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25 July 2011

On this day in history: Scottish monarch crowned King of England, 1603

James Charles Stuart became King James VI of Scotland on 24th July 1567 following the forced abdication of his mother - the unpopular Mary Queen of Scots - when he was only one year old. Consequently four consecutive regents ruled Scotland until he was ready to take the reigns of power in 1581. Twenty-two years later, he also became monarch of Scotland's powerful southern neighbour.

Because Queen Elizabeth I of England died without issue, James was the rightful heir because his great-grandmother was Margaret Tudor, elder sister of King Henry VII. Elizabeth's chief minister, Sir Robert Cecil had engaged in secret correspondence with James even before the Queen's death to ensure a smooth succession. Thus, on 24th March 1603, hours after Elizabeth breathed her last, the English ministers proclaimed James to be King of England and sent a letter to him requesting his presence in London.

After the long journey south, on 25th July 1603, he was crowned King James I of England and Ireland at Westminster Abbey, not only ending the Tudor dynasty and beginning that of the House of Stuart, but also bringing all the countries of the British Isles together in personal union. James firmly believed in the divine right of Kings, and ideal that he passed on to his children. Yet, it was this notion of a God-given right to rule that was to cause so much friction between his son, King Charles I, and the English Parliament, which resulted in civil war and Britain becoming a republic.

A year after his coronation James proclaimed himself King of Great Britain. The text of this proclamation is available on the Heraldica website.

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