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by Alan Stewart

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St. Martin's Press
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As the son of Mary Queen of Scots, born into her 'bloody nest,' James had the most precarious of childhoods. Even before his birth, his life was threatened: it was rumored that his father, Henry, had tried to make the pregnant Mary miscarry by forcing her to witness the assassination of her supposed lover, David Riccio. By the time James was a one-year-old, Henry was murdered, possibly with the connivance of his mother, Mary was in exile in England and he was King of Scotland. By the age of five, he had experienced three different regents as the ancient dynasties of Scotland battled for power and made him a virtual prisoner in Stirling Castle. In fact, James did not set foot outside the confines of Stirling until he was eleven, when he took control of the country. But even with power in his hands, he would never feel safe. For the rest of his life, he could be caught up in bitter struggles between the warring political and religious factions who fought for control over his mind and body.

Biographer Alan Stewart reveals all of this and more, in The Cradle King: The Life of James VI and I, the First Monarch of a United Great Britain.


Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Following his biography of the quintessential Elizabethan, Philip Sydney, Stewart tackles the Stuarts with a political treatment of how James VI of Scotland (1567-1625) became James I of England. James's family background and early life in Scotland would have made a fine Jacobean tragedy-his father, Lord Darnley, was murdered with the apparent complicity of his doomed mother, Mary, along with a backstabbing court. Crowned as an infant, James spent his childhood as a political chess piece for various regents' ambitions, and he became jumpy if not slightly paranoid. By adulthood, he had learned enough realpolitik to play off the factious lairds and the Presbyterian kirk, survive rebellions and assassination attempts, and maintain Scotland's traditional European ties. Throughout, Stewart notes, he successfully cultivated Elizabeth I to become her heir. The tactics that had served James well in Scotland, however, did not adapt well to his new country, much less unify the new "Britain." James clashed with Commons, alienated Puritans, cracked down on Catholics, entangled his foreign alliances and invited scandal at court with favoritism (sometimes homoerotic). Although Stewart doesn't dwell on high points like the Gunpowder Plot or the King James Bible, he adds color to his narrative of nonstop plotting and politicking with choice extracts from contemporary records, clandestine correspondence and the occasional lampoon. Timed for the 400th anniversary of James's accession to the British throne this year, this is a thorough if narrowly focused courtside life of the "sovereign who gave his name to the Jacobean age, but who was never truly of it." (Dec. 17) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Related Subjects

  • ">15th & 16th Centuries - Scottish History
  • ">17th Century British History - Stuart Dynasty, 1603-1649
  • ">Britain - Historical Biography - Rulers & Royal Families
  • ">Scotland - Historical Biography

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