The Life of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots
James VI of Scotland inherits the English Throne | The Children of James I
George Villiers - Duke of Buckingham | Charles Stuart at the Court of Spain
The closing years of the 16th Century saw many changes that dramatically altered not only England and Scotland, but would also indirectly affect the world. It started simply when King James VI of Scotland1, soon to be also James I of England, chose to marry Princess Anne of Denmark, the second daughter of Protestant King Frederick II.
Choosing A Wife
It sounds easy to choose a bride from the European royal houses, but as most were Catholic there was not a wide choice. In order to choose a suitable wife, in 1589 James paid an official visit to the court of King Frederick II of Denmark. James's visit to Denmark to find a bride was a matter of necessity as one of the key duties of a monarch was to provide an heir, and there were few Protestant royal families in Europe with eligible daughters.
James chose Princess Anne of Denmark. As the preference was for a Protestant princess and Anne had been brought up in that faith, all seemed well. They were initially married by proxy2 in Copenhagen during August 1589. Anne sailed for Scotland but the ship she was travelling on was forced by storms to put into a Norwegian port. James and Anne were formally married in Oslo3 at the Bishop's Palace in November 1589. James was 23 and Anne only 14; born 12 December, 1574 she was one month short of her 15th birthday.
The newlywed couple stayed at Elsinore and Copenhagen for some weeks as guests of Anne's father, King Frederick. Anne and James started their new life together and the marriage seems to have been happy, particularly in the early years. When it was time to return to Scotland, the couple travelled together. They arrived home in Scotland on 1 May, 1590. As they stood on the steps of Stirling Castle, little did the young royal couple - or the world - know what violent impact their future children would have, not only on the history of Scotland, but on Europe at large, beginning with neighbouring England.
It was this moment in time that held the seeds of the foundation of an Empire, increasing religious diversity and even the birth of Communism4.
The Children of James I&VI and Anne of Denmark
Anne and James began to raise a family. The first of their royal children to be born was Henry, on 19 February, 1594, with the last being Sophia in 1607.
Henry Frederick Stuart
Henry Frederick Stuart was born at Stirling Castle and was named in honour of his grandfathers, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley and Frederick II of Denmark. From birth Henry held the titles of The Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. In 1603, upon his father's accession to the throne of England, he also became Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Earl of Chester.
When he was five, Prince Henry was placed in the care of John Erskine, the Earl of Mar. The main reason for this appears to be that James worried about Anne, as she had started developing a growing tendency toward the Catholic faith. James, a staunch Protestant, could not allow the boy's mother to make a Catholic out of Henry. Erskine remained Henry's guardian until he was 9 and James ascended the English throne.
Henry has been described as a paragon, an active handsome young man. Fit and vigorous, he was a keen huntsman and sportsman. A man of the world, he was widely admired throughout the realm. The best contemporary comparison we have to the young Prince Henry is the young King Henry VIII.
As he grew older, Henry showed great potential and became increasingly active in matters of state. Sir Walter Raleigh saw his potential and became one of his growing circle of friends. Raleigh encouraged Henry's interest in The Virginia Company of London, which had a struggling colony in North America. Prince Henry was instrumental in the assignment of Sir Thomas Dale as deputy governor of the Virginia Colony. Sir Thomas named Virginia's township of Henricus and the County of Henrico5 in Prince Henry's honour.
Alas, Poor Henry
Fate seems to have dealt the kingdom a cruel blow when at 18 Henry died. It was so sudden that some thought it was poisoning. At the time Henry thought it was a bad cold and refused treatment, believing that the best remedy was violent exercise. When he collapsed the doctors did not have a clue and despite their best efforts could not save him. It has been now been suggested by medical experts studying the records that he died of typhoid fever.
Henry lay in state at St James's Palace for four weeks. When he was buried in Westminster Abbey the procession of mourners numbered over 1,000 and was more than a mile long. It was even said of Henry that he was 'the greatest king there never was'.
Upon Henry's death his younger brother Charles, as next in line, became Prince of Wales and heir to the throne.
On 19 August, 1596, their first daughter Elizabeth was born in Falkland Palace, Scotland. She was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth I. James decided that the best choice for raising Elizabeth was to initially place her in the care of Lord Livingstone and his wife. She was brought up at Linlithgow Palace, described as 'one of the grandest of Scotland's royal residences'. The practice of having prominent members of the aristocracy raising royal children was common; James and Anne's second daughter, Margaret, was also later placed in their care.
On James' accession to the English throne and shortly after her 7th birthday, on 19 October, 1603, an order was issued under the privy seal announcing that the King had thought fit to 'commit the keeping and education of the Lady Elizabeth' to the Lord Harrington and his wife. Elizabeth was moved from Linlithgow Palace to Coombe Abbey. Lord Harrington also made sure Elizabeth was given an excellent education covering not only the traditional feminine subjects, but also geography, politics and natural history. While with the Harringtons, Elizabeth met Anne Dudley. They formed a close friendship that lasted the rest of her life.
The political importance of Elizabeth from a young age can be illustrated by the fact that, had the Gunpowder Plot succeeded in 1605, it was planned to take the nine-year-old Elizabeth from Coombe Abbey and put her on the throne.
As the oldest daughter of a reigning monarch, the hand of the young Elizabeth was regarded as a very desirable prize. The marriage of Elizabeth gave James the opportunity to gain a strong ally on the continent, just as occurred when he had married Anne.
A list of suitors was made, which included:
- Prince Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden – heir to the Swedish throne.
- Victor Amadeus I, Prince of Piedmont - grandson of King Philip II of Spain.
- Maurice, Prince of Nassau.
- Otto, Hereditary Prince of Hesse.
- Henry Howard, 1st Earl of Northampton.
- Theopilus Howard, Lord Howard of Walden.
- Frederic Ulric, Duke of Brusnwick-Wolfenbuttel.
After long deliberation it was decided that Elizabeth should become the wife of Frederick V, Count Palatine of the Rhine. The couple were married on 14 February, 1613, at the royal chapel at the Palace of Whitehall. A contemporary report of their courtship stated Frederick seemed to 'delight in nothing but her company and conversation'; they seem to have had a happy marriage.
Frederick and Elizabeth's Children
Frederick and Elizabeth had 13 children, nine of whom survived to adulthood and would have a very prominent role in the history of Europe. They were:
- Henry Frederick, Hereditary Prince of the Palatinate, drowned at 15 (1614-1629).
- Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine (1617-1680).
- Princess Elizabeth of the Palatinate, Abbess of Hereford (1618-1680).
- Prince Rupert of the Rhine, The Duke of Cumberland (1619-1682).
- Prince Maurice of the Palatinate (1620-1652)
- Princess Louise Hollandine of the Palatinate (1622-1709)
- Prince Louis (21 August - 24 December 1624)
- Prince Edward, Count Palatine of Simmern (1625-1663)
- Princess Henriette Marie of the Palatinate (1626-1651)
- Prince John Philip Frederick (1627-1650)
- Princess Charlotte (1628-1631)
- Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover. (1630-1714)
- Prince Gustavus Adolphus (1632-1641), passed away due to epilepsy.
Of these, perhaps best known to British history is Prince Rupert of the Rhine. He was a brave and courageous military Royalist leader of the English Civil War, often accompanied by his poodle, Boye6, on the battlefield.
Sophia, Electress of Hanover was the heiress presumptive to the throne of the Kingdom of Great Britain but died two months before Queen Anne. She had married Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover and their oldest surviving child became King George I of Great Britain7.
The Winter Queen
Bohemia, part of the Holy Roman Empire that was suffering from religious tension, was ruled by an elected monarch. When Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Matthias II died on 20 March, 1619, Ferdinand II had been appointed as his successor, but as he was known to have anti-Protestant views this led events to the brink of war. Fearing that Ferdinand II would prosecute Bohemia's Protestants, they chose Elizabeth's new husband Frederick II as Matthias' successor. In August 1619, the Bohemian parliament told Ferdinand he had forfeited the Bohemian throne, crowning Frederick in November 1619. Ferdinand, who was elected Holy Roman Emperor, led his force against Frederick, who had hoped for support from James I&VI and the Protestant Union, both of whom remained neutral. Bohemia was easily defeated.
The family fled to The Hague. Frederick and Elizabeth gained the epithet 'Winter King and Queen'. They never returned home. Frederick later died of plague while he was staying with his ally, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.
Margaret Stuart was born on Christmas Eve, 24 December, 1598. Like Elizabeth, she was placed in the care of Lord and Lady Livingstone. Sadly she died in March 1600, having lived only two years two months.
Charles Stuart arrived on 19 November, 1600. In the beginning it looked like Charles was unlikely to survive childhood. After his birth, he was too ill to be moved and was left in the care of his doctors at Dunfermline. Charles was a sickly child and, having so recently lost Margaret, James and Anne may have despaired of Charles' chance of survival. They decided he should be baptised without delay. Charles' godfathers were Huguenot leader Henri, Duc de Rohan and Prince of Léon, along with his brother Benjamin de Rohan Duc de Soubise, both nobles from the house of Guise. James' paternal grandmother had been James V's Queen Consort Mary de Guise. As Charles' sister Margaret had died, Charles was given the best care available but was unfortunately neglected by his parents, who simply left it to others to bring him up.
He must have been an exceptionally weak child, as his doctors reported that he hadn't the strength to speak for his first three years. In 1604 his condition improved and he was sent south by litter and deposited with Lady Elizabeth Carey, wife of Sir Robert Carey, to be brought up. Sir Robert Carey was appointed as Prince Charles's governor. He had been the first man to deliver the news of Queen Elizabeth I's death and his succession to James, and this appears an act of patronage8. This was a stroke of good luck for Charles as Lady Carey really provided loving care for the young boy.
Charles did not get on with his older brother, Henry. It is said that every time they were together, Henry teased Charles. This appears to be an understatement as Henry made life unpleasant for Charles. This may have been because many considered the young Charles an unpleasant child, described by his nurse as 'very evil in nature' and 'beyond measure wilful and un-thankful'.
In his fifth year Charles was taken to court to be appointed Duke of York. As he still could hardly talk and was prone to falling over a lot, he was mostly kept out of the public eye. By the age of eight he was doing very well at his lessons, thanks to Lady Carey. Things continued to improve so that by the age of ten he not only had become a good horseman, but he could play golf and tennis well.
Charles was 12 when he received the news of Henry's death, and he was now Prince of Wales and heir to the throne of Great Britain. Charles was not as nearly as popular as Henry, and had been sheltered all his life. After Henry's death in 1612, people began to take more notice of him. The course of his life had completely altered; the sudden entry of Charles into court life was to prove traumatic.
Charles frequently stammered, a trait he never managed to conquer. He was exceedingly jealous and passionately hated the circle of his father's young male friends. He barely concealed his feelings and in 1616 he even attacked George Villiers, throwing water from a fountain over him in full view of the court. In short, Charles' behaviour was not what was expected of a potential ruler.
Charles was to manage a profound personal change within a few years of his coming to the throne in 1625. He became a more dignified, kingly figure, the equal of any other European monarch.
Charles and Oliver - A Twist of Fate?
There is an odd story from this time. Oliver Cromwell's family had rich relations, Cromwell's grandfather, Sir Henry Williams, was one of the two wealthiest landowners in Huntingdonshire and Prince Charles was said to have made an unofficial visit to the home of this important man. Owing to the importance of their guest the Cromwell family were also invited to attend. It is possible that young Charles met and played with the young Oliver Cromwell at this gathering.
Charles was the last of James and Anne's children destined to survive to adulthood. In addition to Margaret, the others who tragically died in infancy were:
- Robert Stuart, Duke of Kintyre. Born 18 January, 1602, he died on 27 May that year.
- Mary Stuart, born 8 April, 1605, she died 16 December, 1607.
- Sophia Stuart, who died in June 1607 within 48 hours of her birth.
Regardless of wealth, at the time there was at best only an even chance of surviving childhood and becoming an adult. It is impossible for us to imagine the grief caused by this level of mortality, and the loss of so many children.
The Legacy of Childhood
The state of Monarchy is the supremest thing upon Earth; for kings are not only God's lieutenants and sit upon a throne, but even by God Himself they are called gods… As to dispute what God may do is blasphemy, so it is sedition in subjects to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power.
- Speech by James VI&I to Parliament, March 1610
James had a strong belief in the divine right of kings. He passed on his belief in the absolute authority of the monarchy to Charles with catastrophic results. When Charles came to the throne he was acutely aware of his responsibilities and was determined to be a strong king. To this end, Charles kept tight control of the administration and government of the kingdom.
Having been in isolation in his early years, Charles had no skill in managing people. This caused him to alienate many Church leaders, noblemen and politicians of the day. During 1637-1638 his refusal to make concessions over the introduction and use of an English-style prayer book turned protest into a full rebellion in Scotland.
Charles possessed an overconfident and inflexible attitude to government, a disposition which was to have unfortunate and far-reaching consequences. This created a period of turmoil ultimately resulting in civil war and a death toll of over 200,000 including civilians across Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England.