Arnold van Bronckhorst, a Dutch artist, painted this portrait of young James VI (later also James I of England) in 1574. The original oil-on-panel is maintained at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Although King at the time, James was still a boy (so Scotland was governed by a regency). Image online via Wikimedia Commons.


James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was a devout Catholic. She was next in line to the English throne since her cousin, the Protestant Elizabeth I, was childless.

Palace intrigues, plots and murders swirled around Mary. When she was expecting James, her husband (Lord Darnley) engineered the murder of her private secretary (David Rizzio) to take place in her presence. Within the year, Mary’s husband himself was murdered. People, including Elizabeth I, believed Mary was involved in that plot.

Against the advice of her ministers, Mary Queen of Scots married the man (James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell) who likely killed her husband. That action was more than her subjects could stand. Mary, Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate in favor of her 1-year-old son, James.

Raised by strict Presbyterian regents, James was groomed for his role as king of Scotland. When he was a teenager, James developed a close relationship with his French cousin, Esme Stuart, whom he made Duke of Lennox.

To the utter consternation of his ministers, James listened to the advice of his cousin. At the time - and later - people speculated about the kind of relationship James really had with Lennox. It was not the last time such rumors would circulate about the king.

James never really knew his mother. Held captive by Elizabeth I for nineteen years, Mary Queen of Scots would ultimately face the executioner’s axe.

During a trial—in which no lawyer was allowed to represent her—she was convicted of high treason on October 25, 1586. Whether she was really guilty of conspiring to take the throne from Elizabeth I has kept historians debating for centuries.

Whether she was wrongfully executed is a much simpler question. Even Elizabeth had trouble forcing herself to condemn Mary to death. Under pressure from her secretary, Francis Walsingham, the queen finally signed her cousin’s death warrant on February 1, 1587.

Mary’s son, James VI, eventually ordered that his mother’s coffin be brought to Westminster Abbey in London. He was not able to make that order until 1603, when he was also King James I of England.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jun 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Jun 25, 2019

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"THE YOUNG KING" AwesomeStories.com. Jun 01, 2002. Feb 29, 2020.
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