Sunday, March 27, 2011

James I and VI dies; Charles I succeeds

James I of England and Ireland, aka James VI of Scotland, died on March 27, 1625, a few days more than 22 years after his accession to the throne of England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. Her reputation had been at low ebb when she died, but the conflicts between James I and his Parliament and the scandals at his Court had made some Englishmen nostalgic for the reign of Good Queen Bess. His desire for peace and openness to negotiating with Catholic countries like Spain and France made him unpopular. The Puritan party in Parliament were scandalized by the lavish entertainments and James's attention to his male favorites at Court.

English Catholics, who had expected some amelioration of the recusancy and penal laws against them at the beginning of his reign, had continued to suffer persecution or prosecution. The disaster of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605 led to many more restrictive laws controlling Catholics's activities at home and abroad. Nevertheless, James I's negotiations with Catholic countries meant that he again promised some easing of these laws; then the Puritans especially would attack the king's lack of zeal in protecting the Church of England and Protestantism.

As I note in Supremacy and Survival: How Catholics Endured the English Reformation, James left his heir, his second son Charles with an unfortunate dual legacy: conflict with Parliament, and firm belief in the Divine Right of Kings. At the time of his death, Charles' marriage to Henrietta Maria of France was negotiated and Charles married her upon his accession to the throne. Charles would continue the pattern of conflict with Parliament, dismissing, proroguing, and recalling them throughout the 24 or so years of his reign all the while maintaining his Royal prerogative.


  1. I wonder how hard the puritans attacked the king for failing to defend the church of england. Surely they considered it a corrupt establishment?

  2. It's a matter of the enemy of my enemy is my friend! The Puritans had desired more complete reformation of the Church of England since Elizabeth I's reign, but they recognized they needed to support her against Catholic Spain.