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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars James VI and I
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....
Published on 28 Sep 2011 by john-murphy.co.uk

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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not unputdownable
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...
Published on 23 Sep 2003


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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not unputdownable, 23 Sep 2003
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This review is from: The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I (Hardcover)
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 Sep 2011
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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
By 
Andrew Morton "Andrew At The Croft" (Lockerbie Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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 Sep 2013
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Good on politics and religion but light on the personal details..., 16 Oct 2014
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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James (VI or I, depending on your perspective) was very much a King of two reigns - his first as King of Scotland and his second as King of a somewhat less-than-united England and Scotland. In the same vein this book is very much one of two halves. The first half of the book is almost entirely about events in Scotland; when Elizabeth dies and James becomes King of both England and Scotland the focus almost entirely shifts south and Scotland is scarcely mentioned again. Considering how disruptive and turbulent James' early years in Scotland were, I doubt things suddenly calmed down so dramatically once the King crossed the border, but you wouldn't get any other sense reading this book.

It must be said, when discussing the religious and political changes of the era, both in Scotland, England and Europe as a whole, this book is excellent. But again it falls down when looking at the more personal aspects of James' reign - important events such as the deaths of Prince Henry, Queen Anne and James himself are hardly dealt with, discussed in just a few sentences. I cannot be the only reader who is often more interested in the personal than the political - I realise the two can rarely be separated so easily when talking of monarchs, but this is after all a biography of James, not a history of the Jacobean era.

So an interesting read but overall, a disappointing one. I felt Stewart relied too heavily in places on quoting from original sources; again, I recognise the value of these from an historical perspective, but a little less regurgitation of arcane quotations and a little more analysis or discussion might have been welcome.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Slightly boring, 28 Jun 2004
By 
E. Davenport "ewadavenport" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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If a review quoted on a book says, 'a very timely biography', beware! It means that there are not many new biographies on this subject and, if being, well, 'timely' is the best complement the book can get, that is not good enough.
If you are into a vivid, fast paced writing with a lot of personal detail (that of Alison Weir or Maureen Waller) you will be disappointed.
The book seems to be a bit inconsistent - the author tries to be very scholarly in some chapters, informal and personal in other and it just does not work.
If you're writing a paper on James I, you may find it useful. If you are into the King as a person and want to start with this book as an introduction into Stuart's England, don't bother.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Cradle King - Alan Stewart, 18 May 2008
By 
Matthew Turner "loyalroyal" (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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I'm a big fan of historical biographies, especially of England's monarchs, but this book was, as the other reviewers have said, frankly boring and dull. True, a historian should make ample use of primary sources and take quotations from them - which to his credit Stewart does - but he goes overboard. Every paragraph has a quotation, sometimes wholesale, leaving no room for the historian's other task of analysing the sources, discerning what is happening, and more importantly, why something has happened the way it did.

Similarly, the author merely produces a chronological account of James I & VI's life, there is little analysis, historical investigation and study of the socio-political themes of the period which the king faced. As a result the reader is left with a terse, dull read.

In summary, I can't recommend this book. I'm sure there are better biographies of James available. This one is for hardcore fans of James I & VI only.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too much source material spoils the flow, 27 Mar 2006
I had looked forward to reading this biography of James Ist. Whilst an admitted devotee of Alison Weir and the scholarship and detail she brings to her biographies, I found this book hard going. This was mainly due to too much primary source quotation which would appear almost after every 6 lines or so.
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The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I
The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I by Alan Stewart (Hardcover - 27 Feb 2003)
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