Papers relating to James VI of Scotland (James I of Great Britain and Ireland) (1566-1625)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-380
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English, Latin, French, and Italian.
  • Physical Description
      3 manuscript volumes, 6 manuscript documents (bound in).
  • Location
      Dc.1.37/1/1; Dc.3.48; Dc.4.14; De.1.12/1, 5, 8, 20; Dk.1.18

Scope and Content

The material is composed of: letters under the Signet of James VI to John Young, messenger, commanding him to summon William Stewart of Kinnaird and others to appear before the Privy Council, 1595; letter from A. La Roche de Chandieu, La Rochelle, 1587; letter from A. Farnese, Duke of Parma, Spanish ambassador in the Netherlands, 1589; The offers made by Her Majesty's ambassador of England to King James, 1588; Tabula consanguinitatis inter Christianam Lotharingicam, Ferdinandi, Magni Hetruriae Ducis uxorem, et Jacobum Steuartum, ejusdemque conjugem Annam Altiburgicam, Britannorum reges faelicissimos; De jure successionis regni Angliae libri duo, adversus sophismata cujusdam personati Dolomanni, etc, 1602; document which refers to James' apology for the oath of allegiance; and, transcripts of documents relating to the reign of James, 1578-1617.

Administrative / Biographical History

James was born on 19 June 1566 in Edinburgh Castle. He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Soon after James was born, Mary had been forced into abdication by her illegitimate half-brother Lord James Stewart, Earl of Moray, and on 24 July 1567 the baby became King James VI of Scotland, and was crowned at Stirling on 29 July. The Earl of Moray acted as Regent while James grew up in Stirling Castle in the custody of the Earl and Countess of Mar. His senior tutor was the historian and scholar George Buchanan (1506-1582). In 1570, Moray was murdered and the Earl of Lennox, grandfather of James, became the second Regent. Lennox too died in September 1571 after a skirmish, and the Earl of Mar became the third Regent. When he died, James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton, became the fourth Regent.

In 1579 change occurred yet again with the arrival from France of Esme Stuart, a Catholic cousin of James. Scotland at this time was a divided country with powerful nobles - Protestant and Catholic parties - seeking their own control over parliament and Stuart had been sent by the Guise family to win James back for France (Mary of Guise had been James' grandmother). By this time James was thirteen and he created his cousin first Earl then Duke of Lennox, and a companion of Stuart's, James Stewart, was made Earl of Arran. Together, in 1581, they managed to have Regent Morton seized and executed for complicity in the murder of Darnley. Extreme Protestants avenged this in 1582 in the kidnapping of James - the Ruthven Raid organised by William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie - and in the expulsion of the Duke of Lennox, who returned to France. James escaped captivity in Falkland in June 1583. Gowrie was subsequently executed and much later, in 1600, in an affair that still encourages debate - the Gowrie Conspiracy - both John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie, and his younger brother Alexander Ruthven, were killed in a disturbance.

In 1585 negotiations began for the marriage of James to Anne, the daughter of King Frederick II of Denmark. Marriage by proxy took place in Copenhagen in August 1589. On her journey to Scotland, a storm drove her ship towards Norway and so James sailed there to meet her. They were married in Opsloe or Upslo (later the site of Christiania, then re-named Oslo) on 23 November 1589, and again in Denmark, at Kronenborg, before both arrived in Leith on 1 May 1590.

King James and Anne, Queen Consort, had seven children, most of whom died in infancy: Henry Frederick, Prince of Carrick, Prince of Wales, born February 1594 (but died in 1612); Princess Elizabeth, born August 1596; Princess Margaret, born December 1598 (but died in infancy); Prince Charles, born November 1600; 'Duik Robert', born 1601 (died in infancy); Princess Mary, born April 1605 (died in 1607); and, Princess Sophia born in June 1607, but who lived only one day.

The kingship of James had doubtless been influenced by Buchanan, his tutor - at times in reaction to his influence, and at times as a result of his influence. James checked the power of his nobles and the aspirations of the Calvinist divines who claimed Scotland for Jesus Christ and who regarded him as 'God's sillie vassal'. He took control of the General Assembly, deciding where and when it met. His attitude to the Gaelic-speaking population of the Highlands and Islands was influenced by racism and he proposed settlement of these areas with English-speakers - a policy that was implemented in the north of Ireland instead. Misogyny also influenced his policy and this was expressed in the torture of women accused of witchcraft - although warlocks were also tortured with expertise. A work by James entitled Demonology (1597) 'proved' the malign influence of witchcraft which he held to be responsible for the storms that dogged the marriage expedition in 1589-90.

Other works by James include Basilikon Doron (1599), The true law of free monarchies (1603), and A counter-blast to tobacco (1604).

James' ultimate goal was the throne of England and as early as 1586 he had allied himself with Protestantism and with Queen Elizabeth of England. Indeed, on the execution of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots, also in 1586, James uttered little protest (Mary had disinherited him, bequeathing her realm to Philip II of Spain). On the death of Queen Elizabeth I on 24 March 1603, and at the age of thirty-seven, James VI of Scotland became King James I of Great Britain and Ireland.

James died on 27 March 1625 and he was buried in Westminster Abbey on 5 May 1625. Anne, his queen, died earlier, on 2 March 1619. James VI and I was succeeded by Charles, his second son.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 10. Howard-Kenneth. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908. (2) Stephen, Leslie. and Lee, Sidney (eds.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 1. Abbadie-Beadon. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908. (3) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various other references to material related to James I in the Laimg Collection (check the Indexes for more details): correspondence between Queen Elizabeth of England and James, 1583-1602, at La.III.371; correspondence between James, Sir Robert Cecil and others, 1602-1607, at La.III.372; letter to Sir Lewis Bellenden, 1585, at La.II.517; letters from Queen Elizabeth, 1587-1593, at La.III.365; letter to James about the renunciation by the Duke of Lennox of the Priory of St. Andrews, circa 1606, La.II.539; A brief opinion of the state, faction, religion and power of the noblemen in Scotland, 1583, at La.III.510; A declaration of the King's majesties intention and meaning toward the lait actis of Parliament, 1585, at La.III.534, ff.42-55; commission to J. Anderson, Minister of Stirling, 1586, at La.II.14; An apologie of the Scottische king, circa 1599-1603, at La.III.245; The historie and life of King James the Sext, 1566-1594, at La.III.223; accounts for setting and repair of crown jewels, 1604, at La.II.525; a treatise for James on trade and traffic, circa 1620, at La.II.52; and, a warrant for paying 900 Pounds to George Heriot for jewels and presents to the French ambassador and his secretaries, 1621, at La.II.658.

The local Indexes also show reference to: a letter to Anne of Denmark from Elizabeth, Queen of England, 18 January 1595, at De.1.12/9.

In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: royal letter book, 1565-1628, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD149 NRA 33875 Cuninghame, and letters (23), 1590-1621, Ref. GD249/2/1 NRA 10114 Hamilton see NRA(S)0104, and letters to the Dukes of Hamilton, and correspondence with the Earl of Mar, circa 1580-1620, Ref. GD 124/10/52 NRA 32022 Erskine, and letters (7) to Sir John Ogilvy, 1593-1606, Ref. GD 205/box1 NRA 34282 Ogilvy; miscellaneous letters and papers, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Sloane MSS, and correspondence, 1582-1596, Ref. Add MSS 23240-41; papers, including establishment lists, circa 1603-1619, Society of Antiquaries of London, Ref. MSS 40, 45, 74-75, 118; miscellaneous correspondence and papers, Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives; miscellaneous correspondence and papers, Lambeth Palace Library, Ref. MS 929-42 NRA 36499 Gibson; household accounts, 1623-1624, Duchy of Cornwall Office, NRA 24580 Duchy of Cornwall; letters to the Boyd family (8), 1578-1618, Dick Institute, NRA 29118 Boyd; letters (8) to the Earl of Huntly, West Sussex Record Office, Ref. 1427/3-10 NRA 850 Gordon Lennox; letters (11) to the Earl of Huntingdon, 1609-1624, Huntington Library, Ref. HU NRA 10029 Hastings; and, letters (2) to the wardens of New College, Oxford and Winchester College, 1609, Warwickshire County Record Office, Ref. CR 136/B/736A and B NRA 26325 Newdegate.