While The Buck and Baby Charles warmed themselves on the unfamiliar fires of popularity in their search for war, James was fading. At Theobalds in March 1625 his reign finally came to an end, and Buckingham took to his bed with grief.
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Buckingham’s Incomings and Outgoings in 1624
Here’s a chart of Buckingham’s finances in 1624; he’s not short of a bob or two on the income side, but none the less – comprehensively bankrupt. The Commissioners reviewing his situation suggested in an avuncular kind of way that maybe he should identify how he planned to repay his enormous debts before he spent anything else. George shrugged his shoulders, and started completely refurbishing York Place, Wolsey’s old palace, to such an extent that Inigo Jones was supposed to have almost ‘thrown himself on his knees’ when seeing it. That’s just how your Elizabethan and Jacobean aristocracy rolled, I’m afraid. Mr Micawber would have been horrified.
Now that war with Spain was official policy, there was less need to restrain the media as James had worked so hard to do; and said media took full advantage of the less stringent application of licensing and active repression. As a result the virulence of anti spanish and anti Catholic rhetoric reached fever pitch. There was also increasing hysteria about the reports from the war in the Palatinate, with all sorts of wild exaggeration; the ‘monstrous murder’ of a Protestant Minister when Heidelberg fell to the Catholic commander Tilly, and the death of the commander of English volunteers there, Gerard Herbert. The Media I guess have never been especially noted for pouring oil on troubled waters, just generally for pouring diesel oil – the call of the editor to ‘lets just take heat out of the situation and tell everyone to calm down’ I doubt often rings round the newsroom – I could be wrong, I’ve never worked in one, but that’s my guess. Anyway there were no such cries in England in 1624 when a writer called Leighton sat in his study, chewing on the end of his quill and subsequently chewing the furniture as he penned words about
The ripping up of women, the shameful abusing of them…the torturing of men with new devised torments; the bathing in the blood of inoffensive children; the cruel murdering of God’s Ministers
I could go on. I suppose cold showers were less available those days. But with such hysterical writing, it is little wonder that the atmosphere was febrile – and to be fair, Protestantism looked to be in full flight from the forces of Catholicism. Anyway, Buckingham and Charles, in their new anti Spanish policy, had gone from zero to hero with the public, and were riding the crest of a wave.
Buckingham then, was, by 1624, Chief Minister in everything but name. His authority with the ailing James was deeper than ever, his relationship with Charles almost as strong. By the end of the year, James was a right poorly pig, suffering from terrible leg pain, filled with melancholy and rarely leaving his room; although he continued to take an interest in European affairs, and remained at heart attached to the idea of a European peace – and even tried to revive the idea of the Spanish Match. When he did that, Charles asserted himself forcefully, with his newly found self confidence, and squished his dad. Anyway, with James largely confined to his room, Buckingham, bestrode the political world like a colossus, and a colossus with particularly fine hose, it must be said, which I think might be unusual in the world of Colossi, but who am I.
His peers recognised all of this, and Buckingham was treated with a level of deference normally reserved for the royal family. Edward Conway, who as a Privy Councillor and James’ Secretary of state might be expected to see himself at least as Buckingham’s equal, always addressed him as his ‘gracious patron’, and called him ‘Excellency’, which got to be so embarrassing that Buckingham, actually asked him to stop; but Conway kept right on going. The Bishop of Llandaff called him ‘high and illustrious prince’, and there was a rumour repeated by the Venetian Ambassador that he was going to be made Prince of Tipperary, which would have been a long way to go – which given the tight grip of the Villiers clan on Ireland, was not beyond belief.
Essentially, Buckingham’s political opponents had been put to flight, the King and Prince relied on him utterly, Buckingham’s position was unassailable. Now that’s a term if used by Margaret Thatcher makes you look over your shoulder, and if used by the Board of a Football club makes the manager sign on immediately at the local job centre, but here it reflected nobbut reality.
Now, I have an apology to make to you all; the thing is that I have got the pacing of my writing wrong – we need to finish off Jimmy, but I am not ready to start on Charles yet, and so I came across something I thought might interest you, and have resorted then to a bit of what frankly might be described as padding, The sort of stuff that fills 94.8% of the Sunday papers, frankly meaningless drive usually concerning calories. Still I did find this bit of meaningless drivel amusing so maybe you will too – this is the breakdown of the Duke of Buckingham’s ingoings and outgoings at this time, which appear in Lockyer’s biography of Buckingham. Forgive me – it won’t take many minutes, and anyway it’s rather interesting; this is the sort of way that magnates back in the days of Elizabeth and James were expected to carry on. I can tell you in advance that my father with his Lancashire roots, and who spent a fair amount of time making sure all the lights in the house were turned off, whether or not you were in the room at the time, would have experienced a sharp pain in the wallet.
So, by 1624, Buckingham’s income was probably really about £20,000 a year. I have referred with some care to the national Archives Currency converter, which is a website so fun that if she’d known about it Aunt Edith would never have even caught her left tit in the mangle. So, £20,000 in 1624 was about £2.6m quid a year in today’s money. Just for reference, to those of you country folk who may find the comparison more enlightening, it would have allowed him to buy about 11,000 cows each year which is a lot in little old England – not sure how it compares to Oz, or the wilds of Canada or Texas, probably not so much.
Now I imagine that you like me would think that getting through £2.6m every single year would be quite impossible. But Buckingham pretty much did, and a bit more. The following figures are in order of 1624 cost, 2022 equivalent, and cows in 1624, OK? Ready? Keeping Mrs B and the household in order for example cost about £3000, that’s £400,000 and 1600 cows; and actually his Mum the Countess cost not much less than that. Attendance at court cost £2,500, that’s £330,000 or 1300 cows, and then there were the wheel – otherwise known as stabling costs in 1624 which alone were £1,500. I don’t think I can go through all of this in detail because I can already feel my brain dribbling out of my ear –there were servants’ wages and pensions, building maintenance, debt servicing and the great catch-all of miscellaneous which including a lot of gambling – but let me pick out a couple. Keeping himself appropriately dressed cost £1,500 a year, that’s £200,000 or 800 cows every year on glad rags, which dwarfs even my annual M&S bill for Y-fronts. And tilting – cutting an appropriate dash in the tiltyard cost itself £1,000 quid a year which is £130,000 these days. An expensive sport.
All told then, his annual outgoings were £18,200, or £2.4m or 10,000 cows. Phew I hear you say, well he’s a tight old geezer then, living well within his means, puting a bit by even for his old age. Not a bit of it. There are extraordinaries. He came back from Spain with £13,000 worth of debt. There’s £30,000 or £4m in bills unaccounted for in all of the above, as were loans raised on tick from tradesmen to the tune of £28,000 that’s £3.7m, which would have to be paid back in 3 years at 40%, which is a level of interest that would make today’s bankers faint with envy. In all he owed £91,000, which is £12m or 50,000 cows give or take an udder or two. So he didn’t actually own any of those cows he earned every year.
A set of commissioners looking into the Buck’s finances advised him to carefully work out how he was going to pay all this before he took on any new expenditures, advice he cheerfully ignored, assuming that God would provide, or probably more likely James or Charles would provide. So he launched into rebuilding York House instead and refurnishing it, and no messing with UPVC windows let me tell you. Inigo Jones would visit York house and was so blown away by its magnificence that he was reported to have ‘almost thrown himself on his knees’ in front of it. Buckingham had also gone into the art collecting business a fine way to save a few quid of course; when he was in Spain he’d picked a Titian and a Tintoretto, which set him back £60. Even at today’s prices that looks like a steal.
Obviously Buckingham was an exceptional example of the type, and I seem to remember Cardinal Wolsey’s income back in 1510 was £9,000 a year – which given it was before all those years of inflation, was worth £6m a year, making Villiers look like a peasant, so even then this is not necessarily completely out of the ordinary. His mindset was also utterly typical of the Elizabethan and Jacobean grand nobleman; this was how they lived, how they were expected to live, and running a tight ship was not high on the agenda. Lord knows what the Gini co-efficient was back then.
Anyway, apologies for that bit of noodling, let us now return to politics and diplomacy, matters of state and high policy, rather than rummaging around in Buckingham’s drawers.
So, the volte face in foreign policy from peace to war, if the word policy is not too grand a word, had more components to it than raising money from parliament. The first to be implemented was a renewed defensive alliance with the Dutch engineered by Buckingham, which allowed the Dutch to recruit 6,000 soldiers in England, and come to England’s defence if she was attacked. It has to be said this was agreed in the face of a certain amount of media hysteria all of its own; there’s no doubt that the religious affiliation between England the Dutch was close; but the Dutch East India company had chosen this moment to damage their collective friendship bracelet by seizing 10 rival English Merchants in Indonesia, torturing them with fire and water, and then beheading them in public, in what became known as the Amboyna Massacre. Obviously business can get cutthroat we all understand that, but this seemed excessive and there was uproar in England; but James, again providing the statesman in all of this, insisted any retribution be sought through diplomatic channels.
The other general approach was to turn from Spain, to the Hapsburg’s greatest and long standing competitor and rival – I speak of course of France, the France of Louis XIII and another super famous figure of European history, Cardinal Richelieu. He of musketeer fame and all that. As soon as Buckingham and Charles had fled Madrid, Buckers was thinking ahead; when you’ve just tweaked the nipples of the biggest kid in the playground, it pays to find a big friend to stand behind. There was only one candidate with the girth to cast a shadow that wide – and her name was France. James Hay, Earl of Carlisle, was sent to the court of Louis XIII, for Louis XIII had a 15 year old daughter, Henrietta Maria, who would therefore be an eminently suitable match for the amorous Charles. And Louis was surely a good target, since it was said that he detested the Spaniards, and had a mission to ‘restrain their unbridled passion for domination’. So all looked set fair, and negotiations were put under way. Though there might have been less sunny optimism in English circles had they known of the report sent home by the resident French Ambassador in London, Count Tillieres, who with typical Gallic brutality described Stuart England as
A miserable state…without money, without friends, and without reputation with only ‘their glory and vanity left’,
And warned Louis that if he did this, we would not only have to
‘support an old house but prop up a failing one’.
None the less, Louis and Richelieu were undeniably interested. Possibly predictably, the discussions began to focus on religion; the royal family were of course Catholic; so what would Henrietta Maria’s rights, access to worship and entourage be like? What benefit would Catholics in James’ domains gain as a result of this marriage the failing Stuarts would be so lucky to land? But as those discussions went through the largely predictable gears, there was another discussion taking place – which focussed on the opportunities presented by the arrival in April 1624 in England of one Ernst, Count Mansfield. Mansfield was a commander who had already fought in the Dutch wars and tried to recover the Palatinate, now completely lost to the Hapsburg. He arrived in England to try to and raise money for the cause – though he personally was catholic, which gives you an idea of the increasingly complex motivations for the 30 Years War.
Well his timing was spot on – England was up for getting something done. Discussions with the French also went well – Louis agreed to cover half the cost of an army that Mansfield might raise, and provide 3,000 cavalry, who would join Mansfield when they arrived off the ferry. And initially everyone was agreed about objectives. The saviour of Elizabeth and Frederick would take his crack army of highly trained military operatives across France. As they marched they’d probably be singing, and no doubt they’d save lots of people from demons along the way. They would arrive in the Palatinate, briskly drive the horrid Hapsburgs out from the pitiful Palatinate and a new era would dawn, in which France would once more lead Europe. Cry, um, Denis I guess. It has to be said, en passant, that Buckingham here was instrumental in starting the process of building the Protestant alliance of multiple states that would save the cause of Protestantism in Europe, or prolong a dynastic struggle for supremacy that would result in millions of deaths, depending probably in your perspective about these things.
The reality of what panned out with Count Mansfield’s expedition was radically, radically different. James, it must be noted had another of those insights with which he’d favoured us along the way; he didn’t trust Louis as far as he could throw him in a game of boule, and suspected he’d divert the invasion for his own ends – control of the Valtelline Pass in the Alps was his guess, it turned out to be the Dutch city of Breda, but hey, that’s a detail, he wasn’t wrong in principle. But James was persuaded by the Buck and Baby Charles, and anyway, the crowd were baying for action and James wanted to help his daughter Elizabeth. And anyway – his legs hurt like fury could he go back to his rooms now?
Things started going downhill from there on. Mansfield was allowed to recruit but he had to keep his hands off anyone who might know one end of a musket or pike from the other – the trained bands that were drilled and trained in each county by the lords Lieutenant. Nope they might be needed here. So instead, Mansfield was allowed to impress his army; that, as you may know is broadly going to all the desperate people and saying that if they join the army they’ll be fed and watered, if they are in prison they’ll be released. Most of the people were of course in a pretty sorry state – an early modern prison for example, focussed less on rehabilitation and more on extracting every penny from the prisoner and if they had none, leaving them to rot. If they weren’t actually in prison recruits were desperate, poor, ill and physically not at their peak. Plus there was no money, the curse of early modern armies, but this was particularly bad. So as an army of over 13,000 men assembled around Dover, they were without proper food, conditions and water, and so they took it from the local inhabitants, like a plague of locusts, but you know, bigger and with muskets. So lawless and untrained were they that Mansfield in fact refused to appear in front of them scared for his own safety.
By December, most of the French objectives did indeed change – they wanted Mansfield to attack Breda first, to raise the Spanish siege and then go to the palatinate. James would not have this – he still in his heart, held on to the hope of peace with the Spanish, and attacking Breda would be a direct war on Philip IV’s forces – whereas in the Palatinate he would be formally at least fighting Imperial, Holy Roman Empire men. So – in a hump, Louis refused passage through France. That was a disaster – they’d have to go a long way round through the low countries, surely pull out, disband, rethink. But no! Action was demanded, and these desperate men were ravaging Kent, ravaging it. Buckingham told Mansfield to get on with it man, and in January 1625, in the dead of Winter, Mansfield embarked. As they left one commentator remarked
‘what miracles can possibly be wrought now by them, untrained and undisciplined, and in this rotten time of winter?
Good question. Rhetorical question actually, that person knew the answer very well. But Mansfield sailed, France refused him entrance. So he diverted to the Dutch Republic. They didn’t want him either so they stayed on board for a while in their own slime, until they eventually managed to land. They had little food, no money, the Dutch had no warning and were unprepared to support them. The result was disease, famine, death, desertion not necessarily in that order
‘We die like dogs and in the face of the enemy we could not suffer as we do now. We have bread and beer but no cheese. The burghers will scant deliver anything out of doubt of true payment 
Wrote one commander. The English army literally died or disappeared. They did no fighting they were too busy dying or fleeing the scene to do any fighting. It is a desperate little chapter in English military history. There will be a bit of a pattern here I am afraid, though some take a more positive view generally, of Buckingham’s expeditions that were poorly equipped, badly trained, with confused objectives and badly led. Plot spoiler. Meanwhile incidentally, not going to go into it in depth here, but in February Buckingham agreed to provide English ships for Louis’ attempt to subdue the Huguenot garrison at La Rochelle. This was not on the protestant play list, clearly, and would of course be reversed in a year or so. Of course, at the time Buckers was still trying to construct an anti-Hapsburg alliance and complete marriage negotiations, but still, mixed messages or what. Unless you are looking at this picture of statecraft from a distance with one eye closed and the wind blowing from the west while standing on one leg, the picture looks pretty odd.
Let us return then to those marriage discussions. There’s a sort of inevitability about the agenda; dowry, check; catholic dispensations, check; entourage for the Princess, check; Papal dispensation, check; strategic considerations, check; views, needs and future prospects for the bride – excuse me what?
I don’t think we really know what Henrietta thought about the marriage, unlike the Infanta about whom we have had snippets of indications that she was simply horrified at being thrown to the wolves – as marrying a heretic was known; maybe it was the same with Henrietta Maria but she was certainly going to put her best foot forward when she arrived, but equally would be very concerned to champion the cause of Catholicism – so, she may well have had doubts and look England was a barbarous little place compared to La gloire de la France. Plus of course she had been born in 1609 and was therefore just a girl really – 16 when she arrived. Of course as you would expect great attention had been paid to her education but it seems to have been focussed on accomplishments of the person rather than of the intellect – so riding, dancing, and singing, court theatricals; but although she had a tutor, she doesn’t seem to have got much further than reading and writing. There was a lot of focus on religion, carefully shaped by the Carmelites in the dévot piety that reigned at the French court. Anyway, we will hear more of Henrietta Maria in the fullness.
Through the negotiations in 1624, of course Charles received glowing reports from France
A lady of much loveliness and sweetness to deserve your affections as any creature under heaven can do
But Charles was on the rebound, Charles had been through the romantic wringer, Charles was a bruised, damaged soul…I exaggerate for effect of course, but there was none of the passion and excitement we had for Maria Anna, and generally he was equally jaundiced about the negotiations around religion and so on; he knew much more now about just how impossible it would be to get anything through parliament. At one stage, faced with the latest demands from L’eminence rouge, le Cardinal Richelieu he wrote to Carlisle in France
The monsieurs have played you so a scurvy a trick that if it were not for my respect I have for the person of madam, I would not care a fart for their friendship
Language Charlie, Language! I am shocked, surely kings don’t fart. Essentially, less swooning was going on than here to fore, the knights Adventurer had been put away with other clashing symbols and childish things in the cupboard of state. The terms kind of reflect that; there was a reasonable dowry of £140,000, and a commitment for Henrietta Maria to have a catholic entourage around her, her confessors, her own chapel offering the true religion and the right to practice it. Lots of discussions went on about toleration blah blah blah, but as regards real society wide toleration, there was just a secret personal letter, not included in the formal marriage arrangement from James promising to suspend the penal recusancy laws. Promises which were worth considerably less than the presumably expensive paper on which they were written and probably the English copy was being used by the Groom of the Stool as back up cleaning material in the smallest room from an early date.
The Marriage treaty was concluded in November 1624, there was a bethrothal in March 1625 in gay Paris, where the Duke of Cheveuse stood in for Charles. The Dukes’ wife, incidentally, Marie de Rohan, had already had an affair with Henry Rich one of the English envoys, and would have a colourful life full of intrigues and conspiracies against the French state, but for that you’ll need a history of France. The history of France has so much more glamour than England, and I wish I could do one; just think of the potential for Franglais. I feel faint. Anyway, in May 1625 there was a magnificent marriage ceremony at Notre Dame with Buckingham in attendance for Charles, politicking up and down the corridors of the Louvre and dribbling over Anne of Austria, getting cross with and being deceived by Richelieu and getting excited by the Duke of Cheveuse’s barbers, one of whom he brought home with him. The public reaction to the marriage is interesting, and rather confirms my Sisters’ approach of painting as black a picture of her brother before he, I that is, met her friends – so that in contrast to the advance reports I didn’t seem quite so bad. So – marriage to a Catholic princess from the ancient rival was not popular. But you know what? It wasn’t Spain, so there’s that. A lesser devil, essentially.
But all of that will have to wait for the next reign, because by then, King James VI of Scotland and Ist of Great Britain was by then, dead. James was now 58, and had spent a lifetime wearing what he had taken to call his crown of thorns. He was increasingly tierd and ill, and a general sense of weariness had been visible in his writings over the last few years;
‘the croun of thornes went never out of my mind, remembering the thorny cares, which a King … must be subject unto’
He had become frustrated by the battle with his people over the Spanish match and his desire for peace above all, furious that the many writings and ballads painted a picture of him he felt to be very unfair:
yet you that knowe me all soe well
why do you push me down to hell
by making me an Infidell.
He wrote. His emotional reliance on Buckingham grew ever stronger; at one point ahead of a forthcoming visit he wrote
that we may make at this Christmas a new marriage, ever to be kept hereafter. For God so love me as I desire only to live in this world for your sake, and that I had rather live banished in any part of the earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life, without you.
I have of course rather focussed on Buckingham’s rewards, peccadillos and political intrigues, but it is worth repeating that James’ love for his friend appears to have been fully returned, and Buckingham filled his life with acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that increasingly eased James’ life; for example, he offered to be the king’s amanuensis, and such a small kindness meant a lot to a king who had taken a keen interest in reading, and expressed himself in writing all his life, and he wrote with gratitude that Buckingham
‘much eased my labour, considering the slowness, illness and uncorrectness of my hand’
In March 1625, James fell dangerously ill. He was at Theobalds, and had Buckingham and Charles both with him; Buckingham and his Mum actually tried various remedies for his illness which would leave an accusation of poison hanging over them, as James’ doctors sought to shift any blame. He suffered from a fever, then a stroke, and eventually dysentery, finally dying in his bed in a most unsanitary way. Buckingham was shattered by his death and felt bereft, took to his bed for a few days with a bout of illness. Charles was also deeply upset, and also concerned for his friend too; he wrote to Buckingham
‘I have lost a good father and you a good master. But comfort yourself, you have found another that will no less cherish you’
Charles presented Buckingham with a golden key as a symbol that he could visit the royal palaces whenever he chose. For some this was a bad sign, and an opportunity missed for a change; the Earl of Kellie wrote to the earl of Mar that
‘there is some that does fear my Lord of Buckingham’s power with him, and I assure you that it is not pleasing to most men’.
It took some time for the money to be found for James’ funeral so he was embalmed – found to have a soft heart and black lungs, which is ironic for a man who wrote a diatribe against smoking. His funeral when it finally happened on 5th May 1625 was magnificent, but apparently wildly disorganised, and he was laid to rest in Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey. And so we reach the end of another reign.
Shall we have a bit of a summing up then, to draw a line under our first king of Great Britain. Now, it’s a bad habit to start with an apology, but then we are a nation noted for apologising when someone else, I don’t know, steps on our feet or commits other crimes, so maybe it’s appropriate. I feel I have given James a rather hard time; slightly mocking on occasion. One of the problems I think is that a lot of his private thoughts and correspondences survive, and sometimes he does come across as awfully, sort of over emotional soft and wheedling, especially in his business with George Villiers and Charles. So I have been a bit mean.
So let me try and be objective about this. There are lots of positive things to say. This was one of the very few scholar kings we have had in our history, who left a personal written record, even more extensive, and in fact far more extensive than Alfred. The quality of his writings has been criticised, but rather rehabilitated by Jenny Wormald, and it is at very least broad and extensive. He was a lover of scholarship; for example he was an enthusiast for Oxford University, such as when he went in 1604 to the Bodleian Library and declared that if he were not a king, there would be no greater pleasure than in being chained to the library.
He was also a patron to a degree; although it is really Anne of Denmark who first gave Ben Jonson patronage, James took over, and developed a relationship with the scholar-poet which underpinned the Jonsonian masque.
In terms of his religious record; sure, the ship of state began to veer towards the rocks onto which it would wreck itself under Charles, and James’ rather excessive fear of Puritans, and their fierce support for Protestant war in Europe and resistance to the idea of peace with Spain. But no real damage had been done; the level of separatism was still tiny, Bishop Laud was by no means at the centre of affairs yet. A judicious king, as James had been until around 1615, could have redressed the problems. The same problem was apparent in Scotland where the Articles of Perth which a better politician than his son could have tripped over, but came on the back of decades of effective rule.
In politics, there’s something of a contrast between Court and Parliament. Actually, James was thoroughly personsable, witty and very good at creating a positive atmosphere at court. But he ran into trouble with parliament, though historians have tended to point out that we do over focus on parliamentary politics – most of the politics of the time lay in the Parish or the Country, or in the court, not in the occasional parliaments. Part of the problem was that James found it difficult to switch between the Scottish system, a system of governance very based on noble and magnate regional power and a monarch with almost absolute powers, barely restrained by a relatively unprestigious parliament, and England, where parliament and law were very highly valued and seen as central to the pride and national identity of the country almost as much as the monarch. The principle of consent and limits on royal power were in the blood stream, and parliament was already becoming the counterpoint to court. But really as the 1624 parliament showed – much of his problems were not really his political skill – it was that his policy of peace was at odds with the demands of his people. When that was resolved in 1624, the parliament ran without problems. Possibly worse was that his court acquired a probably deserved reputation of dissolution and corruption that Elizabeth would never have allowed – and to give him his due, nor would Charles. Thus the idea of country as pure, protestant, honest, law abiding was contrasted with a dissolute, corrupt, religiously dodgy and pluralist centre, made significantly more potent by his succession of favourites and suspicions of homosexuality which at the time was not a plus.
All of this was made much more acute by James’ complete, total, towering and at times deeply impressive or even surprising financial incontinence, adjectives fail me, although he had available for good periods two very talented financial administrators in Robert Cecil and Lionel Cranfield; and it’s this maybe that led him into such conflict with his parliaments, and to pass up the chance to push through Cecil’s Great Contract, which may have had a major impact on both his and his son’s reigns. The failure to provide adequate financial support for the monarchy will not be the least reason for political conflict later. Coupled with his willingness to throw some talented public servants and ministers under the bus to save his favourite – Francis Bacon and Lionel Cranfield, his similar incontinence towards favourites led him to pass up more than one opportunity for reform – Ireland being another case in point.
James gets a surprisingly good press from many historians in forming the basis of the successful and united entity that will be the United Kingdom. He encouraged interaction and a community of interest between Scottish and English Aristocracy that would be at the heart of Union in 1707, along with other things, and which built on the earlier integration of Wales. Surprising, because that union is under strain now and because we know the ultimate outcome of the Plantations in Ireland and the hatred and division that was to yield such a bitter and long lasting legacy. Though it’s worth noting that James didn’t invent the idea of plantations in Ireland, and nor of course did he intend the resulting bitterness – indeed to believed strongly that it would bring peoples together in one British society.
But surely above all, we have to give credit to James for above all pursuing peace, both within his kingdoms and externally. It might be worth leaving the last words to one of his Scottish lords, Thomas Erskine the Earl of Kellie, who remarked
‘As he lived in peace so did he die in peace, and I pray God our king Charles I may follow him’
 Lockyer, R Buckingham, pp 212-216
 Carlton, C ‘Charles I: The Personal Monarch’ p57