The Tudor Society

April 5 – A new king travels to London

James VI and I, Portrait after John de Critz, c. 1605On this day in history, 5th April 1603, twelve days after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, the last Tudor monarch, King James VI of Scotland left Edinburgh, bound for London. He was now King of Ireland and England, as King James I, as well as being King of Scotland.

Thirty-seven-year-old James, who was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and her second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, had received news of Elizabeth’s death late on 26th March, when an exhausted Sir Robert Carey had arrived at Holyrood. James had been in bed, but Carey was escorted to his chamber, where he knelt by him, and as Carey recorded, “saluted him by his title of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland”. In reply, James said, “I know you have lost a near kinswoman, and a loving mistress: but take here my hand, I will be as good a master to you, and will requite this service with honour and reward.”

James and his wife, Anne of Denmark, then prepared for their journey south, borrowing 10,000 Scottish marks for their expenses. They left Edinburgh on 5th April 1603, with James assuring the Scots that he would return in three years time. The next day, the royal party reached the English border town of Berwick where he was met at Lamberton by the Lord Governor of the town, who was accompanied by a party from the garrison on horseback. By 11th April, the royal party had reached Newcastle, from where James wrote a letter to Sir Robert Cecil informing him, among other things, that he was planning to spend Easter at York with Robert’s brother, Thomas, Lord Burghley.

On 15th April, Sir Robert Cecil reported to the council that James “has been detained on his journey towards York, by his fat horses failing him”! He eventually arrived in time for Easter, with Easter Sunday being 24th April that year, and spent four days in the city. On 29th April, he reached Godmanchester, where, according to Godmanchester Museum, he was greeted by 70 teams of horses and their new ploughs, an ancient custom whenever a king visited the town.

The royal party finally reached London on in May 1603. Historian Pauline Croft, author of “King James”, wrote that James’s journey from Edinburgh to London “became a triumphant progress, with James feasting and indulging his passion for hunting. He thought he was witnessing an outpouring of spontaneous affection, but the overwhelming public emotion was relief at the peaceful succession, mixed with natural curiosity.”

On his arrival in London, James chose to stay at the Tower of London in his arrival in the city. As the Historic Royal Palaces website points out, he was the last monarch to stay at the Tower, and his enjoyment of cruel animal displays there led to him having the lions' den refurbished.

James was crowned king on 25th July at Westminster Abbey and he ruled until his death on 27th March 1625.

By the way, although he had promised the Scots that he’d be back in three years time, he didn’t return until fourteen years later, in 1617 and he only visited that one time.

Image: James VI and I, Portrait after John de Critz, c. 1605.

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April 5 – A new king travels to London