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James I

Born in 1566, the only son of Mary Queen of Scots, James reigned in Scotland as James VI, becoming James I of the combined kingdoms after Elizabeth's death in 1603.

His rise to the throne was initially greeted with new optimism; James seemed only to desire a peaceful process of accession, despite his mother being executed by Elizabeth. He also made overtures of peace to Spain. Although the gunpowder plot against him was generally condemned, James I's popularity waned as his personal style grated with court sensibilities. He was referred to as "schoolmaster of the realm," and his written works tended to assert what he saw as the divine right of kings.

A man of some ambiguity, he was a Protestant with a Catholic wife, apparently displayed homosexual tendencies, but was the father of seven children. He was anti-smoking and not averse to adopting some extreme solutions to problems – notably placing his son's feet in iron boots in an attempt to correct a birth weakness.

James was a fan of the theatre and upon his accession Shakespeare's company became The King's Men, which also required them to act as courtiers – something the poet wasn't keen on. James's wife Anne was a great fan of the Court masques that Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones wrote for her.

James I died in 1625

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King James I of England portrait
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