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I HAVE little to say in laying this work before the public, except that I have endeavoured to make it as amusing as the nature of the subject might lead the public to expect. Several years ago, the grotesque and familiar character of King James the First seemed to me so likely to suit the style of writing I was most accustomed to practise, that I resolved, as soon as other engagements would permit, to make it the subject of a book. An opportunity having now occurred, I lay my labours before the public; hoping, with the usual earnestness of an author's hope, that my selection of a theme will not be deemed unfortunate.
EDINBURGH, May 19, 1830.
KING JAMES THE FIRST.
JAMES'S ANCESTRY-HIS PIRTH AND INFANCY.
ALTHOUGH the whole history and character of James the First is peculiar and remarkable, it may perhaps be asserted, that nothing about him is more so than the strange contrast which he presents, in our associations, to his parents, and to the time, place, and other circumstances of his birth. When we consider James by himself, we think of him as of a timid, good-natured, somewhat pedantic, old man; possessed of some sense and much learning ; who burnt witches, and became the chronicler of their mis-deeds; who was very weak in the legs, and much given to leaning on the shoulders, and twitching the cheeks, of young gentlemen ; who was at first King of the poor but ancient kingdom of Scotland, and afterVOL. I.
wards, by a fortunate chance, sovereign of all the three realms forming the British empire; who was very foolish, but very fortunate ; liked hunting and the Church of England; was much afraid of assassination, as he had too much need, and never could bear to see a drawn sword or a cocked pistol ; who was, altogether, a droll, bustling, fidgetting, incomprehensible old gentleman, more like a schoolmaster than a king, and, ten to one, calculated to wield the ferula with more dignity, and also better effect, than the sceptre. In opposition to this train of ideas, upon the whole so ridiculous, we find that the motber of James was Mary Stuart; that name of tears; that most admirable and hapless woman ; that word to conjure up all that a poet can dream of beauty, or a historian quote of misfortune ; for whom the highest advantages of birth and person procured but the extreme of misery; who seemed only born for a throne that she might perish on a scaffold. Side by side with this idea, and equally opposed to that of King James, we have Darnley, his boy-father ; the tall young knight who rode for a time in gilded armour by Mary's side, alike ready to fondle and protect--who afterwards fell a prey, in bis unsuspecting puerility, to a band of full-grown traitors, in whose hands he was as the lily is to the whirlwind. Equally opposed to James himself, are his ancestors; on the one side, the series of chivalric kings who held sway over Scotland from a time antecedent to all authentic history; on the other, the line of the stately Plantagenets, and the warlike Douglases. * Nor is it less curious to view
* Perhaps a genealogical note may here be necessary. James was descended, by both his parents, from King the proeperous and this-world tenor of his long fortunate life, and the gay southern scene in which the better part of it was spent, in contrast to the dark and stormy era of his birth, the scene of that event, and the people amidst whom it took place.
James's history properly commences before he entered the world. The well-known incident of Rizzio's death, which took place upwards of three months prior to his birth, as it is supposed to have produced some effect upon both his physical and moral constitution, seems entitled to the first notice in these Memoirs. It is needless, of course, to enter into any detail of the circumstances which
Henry VII. of England, who, being himself the representative of the Lancaster branch of the Plantagenets, and marrying Elizabeth of York, the descendant of the other, united in his children, as it was said, the pretensions of both the Roses. Henry's eldest daughter Margaret, was, by James IV. of Scotland, the mother of James V., who in his turn was, through his daughter Mary, the grandfather of James VI. Queen Margaret, by a second marriage to Archibald, Earl of Angus, was the mother of lady Margaret Douglas, who, being married to Matthew, Earl of Lennox, became the mother of Lord Darnley, father to the subject of our Memoir. Darnley and Mary were thus second cousins; and perhaps, but for inheriting the claims of both the children of Queen Margaret, James would never have become King of England; for the children of Margaret Douglas, by virtue of being native English, might have had a preference, by the laws of England, over a Scottish claimant with better hereditary right ; a good reason, by the way, for the marriage of Mary and Darnley, though, after it turned out unhappily, it was exclaimed against, as the result of an imprudent attachment. In consequence of the failure of the male issue of Henry VIII., only son of Henry VII., Queen Mary became the heiress presumptive of Elizabeth, his last surviving daughter; and to her, accordingly, as she died without issue, James eventually succeeded.