The Union of Crowns: England, Scotland, and the Reign of James I

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He associates the union of the two crowns with the union of two people, this is, with a wedding. The world is the temple where the ceremony is celebrated; the priest is the king, who has allowed and built the union; the espoused pair are the two kingdoms (“realms”), England and Scotland; and the ring is the sea. Jonson is referring to the seas which surround the Island of Great Britain and keep it together as a whole, with no distinction between North and South.

However, the union of the two crowns did not go as far as it could have. The two countries remained distinct, with different politics and administration, only sharing the same king. Under James’ rule, the Parliament passed an act that recognised the Presbyterian Kirk (Church) as official in Scotland, a branch from Protestantism more austere and radical, that rejects, for example the hierarchy in the Church. He introduced no changes in the Church of England, which Elizabeth had stabilised.

Apparently, not everyone found James such a good ruler as Ben Jonson did: he had a peaceful rule until the Gunpowder Plot, a Catholic conspiracy led by Guy Fawkes. The conspirators wanted to assassinate the king by blowing up the Parliament, but the plot was aborted when it was about to be carried out, on the 5th of November 1605. The rebels were executed and nowadays the day is celebrated in England as the victory of Protestantism over Catholics. After this, repressive measures and persecutions were approached against Non-Conformists, those who did not subject to the Anglican doctrine, which also included Puritans, a branch of Protestantism. This led to the first Puritan Exodus to New England and the colonization of what we today know as America.

An important conference was held at Hampton Court in 1604 in order to solidify the doctrine and the principles of the Anglican Church. A commission was created to make a new translation of the Bible, which would be called “King James’ Bible”, in 1611. This became the official book of the Anglican Church, and it still is the version commonly used in English churches. James I was an absolute monarch. He believed in the Divine Right of Kings, which meant he ruled on God’s election and could therefore be questioned by nobody. This would bring serious problems with the Parliament, which constantly debated on the limits of royal power, and the whole English People.

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