James the First and Sixth

One of the puzzlements for people not well versed in the history of England and Scotland is how one king managed to be simultaneously James I and also James VI. 

Actually, he was James VI before he was James I. The king, James Charles Stuart (1566-1625), was king of Scotland from 1567 until his death, and was also king of England from 1603 until 1625. 

James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and descended from the English king Henry VII. Politics in Scotland dethroned his mother and installed James on the throne as an infant, with Scotland being ruled by a regent until James came of age. 

After childless Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, James was next in line for the English throne. There is some irony involved, because Elizabeth had Mary, Queen of Scots beheaded as a dangerous rival.

He was the first English king named James, but the sixth king of Scotland with that name. For that to make sense, you need to know that Scotland was an independent kingdom. So, he was James I of England and James VI of Scotland, known as James I and VI. The two realms remained separate kingdoms, under the same king. The formal union of the two nations to become Great Britain did not occur until 1707. 

The era when James ruled both countries, 1603-1625 is often called “Jacobean,” after James. James is probably best known for the new translation of the Bible he called for scholars to create, known as the King James Bible.

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