JAMES I by Otto J. Scott


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Whatever merit Scott's view of James I has (he considers the Scottish, then English, monarch a coward, an intellectual who suppressed the ideas of others and a weak homosexual) is undermined early on by the author's slovenly scholarship and unsupported interpretations. Among the major bloopers: Scott makes it seem that the War of the Three Henrys occurred after the assassination of Henry III; he declares that Elizabeth's minister, Cecil, was ""an ardent Reformer""--he was hardly an ardent anything, least of all a Reformer (a term Scott also uses to cover the radical theology of such men as John Knox). James seemed to believe he was king ""because he was anointed,"" writes Scott with some heat, as if this were a freshly minted idea at the time. This is a long, dense biography with a multitude of events at home and abroad covered with unseemly dispatch. Scott gives little credence to what Lady Antonia Fraser saw as James' ""deep and canny reserve,"" attributing most hesitations and shifting alliances to simple cowardice. He does not really focus on the contributions of James' style of governing to the centralization of power in Scotland, although his analysis of the King's troubles with the English Parliament agrees with Fraser's view that this body was a sophisticated and potentially threatening counterforce to royal authority. Scott has little use for Elizabeth (she was ""outwitted"" by those who rushed through Mary's execution) or for Charles I (he was ""dim"") and his prose is sometimes exhibitionistic (""Great changes took place in Europe while James was voiding his kidney stones""), sometimes appalling (""James [died] in an outgoing tide of shit""). Unfortunate--stay with Fraser.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1975
Publisher: Mason/Charter