KING JAMES VI AND I by Antonia Fraser


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Lady Antonia Fraser, biographer of Cromwell and Mary Queen of Scots, appraises, in a singularly shrewd and elegant study, Mary's son James, king of Scotland at thirteen months, king of England at 36. He had a decidedly traumatic upbringing -- his mother left forever in his first year; a succession of regents and tutors hammered learning or dogma or both into what they assumed would be malleable material. It is not surprising that James developed a useful ""deep and canny reserve,"" a watchfulness, a habit of politic delay, which helped him to maintain, particularly in the last years of his Scots reign, a kind of balance between extreme political and religious sectors. But then came England -- Fraser leans toward the theory that his succession as James I was courted and planned for long before Mary's death -- where he expected to enjoy Elizabeth's authority. But England's Parliament had been too long ""reined in,"" and James' insistence on divine royal prerogatives was not appropriate in the English setting. Further, James' bias toward Catholicism and Spain, plus his homosexual attachments (probably the product of a love-starved childhood) fed the fires of future rebellion. But Fraser's James was ahead of his times in his conviction that peace was desirable and learning was exciting for a king. With many illustrations (some in color), contemporary letters (including some respectable royal efforts), investigations of landmark events of large and small import -- this is a handsome and stylish work.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Knopf