Political issues, 1603-1625

Political issues, 1603-1625

King James I of England & VI of Scotland

  • King James I of England (also King James VI of Scotland) ascended the English throne in 1603. He was the first monarch to govern both England and Scotland, an achievement that earned him the epithet “the Union of Crowns”.

  • As a Scottish monarch, James had already adopted an absolutist style of rule, believing in the Divine Right of Kings. That’s the belief that a King is not subject to earthly authority and his right to rule is derived directly from the will of God.

  • He brought this form of rule to England, which clashed with the English Parliament’s view of itself as the monarchical equal.

Fundamental Conflicts

  • Over the course of his reign, fundamental conflicts arose between James and Parliament over several key political issues.

  • The first of these was royal finances. James’ extravagant lifestyle and expenditure on favourites rapidly depleted the royal coffers.

  • Secondly, there was disagreement over foreign policy, particularly concerning Spain and the continued war with Ireland.

  • A third issue was the monarch’s persistent efforts of attempting a closer union between England and Scotland, which was largely resisted by both parliaments.

The Role of Parliament

  • The role of parliament during James I’s reign was a contentious issue. James’ views on absolute monarchy conflicted with the English Parliament’s increasing self-perception as a sovereign body.

  • Parliament, disgusted with his extravagant spending, frequently denied James’ requests for taxation.

  • Both parties also disagreed on the legal and religious implications of James’ proposed union with Scotland. Parliament feared that such a union could extend Scotland’s more authoritarian royal prerogative into English politics.

Factional Politics

  • Factional politics played an important role in the political strife during this time.

  • James often promoted his Scottish favourites into positions of power, much to the annoyance of the English nobility. The king’s favourites, like Robert Carr and George Villiers, wielded considerable influence, provoking resentment among English nobles who felt sidelined.

  • Relying heavily on his favourites led to a harsh criticism of the king’s rule and further increased the divide between him and the nobles.

Religious Disputes

  • Another critical issue was the religious disputes that developed under James I.

  • There were ongoing tensions between the traditionally Anglican majority and the Puritan minority. James regarded the Puritans with suspicion, fearing they threatened his vision of religious uniformity.

  • James also authorised the King James Bible, aiming to bridge differences between Anglicans and Puritans. However, his favour of Anglican High Church ceremonies and the marginalisation of Puritans led to increased tensions.