However as he was aged only one at the time it was not until 1581 that he gained full control of his government.

He was well aware of his heritage and of the sad circumstances of his mother’s life and death. Of her internecine war with her cousin Elizabeth I of England. To many people Elizabeth – as a heretic Protestant should not have been Queen of England – and they wanted the Catholic Mary (who was also Queen Consort of France) to be their Queen. Because of this Elizabeth held Mary in captivity for most of her life.

However, when Elizabeth died without issue Mary’s Protestant baptised son, James VI of Scotland succeeded her as James I of England & Ireland and thus the first King of Great Britain. (Wales was not – and is not – a Kingdom, but remains a principality who’s Prince is traditionally the eldest son of the English (or British) Monarch.)

James was ambitious to build on the personal union of the crowns of Scotland and England to establish a permanent Union of the Crowns under one monarch, one parliament and one law, a plan which met opposition in both countries.”Hath He not made us all in one island,” James told the English parliament, “compassed with one sea and of itself by nature indivisible?” In April 1604, however, the Commons refused on legal grounds his request to be titled “King of Great Britain” and so in October 1604, he assumed the title “King of Great Britain” by proclamation rather than statute.

His early reign was marked by several plots to assassinate him including those headed by Guy Faulkes (the “Gunpowder Plot”) and Sir Walter Raleigh. However James was not to be deflected from his aim and though it was to be another 90 years until the parliaments were merged even today, when there is talk of splitting up the United Kingdom into political units no one is seriously suggesting that such a reversion of the Union of Parliaments will also require the Kingdom to be divided.

Under James, the “Golden Age” of Elizabethan literature and drama continued, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Sir Francis Bacon contributing to a flourishing literary culture. James himself was a talented scholar, the author of works such as Daemonologie (1597) and Basilikon Doron (1599) and the driving force behind the translation of the Bible into English: the “King James Bible”.

On his death James was widely mourned. Even his enemies had great respect for a man who had been called “the wisest fool in Christendom” and whom history has shown to be a farsighted and effective monarch.

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