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Kings of England


James I.

of England, and VI. of Scotland, was the son of Mary Queen of Scots, by Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and was born June 19, 1566. In the following year Darnley was murdered, and Queen Mary being forced to resign the crown, James was solemnly crowned at Stirling, and all public acts ran in his name. Among the eminent scholars to whom the education of the young king was intrusted was the great historian and poet, George Buchanan. The Earl of Morton resigned the regency in 1578, but very soon had the chief power again in his hands, and retained it till the end of 1580. In 1582 the 'Raid of Ruthven' took place, and James was made captive by a party of the nobles. He regained his liberty in the following year. When it became apparent that the life of his mother was in danger he wrote to Queen Elizabeth, appealed to other courts for assistance, and assembled his nobles, who promised their support. The execution of Mary, however, took place; and though James prepared for hostilities, the inadequacy of his resources prevented him from engaging in actual war.

In 1603, on the death of Elizabeth, James succeeded to the crown of England, and proceeded to London. Although he had behaved with great lenity to the Roman Catholics in Scotland, those in England were so disappointed in their expectations of favour, that, in the year after his accession, the Gunpowder Plot was devised by some of their most desperate adherents, to destroy the King, the Prince, and the Parliament. In 1606 James established episcopacy in Scotland. In 1612, Prince Henry, his son, by Anne of Denmark, died, and the same year his daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, was married to Frederick, the Elector-Palatine. One of the greatest blots upon the character of James I. was the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The close of the life of James was marked by violent contests with his parliament, the preliminary skirmishing of religious and political parties, which became civil war in the following reign. Although James I. had received a careful education, prided himself on being a patron of literature, and even wrote many works both in prose and verse, he was not merely destitute of the vigour and ability and wisdom of a great sovereign, but had neither the intellectual nor moral qualities which go to the making of a noble man. Feebleness, indolence, vulgarity in tastes and pursuits, vanity, pedantry, these are the prominent features of his character. We must not omit to mention, as one of the memorable events of this reign, the preparation of the authorized translation of the Bible. Died March 27, 1625, aged 58. There are two portraits of James I. in the National Portrait Gallery, one by Van Somer, the other probably by Zucchero. Another portrait by Van Somer is at Hampton Court.

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James II.,

King of England, second son of Charles I. and Henrietta Maria of France, was born October 15, 1633, and immediately created Duke of York. After the capture of Oxford by the parliamentary army, he escaped, and was conducted to his sister, the Princess of Orange. At that time he was 15 years of age. He soon after joined his mother at Paris, and, when he had reached his 20th year, served in the French army under Turenne, and subsequently entered the Spanish army in Flanders, under Don John of Austria and the Prince of Condé. At the Restoration he returned to England, and married secretly Anne Hyde, daughter of the Earl of Clarendon, by whom he had two daughters, who afterwards became queens of England, viz. Mary and Anne. In the Dutch war, he signalized himself as commander of the English fleet, and showed great skill and bravery.

On the death of Charles II., in 1685, the Duke succeeded, under the title of James II., and, from the time of his ascending the throne, seems to have acted with a steady determination to render himself absolute, and to restore the Roman Catholic religion. After disgusting the great majority of his subjects, by attending mass with all the ensigns of royalty, he proceeded to levy the customs and excise without the authority of parliament. He even sent an agent to Rome, to pave the way for a solemn re-admission of England into the Catholic church, and received advice on the score of moderation from the Pope himself.

A few months after his accession, severe laws having been passed against the Covenanters, against whom Graham of Claverhouse was sent, the invasion of Scotland took place under the Earl of Argyle, and the invasion of England under the Duke of Monmouth, both of which failed, and cost the lives of the leaders. By virtue of his assumed dispensing power, James rendered tests of no avail, and filled his army and council with Roman Catholics; while by a Declaration in favour of liberty of conscience, he also sought to gain the favour of the dissenters, who were, however too conscious of his ultimate object to be deluded by this show of liberality. The resistance to this illegal declaration led to the trial of the Seven Bishops, Archbishop Sancroft being one of them, and their acquittal was an occasion of great popular rejoicing. Thus the king proceeded by every direct and indirect attack to overthrow the established constitution; but these innovations, in regard both to the religion and government, gradually united opposing interests, and a large body of the nobility and gentry concurred in an invitation to the prince of Orange, who had been secretly preparing a fleet and an army for the invasion of the country.

James, who was long kept in ignorance of these transactions, when informed of them by his minister at the Hague, was struck with terror and, immediately repealing all his obnoxious acts, he practised every method to gain popularity. All confidence was, however destroyed between the king and the people. William arrived with his fleet at Torbay Nov. 4, 1688; and being speedily joined by several men of high rank, his adherents multiplied while the army of James began to desert by entire regiments. Incapable of any vigorous resolution and finding his overtures of accommodation disregarded, James resolved to quit the country. He repaired to St. Germains, where be was received with great kindness and hospitality by Louis XIV. In the meantime the throne of Great Britain was declared to be abdicated; and William and his consort Mary (the daughter of James) were unanimously called to fill it conjointly. Assisted by Louis XIV., James was enabled, in March, 1689, to make an attempt for the recovery of Ireland. The battle of the Boyne, fought July, 1690, compelled him to return to France. All succeeding projects for his restoration proved equally abortive and he spent the last years of his life in acts of ascetic devotion, dying at St. Germains, Sept 16, 1701, aged 68. A portrait of James II., as Duke of York, by Wissing, is in the collection at Hampton Court.

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John,

King Of England, was the youngest son of Henry II. by Eleanor of Guienne, and was born in 1166. Early named governor of Ireland, he was sent over, in 1185, to complete its conquest, but such was his imprudence that it was found necessary to recall him; and on the death of his father he was left without any provision, which procured for him the name of Sans Terre, or Lackland. His brother Richard, on coming to the throne, conferred on him the earldom of Mortaigne in Normandy, and various large possessions in England, and married him to the rich heiress of the Duke of Gloucester. Notwithstanding this kindness, he had the ingratitude to form intrigues, in conjunction with the King of France, against Richard, during his absence in Palestine; but Richard magnanimously pardoned him, and at his death (1199) left him his kingdom, in preference to Arthur of Brittany, the son of his elder brother, Geoffrey. Some of the French provinces, however, revolted in favour of Arthur; but John ultimately recovered them, and his nephew was captured, in 1202, and confined in the Castle of Falaise, whence he was subsequently removed to Rouen, and never heard of more. Suspected of the murder of Arthur, the states of Brittany summoned John to answer the charge before his liege lord, King Philip; and upon his refusal to appear, the latter executed the sentence of forfeiture against him; and thus, after its alienation from the French crown for three centuries, the whole of Normandy was recovered.

A quarrel with the Pope, Innocent III., who had nominated Stephen Langton to the see of Canterbury, added to the perplexity of the king, whom the Pope excommunicated, and whose subjects he formally absolved from their allegiance (1212). At length John was induced not only to receive Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury, but abjectly to resign his kingdom, by the hands of Cardinal Pandulph, to the holy see, in order to receive it again as its vassal. John had by this time rendered himself the object of such universal contempt and hatred, that the barons determined to limit his power and establish their privileges; and though the Pope censured them, they assembled in arms at Stamford, and immediately marched to London. They were received there without opposition, which so intimidated the king, that he consented to whatever terms they chose to dictate. Thus was obtained (June 1215) that basis of English constitutional freedom known as Magna Carta, which not only protected the nobles against the crown, but secured important privileges to every class of freemen. But while John appeared to be all-complying and passive, he was secretly purposing to disannul the charter. The Pope pronounced a sentence of excommunication on all who should attempt to enforce it; and John, having collected an army of mercenaries, carried war and devastation throughout the kingdom. The barons, taken by surprise, sent a deputation to Philip of France, offering the crown of England to the Dauphin, Louis; who, in May 1216, landed at Sandwich, and proceeded to London, where he was received as lawful sovereign. John was immediately deserted by all his foreign troops, and most of his English adherents; but the report of a scheme of Louis for the extermination of the English nobility arrested his progress, and induced many to return to their allegiance. while the king's affairs were beginning to assume a better aspect, he was taken ill, and died at Newark, October 19, 1216, in the 49th year of his age, and the 17th of his reign.

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The above information was gleaned from
various sources and then put together
by Colin Hinson 1996.


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