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James VI and I (1566-1625)  

Sponsor of the English translation of the Bible that bears his name and himself an accomplished author, James VI of Scotland (and later James I of England) was well known for his passionate attachments to handsome young men.

In 1567, at one year of age and during a civil war, James Stewart, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned King of Scots. Though his early years were lived amid political strife, his education, begun when he was three, was intended to fashion him into an exemplary Renaissance prince.

His tutors included the fearsome George Buchanan, a scholar and political theorist of European reputation, who believed that a king should be the most learned man in his dominions. Though James rejected Buchanan's political ideas, he did develop a love of learning (especially of the Bible and theology) and an intellectual curiosity that later made him a considerable scholar and intellectual in his own right.

The 1580s saw James's cultivation of a brilliant group of court poets and musicians. He himself published two collections of verse in 1584 and 1591. The most interesting poem is "Ane metaphoricall invention of a tragedy called Phoenix," an allegorical account of a disastrous adventure involving the Duke of Lennox, a Catholic kinsman who came from France and, winning the thirteen-year-old king's love, gained short-lived political ascendancy along with the hatred of the Kirk and the Protestant lords.

James's writing often sprang from personal involvement in a situation: Daemonologie (1597), which was written to prove witches' devilish powers, followed an outbreak of witch-hunting; and Basilikon Doron (1599), an advice manual for his eldest son Prince Henry, registered the political pressures of the moment. Even his obsession with the Apocalypse, reflected in two books interpreting the obscure images of the Book of Revelation as prophecies for Christendom, sprang from his hoped-for participation in these events as a Christian prince.

In 1603, James succeeded Queen Elizabeth I to become King of England. In the years that followed, he delivered cogent speeches to Parliament developing ideas about the nature of kingship; entered pamphlet controversies over the Papacy's temporal powers; and sponsored lavishly produced masques that celebrated the court hierarchy.

Political advancement at court was extended to handsome young favorites, notably Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and then George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, whose charm, intelligence and beauty earned spectacular reward.

James's homosexuality was obscure neither to contemporaries nor to later historians, and he himself seemed unconcerned that his most passionate attachments were to men. A remarkable letter of 1615, written in reproach to Somerset, analyzes in passionate terms the complex relations between king and favorite in which dependency, power, and desire are commingled.

Surprisingly perhaps, James always expressed hatred of , mentioning it in Basilikon Doron as an offense not to be pardoned by a king, and in 1610 refusing to pardon those convicted of it.

In his last years, James published little, but continued to write letters to Buckingham that give fascinating insights into his subjectivity and their relationship. The literary enterprise for which James has been remembered is his long-cherished project to sponsor a new translation of the Bible, undertaken by a team of scholars at his direction, published in 1611, and known since as the King James Version.

Lawrence Normand


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Akrigg, G. P. V. "The Literary Achievement of King James I." University of Toronto Quarterly 44 (1975): 115-129.

Bergeron, David M. King James & Letters of Homoerotic Desire. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1999.

Bingham, Caroline. The Making of a King: The Early Years of James VI and I. London: Collins, 1968.

_____. James I of England. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1981.

Shire, Helena M. Song, Dance and Poetry of the Court of Scotland under King James VI. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.


    Citation Information
    Author: Normand, Lawrence  
    Entry Title: James VI and I  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated July 24, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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