Let’s Talk History 19: James I and the King James Bible. And so it was written.


Simultaneously King of Scotland as James VI (since 1567), James Stuart, son of executed Mary Stuart, begins the reign of Stuart monarchs in England (and Ireland) as James I, resulting in the de-facto union of the English and Scottish crowns.

In 1604, James initiates the Treaty of London, a peace concluding the 1585 Anglo-Spanish War and including terms of which England ends financial and military support for the Dutch rebellion, and Spain renounces attempts at Catholic restoration in England (though continues to seek religious freedom for Catholic worshipers in England).

In the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605, Catholic dissenters — in response to increasing anti-Catholic laws — attempt to blow up the House of Lords on a day in which James is to open the parliamentary session. (Though the conspirators are executed, the plot renews anti-Catholic sentiment).

As a patron of and contributor to the literary arts (with several published books, essays and poems), James commissions the King James Authorized Version of the Bible, printed in English, in 1611.

In 1613, James marries his daughter Elizabeth to the Elector Palatinate, Frederick V, leader of the German Protestants.

James’ extravagant spending (and subsequent requests for funds from Parliament), cultivation of unpopular (Scottish) male favorites, repeated attempts at an English-Scottish union and ultimate belief in the Divine Right of Kings creates continuous conflict with the English Parliament that eventually leads to James’ dissolution of it in 1614 (until 1621).

Following the eruption of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618 and the 1620 oust of James’ son-in-law, Frederick V, from Bohemia by the Austrian Habsburgs, many in England desirous of a war with Spain and war for the restoration of Frederick are angered by James’ interest in obtaining Spanish Habsburg support in reclaiming the Palatinate, and his continued efforts to arrange marriage between his son Charles (I) and the Spanish Infanta, Maria Anna.

Under James’ reign, known as the Jacobean era, existing Protestant-Catholic and Puritan-Episcopal tension increases, and permanent English colonization of the Americas begins. James dies in 1625


  • King James Version (1611) (King James), preceded by
  • *The Bishop’s Bible (1568) (Queen Elizabeth), preceded by
  • The Great Bible (1539) (Henry VIII): first authorized edition of the Bible in English. see: monarchical biblical commissions: the pass and hierarchy of authority: (bible) frontispiece: word of God to monarch, then to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, then to clergy, then to nobility via Henry advisor Thomas Cromwell. compiler: Coverdale, and influenced by Matthew’s Bible

see: William Tyndale: New Testament translation into English: 1525–1526, revised 1534: banned in England as heretical: Tyndale strangled and burned at the stake 1536 (for heresy) *fear of the laity being able to read the testament in their native language

see: Matthew’s Bible of 1537: combination of Tyndale’s translation and Miles Coverdale’s Old Testament (revised, annotated and edited by John Rogers, who worked under the assumed name of Thomas Matthew) see: Marian Persecutions (Mary I): Rogers and Cranmer burned at the stake

see also: The Geneva Bible, published in 1557 until 1644 and considered the greatest influence of 16th and 17th century England, Scotland and the New World (amongst Puritans and ‘Pilgrims’). Compiled by (leading) Protestant reformers who had fled to the Church of Geneva in Switzerland during Mary’s reign, the Geneva Bible was largely comprised of Tyndale’s translations and introduced study notes, or annotations, and verse numbering see: Shakespeare play form see also: Church of Geneva exiles: included Coverdale and John Calvin (b. in Switzerland, also see: Calvinism) *the Bishop’s Bible, written by numerous bishops under Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker, in response to what was seen as an anti-episcopal (or bishop) Geneva Bible

Reference/Further Reading:

  1. Sarah Lichtner. “Geneva Bible History.” English 250: Introduction to Shakespeare, The Department of English. University of Maryland. http://userpages.umbc.edu/~rfarabau/engl250h/wiki/index.php?page=Geneva_Bible_History
  2. (Professor) J.P. Sommerville: “Henry VIII and the Reformation.” https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/361/361-08.htm (Cranmer’s corruption campaign against monasteries, which accounted for a large portion of land and annual church income see: Dissolution of Monasteries)

see ya next Tuesday for the Virginia Company & Jamestown, Virginia! >>>