Francis Bacon, King James I of England, King James VI of Scotland, King of Great Britain, Parliament of England, Parliament of Scotland, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Sir Robert Cecil, Union of the Crowns
James VI- I (June 19, 1566 – March 27, 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from July 24, 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on March 24, 1603 until his death in 1625.
James was the son of Queen Mary I of Scotland, and a great-great-grandson of Henry VII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, and thus a potential successor to all three thrones. He succeeded to the Scottish throne at the age of thirteen months, after his mother was compelled to abdicate in his favour.
Four different regents governed during his minority, which ended officially in 1578, though he did not gain full control of his government until 1583
The Union of the Crowns followed the death of James’s cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England, the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty, and the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of the Kingdom of England as James I and the practical unification of some functions (such as overseas diplomacy) of the two separate realms under a single individual on March 24, 1603.
The union was personal or dynastic, with the Crown of England and the Crown of Scotland remaining both distinct and separate sovereign entities despite James’s best efforts to create a new imperial throne. England and Scotland continued as two separate states sharing a monarch, who directed their domestic and foreign policy, along with Ireland, until the Acts of Union of 1707 during the reign of the last Stuart monarch, Anne.
However, there was a republican interregnum from 1649 to 1660, during which the Tender of Union of Oliver Cromwell created the Commonwealth of England and Scotland which ended with the Stuart Restoration.
From 1601, in the last years of Elizabeth I’s life, certain English politicians, notably her chief minister, Sir Robert Cecil, maintained a secret correspondence with King James VI of Scotland to prepare in advance for a smooth succession. Cecil advised James not to press the matter of the succession upon the queen but simply to treat her with kindness and respect.
The approach proved effective: “I trust that you will not doubt”, Elizabeth wrote to James, “but that your last letters are so acceptably taken as my thanks cannot be lacking for the same, but yield them you in grateful sort”. In March 1603, with the queen clearly dying, Cecil sent James a draft proclamation of his accession to the English throne.
Strategic fortresses were put on alert, with London placed under guard. Elizabeth died in the early hours of March 24. Within eight hours, James was proclaimed King of England in London, with the news received without protest or disturbance.
On April 5, 1603, James left Edinburgh for London and promised to return every three years, which he failed to keep by returning only once, in 1617. He progressed slowly from town to town to arrive in the capital after Elizabeth’s funeral. Local lords received James with lavish hospitality along the route, and James’s new subjects flocked to see him and were relieved above all that the succession had triggered neither unrest nor invasion. As James entered London, he was mobbed.
The crowds of people, one observer reported, were so great that “they covered the beauty of the fields; and so greedy were they to behold the King that they injured and hurt one another”. James’s English coronation took place on July 25 though the festivities had to be restricted because of an outbreak of the plague.
Parliament may very well have rejected the joining of the two states; but the marriage, if marriage it was, between the realms of England and Scotland was to be morganatic at best. James’s ambitions were greeted with very little enthusiasm, as one by one MPs rushed to defend the ancient name and realm of England.
All sorts of legal objections were raised: all laws would have to be renewed and all treaties renegotiated. For James, whose experience of parliaments was limited to the stage-managed and semi-feudal Scottish variety, the self-assurance — and obduracy — of the English version, which had long experience of upsetting monarchs, was an obvious shock.
King James decided to side-step the whole issue by unilaterally assuming the title of King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith by a Proclamation. The proclamation carried no legal weight. Francis Bacon told him that he could not use the style in “any legal proceeding, instrument or assurance” and the title was not used on English statutes. James forced the Scottish Parliament to use it, and it was used on proclamations, coinage, letters, and treaties in both realms.
This only deepened the offence. Even in Scotland there was little real enthusiasm for the project, though the two parliaments were eventually prodded into taking the whole matter ‘under consideration’. Consider it they did for several years, never drawing the desired conclusion.
Edit: One thing I got to mention. The succession of King James VI of Scotland on the English throne was in direct contradiction of Henry VIII’s Act of Succession (1544) which had barred the Scottish descendants of his sister Margaret (married to King James IV of Scotland) from succeeding to the English throne. The Act was never repealed so it was basically ignored as King James VI’s succession occurred without an objection.