10 Interesting Facts About the Mysterious King James
by Nate W. Beck
King James the First of England and the Sixth of Scotland (1566-1625) is, by far, one of the strangest, paradoxical, mysterious and colorful rulers in the history of Christendom.
I have always been fascinated by this king, and amused at the many facts, myths and urban legends surrounding him. England never had a king quite like James Stuart; a man of dark struggles, contradictions and poetic and religious genius.
So, here, I present my top ten facts and myths about His Majestie, James I and VI, the British Solomon.
1) King James was a strong believer in what is known as the Divine Right of Kings. It is the theory that rulers are ordained and ruled by God and God alone, and are to be judged by God and God alone. A good Biblical definition for this can actually be found in Romans 13:1-2. Although the Bible also makes clear that governments are to be disobeyed when they violate the Ten Commandments.
2) The British Flag, known popularly as the “Union Jack”, originated in the reign of King James, uniting both Scotland and England. In fact, the name ‘Jack’ is a nickname derived from James’ name, which derives from Jacobus in Hebrew. It is the union of the Cross of St. George and the Cross of St. Andrew.
3) King James was the first and last Protestant king to authorize an English translation of the Bible. The King James Bible, also called the Authorized King James Version, was published in 1611 and is the product of centuries of Biblical scholarship and is a monument to the English language and literature. It is a time-honored translation and used to this very day. It recently had it’s 400th Anniversary in 2011! To many Americans who are fiercely loyal to it (myself included), it is the very word of God in English and, according to some statistics, has never been truly superseded by any modern translation. I think it’s safe to say that it is still King of the English Bible Versions!
4) James was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, almost fanatical in the sport! It is said in some sources that he once cleared a whole forest of deer! It is also said that he would spend more time on the hunt than he did dealing with affairs of state!
5) King James was NOT a Freemason. One of the rumors that float around on the Internet is that James was initiated a Freemason in 1601. However, there is no good evidence that James was ever a Mason at all. Not one single reliable source exists to support the idea. There are even good reasons why King James would not have been part of the Lodge or a Craft Guild at the time.
Masonic writer Duncan Burden states: “Unfortunately, to my understanding there is no official record of James I being a Mason, or even him being a patron of a Lodge or the Craft. If such a record existed he would be listed as one of the early Speculative Masons, as obviously, he was a stonemason by trade. He did indeed appoint William Schaw, which is another reason why it is unlikely the King was a Mason himself, as he was very annoyed with how the Stonemason Lodges were operating at the time (running as money making colleges, putting more effort in having students pay to be recognized as qualified stonemasons, rather than insuring that the students actually did achieve a true standard of skill).
The Schaw Statutes are more about universal structure of how operative lodges should run. Another reason it would be highly unlikely that James was a Mason is that his royal status would have made him Grand Master, but to my understanding that was held by the Sinclairs at the time. Obviously, it is possible a conflict for the recognition could have existed, but we have so much information about how Scottish Lodges responded with VERY mixed feelings about the Schaw Statutes, that it would be expected to have any conflict with James added too, but there is nothing on that score.”
The theory of James being a Freemason is as unfounded as the claim that Francis Bacon worked on the King James Bible. Conspiracy theorists do love their myths, however.
6) Despite many rumors of his supposed homosexuality, James and Queen Anne had seven children together (only three of whom survived into adulthood). James was fiercely in love with Anne, and wrote many poems and love letters to her throughout their marriage. Their son became Charles I of England in 1625. Most of the rumors of James’ sexual orientation came from Sir Anthony Weldon (1583-1648), who was a bitter enemy of the king, whose writings were published long after James was dead.
One of the most amusing quotes from King James regarding marriage and women was when, at the Hampton Court Conference, the Puritan leaders complained of a line in English wedding vows where the groom says to bride “with my body, I thee worship.” James’ response was “If you had a good wife yourself, you would think all worship and honor you could do her, were well bestowed upon her.” Indeed, it agreed with the Biblical command given in I Peter 3:7.
7) Shakespeare’s play Macbeth was influenced by the life of King James. The Scottish Play includes the same elements James faced during his reign, such as conspiracy, assassination and witchcraft!
8) In the animated Disney film Pocahontas II: A Journey To A New World, Pocahontas travels to England to have an audience with King James and Queen Anne. Well, it is an actual fact in this case! Pocahontas was indeed entertained by James and Anne in 1617. Humorously, the royal couple were so plain and unassuming, that Pocahontas had no idea that she was in the presence of the King and Queen of England until after the meeting!
9) James had a deep and terrible fear of witchcraft and personally oversaw many witch trials while ruling in Scotland. He saw witchcraft as a branch of theology and even wrote a famous treatise titled Daemonologie, in which he dealt with sorcery, magic, and even vampires and werewolves! In addition to this, James had many published works, including his famous Basilikon Doron, which contains his theory of monarchy and personal values.
10) James had a relatively peaceful reign, except for the infamous Gunpowder Plot, and kept taxes low. He was known as both the British Solomon and was called “the wisest fool in Christendom” by the King of France. James was both a brute and a gentleman, a sloth and a scholar, a boor and a poet, paranoid and cunning. A monarch of constant contradictions, there never was a king quite like James!
~by Nate Beck
After twelve years of research, I consider the following to be the absolute best sources on the life of King James and his Bible. I also would like to give special thanks to Duncan J. Burden for his private correspondence, and to Jenny Kile for her support!
Majestie: the King Behind the King James Bible by David Teems
Final Authority: A Christian’s Guide To The King James Bible by William P. Grady
KJB: The Book That Changed the World, Presented by John Rhys-Davies
The Cradle King by Alan Stewart
God’s Secretaries: the Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson
Text Copyright 2017 by Nate W. Beck, Images are from Wikipedia.
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