Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2020

Department 1



As the first member of the Stuart line to hold the Kingdoms of England, Ireland, and Scotland under his suzerainty, the life and reign of King James I was always going to mark a serious turning point in the histories of the lands under his control. The Tudors, who had dominated English politics, religion, and culture since the end of the War of the Roses, had been extinguished with the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth I. Their successors, the Stuarts, would find that their personal rule over the British Isles would mark some of the most defining moments in not only British political, cultural, and religious history, but that of the wider Western world as well. James I, the progenitor of this impactful tenure, would have a lasting influence on the reigns through both his life and his work. A monarch of scholarly persuasion, James I has left the historical record a number of personal works on political philosophy, theology, and proper monarchical conduct. Not content merely to rule while others debated political theory, James I was a very active and important participant in many of the philosophical debates over the role of a monarch in a commonwealth that raged through the early modern period in Europe. While the importance and impact of James I’s political philosophy can be seen immediately in his own reign, the ideas which he advanced and the lessons he imparted to his heirs clearly set the stage for the next hundred years of British history. Although the early Jacobean era often seems to be overlooked in the historical records in favor of the events surrounding the English Civil War, it is imperative to understanding James I’s life and legacy in order to explain the tumultuous events that would follow. James I’s prolificity as a writer has left contemporary historians with a number of important literary works and primary sources that help the chart both his personal history and the history of the kingdoms which he ruled. Chief among these documents are James I’s Basilikon Doron, The Trew Law of Free Monarchies (hereafter referred to as “The True Law of Free Monarchies” or “The True Law”), and his speech to Parliament in 1603. These three works each present primary source evidence of James I’s importance as a historical figure and, taken together, they are providential in understanding many of the dominant political, religious, and cultural issues of the Stuart era. By combining James I’s own words and works with more contemporary historical analyses of his reign and the context in which he was acting, the significance of James I’s life and legacy becomes truly apparent.


Written for HIST 314: Early Modern Europe.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.