The personal relationships of James I of England included relationships with his male courtiers and his marriage to Anne of Denmark, with whom he fathered children. The influence his favourites had on politics, and the resentment at the wealth they acquired, became major political issues during his reign.

Growing up, James did not have any parents — his father, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was murdered, and his mother, Mary I of Scotland, was forced to flee when she married the suspected murderer, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. His grandfather was assassinated during his boyhood and he had no siblings.[1][2]

His first documented male favourite, at the age of 13, was his older relative Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox.[3]

James adopted a severe stance towards sodomy using English law. His book on kingship, Basilikón Dōron, (Greek for "Royal Gift") lists sodomy among those “horrible crimes which ye are bound in conscience never to forgive”. He also singled out sodomy in a letter to Lord Burleigh giving directives that Judges were to interpret the law broadly and were not to issue any pardons, saying that "no more colour may be left to judges to work upon their wits in that point."[4]

However, nearly two centuries later, Jeremy Bentham, in an unpublished manuscript, denounced James as a hypocrite after his crackdown: "[James I], if he be the author of that first article of the works which bear his name, and which indeed were owned by him, reckons this practise among the few offences which no Sovereign ever ought to pardon. This must needs seem rather extraordinary to those who have a notion that a pardon in this case is what he himself, had he been a subject, might have stood in need of."[5]

Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of LennoxEdit

File:Nicholas Hilliard 020.jpg

At the age of 13, James made his formal entry into Edinburgh. Upon arriving he met the 37-year-old, married, father of 5 children, Franco-Scottish lord Esmé Stewart, 6th Lord d'Aubigny, whom the Puritan leader Sir James Melville described as "of nature, upright, just, and gentle". The two became extremely close and it was said by an English observer that "from the time he was 14 years old and no more, that is, when the Lord Stuart came into Scotland… even then he began… to clasp some one in the embraces of his great love, above all others" and that James became "in such love with him as in the open sight of the people often he will clasp him about the neck with his arms and kiss him".[6]

The King first made Aubigny a gentleman of the bedchamber. Later, he appointed him to the Privy Council and created him earl and finally duke of Lennox. In Presbyterian Scotland the thought of a Catholic duke irked many and Lennox had to make a choice between his Catholic faith and his loyalty to James.[citation needed] At the end Lennox chose James and the king taught him the doctrines of Calvinism. The Scottish Kirk remained suspicious of Lennox after his public conversion and took alarm when he had the earl of Morton tried and beheaded on charges of treason. The Scottish ministry was also warned that the duke sought to "draw the King to carnal lust".

In response the Scottish nobles plotted to oust Lennox. They did so by luring James to Ruthven Castle as a guest but then kept him as prisoner for ten months. The Lord Enterprisers forced him to banish Lennox. The duke journeyed back to France and kept a secret correspondence with James. Lennox in these letters says he gave up his family "to dedicate myself entirely to you"; he prayed to die for James to prove "the faithfulness which is engraved within my heart, which will last forever." The former duke wrote "Whatever might happen to me, I shall always be your faithful servant… you are alone in this world whom my heart is resolved to serve. And would to God that my breast might be split open so that it might be seen what is engraven therein."[7]

James was devastated by the loss of Lennox.[8] In his return to France Lennox had met a frosty reception as an apostate Catholic. The Scottish nobles had thought that they would be proven right in their convictions that Lennox's conversion was artificial when he returned to France. Instead the former duke remained Presbyterian and died shortly after, leaving James his embalmed heart.[8] James had repeatedly vouched for Lennox's religious sincerity and memorialized him in a poem called Ane Tragedie of the Phoenix, which said he was like an exotic bird of unique beauty killed by envy.[8]

Anne of DenmarkEdit

See also Relationship between James I and Anne of Denmark.

Following Esme's death James married Anne of Denmark in 1589 to produce heirs for the throne. James was initially said to be infatuated with his wife, but the relationship later cooled and there were marital frictions. The two had 8 children with the last being born during 1607. By then James had lost interest in his wife and it was said that she led a sad, reclusive life, appearing at court functions on occasion. Despite his neglect of his wife, James was affected by her death, and was moved to compose a poem in her memory.[9]

Anne MurrayEdit

Between 1593 and 1595, James was romantically linked with Anne Murray, later Lady Glamis, whom he addressed in verse as "my mistress and my love".


Three of James's children grew to adulthood: Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, Elizabeth of Bohemia and Charles I of England. Henry died from typhoid fever at the age of 18. Elizabeth, at the age of 16, married Frederick V, then Elector of the Palatinate, and took up her place in the court at Heidelberg (Germany). Charles grew up in the shadow of his elder brother, but following Henry's death he became heir to the throne, and succeeded his father in 1625.

Robert Carr, 1st Earl of SomersetEdit

Template:Unreferencedsection A few years later after the controversy over his relationship with Lennox faded away and he began a relation with Robert Carr, 1st Earl of Somerset.[citation needed] In 1607, at a royal jousting contest, 17-year-old Robert Carr, the son of Sir Thomas Carr or Kerr of Ferniehurst, was knocked from a horse and broke his leg. According to the Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Howard, James fell in love with the young man, Template:Dubious[citation needed] and as the years progressed showered Carr with gifts.[citation needed] Carr was made a gentleman of the bedchamber and he was noted for his handsome appearance as well as his limited intelligence. His downfall came through Frances Howard, a beautiful young married woman. Upon Carr's request James stacked a court of bishops that would allow her to divorce her husband in order to marry Carr. As a wedding present Carr was named earl of Somerset.

During the next two years the relationship between Carr and James became troubled as Carr increasingly preferred his wife.[citation needed] In 1615 James fell out with Carr. In a letter James complained, among other matters, that Carr had been "creeping back and withdrawing yourself from lying in my chamber, notwithstanding my many hundred times earnest soliciting you to the contrary" and that he rebuked James "more sharply and bitterly than ever my master Buchanan durst do".[citation needed]

At this point public scandal erupted when the underkeeper of the tower revealed that Carr's new wife had poisoned Sir Thomas Overbury, his best friend who had opposed the marriage. James angered over Carr's attachment to his wife exploited the opportunity and forcefully insisted that they face trial.

On the eve of the trial, Carr threatened to reveal publicly that the King had slept with him.[citation needed] The next day, as he gave testimony before the Lords in Westminster Hall, two men were stationed beside him with cloaks, ready to muffle him in case of an indiscreet outburst. This was done on instructions of the King to the Lieutenant of the Tower.Template:Dubious[citation needed] Carr, however, conducted himself with dignity. His wife confessed to the deed and they were sentenced to death. The King reprieved them both but held them in the tower for 7 years and then pardoned them and granted the pair a country estate.[10]

George Villiers, 1st Duke of BuckinghamEdit

The last of James's three close male friends was George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, the son of a Leicestershire knight. They had met in 1614, around the same time that the situation with Carr was deteriorating. Buckingham was described as exceptionally handsome, intelligent and honest. In 1615 James knighted him and 8 years later he was the first commoner in more than a century to be elevated to a dukedom.

The King was blunt and unashamed in his avowal of love for Buckingham:

I, James, am neither a god nor an angel, but a man like any other. Therefore I act like a man and confess to loving those dear to me more than other men. You may be sure that I love the Earl of Buckingham more than anyone else, and more than you who are here assembled. I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had John, and I have George.

17th century commentators, such as the poet Théophile de Viau did not mince words in describing the king's relationship. In his poem, Au marquis du Boukinquan, de Viau writes: "Apollo with his songs / debauched young Hyacinthus...And it is well known that the king of England / fucks the Duke of Buckingham."

Buckingham became good friends with James’s wife Anne, she addressed him in affectionate letters begging him to be "always true" to her husband. In a letter to James, Buckingham said "sir, all the way hither I entertained myself, your unworthy servant, with this dispute, whether you loved me now... better than at the time which I shall never forget at Farnham, where the bed's head could not be found between the master and his dog". James in some letters addressed him as his spouse saying that "I desire only to live in this world for your sake... I had rather live banished in any part of the Earth with you than live a sorrowful widow's life without you... God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband".[7] A few years later James died with Buckingham at his side.

References Edit

  1. Bucholz, Robert & Key, Newton (2004), Early Modern England, 1485-1714: A Narrative History, Blackwell Publishing, ISBN 0631213937 
  2. Barroll, J. Leeds & Cerasano, Susan P. (1996), Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England: An Annual Gathering of Research, Criticism and Reviews, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 0838636411 
  3. Aldrich, Robert & Wotherspoon, Garry (2001), Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II, Routledge, pp. 226–7, ISBN 0415159822 
  4. Sharpe, Kevin M. (2000), Remapping Early Modern England: The Culture of Seventeenth-century England, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521664098 
  5. Bentham, Jeremy (1978), “Offences Against One's Self”, Journal of Homosexuality 3 (4): 389–405; continued in v.4:1(1978), <> 
  6. Ashraf, Mohsin (2007), Top Ten- Lives of the Greatest Monarchs of History, p. 103, ISBN 1430329394 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bergeron, David Moore (1999), King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire, University of Iowa Press, ISBN 978-0877456698 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Crompton, Louis (2003), Homosexuality & Civilization, Boston: Belknap/Harvard University Press, pp. 381–388, ISBN 978-0674011977 
  9. Willson, David Harris (1956 (1963 edition)), King James VI & I, London: Jonathan Cape Ltd, ISBN 0224605720 
  10. Hyde, H. Montgomery (1970), The Love That Dared not Speak its Name, Boston: Little, Brown, pp. 44, 143 
  • Young, Michael B. (2000) King James and the History of Homosexuality. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814796931

External linksEdit

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