Performing royal paternity: James VI and I and the pageantry of fatherhood

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Abstract

When James VI, King of Scots, succeeded to the English throne in 1603, he was both a husband and a father. Indeed, as heir and then successor to Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, James’s family was central to his representation. Texts and images which referenced his lineage and his descendants articulated reassuring messages about the stability and continuity of the Stuart dynasty, while presenting the king’s royal prerogative in patriarchal terms. James’s spousal and paternal standing was also central to his ritual representation and he consistently promoted his wife and children through elaborate court and public celebrations. This essay will explore James’ paternal propaganda, assessing a series of entertainments which marked key moments in the lives of his children. Focusing on the baptism of his first-born son, Prince Henry Frederick, the marriage of his only-surviving daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and the coming-of-age of his eventual heir, Prince Charles, it will argue that James shrewdly exploited these events to support his representation as a father king. James was keenly aware of the impact of public performance, counselling his elder son: ‘a King is as one set on a skaffold [sic], whose smallest actions & gestures al the people gazingly do behold’. He also recognised, however, that monarchy was an institution and, in celebrating his children, these festivities also celebrated Stuart government and its future. James basked in the reflected glory of a thriving royal line
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArt & Court of James VI & I
Subtitle of host publicationBright Star of the North
EditorsKate Anderson, Jemma Field, Catriona Murray
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherNational Gallery of Scotland
ISBN (Print)9781911054412
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jun 2019

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