James Charles Stuart was born on June 19, 1566 at Edinburg Castle in Scotland. His father, Lord Darnley, was murdered in 1567 before young James was one year old. His mother, Mary Queen of Scots, subsequently ascended to the Scottish throne. Her reign, however, was short lived and she was forced to relinquish in favor of her son on July 24, 1567. Little James was crowned King James VI of Scotland five days later at the tender age of 13 months. James’ mother, Mary, was imprisoned in England by her cousin Queen Elizabeth and 19 years later, in February of 1587, was executed for her part in the conspiracy to assassinate Queen Elizabeth. King James never knew his mother.
Like many monarchs of the time, King James was raised by neither his father nor his mother but rather by tutors. Of his four tutors, perhaps one of the most influential was George Buchanan, a Calvinist. It was under Mr. Buchanan’s strict teaching methods that King James became one of the most intellectually curious men to ever sit on any throne. Mr. Buchanan was 64 years old when he began tutoring the young king. He learned Greek, Latin, history, composition, arithmetic cosmography, dialectics, rhetoric, and of course theology. King James spoke fluent Greek, Latin, French, English, and Scots and was schooled in Italian and Spanish. The King once remarked, that he could speak Latin before he could speak his native Scots. King James typically did not need a translator when conducting business with other heads of state. James learned well and grew into an excellent author. The Cambridge University Press notes that the King’s writings were among the most important and influential British writings of their period.
King James began to rule his native Scotland when he was 19 years old. In February of 1424, a couple of years later, he took Anne of Denmark as his queen. He loved his wife and wrote beautiful poetry for her.
Together they had nine children: Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales (1594-1612), Child (1595 Stillborn), Elizabeth, “The Winter Queen” (1596-1662), Margaret (1598-1600), Charles I, King of Britain (1600-1649), Robert Bruce (1602), Son (1603), Mary (1605-1607), and Sophia (1606).
King James’ great aspiration to be the first King of both Scotland and England was realized in 1603 upon the death of Queen Elizabeth. When he attained the English throne he had already been king of Scotland for 36 years. He was now known as King James VI of Scotland and I of England. The king kept his kingdom out of war and supported literature both through his own writing and his patronage. There was peace during his reign, both with his subjects and foreign powers.
As a Scotsman ruling over the English, the King endured much racism and slander, especially from the once powerful English Lords and Ladies who he replaced with his Scottish countrymen. The religion was also an enemy of King James. Papists (as King James called them) attempted to assassinate him a number of times.
Most notably, in 1605 Roman Catholic Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament when the king was to have been present. The conspiracy was discovered and all coconspirators were executed. King James was an evangelist of the true gospel, which automatically made him an enemy of Rome. Despite this, King James the VI of Scotland and I of England was a highly successful King.
As a lover of the theater, King James became patron to the troop of one of his most famous subjects- William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s troop became known as the King’s Men. Shakespeare and the King held a special relationship as they both loved literature. The arts flourished under the reign of this intelligent king.
Another little recognized fact is that King James the VI and I is the founding monarch of the United States. Under his reign, we have the first successful colonies planted on the American mainland. The King himself ordered, wrote, and authorized the Evangelistic Grant Charter to settle the Colony of Virginia.
Not only was King James the first monarch to unite Scotland, England, and Ireland into Great Britain, but he commissioned what many consider to be the greatest piece of religious and literary work in the world- the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. King James gave his subjects the greatest gift he could, which was the Holy Bible so that they could be saved and fed by the Word of God. In January of 1604, the King called the Hampton Court Conference in order to hear of things “pretended to be amiss” in the church. At this conference, Dr. John Reynolds requested a new translation of the Bible because those that were allowed during the reigns of Henry the VIII and Edward the VI were corrupt.
The King loved the idea and by July of 1604 the King had appointed 54 men to the translation committee. These men were not only the best linguists and scholars in the kingdom but in the world. The translators were organized into six groups. They spent most of their lifetimes in the pursuit of God and knowledge. Some wrote foreign language dictionaries, they commonly debated in Greek, translated and edited great works, and wrote their own. They not only knew the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek biblical languages but also the related languages such as Arabic, Persian, Coptic, Syriac, Latin, Chaldee, Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch. These men were not only world class scholars but also Christians who lived holy lives as Deans and Presidents of major universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster. Some prayed 5 hours a day.
Their translation work did not go without opposition. According to the translator’s notes in the preface of the King James Bible, the Catholic religion was dead set against translating the Bible into the common tongue. Despite the opposition of the Catholic religion, the work continued and the end product was nothing short of miraculous.
Though King James had a life filled with accomplishments, he was a man acquainted with grief. He was a sickly man who had physical handicaps in his legs and a tongue that was too large for his mouth. As a result of his unsteady gait, the king had numerous falls, accidents and injuries. He suffered from crippling arthritis, abdominal colic, gout, inability to sleep, weak and spastic limbs, nausea, and kidney pain. Some believe that he may have had congenital diseases of the nervous system. Sometimes the pain was so great that the king became delirious. To add to his ill health, the king suffered from depression from the loss of his beloved wife Queen Anne in 1619. Their eldest son, Prince Henry, preceded her in death in 1612. The King was no stranger to pain and sorrow. The sun set on King James the great monarch on March 27, 1625 at Theobolds Park in Herts, England. He was 59 years old when he died and was buried at Westminster Abbey. Unlike many Scottish monarchs, King James died in his bed at peace with his subjects and foreign countries. He also passed Royal power on, intact, to an adult son, which was also quite unusual. Though he died almost 400 years ago, the King’s legacy, the King James Bible continues to flourish and to bring men, women, boys and girls to a life-saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.