Many know little about King James I of England, other than that he commissioned the King James Version of the Bible, but the pursuit is well worth the time. King James was a godly, Christian man with great intelligence. Sir Francis Bacon called him “The Solomon of Great Britain.”
James Charles Stuart was born June 19th, 1566, in Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. Both of his parents were Roman Catholic. The year following his birth, his father, Henry Stuart (Lord Darnley), was murdered, and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was suspected. Three months after Lord Darnley’s murder, Mary wed again and was forced to abdicate the throne. The young child became king at the tender age of thirteen months and not long after his mother died. Young James was raised and tutored by regents, those who would rule in his place till such time as he was able to take control of Scotland. He became a scholar, well-versed in many areas due to great diligence and a passion for learning. He was fluent in at least five languages and conversant in two more, giving him the remarkable ability to communicate with foreign diplomats without a translator. His formal education was completed by the age of 12, and he assumed rule of Scotland that same year, though he did not receive full power until his coronation at age seventeen in 1583. He was wed to Princess Anne of Denmark in 1588.
A Christian man, and a principled ruler, King James believed firmly that the scriptures taught “the Divine Right of Kings.” Namely, God, not the pope, gives a king power. As King, he felt he had a duty to be an example of virtuous living to his subjects and abide by his own laws.
Though there are many stories told about the character of King James, his inner man is best described by his own pen. He was a prolific writer and holds the distinction of having written more books than any other royal monarch. In a private book written to his son, he wrote:
“I am no papist as I said before…now faith…is the free gift of God (as Paul sayeth). It must be nourished by prayer, which is nothing else but a friendly talking to God. Use oft to pray when ye are quiet, especially in your bed….”
“Therefore first of all things, learn to know and love that God whom to ye have a double obligation.”
“…Holiness being the first and most requisite quality of a Christian (as proceeding from true fear and knowledge of God).”
“Think not therefore, that the highness of your dignity diminisheth your faults (much less giveth you a license to sin) but by the contrary, your fault shall be aggravated according to the height of your dignity.” Writing to his son…
“As ye are a good Christian, so ye may be a good king. . . establishing good laws among your people: the other, by your behaviour in your own person with your servants”
King James I was an accomplished poet. One of his works was a versification of the book of Psalms. The song “Help Thou O Lord” is based on Psalm 12, a passage of scripture often used to illustrate the firm promise given by God that he would preserve his word to every generation. How thrilling to read an accounting of these verses from the hand of he who sponsored the most beloved book in the English language – the King James Bible. Glory to God for the life of an earthly king who lived humbled before the King of all.