The Stuarts - James I

The successor of Elizabeth, by birthright, was JAMES VI OF SCOTLAND (styled JAMES I OF ENGLAND), who was now arrived at the prime of life, and had been married for some years to the Princess Anne of Denmark, by whom he had two sons, Henry and Charles, and one daughter named Elizabeth. James immediately removed to London, and assumed the government of England, while his native kingdom, though thus united under the same sovereignty, still retained its own peculiar institutions. At the suggestion of the king, who wished to obliterate the distinction of the two countries, the common name of Great Britain was now conferred upon them. King James was an oddity in human character. His person was naturally feeble, particularly in his limbs, which were scarcely sufficient to support his weight. He had great capacity for learning, some acuteness, and a considerable share of wit; but was pedantic, vain and weak. He believed kings to be the deputies of God, and accountable to God alone for their actions. He was equally disposed with Elizabeth to govern despotically, or according to his own will but he wanted the vigor and the tact for securing popularity which enabled his predecessor to become so much the mistress of her subjects.

Notwithstanding the energy of Elizabeth, the popular spirit had gradually been acquiring force in her reign. It was chiefly seen in the acts of the Puritans, a religious party, who wished to make great reforms in the church, both in its government and its worship, and who, from the fervor of their devotions and the strictness of their manners, might be likened to the Presbyterians of Scotland. King James found considerable difficulty at the very first in controlling this party and evading their demands. He was no less troubled, on the other hand, by the Catholics, who, recollecting his mother Mary, conceived that he would be inclined to make matters more easy to them in England. Upon the whole, there were such difficulties in the way, as, to have steered successfully through them, would have required a wiser instead of a weaker ruler than Elizabeth.