Scotland and Ireland

After his succession to the English throne in 1603, James VI was not as successful a ruler over Scotland as he had been hitherto. Though James would claim with pride 'Here I sit and govern with it my pen - I write and it is done; and by a Clerk of the Council I govern Scotland now - which others could not do by the sword', the King failed to realise the deficiencies of this system of absentee kingship. James' orders were carried north of the border to his Privy Councillors, able men such as the earls of Dunfermline and Dunbar, by a relatively efficient postal service. Absentee government only worked because of James' considerable experience and the service of able Scottish crown servants in London and Edinburgh.

The effects of absentee rule gradually began to show through and obscure the tangible achievements. The drive to bring law and order to the kingdom was incomplete in the lowlands and completely failed in the highlands. The Scottish Parliament, by the end of James' reign was running on credit.

The King's vision of a unified 'Great Britain' necessitated the uniformity in religion; this caused a problem for the religious disparities of the three kingdoms. Between 1586 and 1610 a gradual approach to restoring episcopacy to Scotland had been agreed on with the Parliament and Kirk. With the re-establishment of episcopacy, James increasingly looked towards addressing liturgical differences which aroused the fears and hostility of the Presbyterian section of the General Assembly.

The hostility of the English Parliament to James' projected union of the crowns of Scotland and England marked an important moment in his kingship. In Parliament a broad spectrum of MPs were fearful for the sanctity of English legal, economic, political and religious independence - essentially vested interests of bishops, merchants, lawyers, landowners an so forth. James' chief minister Cecil appears to have failed to inform his king of the predictable response in Parliament to an Act of Union. This may have been a shrewd move on Cecil's part in order to guarantee the collapse of a crown scheme for a union no-one wanted and preserving his own position of pre- eminence in government. This was compounded by English xenophobia towards Scots and Scotland. James gave in to hostility he faced in Parliament by the close of the 1606-7 Parliament and settled for a gradual advance - a single flag, similar coinage, weights and measures, a very limited economic union, and the assumption of the title 'King of Great Britain'.

To King James the greatest enemies to his plans for 'one worship of God, one kigdom entirely governed, one uniformity of laws' were not the Commons in England or the nobles of lowland Scotland, but the highlanders and the Irish. The policy of the Jacobean regime to the latter regions of Britain was identical - conquest and plantation in the hope of 'civilising' the populace and bringing economic prosperity.

Shortly after James' accession the issue of a new coinage provided the foundation for Ireland's economic recovery. Concurrently the English Privy Council decided to impose English law on Ireland. By the early 1610s the process was well under way as judges were replaced en masse with English ones and Irish legal customs and traditions were being swept away. In 1603 the Irish rebellion had been eventually suppressed. The opportunity to further colonise Ireland came in 1607 with the exile of the ringleaders Tyrone and Tyrconnel to the Continent. While the Privy Council saw an opening to strengthen English military power in Ireland by confiscating land and granting it to soldiers, the King insisted on a plantation project to remove native Irish and replace them with Protestant Scots and English settlers. There were schemes for improved infrastructure, the erection of a system of forts and the establishment of towns in Ulster. The enterprise was left largely to private enterprise, namely the City of London (which organised Londonderry). James became frustrated at the slow pace of Irish displacement and Protestant plantation - around 50,000 Scots and English 'planters' emigrated to Ulster between 1610 and 1640.

The principal problem in Ireland was religious. Always in favour of a middle line, James rejected his counsel's advice to coerce by force of arms the native Catholic population to Protestantism. James' approach involved Anglicising and consolidating the Protestant Church of Ireland. The King looked for clergymen to serve in Ireland at home and his native kingdom of Scotland. Efforts were made to improve education and preaching. His chief minister Cecil noted: 'the King knows well that true religion is better planted by the word than by the sword'. Jacobean Irish policy antagonised the English class of officials, and they

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