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James was born at Edingburgh Castle on 19 June 1566. He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stuart, Duke of Albany (Lord Darnley).
On 24 July 1567, Protestant rebels forced Mary, Queen of Scots, to abdicate the throne. Consequently her 13-months old son James automatically became king of Scotland (James VI of Scotland).
James was brought up a Presbyterian (though his parents were Catholics). He received a good education and was interested in literature and religion.
As James was too young to rule the country himself, Scotland was ruled by four successive regents (Lord Moray, Matthew Stewart, John Erskine, James Douglas). Moray and Stewart were killed, Erskine died and Douglas was accused of treachery and executed.
So, at the age of 12, James took over the power and ruled the country with the help of his courtiers.
When in 1603 Queen Elizabeth died without any children, James VI of Scotland also became James I of England.
James was the first king to rule over England, Scotland and Ireland and called himself King of Great Britain.
In 1604, James signed the Treaty of London to end the conflict between England and Spain. (Queen Elizabeth had encouraged the captains of English ships to attack Spanish ships and steal their treasures.)
James authorised an offical translation of the Bible, known as King James’s Version. (This version can still be bought today.)
James also had to deal with problems of religion. He regarded Catholics and Puritans (a radical Protestant movement) with great suspicion and did not allow them to worship as they pleased. Consequently many Catholics and Puritans left England.
On 5 November 1605, some angry Catholics tried to blow up Parliament to kill the unpopular king and important church leaders. The Gunpowder Plot failed, however, and the conspirators were arrested and sentenced to death.
As James spent too much money, he was often in dispute with his Parliament that refused to introduce new taxes. Therefore the king dissolved Parliament several times during his reign and tried to rule without it.
On 27 March 1625, James died of ague. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London.