Finding Union and Peace within a Dual Monarchy

With his accession to the throne of England in 1603, James VI and I reigned over the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland. Although he brought much of his experience ruling Scotland to England, he still faced many new challenges. One of these challenges was the way in which James would ensure peace and some degree of unity between two kingdoms that were accustomed to being ruled as separate entities with distinct peoples and needs. As James stated in his accession speech, “…peace be a great blessing, yet is it far inferior to peace within… What God has conjoined then, let no man separate.”[1] Though James VI and I, as king of England, Ireland, and Scotland began by ruling his composite monarchy as separate entities, nevertheless, James’ ultimate goal was unity between and within the different realms. Continue reading

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The Influence of Tudor Fashion during the Stuart Period

In Tudor and Stuart Britain, fashionable clothing was highly valued by both men and women and not just by monarchs; the people who comprised the court also took an interest as well.[1] As is the case with today’s generation, outfits, shoes, and accessories were worn to express a specific message to the public and represent some kind of social status. During these periods, the more elaborate and, arguably, over-the-top designs wealthy people wore, the more respect they earned. However, according to David Kuchta, the interest in men’s fashion decreased over time, creating a “masculine renunciation.”[2] Instead of the traditional flashy clothing and jewelry, men’s dress leaned more towards modesty.[3] Kuchta argues that the lack of interest in clothing was due to a number of factors: “… [The] changing political, economic and social orders from 1550 to 1850.”[4] In 1666, King Charles II attributed to this newfound modesty because of different coats and vests he wore that resulted in the popularization of the three-piece suit. While men’s styles certainly varied over the years, the appreciation for male fashions was still highly present throughout the period and was not entirely based on modernity. Similarities in men’s clothing between the Tudor and Stuart periods can be found through many paintings and portraits of this time; this source of documentation allows us to compare and contrast the style from different time periods. Continue reading

A Comparison of Scientific Advancement in Scottish Universities and the Royal Society

The seventeenth century was a period of exciting scientific growth in Scotland and England. However, the platforms for this progress were different for each kingdom: in Scotland, it was within its universities that new science first took hold, whereas in England, scientific advancement was largely occurring within the Royal Society founded in 1660. The fact that one of these platforms were universities, and the other a private club, led to key differences in the transition and outcomes of scientific growth in the two kingdoms. The universities being a center of scientific inquiry was both a hindrance, due to the ability of church and state to exert control, as well as a benefit to Scotland because it enabled new knowledge to spread to students. While science in the Scottish universities seems to have lagged behind the Royal Society in taking on the new science at first, it accounted for Scotland’s uniquely prominent Enlightenment in the proceeding century, marking a different experience than in England. Continue reading

James VI and I: “Great Britain’s Solomon” or the “Wisest Fool in Christendom”?

The Union of the Crowns of 1603 was an historic event: James VI of Scotland, England’s neighbor and neutral ally since 1560, acceded the throne of England after Elizabeth I’s death, making him James VI of Scotland and James I of England and Ireland. Since James’ rule now extended over three different kingdoms, he aimed to find a way to unify them in order to ensure a solid footing during his reign. However, there have been varying opinions of how effective James was at doing this, but also how competent a king he was in the first place. These varying of opinions are evident when looking at the vastly different epithets that James earned, ranging from “Great Britain’s Solomon” to the “Wisest Fool in Christendom.” These diverging historiographical viewpoints raise the obvious question as to why there are so many varied opinions concerning James and his effectiveness as a ruler. Continue reading

Jacobean Court Perspectives on New World Colonization: 1603 – 1625

Roanoke Map
Map depicting the coast of present-day North Carolina and Roanoke island, drawn by John White, c. 1585.

To say that the English settlement of the New World was an easy task would be to severely understate the difficulties they met, if not outright fallacious. Starting under Elizabeth, the English experienced the failure of Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony at Roanoke in 1587 and the abandonment of Bartholomew Gosnold’s fort and trading post at Cuttyhunk Island (Massachusetts) in 1602. Granted, the English were successful over time at their Jamestown settlement in Virginia starting under James VI and I’s rule, but the ensuing century is merely a tale of abandonment, consolidation, and abysmal failure for English colonization of the North American continent. Continue reading

The “Effeminate” King

There has always been speculation over James VI and I’s homosexuality. Historians remain divided over whether this is true or simply an attempt to slander James. While his sexuality remains a mystery, it is worth exploring why some of his contemporaries may have portrayed him as a homosexual. The basis of their suspicions was James’ tendency to choose young, attractive men as his companions. Another contributing factor was the cultural emphasis on masculinity. English upper-class culture has always associated masculinity with good leadership.[1] Thus, the king was expected to be virile and forceful. There were in fact times during James’s reign when his masculinity was questioned due to his decisions regarding foreign policy. The fact that James often opted for peace could have led observers to believe that he was gay, for according to Michael B. Young, “effeminacy was an integral part of Jacobean discourse about [homosexuality].”[2] Yet it is also possible that James’ contemporaries wanted to tarnish his memory. After all, sex between males was considered illegal and immoral. To remember James as a homosexual was the equivalent of considering him as perverted, and therefore an unworthy king. Continue reading

Broadening the Scope: The Expansion of Imperial Aims from the Tudors to the Stuarts

The accession of James VI of Scotland as King James I of England after Elizabeth’s death marked a significant shift in the three kingdoms. Elizabeth’s choice of remaining without an heir meant with her death came the end of the Tudor dynasty and the foreign policy they employed for decades. With the Tudors, their intention of consolidating power over Scotland and Ireland meant their foreign endeavors ended at the isles themselves. With James’ acquisition of the English throne, he became, in theory, a figure head for unity and a symbol for hope that England, Scotland, and Ireland could unite and transform into “Britain.” With this transformation, “Britain” could turn its sights outward and adopt a new, more aggressive, foreign policy. James would later prove, however, that his plans differed. Continue reading