Kings and Queens of England (and Scotland): The Stuart Dynasty

  • James I                                                         [1603 - 1625]
  • Charles I                                                         [1625 - 1649]
  • Charles II                                                        [1660 - 1685]
  • James II                                                        [1685 - 1688]
  • Mary II and William III (as Joint Monarchs)  [1689 - 1694]
  • William III (Own rule)                                       [1694 - 1702]
  • Anne                                                                [1702 - 1714]

Keep reading

The Birth of Mary, Queen of Scots:

On the 8th of December 1542, nearly a month after the defeat of the Scottish troops at Solway Moss, Princess Mary Stewart was born on Linlithgow Palace. She was the only surviving child of Mary of Guise and James V of Scotland. Unlike his father who had died in the battlefield, nearly three decades before him, James V died as a result of an illness

“There is no record that James ever saw his daughter, though he might have had time to do so before he was laid low by severe illness.” (Porter)

James V died six days after Mary’s birth, making Mary the first Christ Queen Regnant of the British Isles. She was crowned the following year, being less than a year old. There is a tradition that when James V heard of his daughter’s birth that he said “It came with a lass and it will end with a lass.” But this as Porter points out, given how ill he was, it is highly dubious that he was able to utter such coherent words. But for historical novelists, this makes up for good drama no doubt.

Mary, Queen of Scots as she became known became part of the ‘Rough Wooing’ –this was an aggressive Anglo-Scottish policy that was Henry VIII’s brainchild. He sought to have the Scottish nobles he captured during the battle return to Scotland with the mission to convince the Queen Dowager and the other nobles to his proposal of a betrothal between her and his son (then) Prince Edward.

At one point, when her father’s body wasn’t yet cold, Henry VIII attempted to invade Scotland and there was one man who firmly opposed this and this was none other than John Dudley who’s reputation hasn’t been so good thanks in part to his former allies turning against him when the going got tough following the Jane Grey fiasco and pop culture.

Before Christmas of that year, John Dudley voiced his concerns, saying that “seeing that God hath thus disposed his will of the said King of Scots, I thought it should not be to Your Majesty’s honor, that we your soldiers should make war or invade upon a dead body or upon a widow or upon a young suckling…”

When the King died, a man who continued Henry VIII’s aggressive policy under his royal nephew and new King was Edward Seymour, newly named Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset.

Somerset had no intention for diplomacy. As far as he was concerned, diplomacy was failing. The Scots could understand he meant business by only one way and that was through fire and blood. Pillaging and heavy artillery. Although this did the trick, planting fear into the Scots’ hearts, it also strengthened Mary of Guise and her allies’ resolve. She decided to stall and secretly sent her daughter, her companions, among them the well-known four Maries, her half brother (Moray, who would return shortly after), to France where she would meet her future spouse, the future King of France, Francois.

Mary, Queen of Scots has a lot of detractors and defenders and seldom any people in between. On the one hand you have this naïve girl who was well-educated, who loved playing sports, and dressed in men’s clothes for that, and was also very beautiful, and had received not a lot of training to be a ruler but more how to be a Queen Consort while she was in France, but on the other hand, you also have a girl who caught on pretty fast and who wanted to reconcile both factions of her country, Protestant and Catholic, and tried her best but failed. And then tried again, using conspiracy to oust her cousin Queen Elizabeth when she didn’t agree to reinstate her. And this last act of hers not only failed but ended with her being sentenced to death. This was extremely painful as her executioner botched it and it took more than one blow to finish the deed.
The truth is likely somewhere in between. Mary was a quick learner, well-learned, fashionable Queen, but at the same time, she was also tired after years of trying and having little to show for it except plotters at every turn who hated her because of her sex and religion and for refusing to give up. When she finally gave up, she tried to rise up but once again she felt defeated and sought her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England for help and as previously stated, when she realized this was a huge mistake, she plotted against her and this ended with terrible results. She was much a victim of circumstance as of her own actions and rearing.


·         Tudors vs Stewarts by Linda Porter

·         Ten Tudor Statesmen by Arthur D. Innes

·         Tudor. Passion. Murder. Manipulation by Leanda de Lisle

·         On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

·         The Tudors by John Guy


Mary, Queen of Scots  

8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587

On the eighth of December in 1542, Mary of Guise, wife of King James V of Scotland, gave birth to a baby girl. At the time of Mary’s birth her father was ill and it legend states that King James said  “It cam wi’ a lass and it will gang wi’ a lass!” when he learned of his child’s sex, referring to the Stewarts, ruling house of Scotland. James died within a week of Mary’s birth, making her Queen of Scotland as a newborn. 

From her first days Mary’s life was riddled with politics and plots. Her great-uncle King Henry VIII of England sought to unite Scotland and England by marrying his son Edward to young Mary in a time known as the “rough wooing” of Scotland. The outcome of this was Mary’s betrothal to Francis, the Dauphin of France. Mary was sent to France at the age of five and would live at the French court for the next 14 years.In 1558 Mary and Francis were married. The two were childhood friends and got along well, but the Dauphin was weak and sickly compared to the very tall, beautiful,and lively Mary. They would have no children. Francis became king in 1559 and Mary became his consort. Francis was dead of an ear infection a year later and Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, with very little knowledge of the country’s people or political environment. Within the first years of her reign Mary saw religious strife, intrigue, rebellions, and conflict. 

When Mary wed a second time to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, she received disapproval from all sides. Soon Darnley became arrogant and demanding and their marriage was strained. Despite this, Mary became pregnant. During her pregnancy, Mary was witness to the murder of her Catholic friend and private secretary David Ritzzio at the hands of Darnley and his co-conspirators. Mary and Darnley were forced into hiding by the Protestant conspirators, and in 1566 she gave birth to her son James. Shortly afterwards, Mary began working with some Scottish lords to get rid of “the Darnley problem.” This resulted in Darnley’s murder by strangulation after the house he resided in was blown up with gunpowder. It was believed Mary was directly responsible for her husband’s murder and allowed the guilty men to escape, with James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell being the chief conspirator. But Bothwell had his own plot to wed Mary and rule Scotland with her. In 1567 Mary was abducted by Bothwell and possibly raped by him. Mary, whether by her own will or not, married Bothwell, to the shock and animosity of both Protestants and Catholics. Many Scottish nobles turned against Mary and she was eventually forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son James, now James VI of Scotland. 

Mary fled to England, possibly seeking help from her cousin Elizabeth to regain her throne. But Elizabeth was not keen to involve herself and her army so far into Scottish politics, and instead ordered an investigation into the murder of Mary’s husband Darnley. Mary was placed under house arrest in England, from which she would never be freed. For the next 19 years Mary would be kept under careful surveillance, as she was suspected to be involved in Catholic plots to usurp Queen Elizabeth. After Mary was implicated in the Babington plot, which was a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth and place Mary on the English throne with the aid of King Phillip II of Spain, she was put on trial. She was allowed no legal council nor was she permitted to review evidence that had been seized from her. Nevertheless, Mary was found guilty and sentenced to death. She was beheaded on February 8, 1587 at the age of forty four after a short but tumultuous life.

Mary’s son James succeeded Elizabeth I as King James I of England, and thus began the Stuart dynasty’s rule of England and Scotland in a personal union. Through her son, Mary is a direct ancestor of all British rulers extending to the present day. 

It annoys the hell outta me when people either assume there wasn’t, or tend to forget that there was a Stewart (Stuart) line in Scotland too thats where i all began! Where do you think that James VI (I of England) came from?! Or do you think they just called him the Sixth for the shits and giggles?! Unless it’s Mary Queen of Scots the others are forgotten. But then it’s not English history so why should people give a shit?! 


January 30th 1649: Charles I executed

On this day in 1649, King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland was executed in London aged 48. He was born in 1600 the son of James VI of Scotland, who in 1603 became King James I of England and Ireland, in addition to Scotland, when Queen Elizabeth I died. Charles succeeded to the throne in 1625 when his father died, becoming the second Stuart monarch. Charles inherited from his father a firm belief in the divine right of kings to absolute rule, which led to conflict between the King and Parliament. These tensions lay in part due to debates over money and religion, with Charles’s Anglicanism alienating Puritans in England. Charles dissolved Parliament three times, and in 1629 resolved to rule the nation alone, without Parliament. During this period his actions appeared increasingly tyrannical, raising taxes and cracking down on Puritans and Catholics, leading to an exodus of the former to the American colonies. Personal rule ended when the King attempted to interfere with the Scottish Church, and had to restore Parliament to raise the funds to fight the Scottish. The English Civil War broke out in the last years of his reign, which pitted the crown against Parliament and occurred after he attempted to arrest members of Parliament. Charles’s Royalist supporters were defeated in 1646, and the King himself was eventually captured. The Parliamentarians, including general Oliver Cromwell, put the King on trial for treason, which resulted in his execution in 1649 outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall. The monarchy was then abolished, leading to the short-lived Commonwealth of England. A leading figure of this republic was Oliver Cromwell, though his rule as Lord Protector became increasingly authoritarian. Cromwell died of natural causes in September 1658, but on January 30th 1661, on the anniversary of Charles’s death, Cromwell’s remains were ritually executed. The monarchy was restored in 1660 with Charles’s son in power ruling as King Charles II.

The Royal Progenei of our most sacred King James 1603

Published by Hans Woutneel and Compton Holland
Print made by Benjamin Wright

Genealogical tree of James I in five rows, with James and Anne at the top and Henry VII and Elizabeth at the bottom; in the corners the arms of England and Scotland, and of Lancaster and York. (click on image to see larger version)


Charles Stuart (1600 – 1649)

Charles I was born in Fife on 19 November 1600, the second son of James VI of Scotland and Anne of Denmark. On the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 James became king of England and Ireland. Charles’s popular older brother Henry, whom he adored, died in 1612 leaving Charles as heir, and in 1625 he became king. Three months after his accession he married Henrietta Maria of France. They had a happy marriage and left five surviving children.

When Charles I succeeded his father in 1625, friction with Parliament began at once. Charles believed in his divine right as king and struggled to control Parliament who resented his attempts at absolute rule. One of his first acts was to dissolve parliament in 1625, and again in 1626 after attempts to impeach the Duke of Buckingham over war against Spain and support of the French Huguenots. Charles forced an unpopular ‘Ship Money’ tax to raise funds without the consent of Parliament. In 1628 Charles was presented with the Petition of Right a declaration of the “rights and liberties of the subject", which he reluctantly agreed to. However, in 1629 he dissolved Parliament again, imprisoned its leaders and ruled without a Parliament from 1629 to 1640. His advisers Earl Strafford and Archbishop Laud persecuted the Puritans, and provoked the Presbyterian Scots Covenanters to revolt when Laud attempted to introduce the English Book of Common Prayer.

A problem in Scotland brought an abrupt end to Charles’ 11 years of personal rule and unleashed the forces of civil war upon England. Charles attempted to force a new prayer book on the Scots, which resulted in rebellion. Charles’ forces were ill prepared due to lack of proper funds, causing the king to call, first, the Short Parliament, and finally the Long Parliament. King and Parliament again reached no agreement; Charles foolishly tried to arrest five members of Parliament on the advice of Henrietta Maria, which brought matters to a head. The struggle for supremacy led to civil war. Charles raised his standard against Parliamentary forces at Nottingham in 1642.

The Royalists were defeated in 1645-1646 by a combination of parliament’s alliance with the Scots and the formation of the New Model Army. In 1646, Charles surrendered to the Scots, who handed him over to parliament. He escaped to the Isle of Wight in 1647 and encouraged discontented Scots to invade. This ‘Second Civil War’ was over within a year with another royalist defeat by Parliamentarian general Oliver Cromwell. Convinced that there would never be peace while the king lived, a rump of radical MPs, including Cromwell, put him on trial for treason. He was found guilty and executed on 30 January 1649 outside the Banqueting House on Whitehall, London.

On This Day In History~ March 24th

1603; The death of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth’s senior adviser, Burghley, died on 4 August 1598. His political mantle passed to his son, Robert Cecil, who soon became the leader of the government. One task he addressed was to prepare the way for a smooth succession. Since Elizabeth would never name her successor, Cecil was obliged to proceed in secret.He therefore entered into a coded negotiation with James VI of Scotland, who had a strong but unrecognised claim. Cecil coached the impatient James to humour Elizabeth and “secure the heart of the highest, to whose sex and quality nothing is so improper as either needless expostulations or over much curiosity in her own actions”. The advice worked. James’s tone delighted Elizabeth, who responded: “So trust I that you will not doubt but that your last letters are so acceptably taken as my thanks cannot be lacking for the same, but yield them to you in grateful sort”.

The Queen’s health remained fair until the autumn of 1602, when a series of deaths among her friends plunged her into a severe depression. In February 1603, the death of Catherine Howard, Countess of Nottingham, the niece of her cousin and close friend Catherine, Lady Knollys, came as a particular blow. In March, Elizabeth fell sick and remained in a “settled and unremovable melancholy”. She died on 24 March 1603 at Richmond Palace, between two and three in the morning. A few hours later, Cecil and the council set their plans in motion and proclaimed James VI of Scotland as James I of England.

Elizabeth’s coffin was carried downriver at night to Whitehall, on a barge lit with torches. At her funeral on 28 April, the coffin was taken to Westminster Abbey on a hearse drawn by four horses hung with black velvet. In the words of the chronicler John Stow:

Westminster was surcharged with multitudes of all sorts of people in their streets, houses, windows, leads and gutters, that came out to see the obsequy, and when they beheld her statue lying upon the coffin, there was such a general sighing, groaning and weeping as the like hath not been seen or known in the memory of man.

Elizabeth was interred in Westminster Abbey in a tomb she shares with her half-sister, Mary. The Latin inscription on their tomb, “Regno consortes & urna, hic obdormimus Elizabetha et Maria sorores, in spe resurrectionis”, translates to “Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection”.

The Union Between Scotland & England

The relationship between England and Scotland has been a long and tempestuous one.  Even if we simply examine the last 300 years the relationship between the two has been uneasy.  The first joining of nations came in 1603, with the union of the two crowns when James VI of Scotland succeeded the heirless Elizabeth I to become James I of England.  Despite numerous calls for a union of the two countries’ parliaments over the next century, and the brief union of the two nations imposed by Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth during the 1650s, it would not be until 1707 that the political union would take place following the economic impact of Scotland’s failed Darien Expedition. 

Even once united politically the Union remained tenuous as political crisis gripped Britain during the late 17th century.  In 1715 and again in 1745 major rebellions took place in aid of the Jacobite cause, these however were brutally suppressed by Britain.  By the late 18th and early 19th Century the political landscape had settled with Scots becoming some of the period’s key figures including General James Abercrombie, Admiral Thomas Cochrane, Chancellor Henry Brougham and Keir Hardie among innumerable others from almost every field from the arts to law, from architecture to science.  

Despite a number of moves during the mid 20th century by the British government to devolve power north it was not until 1999, that the first Scottish Parliament was formed.  2007 saw the Scottish Independence Party come to power for the first time and by 2011 the calls for a referendum on independence had gained momentum.  In 2012 it was agreed by both governments to hold a vote to allow the people of Scotland to decided their future.  The referendum saw the Scottish people vote in favour of remaining within the Union.  However, increased devolution was promised by the British Government and the next nine months will see negotiation over the details of increased home rule.  In turn the referendum has spurred calls for increased local powers and franchise for both England and Wales with calls for each to have their own individual parliaments deciding on regional matters while the Union Parliament decides on matters of national and international importance. With next year’s general election this is likely to become a key issue in deciding the political landscape.

Image:  Treaty of Union which agreed the terms of the Union between England and Scotland, it was made law when the Acts of Union were assented to by the English and Scottish parliaments in 1706 and 1707 respectively. (source)

Rocking Horse


Probably belonged to King Charles I

Charles was born in 1600, the second son of James VI and I. He was a delicate child, with difficulties in speaking and walking, and the household accounts list the making of a type of wheelchair for his use. He was still unable to walk when his father created him Duke of York in 1605. Sir Robert and Lady Carey, his guardians between 1605 and 1611, arranged remedial treatment, and it has been suggested that this may have included a rocking horse to provide exercise and strengthen his legs. If this horse were his, it would probably date from 1605-08. By 1610 he had made great progress in mobility, and could walk, ride, take tennis coaching from Master Jehu Webb, and dance.

On this day in history, March 24th, in the year 1603, Elizabeth I died at Richmond Palace between two and three in the morning. She had reigned for a total of 44 years, 127 days, and is still considered one of England’s most popular and influential monarchs.

She infamously  never married or had children, and with her death the Tudor Dynasty came to an end. Elizabeth was succeeded on the throne by her distant cousin, James VI of Scotland, who would rule the country as James I and be the first monarch of the House of Stuart.

The Lyte Jewel

The ‘Lyte Jewel’ is in fact an enamelled gold locket. The openwork cover, set with diamonds, bears the royal monogram 'IR’ (Latin, Iacobus Rex) for King James, the first Stuart king of England (r. 1603–1625, also James VI of Scotland, r. 1567–1625).

Inside the locket is James’ portrait on vellum by the great miniature painter Nicholas Hilliard (c. 1547–1619). The pendant pearl is a late-19th-century replacement of an original.

The 'jewel’ was presented by James to Thomas Lyte (1568–1638) of Lytes Cary, Somerset, in thanks for Lyte’s royal genealogy tracing James’ descent, through Banquo (whose murder is a key element in Shakespeare’s Macbeth), from Brutus, the mythical Trojan founder of Britain. This was a political message which James wished to promote at court in establishing his rule as king of Great Britain, and the genealogy was displayed in Whitehall Palace for all to see. You can find out more about the genealogy on the British Library’s website. A portrait of Lyte, shown proudly wearing the jewel, was painted in 1611 and is now in the Museum of Somerset, Taunton.

James, the son of a Catholic, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, had succeeded to the throne of England in 1603. As a Protestant and the first Stuart monarch of England, he saw the political necessity to emphasise his ancient lineage not only through the Tudor line, but also through his Welsh ancestry back to the first king of the Britons. It is possible that Lyte, a relatively unknown member of the gentry, was encouraged by James’ advisers to produce the genealogical table, and to present it with full publicity at court, as if spontaneously from a loyal subject.

The jewel remained in the Lyte family for centuries until Baron Ferdinand Rothschild acquired it in 1882 for £2,835. He gave it prime position in his New Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor from 1896. Within the context of a strongly continental collection, largely formed on the art markets of Frankfurt, Vienna and Paris, it had a special role as a document of British history and identity. On Baron Ferdinand’s death in 1898 it was acquired by the British Museum as part of the Waddesdon Bequest. The Bequest will be redisplayed in a new gallery at the Museum from 11 June 2015.

Find out more about the Lyte Jewel on the Museum’s collection online.

Image of Thomas Lyte: Somerset Museums Service.