed competence in securing his succession, and who appeared to embody so strikingly all that typified Elizabethan wisdom and prestige. It was only natural, too, that five of his loyal Scottish lieutenants – Lennox, Mar, Home, Elphinstone and Edward Bruce, Lord Kinloss – should join the reconstituted council, since the court at Edinburgh had effectively ceased to exist, though for Sir Walter Raleigh and his allies, against whom Cecil and Howard had been so successfully poisoning the king’s mind, there was to be no crumb of comfort. Indeed, on 15 April James dismissed Raleigh as captain of his Guard, without financial compensation, and ordered him to leave Durham House in the Strand, which had been provided by the former queen for his private use over twenty years.


Sir Walter Raleigh.

Dark, saturnine and colossally proud, the 50-year-old Raleigh possessed a swagger that, in spite of his undoubted brilliance, could never endear him to one such as James, who regarded him purely as a reckless old pirate, opposed at any price to peace with Spain. To others he was a ‘Macchiavellian’ and an ‘atheist’, but if such terms bore no relation to his actual views, he was certainly no judge of character – and nowhere more so than in the case of the new king. To present James so early on merely confirmed Elizabeth I’s conviction that her favorite was no statesman, and the king lost little time in attempting to put the upstart in his place. When Raleigh presented himself before James at Burghley House, for example, he was merely treated to the kind of clumsy putdown that was the king’s stock in trade. ‘Rawly, Rawly,’ James declared upon their meeting, ‘and rawly ha’e heard of thee, mon’. Before long, moreover, the former royal favorite had lost not only the captaincy of the royal guard but the governorship of Jersey, the lord wardenship of the Stannaries’ and his monopoly on the sale of sweet wines. All in all, it may well have been no more than Raleigh’s presumption merited, but it was far more than one such as he could be expected to settle for passively. And, surely enough, this particularly glittering star of a bygone Elizabethan age would neither forgive nor forget.

Yet the flipside of Raleigh’s eclipse was the triumph of an altogether more accomplished politician. ‘The evidence of a king,’ James himself observed, ‘is chiefly seen in the election of his officers’, and in Sir Robert Cecil, at least, he had acquitted himself most favorably, notwithstanding the fact that the two men had precious little in common. Wholly unlike his new master, the principal Secretary of State stood, in fact, for calculated dignity and restrained decorum. And though he would be able occasionally to share a recondite joke with the king, the rest of their relationship would be largely artificial and careful judgment was brought to bear upon even the lightest or most minute details. If James wished to tease him clumsily on his puny figure and address him as his ‘little beagle’, this was a small price to pay for maintaining the reality of power in his own hands, and he was usually more than capable of enduring the king’s badinage under an umbrella of urbanity and stoical self-assurance. For there was a gravity and air of civilization about Cecil that placed even a long-serving king in awe of him – especially a King of Scotland whose provinciality was inclined to surface so frequently. Perhaps, indeed, the very banter that James directed Cecil’s way was itself a product of his own innate unease in the minister’s presence


Sir Robert Cecil.

The King also sought to ingratiate himself into English politics, and after meeting with Lord Mountjoy, with whom he was extremely taken, the King decided to end the 9 Years War of Ireland once and for all. On the 30th of March, 1603, Lord Tyrone had submitted to the Crown of England and the treaty had been extremely lenient on the former rebel Gaelic Lords of Ireland. As a result, many of the allied Crown Gaelic allies in Ireland were angered by the loss of potential land, territory and wealth at the expense of the rebel lords. Hugh O’Neil was allowed to retain his royal titles and lands, though slightly reduced, and he was forbidden from allowing Catholics into offices of power. James I sent an envoy to Lord Mountjoy asking the Lord to come to England with some of the pardoned Lords. Many in the Irish Nobility feared that James I was going to rescind the pardon that had been given to them, however the military situation in Ireland did not permit them to have a chance to escape, even if they wanted to.


Lord Mountjoy, the Pacifier of Ireland.

As a result, many Irish Lords came with Mountjoy not out of willingness but out of desperation and out of resignation that their titles and wealth would be stripped of their families. However much to their joy and the consternation of many English radicals in the English government, James I reaffirmed the lenient peace terms, and had only asked the Irish Lords to come to England for the oath of allegiance to take place in person. The Irish Lords, thankful of the clemency shown by their new sovereign gave their oath of allegiance and returned to Ireland, as paradoxically and ironically old Irish rebels to the Crown became Irish loyalists, and old Irish loyalists became Irish rebels to the Crown as situations reversed when the old Irish rebels were allowed to keep their lands and titles whilst the old Irish loyalists were forbidden from receiving new lands and titles, which angered them.


A propaganda poster showing an Irish Lord bowing down to James, likened to William the Conqueror.

James I/VI was also interested in keeping the peace in Ireland. The island had been pacified, and for moment, the majority of the native populace and nobility seemed to be loyal to the crown. As a result, he asked Lord Mountjoy to remain the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as Mountjoy had continued to pursue a policy of reconciliation between Ireland and England. Mountjoy, most notably also pursued a policy of subtle missionary activities in Ireland in favor of Protestantism. Mountjoy intended to ultimately make sure that Protestantism could become the majority of the religious populace through subtle missionary work, which had a mixed success rate. Catholics remained the majority population of Ireland, however the missionary activities of Lord Moutnjoy ensured that by 1700, one third of the Irish population became protestant, however the number of Protestants in relation to the total share of Christians in Ireland refused to go above the one third mark. Nonetheless, beyond the spread of Protestantism in Ireland, which ensured some kind of loyalty between the Irish populace and the Crown, Mountjoy’s largely reconciliatory stance, also managed to foster some kind of loyalty between the English and Irish towards one another. James I/VI who detested war, and wanted to keep war as the last option, was largely delighted at the policy that Lord Mountjoy pursued in Ireland.


Philip III of Spain.

Speaking about peace, James I/VI was also insistent on ending the war between England and Spain. Not that many people were unhappy with the King’s decision, as the war was costing England a fortune, however the King was insistent that a peace treaty be concluded in a fast and appropriate manner. Early negotiations between the Spaniards and Englishmen had already taken place, when Archduke Albert, the governor of the Spanish Netherlands began negotiations in 1600, however the Spanish had rejected English demands in 1600 when the English had asked for warship rights in the English Channel to be exclusively English. Spain contended that it was absurd to expect the Sovereign of a worldwide empire to give up something to an English Queen who ruled only a few islands here and there. Despite the fall of negotiations in 1600, diplomatic routes were made open between England, and Spain, through the Archduke of Austria and his wife, Infanta Isabella. James I/VI also happened to be an idealistic man, a practitioner of Christian peace and unity and as the son Mary, Queen of the Scots, whose execution had started the entire conflict, he began to start negotiations with Spain. King Philip III of Spain, who had inherited the war from his predecessor, Philip II of Spain, had also found his treasury drained, and was amenable to peace and warmly welcomed English delegations to Valladolid.


Juan de Tassis.

The first and most pressing concern of the Madrid government was to improve their dire military situation in the Netherlands by reducing or stopping English interdiction of Spanish reinforcements to help the Dutch rebels. The first moves towards peace were taken in June 1603, when Juan de Tassis, the Count of Villamediana, headed a Spanish and Flemish joint commission which visited London and sought truce and good faith. Archduke Albert also sent his envoy Charles de Ligne, the Prince Count of Arenburg to London alongside de Tassis. As such, soon negotiations started between the two countries under the careful and watchful eye of James I/VI.

With international diplomacy out of the way, alongside Parliament and the Royal Council, headed by Robert Cecil, the government began to look into the economy of the country. To many economic historians, many argue that the early modern English economy was stronger than that of many other contemporary countries, including Scotland, Ireland and France. Contemporary glowing reports of the English economy weren’t just written down by nationalistic and patriotic Englishmen, but also many foreigners. Paul Hentzner, a visitor from Brandenburg in 1598 wrote down that “The soil is fruitful and abounds with cattle, which inclines the inhabitants rather to feeding that ploughing, so that near a third of the land is left uncultivated for proper grazing……There are many hill without one tree or any spring, which produced a very short and tender grass, and supply plenty of food to sheep, upon these wander numerous flocks of extremely white and whether from the temperature of air or goodness of the earth, bearing softer and finer fleeces than any other country I have been to.” [1]


An English farm in the 1600s

Under James I/VI the economy of the country was revitalized by the fact that English trade which had been subject to Scottish tariffs was no longer the case as the two countries were now in a personal union with one another. Scottish goods flowed freely across the southern border and English goods flowed freely across the northern border, allowing the accommodation of better free trade policies which was beneficial for the economies of both Scotland and England, as the price and wage markets of the Scottish and English economies recovered after the two countries united under one monarch.

With the economy more or less thriving, James I/VI had to turn his tired head towards the Parliament. James I/VI was a breath of fresh air for many in the English government. Despite the popularized idea that Elizabeth I was beloved by the people and elite, that was not the case for the latter during the time of her death in 1603. Elizabeth’s legacy to the new King in 1603 wasn’t a good one. A country at war, dissatisfaction in many quarters with the condition of the Church, a royal revenue system in dire need of reform, and the turbulent parliament of 1601 led to a dangerous political situation in England. Fears about parliament’s future existence in England were already prevalent and rampant before Elizabeth died. The queen’s attempts to raise extra-parliamentary taxes to finance the expensive wars against Spain and in Ireland, at a time when some Continental monarchs were seen to be undermining representative assemblies in their kingdoms, was the main reason for the suspicions many MPs in Jacobean parliaments had of the court’s ‘absolutist’ intentions, and for the expression of coherent constitutional ideologies that asserted parliament’s traditional rights and liberties which were felt to be under threat. In these circumstances, the task of governing Britain in 1603 was extremely difficult.

In line with his ideas of Rex Pacificus, the idea of a Peacemaker King, the tutorship that Robert Cecil and Adam Newton as well as the other English nobility had given James I/VI about English Law and affairs granted the new King with a lot of flexibility that allowed the man to calm the new Parliament, which was convened in late 1603 in November. There he addressed the parliament, and after months of studying English Law, he managed to impress many Members of Parliament when he articulately gave a speech thanking the Parliament for its service to England for centuries and he reiterated the fact that the Parliament of England was to stay inalienable as a part of the English government. He also raised concerns about the rather inefficient revenue system he had inherited from his predecessor, and asked the Parliament to join him to find a proper solution to the system to reform the economic system of England. James I/VI was also political astute. The man who had single handedly brought the Scottish Lords into line was not going to be a political fool. He liked Robert Cecil, and was a close friend to his chief minister, however he refused to be controlled by one faction in the court and parliament, and he immediately raised Henry Howard, one of Cecil’s rivals in government to become the Earl of Northampton, in an attempt to balance the two factions in the English government back then, dominated by the Cecils and Howards. James’s experience in coping with the factional juggling of Scottish politics made him adept at balancing factions in the English court, and acting as an arbitrator, defusing tensions within the English Church as well.


Henry Howard

And while many historians have also lambasted James I/VI extravagance, which was at times extremely costly, modern historians have reviewed contemporary information, and found out that James’s ‘extravagance’ was in part to be explained by his perceptive recognition that it was essential for successful early modern monarchs to be bountiful. The distribution of royal largesse helped to secure the cooperation between leading magnates and the crown, which was vital and instrumental, as under the Tudors, the magnates had been alienated. The inclusion of the magnates into the Stuart court allowed James I/VI to properly reform the growing economy of not England, not Scotland, not Ireland, but a project that he himself called, the economy of Great Britain.

And herein we come to James I/VI greatest legacy. The Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is regarded as the greatest achievement of James I of Great Britain. This project, which culminated in the 1612 Acts of the Union began in 1603, when James I gave a speech in front of parliament, telling them subtly, that unity was required now more than ever, as the Scots and Englishmen threw aside centuries of enmity to become untied under one monarch. It is there that he first used the word, of the Great Britain, when he said, “It is now, that the people of Great Britain must stand united.”


The flag of Great Britain that was proposed by James I/VI

James I/VI idea of a united kingdom of England and Scotland wasn’t unpopular, in fact the moment he had been named heir of England, ideas of uniting the two kingdoms, in the same manner as the Poles and Lithuanians happened, started to grow. The idea was very popular in Scotland, as many believed that the idea of union with England would make Scotland economically prosperous and would allow Scotland to grow out of its economic dependency on France, who after the past few years had become more and more unreliable as a Scottish ally. [2]

As the parliamentary session of 1603 ended with massive applause for the new English King, James I/VI turned his eyes towards the problem of the Puritans and Catholics, and the undercurrent of religious disharmony in England. The great manner with which James I/VI would solve the issue would ensure that his future political projects would become extremely successful.


[1] – Real quote

[2] – During this time, the idea of union was popular in fact with the Scottish nobility and parliament. They were the ones to ask for union iotl in 1606.
If the churches of England and Scotland were to united, then I suppose that both of them must be either Anglican or Calvinist in doctrine.
a mixture is likely with some Puritan views mixed in. The biggest problem will be that of the bishops. the Kirk and Scotland were not in favour of powerful bishops whilst England relied on powerful bishops.
I really like the story so far and how you explain things, also I like how you introduce the various characters and explain their positions and actions.