King James

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Seven monarchs have been recognized as 'King James' within the British Isles. Five of these ruled Scotland, and the other two ruled both England and Scotland. There has been another who claimed the title.

The Kings are listed here, first the five who never ruled in England. A brief note is added to give the main outline of the life. AWE is not a historical text: these are designed for a reader to understand why a 'King James' may have been mentioned in another text, or what period he reigned in. Any student of history should carry out further research. (ODNB is recommended as a starting place. It is the principal source for much of what follows.)

James I

Born 1394; succeeded his father Robert III 1406 OR 1424; married Joan Beaufort 1424; died 1437.

James I (of Scotland) had much of the bad luck of the Stewarts. When his father died, he was just 11 years old, and a captive of the English Henry IV, having been caught by pirates. So although he was the only 'King of Scots', he could not be crowned till his release. He was treated well at the English court, and fought for Henry V in France, sometimes against Scottish forces, who were cementing the the Auld Alliance in the Hundred Years War. He married Joan Beaufort, grand-daughter of John of Gaunt and so 2nd cousin of Henry V towards the end of his captivity - she was probably part of English ambitions to the Scots throne. He made strenuous efforts to make the government of Scotland more 'European', or, like that in England, more centralized. This led to power struggles with the nobility - principally his kinsmen, the Albany Stewarts - who had ruled Scotland for many years, and ultimately to his assassination at Perth in 1437. During his time in England, he became an accomplished poet, and wrote The Kingis Quair (~ 'The King's [Note]book'), and other poems in the Scottish Chaucerian style.
James II

Born 1430; succeeded his father James I 1437; married Mary of Gueldres (d. 1463) in 1449; died 1460, aged 29.

James II (of Scotland), like many Stewarts, succeeded to the throne as a minor, and his reign is mostly the record of struggles with the nobility - for him, mostly the Douglas family. He was a man of action, who asserted his power by various arrests and deaths of his opponents; he also made several raids into England. He appears to have been a popular king. He was killed by the bursting of a cannon at the siege of Roxburgh Castle, held by the English since 1346.
James III

Born 1452; succeeded his father James II 1460; married Margaret of Denmark (1456/7-1486) in 1469; died 1488.

King James III (of Scotland) succeeded at the age of 8, his early years being dominated by Kennedys and Boyds until 1469. His reign is unremarkable. He appears not to have done much except survive - although, partly through Margaret's dowry including the northern Isles, "Scotland had achieved its full territorial extent" (ODNB). There was a period of friendship with England, despite the Auld Alliance. Internally, he was not active, neglecting good administration, and hoarding money. He does not appear to have deserved the label of a 'renaissance prince'. After some family, and inter-family, feuding, he was killed at, or just after, the battle of Sauchieburn (1488).
James IV

Born 1473; succeeded his father James III 1488; married Margaret Tudor (1489-1541) in 1503; killed at battle of Flodden, 1513.

King James IV (of Scotland) succeeded at the age of 15, having been among the rebels who killed his father (for which he did penance all his life). He is usually regarded as the most successful Stewart monarch - though this may be coloured by the nostalgia of Scots after a troubled century which ended with their royal family settling in England. He strengthened the administration of Scotland, by improving law, and increasing revenue. He attacked England in 1513, and after early success, was out-manouevred at Flodden, where he and much of the Scottish nobility were killed.


James V

Born 1512; succeeded his father James IV 1513; married 1) 1537 Madeleine of Valois, daughter of Francis I of France; 2) 1538 Mary of Guise, daughter of the Duke of Guise, widow of Louis of Orleans; died 1542.

King James V (of Scotland) succeeded during his second year, after the defeat at Flodden. His minority was troubled mostly by the Douglas family, and his kinsman the Duke of Albany, complicated by his uncle, Henry VIII of England. From 1529, he ruled with some authority, aiming to develop law and justice, and bringing order to the borders and the Highlands. He died, of illness, after the defeat at Solway Moss, aged only 30. ODNB judges him "a very promising Renaissance prince", a patron of the arts of architecture, literature and music. He appears to have been genuinely interested in the common people - though Scott's story of him wandering the streets disguised as 'gudeman of Ballengeich' has no evidence.


James VI and I

(See also the separate article on this nomenclature.)

Born 1566; succeeded his mother Mary Queen of Scots in 1567; married Anne (Anna) of Denmark (1574-1619); succeeded Elizabeth I of England 1603; died 1625.

James became King of Scotland in 1567, when only thirteen months old, on the abdication of his mother; and of England in 1603, on the death of his cousin Elizabeth, who had had the former executed in 1587. In Stuart fashion, he was troubled by noble families - in this case, first the Ruthvens. In taking control of his kingdom, James could be brutal, and he exacted large taxes, by Scottish standards. He was also assailed by the Reformers who had struggled against Mary's Catholicism: in expelling her, he ensured dominance (through Buchanan) of the Prince's education. But he strengthened the administration in Scotland. Ruling England presented different problems - it was Parliament rather than ambitious noble individuals that had to be managed, and it was done in ways that James could not manage. Religion in England was the Church of England, with the king as its Head; but it was neither a Roman Catholic church nor a Presbyterian one. Catholics tried to kill him in the Gunpowder Plot; many Presbyterians despaired and fled to the American colonies. Although he tried to ensure peace in an age of religious commitment, the (metaphorical) invasion of London by alien Scots and his extravagance created problems. An intellectual and a writer, he formed a theory of the Divine Right of Kings which led, ultimately, to the Civil Wars - as well as disputing with the Pope, persecuting witches, and railing against tobacco. He authorized the version of the Bible that Americans still call the King James Version, and appointed the first Poet Laureate (Ben Jonson). He was called "The wisest fool in Christendom", traditionally by Henri IV of France; but the ODNB attributes the witticism to Sir Anthony Weldon (c.1583-1648), one of James's officials, who held Kent for Parliament during the Civil War.
See also Jacobean - Jacobin - Jacobite.
James II (and VII)

Born 1633; succeeded his brother Charles II in 1685; married 1) Anne Hyde (1637-1671: never Queen), 1660; 2) Mary of Modena (1658-1718) 1673; deposed 1688 (the 'Glorious Revolution'); died 1701.

James II, who had served in the French army during the Commonwealth and royal exile, was Duke of York in Charles's lifetime. While abroad, he married Anne Hyde, the daughter of Charles's Lord Chancellor from 1660 to 1667, the Earl of Clarendon; she was the mother of Mary II and Queen Anne. Between 1668 and 1670, first the Duchess, then the Duke, of York converted to Catholicism, a religion illegal in England at the time. After her death in 1671, the Pope allowed his second marriage, to Mary of Modena (1658-1718), a cradle Catholic. This contributed to his unpopularity. By the time of his accession in 1685, Mary had born five daughters and a son, none of whom survived childhood. As the heir apparent was a Protestant (William III 'of Orange'), James was tolerated despite his Catholicism and high-handed approach ro converting the country; but when she had a son, James - the 'warming-pan baby' - in 1688, the people had had enough, and William of Orange invaded - the Glorious Revolution. He fled to France in Decembewr 1688, and after a brief campaign in Ireland, ended by the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, he remained in France.
James Francis Edward

Born 1688; 'succeeded' (as Jacobite claimant 'James III (and VIII))' his father James II (and VII) in 1701; married Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702-1735) in 1719; died 1766. (Also known as 'the Chevalier de St. George'.)


The Old Pretender, the Jacobite claimant to the British thrones after the exile of James II, was born in 1688. Within 6 months of his birth, the direct cause of the Glorious Revolution, he was resident in France with his deposed father. He became a pawn in European politics, being supported by Louis XIV of France, who recognized him as the rightful King of England and Scotland. A serious attempt was made to put him on the throne in the 'fifteen - a rising in Scotland, 1715-1716, which ended with the indecisive Battle of Sheriffmuir and the defeat at Preston; and an abortive attempt in 1719, sponsored by Spain. The two sons of his marriage to Clementina Sobieska, grand-daughter of King John of Poland, were 'Bonnie Prince Charlie' and the Cardinal Duke of York.