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Reign of James I (Fidei Defensor)

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The Reign of James I/IV was one of the most prosperous times the English people had experienced in all their history up to that point. He came onto the throne at a good time for the Isles, and with the wealth left behind by his greedy father-in-law, he was well prepared to make even grander reforms than he had done in Scotland. His ultimate goal however, the union of the nations of Scotland and England into Great Britain, did not occur during his reign. In his defense though, his reforms laid the foundations for the union and put Parliament in such a position that during the reign of his son it would have been impossible to deny it. James I was arguably one of the most popular monarchs in history, loved by the people, the nobility, other monarchs and most importantly, the Pope.

Consolidation (1509)

Although James had won the hearts of the nobility with his reduction in the powers of the Star Chamber, his desire to make a good first impression was still not finished. In late-June the King had an act proposed that would allow the Lord High Chancellor to call a Parliament into session. When the Act of Calling Parliament was accepted almost unanimously in both houses on July 5, the growth in monarchical power that seemed so strong in Henry's day seemed to be coming to a close. James still reserved the power to call Parliament however, and still reserved the power to veto the call of the Lord Chancellor. Nevertheless, it was very much celebrated amongst the members of both houses. In order to not leave the House of Commons out to dry, James also ordered for substantial reconstruction of St. Stephen's Chapel to complete its conversion into the Chamber of the House of Commons. The work on the Chapel was finally completed in 1514.

To the great pleasure of the people of London, four weeks after his coronation he decreed that every man in the city was entitled to £2 each, from his personal funds (the £1.25 million he inherited from Henry, plus several hundred thousand of his own). As the city's population at the time was only around 44,000, and out of that there were only about 20,000 people eligible, it was not too much of a problem for him. Its effect on the level of happiness in the city was remarkable however, especially since he had now really set himself apart from the avaricious Henry VII.

There were two major figures who emerged in these first years of James I. The first was Thomas Wolsey, the former Royal Champlain and now the Almoner of James I. His intelligence was admired by the reigning monarch and Wolsey was one of those people who became very close with the King, something made particularly easy for him as he was a member of James' Privy Council. It was in fact Wolsey who advised for James to make his generous £2 donations, a testament to how good an impression he made on the monarch. Also in the King's first year, Wolsey persuaded him to reduce taxation on the poor to three-fourths what they had been under Henry VII, something which solidified the sincerity of his prior donations.

The second figure was Edward Howard, a naval officer and son of the same Lord High Treasurer who dislike the king. Edward was already a prominent member of the nobility, he was a Howard after all, but it was under James I which he really made a name for himself. He succeeded John de Vere as Lord High Admiral of England in 1510, under James' campaign of stopping members of Parliament from having more than one position, and was selected to lead most mainland or overseas expeditions by the King. Both these roles brought him into the forefront of political intrigue later on.

Before the year was done James had the rest of the Scottish treasury brought down from Edinburgh and officially began the business of running two countries at once. To alleviate some of the problems of sending messengers back and forth between him and his Scottish Privy Council, James ordered for a massive roadway, more than eight meters across, to be built between London and Edinburgh, starting in November 1509. The 540 km road was paved entirely with cobblestone along its entire length and replaced any old roads which once ran in the same direction. This had the added benefit of making travel from the South up to York easier as well and improved integration between the Scots and the English. On its completion in 1520 James dubbed it the Union Highway, reflecting its role in bringing the nations together.

Old Problems (1510-1513)

Pope Julius II

Pope Julius II, initiator of the Holy League

Whilst still just ruler of Scotland, but also with the knowledge that he was next in line for the English Crown, James held off his plans to rebuild several of his palaces in Edinburgh. Now that he had the crown, he was ready to start reconstruction work on his new palaces in London. In January he ordered for the Palace of Placentia to be fixed up as good as new so that it could become the principle royal household. Not even a month later, he ordered for work to be started on the Tower of London to build it into the foremost fortress in all of Europe. In total, these reconstructions cost about £22,000 (£8,800,000 in OTL 2010) and were not completed until 1516 and 1517 respectively.

By recommendation of Thomas Howard, from whom James was still trying to earn trust, the King had a maximum placed on State spending in March 1510. This ensured, assuming at least no more decreases in revenue, that the Treasury would only shrink to three quarters of what it was in 1509 over the next two decades. In order to manage this, James, against his better judgment, put greater power into the position of Lord High Treasurer and its subsidiary offices. Thomas for his part was both pleased and surprised that the King followed his advice exactly, and so one of the last major critics of the Two Crowns was silenced.

The reconstruction on the Tower however became of greater urgency when the Italian Wars suddenly spilled over into English politics. It was in June of 1511 that the Pope Julius II, now an ally rather than an enemy of the Venetians, proclaimed a Holy League against the French for their continued incursions into Italy. Naturally this meant that all Catholic nations were obliged to either ignore the matter, or more likely, declare war against the Kingdom of France.

War of the League of Cambrai

This unfortunately was an extremely sticky situation for James. Scotland, and its government, was bound to the French by the Auld Alliance, an ancient treaty created to solidify Franco-Scot relations in the 1200's. The English Parliament, and most people from both nations, were heavily in favor of war against the French, especially as it meant supporting the Church. Immediately he returned to Edinburgh to convince the Scottish Parliament to officially annul the alliance, on the grounds that it was an old worthless agreement and the people of Scotland itself were in favor of war against France. In August he tried having the bill passed, but a minority support in the House of Lords caused it to fail. Insistent, James returned once again in November and pleaded for the peers to agree on the grounds of keeping a stable country. Ultimately, this second attempt succeeded and by December of the same year James pledged his full support to the Pope, along with his new allies, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Swiss Confederacy.

The Scottish Parliament would not agree to fielding an army however and so a force of 15,000 English soldiers was all that James could get to be sent to Italy. He did however convince the Scottish Lord of the Admiralty, Andrew Barton, to lead 20 Scottish ships in the transport of men over to Italy from January to March 1512. Meanwhile, Edward Howard set off to Spain to speak at the court of Joanna the effective Queen of Spain to both escort the Scottish fleet through the Gibraltar Strait and to formalize their military alliance under the Holy League. In March he was sent to meet the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in Prague. There the Emperor declared his allegiance to the English-Scottish Kingdoms and sent with Edward the gift of a suit of his finest armor for the King, distinguished by a disturbing mask in the form of the Emperor's face. James ended up giving it to the Scottish Lord Chamberlain Alexander Home, as thanks for eventually switching his vote in favor of the war.

Once the Scottish ships hard returned in April 1512, went to the English Parliament and managed to call for an army of 10,000 men to be raised, saying that "now is the time to strike at our enemy [France]". When he declared his intention to attack Paris itself, there were uproarious shouts of approval from both Houses, and it was voted that another 5,000 men should be added to the current forces. The King himself knew that this was impossible, but he knew that the newly appointed Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey would tell the Pope of what he was doing, bringing the King greatly in his favor. He was right, when Wolsey returned from Rome in June he told James that the Pope had appointed him Cardinal, continuing the line of electors that the English have had in the Church. Along with the Archbishop of St. Andrews, Alexander Stewart, James now had two out of the 24 electors in the Church.

By late-August, the French were almost completely expelled from Italy, and the English forces were still strong at 14,000 in Italy. The other army had already landed in late-April in Calais and had met very little resistance so far in their advance southward along the coast. It was reported though that Louis XII had returned an army of 8,000 from Italy to meet the English in the north. James' commander in France told the city of Bourgogne that the French were going to raise the city since Louis XII thought they had betrayed him. Though the Bourgognians were shocked, they took this lie and helped James to fortify the city as best they could.

When the French arrived in late-May, their smaller and exhausted force was slaughtered. English casualties were extremely small (only 900 or so) as the fortifications held surprisingly well. The French on the other hand lost more than half of their forces whilst the rest retreated even more exhausted than before. Louis XII was now at war against several enemies and was steadily losing his armies. When the French were expelled by a a force of English and Swiss soldiers in December he realized all was lost for the moment as he couldn't send any reinforcements through the Alps at this time. Therefore, on December 18 the Treaty of Calais was signed between the French and English just as the Pope was offering up the final partition of northern Italy to the victors of the war. Julius II was extremely pleased with the English and offered them another position in the College of Cardinals, in addition to £80,000 pounds worth of gold and silver.

Post-War

James decided to use these new funds to build a fortification along his new border with the French in the Pale of Calais. What was once 50 sq km on the side of France was now a rather large territory of 440 sq km that included even the city of Agincourt. The fortification itself only faced to the south but it stretched from the coast all the way to Agincourt, where it linked to the city as its new wall. Meanwhile back in Italy, things had gone very sour. Venice was excluded by Maximilian and the Pope from the partition negotiations and had now gone to France for support. Louis XII obliged them and in April 1513 had sent a new army over the Alps to retake Milan. The English however had already brought back their forces from Italy and the new Scottish Cardinal, the Archbishop of Glasgow James Beaton, had to regretfully tell the Pope that England and Scotland were unable to send any aid. The only conciliation they offered was that the French were now forced to keep an army in the north in case the English did attack again.

The King of England-Scotland himself was not so much a man of war, and so he still worked on a great deal of reforms back home. In late 1510 he organized a meeting of the Royal College of Edinburgh with the Guild of Surgeons in London. At this event he formalized the creation of the Royal College of Surgeons of Great Britain, an organization now at the front lines of advancing medical practice on the Isles. In 1511 he started outfitting the first English soldiers with musket weaponry, and by the end of the year the country had almost 5,000 firearms at its disposal. Parts of the Tower of London where construction was not yet finished were converted into gunpowder factories and others into musket armories.

James swayed both Parliaments over to a new law he wanted to be made in anticipation of the completion of the Union Highway. This Highways Act of 1512 made it so that the burden of upkeep on public road now fell under individual parishes themselves rather than the government. What the law required was that each parish in both England and Scotland had to elect some to be the Custodian of the Highways. This person was to, for the first three weeks after Easter, recruit and guide others in his parish in maintenance work on the public roads. Much later, this evolved into a fully-fledged job dedicated to the upkeep of the roads.

There were two major personal events that both had significant effects on the King, though in completely different ways. The first was an assassination attempt by an attacker with a knife on February 10, 1510. The would-be assassin tried to fling the knife at the king, but his skill was lacking and the handle harmlessly impacted James coat. When his guards brought him before the king, James did something nobody expected. To see the king pardon an attacker, after seeing the last king execute everyone even remotely related to a plot against him, was shocking to the people of England. Support for the king grew enormously over the next few months, and it was reported that the assassin was lynched some time in March by an angry mob. James had actually expected something like this to happen and he merely stated that it was a more suitable punishment for a such a person.

The other major event was the birth of his third and only surviving son with his wife Margaret, and officially named James, Duke of Rothesay and Prince of Wales on April 10, 1512. The boy was officially heir to the crowns of England and Scotland, and so to the people's relief, there was a clear line of succession at last. James now had a more solid grip on the the throne of England than even his predecessor Henry did.

More Changes (1514-1525)

Since the King's donation to the London people, the great capital was becoming a very popular place to live, especially since the stability of his rule encouraged more people to flock to the capital. Under the guidance of the Surveyor of London, Parliament helped to expand living quarters in the city westward, away from the old walls that remained from Roman times. In order to encourage economic growth, James sold two of his palaces in the city to two rich merchant families. He used these new ties to convince other local merchants and businessmen to enlarge the port of London to the east. These efforts had a knock-on effect where more people were attracted to the city, which brought more business, which attracted more people to the city, and so on. Within only six years London's population had risen by 30,000 people and it was undeniably one of the richest cities in the Isles.

James' patronage of the arts reached an entirely new level in the latter years of his reign. Whilst on a trip in December 1515 to meet the new Pope Leo X, and congratulate him on the victory against Venice and France, James was introduced to Leonardo da Vinci, who had been instructed to build a fancy mechanical lion to amaze the king. James was so impressed by this display that he offered him a position to continue working in London. In March of the next year James personally returned with the Scottish Navy to escort Leonardo, and many of his belongings, through Gibraltar and up to England. Included among his possession were some of his finest works, including the Mona Lisa and many mechanical devices of his own making.

Although his pay was very good, the accommodations better and the opportunities even more so, James had Leonardo working very hard. Dry dock workers in London were taught how to build his famous double-hulled ships for merchant vessels. He worked extensively in 1517 with the Royal College of Surgeons, showing them his drawings and teaching them what he'd learned in Italy. A wheel-lock musket design which he developed was also taken up by local gunsmiths who were then ordered to outfit to England's current stock of 5,000 firearms. As well, many of his practical devices such as lens-grinders and wire calibrators were brought into use in both England and Scotland, putting the nations on par with current Italian developments.

Cluster Bombs

Earlier sketch of the Spray Cannon,
before Leonardo worked for James I

The King and Leonardo became close friends during those years, particularly as James showed greater interest in Leonardo's artistic and theoretical innovations than just his machines of war and business. The high point of their relationship however was in late-1517 when James offered Leonardo whatever funds he needed to realize his greatest dream, the creation of a flying machine. The project took almost a year to complete but in October 1518, he intended to take off from Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, the sight where the famous Monk Eilmer had tried and failed to fly with his own machine. Leonardo's flight, which he obliged to undertake personally, took place on October 15 to ambiguous success. He flew about 200 meters from the Abbey's roof and landed with only a sprained ankle, but it was described by an onlooker as "an awkward motion. Not at all similar to the birds". The device however, Leonardo said, worked flawlessly, meaning any problems can probably be attributed to his age.

Perhaps it was the stress of his work, or maybe the excitement of his flight, but only three months later Leonardo fell ill and died of natural causes on February 2, 1519. As a gift to James for helping to fulfill his dream of flight, Leonardo worked on and completed his old designs for a "Spray Cannon" during those last few months. The weapon was like a regular cannon, only three times as wide per unit of length, and instead of a metal cannonball it fired a large sphere that tore into a larger number of smaller spheres which themselves broke into iron spikes that rained down on an enemy. The weapon was, in short, terribly insidious.

Meanwhile, an undersheriff named Thomas More had gained renown in London for his reputation as an honest and effective public servant and the very recent publication of the work Libellus vere aureus, nec minus salutaris quam festivus, de optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia. Under the advice of Thomas Wolsey, James asked More in 1516 to become a member of his Privy Council alongside Wolsey and da Vinci. More was one of the strongest supporters of Wolsey's plan to design a treaty that would bring peace to Europe. Winning over the king, Wolsey's Treaty of London was signed in 1518 by England-Scotland, France, Burgundy, the Netherlands, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy, all of whom agreed not to attack the other and come to the aid of any other in the treaty who was attacked. The purpose of this of course was to prepare Europe for a war to the east with the Ottoman Empire and to defend against the potential threat of these new Lutheran ideas.

Defender of the Faith

The latter issue arose when the 95 Theses of Martin Luther were posted on the main door of the University of Wittenberg's Chapel as well as sent to Albert, the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg on October 31, 1517. They were immediately forwarded to Rome, whilst on the morning of All-Saints Day, the people of Wittenberg all read the Theses. Before the end of the year, a copy of the Theses had arrived in King James court and both Wolsey and More were quick to inform him that many of its points would be considered heresy by the Church. Seeing an opportunity for England, More convinced James to write out his own rebuttal and have it sent to Wittenberg and Rome as swiftly as possibly. Both More and James worked for months on their long counter-argument, and some would say sucking-up to the pope, and it was eventually put to print in Edinburgh in July 1518.

When Pope Leo X received his copy of the Assertio Sacramentorum, as More urged James to call it, he was enormously pleased with the king, especially as he himself had been working on his own rebuttal at the time. In fact, when his Exsurge Domine was finally published, it contained special thanks to James for "helping to urge His Holiness' thoughts". Anyway, as reward for James' "loyal defense of the One True Faith", Leo X granted him the title of Fidei Defensor, or Defender of the Faith in late-1518. James was very enthused with this gift and, through an act of both Parliaments, had it officially added to the titles of both the English and Scottish Crowns. More importantly though, it established James, and his monarchy, as a leading figure in Catholic Europe. Following his own banquet celebrating the new title and his publication, James was invited to further celebrations with the Emperor Maximilian, where the two famously ate while sitting at the Emperor's future coffin (such was Maximilian's depression). Another banquet as well was held in the court of Charles I of Spain, both meetings were shortly found to have their roots in politics as much as praise.

Second Italian Wars

Charles V Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
and 1st Emperor of the Spanish Empire

Maximilian was nearing the end of his life and wanted to ensure that Charles would succeed him as Holy Roman Emperor as well as Archduke of Austria. Francis I however had now put himself up for election as Emperor and were he to lose, he seemed very intent on invading his enemy, Charles. Ultimately the Pope backed Charles, with James staying openly neutral (on Cardinal Wolsey's suggestion) and in the end Charles was crowned in October 1520 as Holy Roman Emperor. Francis of course was upset at this, but since James had cleverly stated he would oppose in battle whoever attacked first, the King of France was in a tight situation. Following a hollow arbitration conference in Calais, that lasted until April 1521, Francis invaded Spain and Charles responded with an invasion of the French through the Low Countries led by Henry of Nassau. In November James signed into an alliance with Charles and the Pope, declaring he'd help in the fight against the French.

Now that the Auld Alliance was, well, old news, both the Scottish and English Parliaments voted in favor of war and so James was able to bring a joint Scottish-English army of 18,000 troops to Calais after Christmas 1521. When they arrived, their forces were bolstered by a militia of 4,000 Bourgognians, who were now extremely loyal to the English and fearful of the French. Officially, James was not in the war yet, but in May of the next year, Charles met with James and they signed the Treaty of Windsor that not only organized a joint-English and Spanish attack on France, but had the stipulation that Charles would pay for all costs to England and Scotland in the war. Wolsey later misused this stipulation to get the English far more than they had actually spent. To seal the deal, a Spanish nobleman who had accompanied Charles offered his daughter to James' son, the future King James II/V.

Within two years of the war the French were suffering greatly, Charles III, Duke of Bourbon had betrayed him to go to Emperor Charles V and his only ally, the Republic of Venice, surrendered late that year after the death of Doge Antonio Grimani. Nevertheless he pressed on with the war as Charles invaded Provence and James eventually took Caen and started to go south along the Seine towards Paris in one of the biggest bluffs of the century. Evidently it worked as although Francis just escaped from his defeat at Pavia in 1525, he offered his surrender to both Charles V and James I just as the English were only 50 km from Paris. Charles forced numerous material concessions out of the king, including the stipulation that he renounce all claims in Italy, Flanders, Calais and Artois. To James Francis was forced to give what was called the "Ransom of Paris", a huge payment worth more than half a million pounds, along with more concessions of land in the north so that Calais now shared a border with Burgundy, the lands of Charles.

Upon James return to England from this signing of the Treaty of Madrid, Wolsey was sent with documents detailing the costs of the war and everything the Charles offered to pay them back for. However, the shrewd politician and Cardinal modified the documents to gain England thousands of more pounds than they actually spent. When James found out, far from being pleased, he brought Wolsey before Parliament to have him tried for "risking the reputation of the nation" and several financial charges of fraud. Caught into a corner, and worried that the charges might increase to Treason (where the Star Chamber would have his head) Wolsey offered the king anything he wanted, including his York Place, to give him a royal pardon. James agreed to do so, taking only the Place and some money to fix it up even more, and didn't even remove Wolsey from his position as Archbishop of York. He was however taken off the king's Privy Council, and had already lost a good deal of reputation in English politics.

The newly named Whitehall Palace, as More suggested it be called, was already the second largest building in London, owing that completely to the hard efforts of Wolsey himself. James saw even more potential in this place though and so he sold several of his other palaces around Scotland and England and used the huge sums he received from those sales to renovate and expand Whitehall. Now the king only owned two palaces in London, plus the Tower, and four outside the city for leisure. Amazingly, thanks to his conservative spending scheme, and all the money he was receiving as part of rewards and various businesses, James' personal funds were still above £1 million.

Final Years

Great Jack Ensign

Great Jack of the British Royal Navy

When not working on the English-Scottish effort in the Italian Wars, James was focusing on his primary goal of unifying the island of Great Britain. In 1522 he went to see both Parliaments and declared that the nations needed a more unified Navy, particularly as they were at war with a nation just off their coast and the English Royal Navy only consisted of about 6 ships. He put forward his argument to the Parliaments very well and so before the end of the year, the Royal Navy Act of 1522 was passed. This united the Scottish Royal Navy and the English Royal Navy into the British Royal Navy. The new Navy now had 43 ships at its disposal, including the massive Great Michael Carrack, the largest ship in Europe. A new ensign was also created in 1524, and it was soon known as the "Great Jack". The defacements in each corner were especially liked by the people, and there were many whispers that it would be the future flag of the two Kingdoms.

His next and last major reform was the Laws in Wales Acts of 1523-1525, which were completed only months before his death. These laws officially combined the legal system in Wales with that in England to create the English Law. As well, it formally disbanded the Principality of Wales and made the country an official part of the Kingdom, now known as England and Wales (Cymru a Lloegr). The positions of Marsher Lords were disbanded and Wales was now a region of 12 counties, of which the official borders were permanently established. New courts were created in Wales for the trying of criminals and all county officers standard to English counties were created in Welsh counties and English made the official administrative language. Finally, Wales was given seats in the English Parliament, making up a total at the time of 2% of the seats in the House of Commons and 1% in the House of Lords.

In November of 1525, with the nation at peace and now more united than ever, James was just exiting the English Parliament when a man approached him on the street. The two stopped for a moment and James' guards went to move between them but the man pulled out a gun and shot the king square in the chest. He was immediately brought to see a surgeon but it was too late, and he had bled out from his wounds only moments after the operation to remove the bullet was beginning. The assassin it seems was a Protestant fanatic who had served in Calais during the Italian Wars of 1521-1525. The gun he used to kill James was one of the new wheel-lock pistols that the king had so fervently equipped to his army. No other gun could have fired off so quickly and accurately, and so it seems the king was done in by his own efforts to improve the country.

Kingdoms of England and Scotland in 1525

England and Scotland in 1525

Map of the Two Kingdoms, minus Calais

  • Area: 234,966 sq km

Great Britain: 229,946 sq km
The Pale: 4080 sq km
Calais: 940 sq km

  • Population: 4.6 million

London: 100,000 people
Edinburgh: 9,000 people

  • Capitals: London and Edinburgh
  • Royal Fortune: £1 million (£530 million OTL)

Royal Income (Yearly): £200,000

  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Legislature: Dual Parliaments
  • Currency: Pound Sterling
  • Motto: "God and my right" and "In My Defens God Me Defend"
  • Military:

Army: English Army and Scottish Army (neither were standing armies)
Navy: British Royal Navy

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