Mondi, Megan (Illinois Wesleyan University)
Constructing the Past: Vol. 8: Iss. 1, Article 11 (2007)
James sat through approximately 33 months of Parliament during his twenty-two year reign in England (r.1603-1625). His first Parliament, which was also his longest, convened on 19 March 1604 and lasted through five sessions until 1610. His second Parliament lasted only three months (5 April 1614 – 7 June 1614) and was dubbed the Addled Parliament because no new legislation was passed. James did not call another Parliament until 1621. The seven-year absence was England’s longest since 1515. The Parliament of 1621 lasted from 30 January to 18 December. James dissolved each of these Parliaments in anger—he was frustrated with Parliament for not granting him adequate supply and, in 1621, for meddling in foreign affairs and other matters he believed were not within their jurisdiction. His final Parliament, which he convened in 1624, lasted from 19 February to 29 May and was dissolved at the King’s death on 27 March 1625.
Until recently, King James VI of Scotland and I of England suffered from an excessively unforgiving reputation: Sir Anthony Weldon’s hostile accounts and the English Civil War that erupted less than two decades after his death led many historians to assume James was an incompetent monarch. These Traditional, or Whig, historians believe that constitutional conflict escalated from the moment James ascended the English throne. Pauline Croft explains the Whiggish logic concisely when she says that the “catastrophic fall of the Stuart dynasty by 1649 seemed more easily explicable if the first Stuart to occupy the English throne could be ridiculed as drunken, homosexual, timid, and duplicitous.” Revisionists, on the other hand, do not believe opposition between the Crown and Parliament was inherent. Because of revisionists’ work during the last decades of the twentieth century, James is now more fully recognized and appreciated as “one of the most learned and intellectually curious men ever to sit on any throne.” With that understanding comes, or at least should come, another look at James’s reign.