James I succeeded the last Tudor monarch, Elizabeth I, in 1603. James at the time of Elizabeth’s death was king of Scotland. He was also the nearest blood relative to Elizabeth. James was a Stuart– so Tudor England died on March 24th 1603 while the accession of James ushered in the era of the Stuarts. In Scotland, James never had full control of the country. Scotland was seen as ungovernable in parts – governed solely by the clans. James was proclaimed king of Scotland in 1567 – aged 1 – after the enforced abdication of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots. His education was Puritan based and he was pushed very hard by his teachers George Buchanan and Peter Young. However, James became fluent in Latin and French and competent in Italian. In his early years, James developed a great desire for knowledge but it also gave him an over inflated idea as to his own worth as an academic. He believed that he was capable of out-arguing almost anyone. It was a character defect that was to bring him into conflict with the English Parliament and it was his inability to accept that others might be right that was to provoke many strong reactions in London. James was a fervent believer in the Divine Right of Kings. He had a high opinion as to his academic ability. He also held in high regard his ability to be a king. In Scotland, he had faced a lawless society where many lords simply ruled as they wished in their own area. By the time of his departure for London in 1603, James had done a great deal to tame the Scottish nobility and this had greatly boosted his own belief in his ability to be king. He described himself as “an old experienced king, needing no lessons.”
James was not wholly unsuccessful as king, but his Scottish background failed to translate well into a changing English society. He is described, albeit humorously, in 1066 and All That, as such: "James I slobbered at the mouth and had favourites; he was thus a bad king"; Sir Anthony Weldon made a more sombre observation: "He was very crafty and cunning in petty things, as the circumventing any great man, the change of a Favourite, &c. inasmuch as a very wise man was wont to say, he believed him the very wisest fool in Christendom." Her successor, James I (1603-1625), the first of the Stuart family to reign in England, seemed a poor thing compared to Elizabeth. He was neither heroic nor attractive. Small and plump, with thin legs, rolling his eyes and an over-large tongue, he seemed older than his thirty six years. Probably this was due to illness, for he suffered from piles and diarrhoea. His personal habits were revolting. He dribbled, picked his nose and often made himself sick through over-eating. He wore extra padding in his clothes in case anyone attacked him. It was hard to believe that his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been so beautiful.
However, in other ways James was a suitable successor to Elizabeth. Like the Tudor Queen he was well educated. He was a biblical expert and the author of books on monarchy, witchcraft, sport and smoking. Only his fear of black magic was unworthy of a learned man.
The greatest problem of James' reign (and that of his son, Charles) was that he believed in the Divine Right of Kings. This had been a commonly held view since the middle Ages. Kings were appointed by God from above and had supernatural powers. If anyone dared to question a king then he was questioning God: This amounted, in fact, to blasphemy. Even if a king behaved badly no one could criticize him; only God, in his own time, could punish him.
Witch-hunting was a respectable, moral, and highly intellectual pursuit through much of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, though thousands of witches were burned on the Continent, relatively few witches were executed during Elizabeth's reign--as in so many things, she avoided extremes. But King James (who came to the throne in 1603, and who…