King James I

King James 1 of England, VI of the Scots (born June 19, 1566; ascended throne of Scotland 24 July 1567, throne of England and Ireland 24 March 1603; till died 27 March 1625)

James was in many ways an enigma. His Catholic mother, Mary Queen of Scots, had been executed by Elizabeth for (believable) treason; she had probably arranged the murder of his father, but through her James had the best claim to the English throne (direct descendant of Henry VII) which he was invited to assume, and came to it as “an experienced king” since he had since infancy been King of the Scots. Though raised as a Calvinist, James supported the orthodox Church of England, stating, “No bishop – no king!” Though probably homosexual he had a large family, his wife Princess Anne of Denmark, bore two sons and four daughters.


Appointment of Knights and Lords for a Fee

James was short of money, the Earl of Salisbury had a solution. In July 1603 a proclamation was issued, summoning all persons with ₤40 or more a year in land to come to Hampton Court, pay a fee and receive the honour of knighthood, or else pay a fine. Six days later several hundred persons were waiting to be dubbed, and 300 were knighted in the first batch. He also created a “Noble order of Baronets” for which there was a ₤1000 fee. In July at Hampton Court he elevated 11 persons to the peerage (made them Lords), and in his reign of 22 years he made 111 peers, seven times as many as had Queen Elizabeth.


Christmas entertainment

Among all the royal residences, Hampton Court had the largest rooms available for the entertainment of guests and the laying on of masques or theatrical performances. Moving scenery by mechanical devices were part of this theatre, some designed by Inigo Jones. The Queen participated fully in the scenes, on occasion scantily dressed. These were very popular and as many as 30 were performed over Christmas. Queen Elizabeth’s collection of 500 robes was rifled to provide costumes, and when the King travelled to Scotland he took gowns and jewels for his wife. James had also to entertain all the ambassadors, with predictable squabbling over precedence until the rule was established that the ambassadors’ precedence would be based on the date of appointment. The entertainment was very popular, to the extent the 1200 rooms of the palace and outbuildings could not accommodate all who came, so tents were erected in the park. The “King’s Company of Comedians” were among the listed players; William Shakespeare’s name appeared.


Hampton Court Conference and the Authorised King James Version

After the Christmas festivities, James got down to work. The Puritans felt they were getting insufficient attention and supposed James, raised by Calvinists, would support them. The purpose of the January 1604 conference at Hampton Court was, James said, to be like a good physician, to examine and try the complaints. Those present were his lords in council and the senior bishops of the land, led by Whitgift. Although the Puritans expressed themselves politely, they were rudely interrupted by the Bishops, who were in there turn reproved by the King. It was a Puritan, Doctor Reynolds, who requested a translation of the Bible into English, objected to by the Bishop of London, but supported by the King, and from that Conference in Hampton Court there came the King James Approved Version of the Holy Bible.


Henry, Prince of Wales

The King left Hampton Court in February 1504, but Henry his older son, designated Prince of Wales, lived there, was taught there and enjoyed riding in the park. The king was predictably regular in his habits and returned every autumn, to spend Christmas at Hampton Court and to pursue the fun of theatricals. Henry died of suspected typhoid and never became king.


Hunting and War

In keeping with the times, James was often out hunting, and arranged full enclosure of Bushey Park which he so stocked with game all who visited were assured of a “kill.” By contrast, James was of a pacific nature and did his best to keep England out of the various wars that were pursued on the continent; his subjects were not all pleased about this. But foreign delegates were impressed with the splendour of Hampton Court, described 80 royal chambers each decorated with beautiful gold tapestries.


Gunpowder plot

It didn’t affect Hampton Court, but about the best remembered event of King James’ reign was the attempt by Guy Fawkes and friends to blow up the House of Parliament while the king was there. This “gunpowder plot” of 5th November 1605 has been celebrated in British areas ever since, either known as Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night. It resulted in tightening the anti-Catholic legislation which James had relaxed.

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