Today on March 24th 1603, James VI of Scotland is also crowned King of England, uniting the Scottish and English royal families for this first time.
James Stuart was the son of Mary Queen of Scots and was born in Edinburgh Castle. He was crowned the King of Scotland at only thirteen months old after his mother was forced to abdicate. James was also a descendent of English royalty, being the great-great grandson of Henry VII and the first cousin of Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth had reigned over England for forty-five long years and was commonly known as the Virgin Queen. In fact, she never married or produced any legitimate heirs, making James her closest relative and most suitable successor to the throne. In 1603, Elizabeth finally passed away, marking the end of Tudor England and the beginning of the Stuart dynasty.
The English parliament and nobility agreed to formally offer the English crown to James. He became the first monarch to style himself as King of Great Britain and Ireland, symbolizing a formal union between England, Scotland, and Ireland. He reigned over all three kingdoms for twenty-two years, which is now known as the Jacobean period. Historians largely regard James as an important cultural and intellectual leader. Under his rule, the arts and literature flourished across the kingdom. Iconic figures such as William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon produced the bulk of their works during this period.
James was a staunch believer in the divine rights of kings and opted to rule with absolutism. In 1605, Robert Catesby and Guy Fawkes planned the Gunpowder Plot, a failed attempt to blow up the English parliament with the king inside. James was not an effective politician and ultimately failed to work alongside the hostile parliamentarians. His mismanagement of finances and disinterest in running the government set the foundation for the English Civil War. While largely ineffective, James managed to avoid sabotage and treachery because people generally liked him. However, his eldest son and successor, Charles I, was not so admired and eventually beheaded during the civil war.