The Background
A Royal Childhood
A Guid King?
Previous Conflicts
The Way Paved
The Crowns United
The Aftermath

the way paved

James VI's accession to the throne of England came about primarily as a result of a series of events that started a century before. His great-grandmother, the English Margaret Tudor, married the Scottish King James IV in 'The Marriage of the Thistle and the Rose' in 1503. What was supposed to herald a period of peace between the two countries ended in disaster ten years later with the debacle at Flodden, as James invaded England in response to Margaret's brother Henry VIII invading France.

By 1603, with the claimant to the English throne, Mary Queen of Scots, finally dead, and the Tudor line in England ended - despite Henry VIII's strenuous efforts to produce a lasting heir, and Elizabeth I's failure to either marry or produce children - the way was clear for the Tudor and Stewart-descended James VI to become the King of Scotland's southern neighbour.

Henry VII

Henry VII gained the throne of England in 1485 through victory over Richard III at Bosworth and so established the Tudor dynasty, which was to last 118 years. Henry's wish for peace with Scotland led him to favour the marriage of his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland.

His reply to those who foresaw the succession of his daughter's issue to the English throne and the Union of the Crowns was that the accession would be that of Scotland to England "as a rivulet to a fountain".

Stirling Head: Margaret Tudor

This wooden medallion from Stirling Castle is thought to represent Margaret Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII, the Tudor English king. Margaret was the mother of James V, and grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots. Margaret had travelled north to Scotland to marry James IV when she was only thirteen. Out of their six children, James V was the only one to survive.

Margaret acted as Regent and Guardian for the young prince who was only 17 months old when his father James IV died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. She was disqualified from this role and driven out of Scotland when she married Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, in 1515. In this second marriage Margaret Tudor gave birth to Margaret, the mother of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, father of James VI and I.

Henry VIII

Disliking the failure of his nephew James V (son of Henry's sister Margaret Tudor who had married James IV of Scotland) to follow his example and break with the Roman Church, Henry VIII tried to claim the overlordship of Scotland.

When James died, Henry persuaded the Scots to agree to the marriage of the infant Mary, Queen of Scots to his son and heir, the future Edward VI. When the Scots later repudiated the treaty, he sent his army north in the series of invasions known as "The Rough Wooing".

Mary, Queen of Scots Death Mask

Mary's troubled life was finally brought to an end in 1587, when she was executed, her death warrant signed by Elizabeth I. Mary's son, James VI, had last seen his mother twenty years previously, when he was less than a year old. He did not protest too extremely against the issuing of her death warrant, fearful of losing his claim to the English throne. However, once King in England, he ordered her body to be moved to Westminster Abbey, and a specially built tomb placed in close proximity to the tomb he had built for Elizabeth I.

Death masks were a form of portraiture until this century. They were taken in plaster or wax, very soon after death. The aftermath of the execution of Mary was strictly controlled: the clothes and artefacts associated with her on the day of her death were either burnt or disposed of to avoid any objects becoming relics of Catholic martyrdom. This has led some to doubt this death mask to be genuine.

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth succeeded her Catholic half-sister Mary Tudor as Queen in 1558, while Mary, Queen of Scots, recently married to Francois, Dauphin of France, alleged that Elizabeth was illegitimate and as granddaughter of Margaret Tudor she, Mary, was the true heir.

Mary's claim and the political battle which it caused led eventually to her trial for complicity in a plot to kill Elizabeth, and to her inevitable execution in 1587. Her death cleared the way for her son James VI to succeed in due course to the English throne.

As Elizabeth never married and produced no heir, the succession was a major issue and source of much debate, though not by Elizabeth herself, who refused to discuss it, believing any talk to be a slight on her and her rule. It's believed that her final words were the name of her successor.

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