A study of the middle-rank administrators in the government of King James VI of Scotland, 1580-1603
The study examines the most active officers of state and privy councillors, exclusive of earls, who constituted James VI's Scottish governments between 1580 and 1603. Using prevailing but sometimes conflicting ideas that James VI's servitors were a class of 'new men' or 'noblesse de robe' who transformed traditional government and administration in Scotland, this work is a systematic comparison of these men in respect of their social, cultural and economic environments and backgrounds. They are also compared and contrasted in terms of how James VI both employed and rewarded their services to the crown. Based on this survey, James VI's most active servitors are shown to be noblemen entitled to participate in Scottish political life by virtue of their social rank. This suggests that prevailing concepts of 'new men' or a 'noblesse de robe' are not wholly appropriate terms to describe James VI's administrators. Fundamental to this study is how James VI selected, directed and used the skills of his servitors, concentrating on whether his practices in using political servitors conform to the ideas he expressed in Basilikon Doron. Based on this survey, James VI was far more traditional in selecting and employing his servitors than historians have tended to understand. Both their promotion into political circles, and their function once there, remained very traditional. The patronage system also continued to operate along very conservative and traditional lines during this period. Only rarely, in respect of the exchequer and the foreign service, did James VI venture into the creation of truly new administrative roles for his servitors. This study suggests that what makes the reign of James VI truly new and modern is neither the personnel of his administrations, nor necessarily their administrative services. Quite the contrary, James VI was particularly conservative and traditional in selecting and using his servitors. Far more fundamentally, it is King James's own ideas about the political polity of his commonwealth that is new.