Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Stuart Kings

(this is a working draft I'm going to come back to)

Over the past few years I've changed my mind about a lot of things. One of them is about King James I. I was brought up - like many people in the western world during the 20th century - with the highest regard for the King James Version / Authorised Version of the Bible, and by association King James VI of Scotland / I of England benefitted from that. It was probably something of a backlash against the dodgy modern translations that caught on like wildfire around the same time.

These days I have a different view about him, although I still think the KJV is a masterpiece. King James I and his three successors are collectively known by the term "The Stuart Kings". Here's an overview (which needs further refinements):


King James I of Scotland
• Born 19 June 1566
• Crowned 24 July 1567
• Became King of Scotland 1585
• Became King of England and Ireland 24 March 1603
• Died 27 March 1625

George Buchanan (1506 - 1582): was King James VI of Scotland's personal tutor during his childhood years; John Knox had preached at his coronation service in 1567. Buchanan published De Jure Regni in 1579, in which he wrote that the source of all political power is the people, and that it is lawful to resist, even to punish, tyrants. However when he "properly" took the throne in 1585, aged 19, James dumped the beliefs that Buchanan had worked to instil in him, and took on the notion of the "Divine Right of Kings" - that he was God's man and could do whatever he wanted to.

Next was Andrew Melville (1545 - 1622), who in 1596 had an audience with the increasingly arrogant King James VI. Melville told him:

"Sir, ye are God's silly vassal; there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: there is king James, the head of the commonwealth; and there is Christ Jesus, the King of the Church, whose subject James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom he is not a king, not a lord, not a head, but a member."

You can imagine the reaction of King James. Melville was later imprisoned for four years in the Tower of London. When James became King of England and Ireland in 1603, his earthly ambitions expanded rapidly. He set about "planting" new colonies in America, the Carribbean and of course in Ulster too.

He also set about creating his own version of the Bible. Why? Well, the Bible that most people used at this time was the Geneva Bible. It was first published in 1560, and first printed in Scotland in 1579; its footnotes included over 400 references to "tyrants" and encouraged the people to rise up and overthrow them. King James couldn't have his subjects getting any ideas, so he commissioned his own "King James Version" or "Authorised Version" replacing the word "tyrant" with the more innocent "king". He outlawed the Geneva Bible and then swamped the country with thousands and thousands of copies if his own "authorised" version.


King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland
• Born 19 November 1600
• Crowned 27 March 1625
• Executed 30 January 1649

James' son, Charles I, succeeded him and he inherited his father's furious ambition - many historians say he was even worse. So another Scottish scholar and minister, Samuel Rutherford (1600 - 1661), stepped up to the plate and in 1644 wrote "Lex Rex", following in exactly the same approach as Buchanan and Melville. It was a brilliant assault on the "Divine Right of Kings". Charles demanded that it should be burned - and that anyone who owned a copy was a traitor.


King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland
• Born 29 May 1630
• Crowned 29 May 1660
• Died 6 February 1685

Charles I's son, Charles II, was the man who unleashed the brutal fury of "The Killing Times" in Scotland in an attempt to finally finish off the opposition to the King's authority. 18,000 people (Covenanters) were either executed or deported overseas. During his reign, Rev John Crookshanks of Raphoe translated De Jure Regni into English and manuscripts of it were in circulation. Then in 1664, the Privy Council of Scotland banned Buchanan's De Jure Regni, and ordered it to be burned in 1683. On 22 June 1680, the Covenanter Richard Cameron published his Sanquhar Declaration - a declaration of war on Charles II. Cameron was killed one month later, his head and hands were cut off and were delivered to his father.


King James II of England, Scotland and Ireland
• Born 14 October 1633
• Crowned 23 April 1685
• Deposed (by the arrival of William of Orange) 13 February 1689
• Died 16 September 1701

Charles II's brother, James II, again banned Buchanan's De Jure Regni in 1688.


De Jure Regni (1579) English translation
Geneva Bible (1560) as a PDF
Lex Rex (1644) as a PDF on GoogleBooks
Sanquhar Declaration (1680) website