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The Reign of James II/V finally completed what had been started by his father taking the crown of England. His creation of a united kingdom of the island, and ultimately of the whole Isles signaled the start of an era of expansion for the new British Crown. At last the people of the Isles had the power and unity to contend toe-to-toe with their brothers on the mainland. Just like his father had, James II came onto the throne with a great deal of wealth tucked away, but he had the added advantage of having an income twice that of James I. His efforts to stimulate the growths of both the English economy and population officially solidified his country's position as the newest Great Power to arrive on the European scene.
Something Lost, Something Gained (1525-1532)
Unlike the previous succession, the change from James I to James II was as normal as any succession should be. The old king died on November 16, 1525 and his successor was crowned November 21, just days after the burial in Westminster Abbey. As the king was only 13 years old, it was decided that for the next three years his mother was to rule in his place as regent, as by that time it was believed he would be prepared for the duties of the kingship. As James' father spent a great deal of time training the boy for the Crowns, the court was not disappointed. Just prior to his official taking on of his duties in 1528, James had his wedding with the otherwise undistinguished Spanish noblewoman, Alejandra, the one promised to him in the Treaty of Windsor.
By this time Thomas More had become Lord Chancellor of England and was already encouraging the new king to continue the reforms of his father. James for his part did not feel that the countries were ready yet and that the Scottish Parliament would almost certainly be opposed to it. In order to sway them over, he decided to show Scotland how much a union with England could benefit them by convincing the English Parliament to spend some of its money building mines in Scotland. He and More then returned to Scotland to give the members of the House of Commons a banquet prior to bringing forward the bill.
When it was finally brought forward to both Parliaments in 1530, a majority in both Houses in England were in favor of it. However, opposition in the Scottish House of Lords ultimately blocked the vote. James of course could have potentially nullified this, or even swayed the vote more, but he knew that only a rightfully unified country could stay together, and so he resisted doing so. For the time being James was set on getting the bill passed in both countries, and he went through great lengths to get this done. For the time being, he accepted defeat and brought other matters to his attention.
In international politics, the alliances of the Holy League were falling apart. The Papal States had realized that bringing in an imperial power to stop another one was probably not in their best interests, a warning that many had ignored from a certain Machiavelli, and so by 1526 Pope Clement VII was already working on building alliances with the Italian States around him in order to maintain his defenses. James, who remembered how highly his father had spoken of the open mindedness of this Pope, was quick to also come to his defense, morally, in 1528. Fortunately, Clement had changed his mind about perhaps going back to supporting the French and the tenuous situation never led to war.
When the scientist, Johann Widmanstetter, gave a lecture on the Copernican system of the planets, which was growing in popularity, to the Pope, Clement was so happy that he gave Johann several valuable gifts. This came into importance during the later years of the Pope. However for the time being, his primary concern was maintaining his safety from other more powerful rulers. As the strongest foreign supporter of the Pope, James was called over to Rome in 1530 to help the Pope out of the sticky situation he was in. The League of Cognac had just been declared, allying all the free-states of Northern Italy and many people abroad were worried that Charles would take this as positioning for war. James, somewhat stressed by being put on the spot, replied as sincerely as possible that Clement should use his Papal authority to definitively protect himself. Wanting to get on the good side of the English, as they had three electors in the College, all of the Cardinals agreed with this stipulation. Fearful for his own life, and the lives of his people in Rome and family in Florence, he issued a papal bull in 1532 that stated that for "any foreign armies" to enter a specifically defined zone (roughly equivalent to Papal territory at the time) was a "violation of the sanctity of the Church". At this the League of Cognac was disbanded and all thoughts that Charles might have had about invading Italy were completely out of the question. Him, the Holy Roman Emperor of all people would not want to commit something that other countries would see as sacrilege, he'd become the most hated man in Europe if he did that.
A New Nation (1533-1550)
Scotland wasn't the only region where James was funding new mines, the rich region of middle England, near Wales was also an important area for industrial expansion. What the king hoped was that England would soon have enough access to metals that it would be able to field and maintain an even larger fleet of ships. He did in part succeeded in this, but more importantly, his creation of the Royal Mining Company in 1529 was now bringing in huge revenues to the crown, raising his income to about £260,000 a year and rising. His desire for new ships was driven by a new interest of the English for the New World. In 1526, Parliament authorized for the explorer John Rut to travel to the mixed settlement of St. John in the north and scout it out in the hopes of future colonization. When James finally received power, he commissioned for Rut to return to the settlement, this time followed by two more ships full of English colonists.
By 1536 more than 6,000 Englishmen had settled in St. John and by an act of both Parliaments and the king, Rut declared St. John as the first English-Scottish overseas colony under Royal Charter, and so John Rut became first Governor of the newly declared territory of Terra Nova. Boosted by his latest accomplishments, James returned once again to Edinburgh to try and pass his bill for the uniting of both England and Scotland. To his amazement, all four Houses of the Isles had now agreed to the union and then Lord Chancellors Thomas More and Gavin Dunbar officially signed the Treaty of Union in early January. The treaty became official on October 26 with the passing of the Acts of Union of 1537 by both Parliaments, per the conditions of the treaty. The next day, James officially declared the foundation of the Kingdom of Great Britain.
This was not the end of the king's efforts however, and a great deal was still left to be done before the position was solidified. First, in February 1538 the new Parliament of Great Britain, whose members were 25% Scottish, 3% Welsh and 72% English, signed the Union of the Armies Act that officially created the British Army, a non-standing army that could have soldiers recruited at any time by an act of Parliament. Until the end of 1538, more bills were passed officially declaring various aspects of the new country, including officially making the Palace of Westminster the only Parliament complex, the British pound sterling the only currency, the Union Jack the only flag and the Stewart Dynasty the only monarchy with a rightful claim to the current Kingdom.
To complete his father's dream of uniting the entire British Isles, James only had one more target, Ireland. Although a small plot of land called the Pale was already under British control, and the British monarch was technically "Lord of Ireland", virtually the entire island was still tribally controlled by minor clans and tiny monarchs in a constant state of feud. Nominally though, Thomas Fitzgerald, 10th Earl of Kildare was the official feudal lord of Ireland as the vassal of the English crown. However, his open rebellion in 1536, following unfounded rumors that his father had been executed in London, were the last straw for James.
In 1538, Parliament created the first British Army unit in preparation of the coming invasion of Ireland. The invasion force of 25,000 men, armed with 3,000 muskets, arrived in the Pale in late December of that same year. Once winter was over they set out to travel the Irish countryside and visit the major cities in order to rout Fitzgerald and his army. There were sporadic conflicts between the two forces and slowly but surely Thomas' forces were worn away by the British troops. By 1539 he surrendered to James in the hopes that he could receive a royal pardon, or that even the courts would acquit him. Unfortunately for him he was charged with treason and when brought before the Star Chamber, sentenced to execution. With the last enemy military force in Ireland taken care of, James went to Parliament to have himself crowned King of Ireland, by the Crown of Ireland Act of 1540. He however did not yet declare Ireland as a part of the Kingdom of Great Britain as this would necessitate adding Irish members to the British Parliament and many at the time feared that this would cause terrible division there. The Irish Parliament did remain in place though and continued to be used by the king when he wanted to raise or lower taxes there, or put into place other laws that only applied to Ireland.
Italian Wars Resumed
In 1541 tensions in northern Italy had finally spilled over into the rest of Europe and Charles abruptly declared war on the French. Francis, although previously forced to renounce all foreign claims, reneged on his promise and had declared to Charles that he really was the rightful ruler of Milan and Flanders. The Holy Roman Emperor was growing tired of these repeated claims and threats and so in late June sent several German armies through Provence to beat the French once again into submission. At the time, the international community envisioned that this would be a swift war with a quick victory for Charles, however circumstances said otherwise.
Francis had built several forts on the German border near the Swiss Confederacy and so the German advance was slow, necessitating Charles taking armies back from campaign near Algiers and sending them through Spain into France in November. By this time winter was approaching, always a bad fighting season, and Charles' troops regrouped at some of the forts they had taken and prepared to wait out the winter. Francis however had one trick up his sleeve. Ambassador Antoine de Rincon had arrived in Constantinople in early November, and finished up a deal with the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I to attack Charles' Austria. Their first attack occurred in January 1542 when the Austrian forces were resting and only expecting an attack from the west.
When news reached Rome Pope Clement VII of what the French had done he was outraged. Not only had the French allied with the Muslims against a Catholic nation, but they'd allied with the Muslims against a Catholic nation which was devoted to protecting Europe from these foreigners. He had not even heard the worse news. Several months after the Ottoman assault started the French also began an alliance with the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League, which was trying to gain its independence from the Holy Roman Empire. The French had now just allied with a Muslim and a Protestant nation against a Catholic one and Clement took this as the last straw. In a Papal Bull in June he excommunicated the French monarch and his people from the Roman Catholic Church.
The French people would be outraged against their government once news of this spread and so Francis did the only thing he could, which was spread rumors and propaganda against the Papacy in the hopes of alienating the Church from the French. Although he did in fact realize the potential long-term consequences of doing this at the time the King had very little choice. By this time the war had spread all across the country's borders and fighting the battle at home as well as abroad was the only option.
Now that the Pope was fully against the French, and Francis had essentially declared the Pope his enemy, James II moved in to help his allies. He created an army of 10,000 veterans from the Irish annexation wars plus an additional force of another 8,000 men. In July they crossed the Channel to Calais and marched off to the Low Countries in order to defend Luxembourg from the advancing French. In the Mediterranean things were really heating up. Ottoman Commander Hayreddin Barbarossa was bringing a fleet in to Marseilles to co-command it with the French in an attack on the Duchy of Savoy. Once the city of Nice was taken the two nations had agreed to move across the Sea and take Tunis back from the Spanish. However although Nice was taken in a bloody naval siege, when the Franco-Ottoman Fleet went for Tunis they were intercepted by 18 British and 11 Spanish warships sent in the city's defense. The attack was a failure on Barbarossa's part and he was forced to retreat back to Marseilles.
By early-1543 the war was a mess. The French were losing badly in the Low Countries, and the British-Spanish forces were advancing through French territory, but in the east on the Austrian-Ottoman Front the Austrians were losing land little by little to their enemy. The Italians meanwhile had united behind a Venicio-Papal alliance that was combating the French out of Savoy and Milan as they had done just a decade ago. At the France-Spain border several armies led directly by Francis himself were advancing through Navarre and achieving several victories against Charles' forces. This terrible stalemate, with everyone losing something, somewhere, continued for the rest of the year and was at last ended at the Siege of Naples were Barbarossa sank along with his fleet in the bay right before the city. The Ottomans and French had lost most of their navy in the area and the Austrians had started to retake their territory in the fervor from the latest victories in the Mediterranean.
At last in April 1544 James brought an additional 20,000 British troops in through Calais and he sent Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk to accompany Charles and his armies in a direct march through France. Francis for his part had emerged near his great capital with a force of 50,000 troops. Against the 60,000 Spanish and 30,000 English however this meant very little. On June 4 the Siege of Paris ended in the surrender of the city by the King and then a victory parade through the city with Francis unhappily forced to treat Charles and Thomas like guests to his kingdom.
The war was finally brought to a close with the Treaty of Milan in late-June, where the Ottomans and French agreed to return all conquered territory and Francis was forced to give more land in the north to James and Charles plus once again renounce his claims, this time with the creation of a law in his own country declaring he could no longer claim Burgundy or Milan. As well, both the French and the Ottomans were forced to pay huge reparations to the British, Hapsburgs (Austria+Spain) and the various Italian states. James for his part received a total payment of £420,000, completely paying for the costs of war and then some. The British coffers were now practically full to the brim and the country was experiencing great economic prosperity.
With the Italian Wars of the past half a century finally over the Pope at last removed the excommunication of the country of France, but it was too late. The people had grown to hate the Church and many of the poor were reported to have started looting local churches. This marked the start of the Huguenot Civil War.
Whilst the unrest was still rising, the people looked to their king, Francis for guidance, many people expecting him to denounce the rebels and declare his allegiance to the Pope. It was at this point that he shocked the Christian world and on December 24, 1544 he stated that he supported the Huguenot Protestants and that the rest of the country should do the same. Almost immediately nobility on both sides of the issue started to gather their families together and prepare for the coming conflict. By early 1545 war broke out in the Grenelle district of Paris when two mobs, one of Huguenots and one of Catholics, met and started to fight. The French Army had to be brought into the city and by the next day several thousand Catholics were scheduled for execution at sundown under charges of "civil unrest".
Though the military managed to keep most Catholics in the cities quiet, out on the fields the Catholic clergy and noblemen were rallying their forces for an intended assault on Paris. In response Francis named himself Head of the Church in France, and declared that all Church lands were now under control of the crown, and then he had many monasteries across the country shut down. Many poor peasants, who had relied on these monasteries for their aid were left absolutely impoverished by the reclamation. Revolutionaries around the Paris countryside joined with the Catholic nobles to form a Rebel army of over 100,000 people. The French military cracked down hard on the insurgency, resulting in the Battle of Dreux and the massacre of most of the rebels.
Several days after the battle, in March 1545, King Francis I died from what appears to be a stroke whilst pacing in his library. He was succeeded by son, now Henry II of France, who was personally opposed to his father's anti-papal actions. Henry therefore changed the crown support to that of the Catholics and had an apology issued to Pope Clement VII, who was by this time getting rather ill. Unfortunately for the King it was all too little too late and within four weeks the now very Protestant people of Paris revolted, stormed his home and killed him off. His brother, who many considered to be too stupid to have an opinion on the matter, was therefore the next king, Charles IX, and on his ministers' advice, declared his support to the Huguenots.
Towards the end of the year Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sent his support to the French Catholics in the form of firearms and 4,000 men. In response, his rivals, the Schmalkaldic League came into France with 20,000 men and indiscriminately began killing Catholics and looting Churches for, in their words, the "glory of the King of France". Charles IX accepted these uninvited armies and actually had his armies start to work alongside them in mid 1546. When the Schmalkaldics left in 1457, the unrest in France settled down a little, but the fighting was nowhere near over. The so called French Wars of Religion continued to rock the country for the next 25 years, at which point the absolutely protestant King Henry IV, former king of Navarre, came to the throne and outlawed the killing of Catholics, temporarily bringing an end to the wars. However on August 23, 1572 at a gathering of Catholics in Paris for St. Bartholomew's Day and in celebration of their freedom, Huguenot General Gaspard de Coligny led a massacre, ultimately resulting in between 20,000 to 40,000 Catholics dead. The events succeeding this will be covered later however.
A New World
Although France was only just entering into ruin, the rest of the Christian World was, for the moment, at peace with itself and now efforts against foreigners began to pick up. Charles V had consolidated the Hapsburg Dynasty in both the Austrian and Spanish thrones and now that he had France out of the way, could focus on the Muslims in Africa and the Balkans, and the "Indians" in the New World. The city of Tunis was becoming more consolidated by the Spanish and by 1549 was a powerful fortress city that needed only a small force for its defense. This opened up thousands of troops to assist in the battles against the Schmalkaldic League, a group of unruly Protestants in the Holy Roman Empire. As well, Charles' utter destruction of the government of the Electorate of Saxony resulted in Elector Maurice being forced to hand over the entire Duchy to the Austrian Empire.
Meanwhile Spanish colonists were ravaging the inhabitants of the New World with both their guns and their disease. The Aztec Empire was practically non-existent, the Inca were paying tribute in gold and thousands of other tribes were being brought under the yoke of Spanish supremacy. As the Spanish Colonial Empire was expanded, so was the power of the Spanish Crown and also, the Inquisition, under the Holy office since 1542. Though for the moment this only meant a growing plight for Jews and Protestants in Spain, it was the beginning of another terminal division in the peninsula. Otherwise, the Spanish, next to the Portuguese, were undisputed masters of the Americas (the most popular name for the continent by far).
The British were not just taking this situation lying down, and if the King was going to have anything to say about it, Britain would be as great a colonial power, if not greater, than Spain. The colony of Terra Nova, centered around St. John, was continuing to grow and now held a population of 60,000 English colonists, plus an additional 4,000 to 7,000 or so other foreigners. With a mighty navy of 64 large Warships, the British were very much able to manage these colonies. Aside from the benefits to the colonists, in that they could inhabit rich new lands, James unfortunately saw very little other reasons to pay for these far off colonies. Under the insistence of Lord Chancellor Thomas Cromwell however, James agreed to allow a royal charter of the London Company of Colonists to help fund the colonization of Terra Nova. With a yearly funding of only £11,000 however, their efforts would be slow for the next few decades.
The new position of Great Britain on the world stage however was definitely on the rise. The Spanish loved them, James' Queen Alejandra especially, and the Pope and other Italian monarchs were also highly supportive of the firmly Catholic British people. The growth of Scottish Protestantism was also slowed down completely after the imprisonment of Patrick Hamilton, a noted Scottish nobleman with Lutheran sympathies. At the time of his conviction, in 1528, Thomas More, despite being a strong opponent of Protestants, convinced the still young king that a harsh stance would only encourage the Protestants, instead, he needed to show firmness without cruelty. More therefore arranged to take Hamilton on a trip, under guard, to talk with his friend Erasmus who was a noted reformer of the Catholic Church and critic of Protestants.
The meeting managed to soften Hamilton's position over to the idea that reformation should be done from inside the Church rather than against it. He was therefore offered a royal pardon and allowed to stay in Basel with Erasmus to help him with his work, though the King certainly had a hand in making sure that he couldn't stay in Scotland. Nevertheless, James was able to proudly tell the Scottish people that Hamilton had seen the error of his ways and reconverted to the Catholic Church (a stretch of the truth, but Hamilton was too far away to contradict this).
Recently though (1546 to be exact), another reformer known as George Wishart had since returned to Scotland and was generating controversy with his preaching. James was tempted to try and talk him out of his career, but rumors abounded that he was defended by another Scotsman known as John Knox, who apparently wielded a huge double-edged longsword. He instead sent the Cardinal and Archbishop of St. Andrews, Beaton to persuade him to stop or else be exiled. Though Beaton was warned of the danger, he was convinced that he could do his job with only two men to guard him. This proved to be a mistake when the conversation went sour and Knox ended up killing the Cardinal and one of his bodyguards. James now had perfectly sound legal reasons to prosecute the Knox, and Wishart for compliance, and have the two exiled back to Bristol where they could be somebody else's problem. The Cardinal on the other hand became a martyr for the Catholic cause in Scotland and ultimately Protestantism fell completely out of favor there by the 1550's.
The End of an Era (1550-1578)
James, as a patron of the arts and sciences like his father, tried very hard to integrate European scientific thinking with Great Britain. British mapmakers were being brought up to date by Portuguese merchants and James was going through great lengths to encourage the image of London as a center for intellectuals throughout Europe. In 1560 James created, by Royal Charter, the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge, usually known simply as the Royal Society. At great cost to his own fortunes, James brought together some of the greatest intellectuals of England, Scotland and mainland Europe at the time, to found this society. This group included Georgius Agricola, the father of Minerology; Michelangelo (sent that year by the Pope), the renowned sculptor and architect; Nostradamus, who was escaping the French persecution of Catholics; Andreas Vesalius, James' Royal physician whom he had usurped from his friend Charles V; Jacques Cartier, discoverer of North America who fled France through Calais, and many others.
The purpose of the Royal Society was simply to encourage discussion of any kind in a free setting between intellectuals. The society was somewhat exclusive but basically anyone with a good reputation in academics was able to join. Foreigners were especially encouraged and James had a deal to buy a fine London House for any foreigner who accepted his many invitations he sent out to join the society (when he was planning the society in the 1550's he reportedly sent out more than 1,000 handwritten letters). In addition to the Society, other Royal Charters were granted to enterprising guilds in diverse fields such as glass pressing, printing, ship building and gunsmithing. The Royal Printing Company became especially prolific, and only twenty years after its foundation in 1556 it already served virtually all printing needs in London, and was expanding to most of South England.
Crown companies were some of the fastest growing areas of the economy in the 1550's and 60's, and so although King James was spending huge amounts of money on these endeavors, the payoff was worth it. The Crown's income had expanded by 1560 to nearly £380,000 and the royal fortunes still exceeded a million pounds. James had plans to expand the international power of Great Britain to reflect its growing wealth, particularly by first improving the Royal Navy, and creating the first standing army units. By the time of his death in 1578, Great Britain's Navy had 75 large Warships and a new flagship, the Alejandra, which was even larger and more heavily armed than even the Great Michael.
In 1561 the first permanent British Army, the Scottish Highland Regiment was founded by decree of Parliament. The regiment consisted of 14 units of 1,000 men each that were trained in field craft, stealth operations, ground warfare tactics and shooting from protected positions. All Highlanders were equipped with one wheel-lock musket, one wheel-lock pistol, and several knives for either hand-to-hand combat or throwing at the enemy. Then, in 1565 the England's 1st Artillery Regiment was founded to serve as the primary artillery unit of the British Army. They trained several thousand men and operated a dozen culverins, 6 mortars, 8 falconets and 4 of da Vinci's Spray Cannons. Both of these forces existed in their own separate arms of the British Royal Army. The former made up the Special Services Division (SSD) whilst the latter became the sole unit in the Royal Artillery Regiments (RAR). At last the Isles had a standing army.