James I of England, 1566 - 1625

James 1 of England
Portrait of King James
as a young man, 1595
James was born in 1566, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley.

He was King of Scotland (as James VI) for 36 years before becoming King of England in 1603 — and the first in the British royal line of Stuarts.

James considered his rule to be by the “Divine Right of Kings” (under which he was considered appointed by God and not answerable to men), but all members of Parliament did not accept this belief. By governing for much of the time without Parliament — relying instead on a select group of “favourites” for advice — he diluted the legacy of strong representative government established by Elizabeth I.

The Virginia Company
Virginia Company meeting
photo 1607. A Nation Takes Root

There were multiple conspiracies and efforts to depose James during the early years of his reign in England; and, in 1605, the “Gunpowder Plot” was an alleged attempt by Guy Fawkes and other English Catholics to destroy both King and Parliament.

Stock certificate
Virginia Company stock
certificate reproduction
click to enlarge

He signed the first of three charters in 1606, granting the Virginia Company the right to control an area extending 50 miles north, 50 miles south, and 100 miles west of the settlement on the east coast of America. The second charter in 1609 granted the Virginia Company an “able and absolute governor” and extended the boundaries of Virginia from those set in the 1606 charter. In 1612, a third charter incorporated Bermuda and established lotteries for the purpose of raising funds. A new set of instructions was written by officials of the Virginia Company in 1618. Commonly called the “Great Charter,” these instructions created a council of state, whose members were chosen by the Virginia Company, to assist the governor in his duties, and a “generall Assemblie” that included the council and two “burgesses” from every town, hundred, and particular plantation, “chosen by the [free] inhabitants.” Thus, began the first representative government in the European colonies.

The fleet that came to Jamestown
Replicas of the ships that sailed to Jamestown

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