From Scotland to England:

The Poetic Strategies of James VI and I



  1. The starting point for this paper was thinking about the consequences of James I's accession in terms of what difference it made to him as a writer. The paper will examine some of the continuities in James's self-representation through writing from his Scottish to his English reigns. It will focus on his use of poetry as a vehicle for royal self-representation, as poetry is the form of writing in which the relationship between James's identity as King and his identity as a writer is most complex and problematic. Despite differences in context and developments in James's writing strategies, he did not leave his poetic identity behind him in Scotland in 1603, but rather, I will be suggesting, remained capable of employing poetry in very similar ways and maintained a similar self-perception as a poet. In Scotland James developed two distinct and opposing poetic strategies. The first of these involved implying a separation between his poetic and political identities, while the second, by contrast, involved emphasizing his royal identity within his poetry. The first strategy largely evolved into the second, the second being the dominant strategy in his later writings. Yet even the first, earlier, strategy recurs in a striking example from 1621, late in James's English reign, emphasizing the strong degree of continuity in his writing career. I will be exploring a piece from 1588 which exemplifies the first of these two strategies, then looking at the development of the second strategy through James's epic poem the Lepanto (1591). Turning then to poetry written late in James's English reign, I will consider the continuation of the second, more dominant strategy, in a poem from the early 1620s, 'The wiper of the Peoples teares'. Finally, I will be focusing on the 1621 poem and its remarkable similarities to the 1588 piece, considering why in 1621 James reverted to an earlier strategy and why this met with a somewhat negative response in England. Before moving to this specific focus, however, I want to outline briefly a more general context.

  2. When James acceded to the English throne he already had an established style of self-representation, which was primarily literary and intellectual. In Scotland he wrote extensively, and published a number of works. In the first half of the 1580s he surrounded himself with a group of court poets, the 'Castalian Band', and his first publication was a collection of poetry, The Essayes of a Prentise, in the Divine Art of Poesie (1584), which featured his treatise on poetry, Reulis and Cautelis. This was followed in 1591 with a second collection, His Majesties Poeticall Exercises at Vacant Hours. The King's desire for his poetry to be widely disseminated, and widespread interest in his poetry, is also reflected by the republication and translation of individual poems. The Lepanto, for example, was published in Edinburgh in 1591 in his second collection and as a separate edition, and republished in London in 1603. It was also translated into French in 1591, into Dutch in 1593, and into Latin in 1604.

  3. James's predecessor in England, by contrast, did not publish widely in any area, even though she wrote extensively. The preface to the recent collection of Elizabeth's writings suggests there is recurrent evidence that she in fact actively tried 'to keep most of her verses out of general circulation'. 1 Elizabeth prioritized instead visual display and public performance as means of disseminating her image to her subjects and in the course of her long reign she shaped public expectations of monarchical performance and self-presentation. When James acceded to the throne of England, he did make some attempts to adapt to his changed circumstances and to meet existing expectations, particularly in 1603 when he showed sensitivity to existing power structures and some willingness to engage in public performance. 2 In many ways, however, his style of self-representation changed very little. He continued to prioritize verbal over visual self-representation, publishing widely while failing to perform in public in ways that Elizabeth had. The fact that in 1603 several of the works James had written in Scotland were republished in England, most notably Basilikon Doron, emphasizes that the King wanted to represent himself to his new subjects as a writer.

  4. After 1603 he continued to write and publish widely, but his poetic output declined and, as keen as he had previously been to disseminate his poetry widely, he did not publish any further volumes of poetry. He did continue to write and circulate poetry, however, as is evidenced by a group of poems that have survived in private poetical miscellanies and other manuscript collections of the time. Indeed, a manuscript collection of short poems probably written between the start of 1616 and the later part of 1618, 'All the kings short poesis that ar not printed' may have been intended for publication, in connection with the 1616 edition of James's prose works (Craigie 1955-1958, II, xxii-xxiii).

  5. Earlier critical notions that poetry is not 'political' and a lack of editorial work on James's poems the only complete edition was published in the 1950s have resulted in the critical neglect of his poetry. A perception of manuscript material as less important than published, has meant that his unpublished poetry, which includes all the poetry he wrote in England, has been particularly neglected. Moreover, the 1950s edition, produced by James Craigie and published by the Scottish Text Society, has a strong Scottish bias; the collections are entitled The Poems of James VI of Scotland. Despite these volumes containing poems written as late as the early 1620s, the title strongly implies that it was only the Scottish James who wrote poetry, and this is perhaps another factor in the lack of attention paid to the poetry by many scholars of James I. These factors have enabled a picture of a young Scottish King writing frivolous poetry which was outside of the realm of politics and a mature King of England not being a poet at all. While critics have begun to revise such views and some important work has recently been done towards highlighting and exploring the political significance of the range of James's writings, 3 much of his poetry continues to receive little critical attention.

  6. While the fact that James did not publish the poetry he wrote in England may have obscured its importance for subsequent critics and historians, contemporary comments suggest that the lack of publication did not stop the English from continuing to think of the King as a poet. For example, referring to James's 1616 Workes, John Chamberlain notes that 'the Kings workes (all save his Poetrie) are abrode in one volume' (McClure 1931, II, 51). In England James continued to use his poetry as part of his self-representation within specific contexts and for specific political purposes. In the early 1620s for example, he wrote and brought into public spheres two of the poems with which I am concerned in this paper: he circulated in manuscript 'The wiper of the Peoples teares', a poem that engaged with criticisms of his policies, and he read out verses he had written to his favourite, Buckingham, at a banquet. On the latter occasion, according to the Venetian ambassador's account, James also ordered that these verses 'should be written on the walls, and carved in the marble of the doors for a perpetual memorial', 4 thereby literalizing the metaphor of poetry as monument. Though this reading took place within an elite context, it exemplifies James's continued desire to elevate his own poetry, to leave his poetry to posterity, and to publicize himself as a poet. It seems that in England he intended his poems to have a continuing public function, but was now more concerned with a more specific readership. We will be returning to both of these pieces 'The wiper of the Peoples teares', and the verses to Buckingham later.

  7. First I want to return to James's development of his poetic strategies in his Scottish reign. He used literature to represent himself as poet and as King, to reinforce his cultural image and to engage with political matters. These twin concerns resulted in James developing two distinct and opposing poetic strategies. An early poetic text that exemplifies the first of these strategies, is a fragment of a masque celebrating the marriage of a current royal favourite, George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, to Lady Henrietta Stuart. James wrote this piece in 1588 when he was twenty-two. While only a fragment of this masque, which was not published at the time, survives, it is evident that it is a dramatic piece, which includes conventional praise of the royal court. Here is the first section:

    If ever I mightie Gods have done yow service true
    In setting furth by painefull pen your glorious praises due
    If one [sic] the forked hill I tredd, if ever I did preasse
    To drinke of the Pegasian spring, that flowes without releasse
    If ever I on Pindus dwell'd, and from that sacred hill
    The eares of everie living thing did with your fame fullfill
    Which by the trumpett of my verse I made for to resounde
    From pole to pole through everie where of this immoble rounde
    Then graunte to me who patrone am of Hymens triumphe here
    That all your graces may upon this Hymens band appeare. (lines 1-10) 5

    This first section appeals to the Gods to bless the wedding in return for the poetic praise the speaker has rendered them. The speaker then asks the gods for a sign of their blessing, whereupon Mercury enters and announces 'I messager of Gods above am here unto yow sent / To showe by proofe your tyme into there service well is spent' (lines 35-6). Thus the masque suggests that the King has pleased the gods with his poetry and is itself a demonstration of his poetry. I should acknowledge at this point that we do not know for certain that it was written by James, but there is strong evidence to suggest that it was and that the King may even have delivered the first thirty-four lines of his masque himself. 6 The strongest evidence for this is line 9, which refers to him in the first person: 'Then graunte to me who patrone am of Hymens triumphe here.' The King was casting himself in a role he wanted to play: the role of poet. In this masque we see James not engaging explicitly with current political affairs, not referring to his royal identity, but rather explicitly representing himself as a poet, through both reference and demonstration. The strategy that is exemplified here thus involves implying a separation between poetry and politics by emphasizing James's poetic, rather than his royal, identity. I am not suggesting, however, that even when he uses this strategy his writing actually is apolitical; on the contrary, as we will see, implying such a separation could itself be a political move. This strategy would recur in 1621.

  8. In the 1580s and 90s, however, James also developed a second strategy, which he would employ more frequently than the first, which was to emphasize that he is writing as a King. The differences between the original and published versions of the Lepanto reflect James's movement towards placing greater emphasis on his royal identity in his writing, and indicate why this second strategy became the more dominant one.

  9. The original version of the Lepanto, written in the mid-1580s, is an open and ambiguous text. It praises the Catholic victory against the Turks in 1571, while in its references to election and the certainty of salvation it is Protestantized throughout. It carefully avoids denominational tags. 7 In the mid-1580s James was in communication both with England and with Catholic allies in continental Europe and the Lepanto may have been written with deliberate ambiguity in order to enable readings amenable to both of these opposed sides. By the time that the Lepanto was published in 1591, however, political circumstances in Europe had changed and James, keen to placate the Kirk and to keep favour with England, had moved more decisively towards Protestantism. In the published version he added a preface which claims that copies of the Lepanto have been illegally circulated and misread, and which strengthens the Protestantism of the poem, even referring to its hero as a 'forraine papist bastard' (I, 198).

  10. Whether the misinterpretation James describes had actually occurred, or whether this was simply a strategy to legitimize changing and publishing the poem, he had evidently realized the danger of leaving his writing open to different interpretations. In the preface he explains his original approach to the text:

    it hath for lack of a praeface, bene in some things misconstrued by sundry, which I of verie purpose thinking to have omitted, for that the writing thereof, might have tended in my opinion, to some reproach of the skilfull learnedness of the reader, as if his brains could not have conceaved so uncurious a worke, without some maner of commentarie, and so have made the worke more displeasant unto him: it hath by the contrary falen out.

    This explanation maintains the King's authorial integrity, claiming that the original lack of a commentary was a deliberate choice, which was partly motivated by aesthetic considerations (a desire not to make the text 'displeasant'). Whether or not we believe that aesthetic considerations were ever central for James in writing the Lepanto, this preface reflects a tension between aesthetic considerations and political efficacy. Attributing misinterpretation to the lack of a commentary, James goes on in this preface to explain 'the nature [. . .] of this poeme' (I,198). While explaining the meaning of his poem, he is also concerned to defend his writing and so presents the poem itself as being self-evidently Protestant; he is in the contradictory position of trying anxiously to explain what he claims is self-evident.

  11. What we see in the preface then, is James attempting to close the text, to shift the responsibility for interpretation from the reader back to the writer. This attempt involves and this is key emphasizing his royal authority: he claims that without the preface he is now adding, the poem has been read as James 'far contrary to my degree and religion, like a mercenary poet' writing 'in praise of a forraine Papist bastard' (I, 198). The terms in which he presents this accusation reflect his desire for his poetry to be seen not as the output of an ordinary poet, but as poetry appropriate to, and invested with the authority of, a king. He is also thereby revealing his anxiety that this may not be the case. The preface makes further references to 'the honour of my estate' and 'the highnes of my rancke and calling' (I, 200). James is thus trying to use his royal authority to authorize his poem to justify how he has written it and to control how it should be read.

  12. Underlying the strategy of writing explicitly as a king then, is anxiety about interpretation and an attempt to use political authority to control textual interpretation. The case of the Lepanto may have been a major factor in leading James to believe it was important to impose his royal authority on his texts in an explicit manner, and to provide guides as to how his texts should be read, particularly when he was engaging with sensitive political matters and would be read by a wide audience. These would be dominant features of many of his later writings. The preface James added to the 1603 version of Basilikon Doron, for example, adopts these strategies. Again he not only explains 'the onely meaning of my booke', while claiming that this meaning is already self-evident, but also explicitly attempts to use royal authority to control how his text is read: he asks his readers 'to interprete favourably this birth of mine, according to the integritie of the author, and not looking for perfection in the worke itselfe'. 8 The difference is that while in the preface to the Lepanto he reflected a tension between aesthetic and political considerations, but maintained the integrity of his original writing, here, eight years on, he suggests the imperfection of his writing. This reflects a further shift towards relying on royal authority rather than on writing ability as a means of controlling interpretation.

  13. James's poem, 'The wiper of the Peoples teares' (or, to give it its full title, 'King James his verses made upon a Libell lett fall in Court and entituled "The wiper of the Peoples teares / The dryer upp of doubts & feares" '), written at the end of 1622 or at the start of 1623, exemplifies James trying to use poetry both to assert and to demonstrate that his royal authority gives him control over the spheres of representation and interpretation. The early 1620s was a critical time for him as he struggled to pursue his unpopular foreign policy of a marriage between Prince Charles and the Catholic Spanish Infanta. The King faced increasing pressure to end the negotiations and intervene in the war in Europe. In this period there was a marked rise in the discussion and representation of state affairs, 9 and James responded by increasing royal censorship in various ways, including issuing two proclamations against public discussion of political affairs, one at the end of 1620 and one in July 1621. 10

  14. 'The wiper of the Peoples teares' which, though unpublished, was circulated in manuscript form as the King's verse, forms a further attempt by James to control public discussion in this period. The immediate pretext of the poem is that it is responding to a 'libel let fall in court'; the King is responding in kind to those

    That Kings designes darr thus deryde
    By railing rymes and vaunting verse
    Which your kings brest shall never peirce. (II, 182-190, lines 22-24)

    More broadly, James is also using his poem to support and interpret his public declarations, particularly the proclamations he issued at the end of 1620 and in 1621, each of which had met with little success. 11 That his poem serves this purpose is emphasized by the fact that it reflects 'If proclamations will not serve / I must do more' (lines 175-6). 12 This is a complex and problematic poem, 13 but the main point I want to make here is that when James emphasizes within the poem his God-given authority and mystique when he asserts, for example, that

    God above all men Kings enspires
    Hold you the publique beaten way
    Wounder at Kings, and them obey. (lines 14-16)

    he is not only suggesting that his authority gives him control over representations by others; he is also attempting to use his authority to authorize his own words. He is thereby trying to give his poem a validity and an incontestability that 'railing rymes and vaunting verse' do not have. Thus we can see the parallel with the Lepanto. In the preface he added to the Lepanto James is responding to what he claims is misreading of his original text; in 'The wiper of the Peoples teares' he is responding to what he claims is misreading of his policies, intentions and authority, but in both cases he implies that it is his royal identity that gives him control over representation and interpretation. Again we see James's anxiety about how he is interpreted, and his explicit assertions of his royal authority in response to that anxiety. The strategy we see in these poems was his dominant rhetorical strategy, but in the 1620s he also reverted to the earlier strategy of emphasizing his poetic rather than his royal identity, in the last poem I want to consider here.

  15. In August 1621 James was being entertained by his favourite, George Villiers, Lord High Admiral, Earl of Buckingham (and later Duke), during a visit to Buckingham's newly acquired home, Burley-on-the-Hill. Buckingham provided entertainment for James that included Ben Jonson's masque, The Gypsies Metamorphosed, on 3 August. 14 Buckingham played the leading gypsy and was given lines in which he praised the King. At the banquet on the very next day James praised Buckingham in return by reading out the following 'Vow or Wish for the felicity & fertility of the owners of this house' to Buckingham and his wife:

    If ever in the Aprill of my dayes
    I satt upon Parnassus forked hill:
    And there inflam'd with sacred fury still
    By pen proclaim'd our great Apollo's praise:
    Grant glistringe Phoebus with thy golden rayes
    My earnest wish which I present thee heere:
    Beholdinge of this blessed couple deere,
    Whose vertues pure no pen can duly blaze.
    Thow by whose heat the trees in fruit abound
    Blesse them with fruit delicious sweet & fayre,
    That may succeed them in theyr vertues rare.
    ffirme plant them in theyr native soyle & ground.
    Thow Jove, that art the onely God indeed,
    My prayer heare: sweet Jesu interceed. (II, 177)

    The sonnet makes not only the explicit claim that the service James did the gods in his earlier poetry enables him to make a wish to them now, but also the implicit claim that his earlier poetry forms the basis for his continuing ability to write sonnets such as this. He is presenting himself in the poem as a poet, through both reference and demonstration. Moreover, here, in 1621, when James was fifty-five, he was reading out verses that are strikingly similar to the masque he had written in 1588, a full thirty-three years earlier.

  16. Both pieces present the King as a poet, beginning with a reflection on James's earlier poetry and asking God to grant his wish for the married couple in return for the service he has rendered God through his poetry. Masque and sonnet begin with the same two words and follow the structure 'If ever I then grant me this'. Both present James's claimed poetic achievement in mythological terms, make similar references to the 'forked hill' of Parnassus, and present poetry as sacred, James claiming in the first to have written 'from that sacred hill' and in the second while 'inflam'd with sacred fury'. Both pieces were not published but were performed. In neither piece does James explicitly portray himself as a King or engage directly with current royal and political affairs.

  17. The main difference between the two is that in the sonnet James, now fifty-five, is more retrospective, beginning by referring to the 'Aprill of my dayes' and putting all verbs in the first quatrain in the past simple tense 'If ever [] I satt' etc. The 1588 masque, conversely, begins in the perfect tense 'If ever I [] have done' emphasizing a greater continuity between the poetic past and the poetic present. Nevertheless, in the 1621 sonnet, by referring to his poetic past in a new poem, James is still asserting continuity between that past and the present.

  18. Why then, would James in 1621 return to the strategy of emphasizing his poetic rather than his royal identity in his writing? Obviously the masque and sonnet were written for similar occasions court events in which James wanted to celebrate his current favourite. There are also, however, further parallels between the circumstances in which James wrote these two texts, which help to illuminate this strategy of emphasizing his poetic, rather than his royal, identity. At the time of the 1588 marriage, the Spanish Armada was on its way northwards and James, who, as noted above, had been in negotiations with Catholic allies in Europe as well as with England, was still refusing to make clear his support for England until his political and financial demands were met. Huntly, the royal favourite for whom the King wrote this marriage masque, was already involved in Catholic intrigue (Lyall 2000, 67). Demonstrating favouritism to Huntly at this time thus had the potential to disrupt the delicate diplomacy with England that was obviously important to James, as it also had the potential to damage his relations with the Kirk. He may have hoped that this court occasion would encourage England to meet his demands by serving as a warning that he had the potential to support Catholics, or he may simply have wanted to write a masque for a favourite who happened to be a Catholic, despite the political context. Either way, his strategy of appearing to distance his poetry from his kingship enables him to show support for Huntly without implicating himself too deeply, thereby maintaining the delicate balance of his diplomacy.

  19. In 1621 James was again showing support for a favourite in a context that made this particularly controversial. He was writing in praise of the unpopular Buckingham in the summer recess of a parliament in which Buckingham had been indirectly attacked over the matter of monopolies, and in which the King was seeking backing for his unpopular foreign policy. 15 There was, as already noted, a broader context of controversy surrounding this foreign policy and James had just issued two proclamations against public discussion of political affairs, the second of which was issued in July, only a month before. The timing of this proclamation points to the possibility that James's disengagement from political concerns in the verses he read out to Buckingham in August 1621, was in part a further attempt to shift attention away from the matters he did not want others to discuss. Not to refer to such immediate, pressing concerns is a statement in itself. At the same time, James was defending his favourite without appearing to be involving himself in political controversy.

  20. In both cases then, we may see James's strategy as a deliberate attempt to defuse the potentially insensitive implications of what he is writing by distancing his poetry from his kingship. By presenting his poetry in mythological terms, he is further appearing to disengage his poetry from immediate political concerns. Indeed, by emphasizing the sanctity of poetry, he implies that it transcends the world of political debate, while his claim in the sonnet that he has previously written while 'inflam'd with sacred fury' subtly implies that he does not have full responsibility for his poetry. That James did not publish either text may have been a further attempt to keep them separate from the wider political context and thereby to reduce the risk he was taking in writing them. Through these tactics, the poems can serve particular political purposes while, or even by, appearing to be apolitical. We can now see the full extent to which the role James played at Burley-on-the-Hill in 1621 was a role he had developed in Scotland.

  21. That role may have been acceptable in Scotland. Without any surviving contemporary comment on the occasion of the 1588 masque, we cannot be certain that the manner of James's participation was not perceived as a breach of decorum. Yet the fact that the poetry James wrote and the group of poets he patronized were a central feature of the Scottish court suggests that this may have been a context in which his 1588 masque was not viewed as exceptional or inappropriate. The reading of 1621, on the other hand, was commented upon with some ambivalence. Differences in reaction may be partly attributable to James's greater maturity and Buckingham's unpopularity, but comments from 1621 suggest that James's behaviour was perceived as inappropriate in a way it may not have been in Scotland.

  22. News of the incident quickly spread. In a letter of 18 August 1621 Chamberlain includes a paraphrase of the verses and offers the opinion that James 'was so pleased and taken' with the entertainment provided for him during his stay, 'that he could not forbeare to expresse his contentment in certain verses' (McClure 1939, II, 397). The Venetian ambassador, Girolamo Lando, reported on the reading on two occasions. His despatch to the Doge and Senate, sent on the 27 August 1621, begins

    the king showed the favourite as much honour at Burli as he received from his Excellency, as at a state banquet [] his Majesty rose from the table where he was sitting apart with the prince [Charles], and went to the head of another at which were the leading lords and ladies, and drank standing and uncovered to the health of the Lord High Admiral [Buckingham], spoke in the highest terms of his merits and qualities [], and finally read some verses which he had composed in honour of this splendid host.

    Over a year later, on the 21 September 1622, in an extended 'relation of England', Girolamo Lando describes Buckingham's unpopularity and dominance of the King's affections and in this context recalls James reading out his verses. Lando observes that James's reading 'caused more comment than if he had done some great wrong to his kingdom'. 16

  23. These contemporary accounts reflect the public nature of the occasion, attended by 'the leading lords and ladies', and the fact that others perceived such acts of royal self-representation as significant enough to re-present them, at home and abroad. These accounts also indicate several possible bases for objections to the reading. Firstly, there is the question of appropriateness and decorum, in terms of the nature of the performance. Chamberlain suggests that James showed a lack of self-restraint 'he could not forbeare'. Lando describes James adopting an inappropriate stance for the reading he was 'standing and uncovered', as though affecting courtly servility. Lando thereby implies that the reading itself was also inappropriate.

  24. Secondly, the question of appropriateness and decorum also obtains with regard to the content of the poem. The stance of the poet, particularly the poet of praise, was a disempowered one, and therefore inappropriate in a king. James himself had earlier acknowledged (in the preface to the Lepanto): 'it becomes not the honour of my estate, like an hireling, to pen the praise of any man' (200). The verses James read out to Buckingham praise the royal favourite and his wife in conventional ways, even using the poetic trope that their virtues cannot be adequately represented in writing (line 8). He was creating a role reversal whereby he was giving the kind of praise a monarch would expect to receive. By returning the praise Buckingham had offered the previous day in The Gypsies Metamorphosed in verses of his own, before what was presumably the same audience, James risked being perceived as lowering himself to the level of those, such as the noble Buckingham, and worse still the court poet Jonson, who needed to engage in panegyric in order to win favour. James was playing the role of poet at the expense of the role of king. Moreover, the object of this poetic praise from the King was a favourite of relatively lowly origins, and an unpopular figure at that. The comparison made in the first line of Lando's 1621 despatch 'the king showed the favourite as much honour at Burli as he received from his Excellency' emphasizes the inappropriateness of a king showing a mere favourite so much honour. Lando relates the furore caused by the reading to widespread resentment of Buckingham.

  25. Thirdly, there is the political context. In his poem James may have been deliberately disengaging from a context of European political instability and domestic political controversy, criticism and censorship, but this risked exacerbating the problem he faced of his writing being viewed as a distraction from state affairs. (This had long been a perception; Chamberlain, for example, commented in 1608, with regard to An Apologie for the Oath of Allegiance, that he hears the King is 'so wholy possest and over-carefull about his booke, that till that be finished to his liking, he can brooke no other sport or busines' (McClure 1939, II, 291).) Lando, having described the reading at the beginning of his 1621 despatch, goes on to discuss the latest news and notes that 'in the variety and uncertainty of the news one fears the ill rather than expects the good'. 17 This implies the impropriety of James praying to God about the fertility of Buckingham and his wife at a time of major international political difficulty. It may well have seemed not only inappropriate, but also irresponsible for the King to be writing and reading out this poem at such a time. For even if James emphasized that he was writing as a poet, he would still be read as a king.

  26. I would like to conclude with some more general reflections and some further possibilities. James reading out verses he had written in praise of a courtier, in front of the court, is about as far away from Elizabeth, and any standards of monarchical self-representation that she might have set, as one can imagine. It seems to me that many of the problems of image and public relations that James met in England derived largely from a clash between the style of kingship he had developed in the very different Scottish context and certain expectations held by many of his English subjects. Where the poems I have discussed here are concerned, James clearly has a greater concern with decorum and propriety in the more public texts, such as the Lepanto, but seems to have felt that on elite court occasions he could indulge in a greater flexibility of role, and perhaps this was indeed the case in the more informal Scottish court. In England, however, Elizabeth seems to have maintained a dignified, ceremonious, and majestic style of performance in the court, as in other spheres, and this seems to be what many expected of James. The reactions to his 1621 performance considered here suggest that even towards the end of his English reign, James's style of performance had not altered some of the expectations of monarchical performance that were in place long before 1603.


  1. Marcus, Mueller and Rose (2000), xi, xx. The preface to this important volume also points out that Elizabeth's production as a writer has received only piecemeal consideration and requires further study (xi). Sharpe (1993) has also suggested that Elizabeth's writings 'invite analysis as texts of power'. See his brief discussion in 'The King's Writ', 119-23.


  2. See, for example, the discussion of James's careful treatment of existing power structures in 1603 in Barroll (2001), and accounts of his engagement in public performance during his progress south in Nichols (1828), I.


  3. See in particular two recent collections of essays, Herman (2002) and Fischlin and Fortier (2002).


  4. Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, XVII (1621-3), 117.


  5. Craigie (1955-8), II, 134. All quotations of James's poetry are taken from this edition. Volume, page and line numbers in parentheses in the text.


  6. Dunlap (1962, 250-1) states that no contemporary comment on the masque survives, but claims that the opening speech 'is unmistakably intended for James himself to recite'. Craigie (1955-58, II, 245-6) reaches the same conclusion.


  7. Sharpe (1993), 129. Sharpe further suggests that 'the poem gestures to an ecumenical hope for a unified respublica Christiana which James cherished throughout his life'.


  8. James I (1616), 147.


  9. See Fox (2000), 350. One clear indication of an increased interest in political matters at this time which Fox cites is the fact that it was in 1621 that the first news-sheets, dealing only with foreign affairs, were published in London (394). For a discussion of the various ways in which news was circulated in the 1620s, and of its impact on politics and public perception of politics, see Cust (1986).


  10. Larkin and Hughes (1973), I, 495-6, 520. These proclamations urged people to respect already existing laws. These laws, which had long been in place, had been tightened in the sixteenth century and measures introduced by Elizabeth in 1581 remained the basis for the restriction of speech throughout the seventeenth century (Fox 2000, 337-8).


  11. The unofficial market for news could not be controlled (Cogswell 1989, 21). In a letter of 1621 Chamberlain refers to the reissued proclamation against public discussion of matters of state, 'which the common people know not how to understand, nor how far matter of state may stretch or extend; for they continue to take no notice of yt, but print every weeke (at least) corantas with all manner of newes' (McClure 1939, II, 396).


  12. That James is using poetry to support proclamations is also suggested by the example of a poem he wrote in 1622 urging people to leave London. He released in November of the same year a proclamation making the same request (Larkin and Hughes 1973, I, 561-2), and the poem begins by addressing 'Ye women that doe London loue so well / whome scarce a proclamation can expell' (Craigie 1955-8, II, 179).


  13. For a discussion of this poem which places it in the context of manuscript libel culture and explores some of the contradictory attitudes towards that culture that the poem reflects, see Perry (2002), 205-232.


  14. Buckingham, who was newly married, had moved into Burley-on-the Hill, a great estate in Rutland, during the early summer of 1621(Lockyer 1981, 63). For a discussion of the masque, see Butler (1991), 253-73.


  15. For a general account of the 1621 parliament, see Russell (1979). See also Butler's discussion of The Gypsies Metamorphosed, which places the occasion of James's visit to Burley-on-the Hill in the context of the 1621 parliament (1991, 253-73).


  16. Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, XVII (1621-3), 117, 439.


  17. C.S.P. Ven., XVII (1621-3), 117-18.


List of Works Cited

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Contents © Copyright 2004 Jane Rickard.
Format © Copyright 2004 Renaissance Forum. ISSN 1362-1149. Volume 7, Winter 2004.
Technical Editor: Andrew Butler. Updated 24 December 2004.