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Title: The finances of James VI, 1567-1603
Author: Brydon, R. S.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1925
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Abstract:
Few reigns are so difficult to understand as that of the sixth James of Scotland; there are so many sudden and revolutionary changes in foreign and domestic policy, that the thread of the story is often lost, and we begin to think that there is no connecting link. In fact the reign appears to be a series of disconnected chapters which might bear as titles the names of the most prominent men of the time, with James a shadowy figure in the background, too irresolute or too indifferent to pursue a settled policy and assume definite control. But there is a connecting link, a keynote to the reign, which, while it does not explain the whole of the tortuous policy of regents and king, does help towards a clearer understanding of the period. This is the financial position of the government. The impecuniosity of the Scottish crown, although not a new thing, was especially acute between the years 1567 and 1603, and it is impossible to study the reign from the financial point of view and not feel pity for James, who seemed eager to do the, right thing for his country, anxious to utilise his talents for statecraft for his country's glory, and yet was terribly conscious of the weakness of his central government, lacking the necessary patriotic advisers, and lacking above all the money to rule well. Always did he find his poverty the main obstacle to his success, his talents limited by his purse. It is futile to blame the regents or the king for their shameless begging, although it is difficult to refrain from a smile at the tricks they employed to obtain money. And when it is known that the government was always hampered by poverty and never able to put a well-considered policy into execution, it is time to revise our verdict: James no longer appears to be 'the wisest fool in Christendom' or 'James the Shifty', but a man deserving at least of our pity if not of our admiration. Again, it is a commonplace of history to praise the ability with which his great contemporary, Elizabeth, faced the great difficulties of her time, and overcame them, but her very success is apt to blind us to the ignoble means she employed, and we are apt to forget how much she oared to her advisers. On the other hand how rarely is it emphasised that James had to face difficulties and dangers equally serious with less support, and yet because he had not her glowing success, we deal out not praise but blame. The difficulties of the reign were enormous; the Scottish baronage, always the obstacle to the establishment of a strong monarchy, were now more than ever dangerous, having profited by the Reformation to make themselves richer than the crown; the Church, too, was a serious rival, and began to claim for itself the status not only of a state within the state, but of the state itself, with the right to control even the monarch. Thus the crown faced with these two difficulties could only buy off the hostility of its rivals by granting concessions, which, in themselves weakened the central power. As if this was not enough, for a long time the country was divided into two factions, and the civil war brought great misery upon the country. Abroad Scotland had difficult problems to deal with; its foreign policy was carefully watched by the powers of Europe, and because of the importance of that foreign policy relations with the continent became very intimate and delicate. With conditions so grave the government had a difficult task to perform, and worst of all it had to do so without sufficient money. It has been attempted here to account for James' poverty, to illustrate it, and to indicate its influence upon his domestic and foreign policy. The object has not been to investigate in every detail any one branch of the subject, but to treat the whole subject generally.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.495843  DOI: Not available
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