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The Cradle King: A Life of James VI & I [Kindle Edition]

Alan Stewart
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

As the son of Mary Queen of Scots, born into her 'bloody nest', James had the most precarious of childhoods. Even before his birth, his life was threatened: it was rumoured that his father, Henry, had tried to make the pregnant Mary miscarry by forcing her to witness the assassination of her supposed lover, David Riccio. By the time James was one year old, Henry was murdered, possibly with the connivance of Mary; Mary was in exile in England; and James was King of Scotland. By the age of five, he had experienced three different regents as the ancient dynasties of Scotland battled for power and made him a virtual prisoner in Stirling Castle. In fact, James did not set foot outside the confines of Stirling until he was eleven, when he took control of his country. But even with power in his hands, he would never feel safe. For the rest of his life, he would be caught up in bitter struggles between the warring political and religious factions who sought control over his mind and body. Yet James believed passionately in the divine right of kings, as many of his writings testify. He became a seasoned political operator, carefully avoiding controversy, even when his mother Mary was sent to the executioner by Elizabeth I. His caution and politicking won him the English throne on Elizabeth's death in 1603 and he rapidly set about trying to achieve his most ardent ambition: the Union of the two kingdoms. Alan Stewart's impeccably researched new biography makes brilliant use of original sources to bring to life the conversations and the controversies of the Jacobean age. From James's 'inadvised' relationships with a series of favourites and Gentlemen of the Bedchamber to his conflicts with a Parliament which refused to fit its legislation to the Monarch's will, Stewart lucidly untangles the intricacies of James's life. In doing so, he uncovers the extent to which Charles I's downfall was caused by the cracks that appeared in the monarchy during his father's reign.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Published to mark the 400th anniversary of King James I's accession to the throne of England in 1603, Alan Stewart's biography The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I offers a fascinating reassessment of one of England's most curiously neglected monarchs. As Stewart suggests, this unfair neglect masks a complex and highly intelligent monarch who achieved the feat of ruling England in peace from 1603 until his death of natural causes in 1625.

The strength of Stewart's biography lies in his exploration of James' other title: King James VI of Scotland. James was crowned king at the age of one "during one of the most bitter and bloody periods in Scottish history", which witnessed the expulsion and subsequent murder of his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, and repeated attempts upon the young king's life. Stewart has trawled a mass of neglected archival material to provide a compelling portrait of the "cradle king", who spent over 50 years as a king, and whose public life was defined by the febrile and violent world of Scottish politics.

In 1603, following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, James took the crown of England, and Stewart spends the second half of his biography unravelling James' labyrinthine financial, domestic and foreign policy, as well as his complex sexuality, and extraordinary relationship with the charismatic Duke of Buckingham.

This is an excellent biography that resituates James as one of England's most astute monarchs, while also comically underlining his faults and foibles. Stewart points out that James "mocked colonial exploration, fell asleep during England's most celebrated plays, and showed little interest in momentous scientific advances", all signs of how his public career was shaped in his infancy as a "cradle king". --Jerry Brotton


"A detailed and informative biography" (Peter Ackroyd The Times)

"Stewart includes plenty of fascinating detail on every aspect of this controversial king's reign...And Stewart's scholarship is impeccable" (Frank McLynn Literary Review)

"A timely new biography" (Antonia Fraser BBC History)

"A sensitive, even tender, account of the formation of James's personality in the violence and savagery of Reformation Scotland" (James Buchan Guardian)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1501 KB
  • Print Length: 458 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 071266758X
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 Oct. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005TKD5M6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #99,516 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not unputdownable 23 Sept. 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The factors that render a book like this unputdownable are either relevations of how the principal figure influenced contemporary political developments or - preferably AND - what a colourful personality he or she was. In the last case an author's mischievous eye in bringing that personality to life is an essential requirement.
Having bought the book on the strenght of the above synopsis I had hopes that at least the second element would guarantee a few day's entertaining reading. As it turns out, Mr. Stewart has taken great pains never to appear even remotely tabloidsy or unduly humorous in his approach of James the private person and his treatment of the King's private foibles could be read out under the Christmas tree without causing any great scandal or merriment.
What remains then to make this book interesting to the non-British reader is the impact James made on political or other major developments in the European theater. Here however the reader will find that James'occasional efforts in this field were usually without much consequence. His efforts concentrated on Scottish issues such as bringing the Kirk to heel, his unsuccesful efforts to formally create a Great Britain in his lifetime and on his other efforts in the fields of politics, theology and poetry within England and Scotland.
The resulting book is certainly "popular history" that however style-wise fully earns the Irish Times'description as being "thoughtful and erudite" which as we know is not always equal to "gripping and unputdownable". It will no doubt be of considerable interest to serious students of Britain's history and the Stuart dynasty. Foreign - and/or more shallow - readers should however approach the book's synopsis with some caution as it suggests more entertainment than this book actually delivers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James VI and I 28 Sept. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a well written biography and is very helpful indeed to those who have only a sketchy knowledge of the structures of politics and aristocracy in Scotland. The author leads you through the twists and turns of James's childhood but leaves perhaps certain questions unasked and unanswered particularly over the kings relations with his male favourites....
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Straight Biography - What We Need 18 Oct. 2009
There are real problems in writing a biography of James VI and I - the first is implicit in those Latin numbers: Do we focus on the King of Scotland or the King of "Great Britain"? Another is that historiographers have, for 350 years, taken sides regarding James's contribution to the British state. Thirdly, many writers have been caught by the contemporary appraisal of James as "the wisest fool in Christendom" and have used it as their guiding principle in describing his reign.
So, this is the kind of book we really need when dealing with James. Yes it's stodgy. Yes it's lacking in verve. Yes it reads like a very long essay written for a PhD Thesis. And yes I put it down. Frequently. And Then I picked it up again. See, this is a biography of a complex figure in British history and it simply tells the story as it happened. It doesn't tell you what to think about it. I rather like that.
So, down a star for being a bit turgid. Down another star because what this book really needs is an extra two appendices. The writer constructs the latter part of James's life thematically (relations with Parliament, religious rows etc) so chapters overlap. A timeline would be helpful. So would a list of main figures (such as Bothwell and Carr) along with short biographies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly work - not a light read 17 Sept. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've read other reviews criticising this work as being rather heavy. It's certainly not a light read as it's scholarly and quotes from sources as it should. That makes a refeshing change and the reader will learn a great deal.
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