James, the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Darnley, was born in Edinburgh Castle in 1566. The marriage was not a happy one and when Darnley was mysteriously killed while recovering from smallpox at Glasgow in January 1567, when the house in which he was in was blown up by gunpowder.
Suspicion fell on Mary and her close friend, the Earl of Bothwell. When Mary married Bothwell two months later, the Protestant lords rebelled against their queen. After her army was defeated at Langside in 1567, Mary fled to England.
James was proclaimed king and during his infancy and power was held by a series of regents. The most important of these was James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton. Douglas was executed in 1581 and the following year James was kidnapped by William Ruthven. However, he escaped ten months later. He then came under the influence of the Earl of Arran until he was removed from power in 1585 and was replaced by John Maitland.
Over the next few years James managed to strengthen the power of the crown over Parliament and the Church of Scotland. He also successfully developed good relations with the government in England.
Elizabeth ordered Mary, Queen of Scots execution in 1587. James accepted the decision and two years later married Anne of Denmark. On the death of Elizabeth in 1603, James, became king of England. He moved to London and although he promised he would make regular visits to Scotland he did not return for thirteen years.
The Catholics in England were upset that there was going to be another Protestant monarch. They also became very angry when James passed a law that imposed heavy fines on people who did not attend Protestant church services.
In 1605 a small group of Catholics, led by a man called Robert Catesby, devised a scheme to kill James and as many Members of Parliament as possible. Catesby planned to James's young daughter, Elizabeth, queen. In time, Catesby hoped to arrange Elizabeth's marriage to a Catholic nobleman.
Catesby's plan involved blowing up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November. This date was chosen because James was due to open Parliament on that day. At first the group tried to tunnel under Parliament. This plan changed when a member of the group was able to hire a cellar under the House of Lords. The plotters then filled the cellar with barrels of gunpowder.
One of the people involved in the Gunpowder Plot was Sir Thomas Tresham. He was worried that the explosion would kill his friend and brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle. Tresham therefore sent Lord Monteagle a letter warning him not to attend the House of Lords on 5th November. Lord Monteagle became suspicious and passed the letter to Robert Cecil, the king's chief minister. Cecil quickly organised a thorough search of the Houses of Parliament. While searching the cellars below the House of Lords they found the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes, one of the men involved in the plot.
Within a few weeks the other conspirators were either killed resisting arrest or executed after being found guilty of treason. This is the traditional story of the Gunpowder Plot. However, in recent years some historians have begun to question this version of events. Some have argued that the plot was really devised by Robert Cecil. This version claims that Cecil blackmailed Catesby into organising the plot. It is argued hat Cecil's aim was to make people in England hate Catholics. For example, people were so angry after they found out about the plot, that they agreed to Cecil's plans to pass a series of laws persecuting Catholics.
James VI of Scotland and James I of England, died in 1625, and was replaced by his son Charles I.