Gene Clyatt: The English Reformation under James I

Gene Clyatt returns for a third installment of English Reformation history. Gene was first on with me in August of last year, where he talked about the early days of the English Reformation under Henry the 8th and Bishop Thomas Cranmer. In the May episode this year, Gene returned to talk about England under Queen Elizabeth I. For this episode, we recap a little bit of the previous two, and get into King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England. Gene shares a bit about how James became king, and then gets into the Gunpowder Plot, which happened on November 5th, 1605, and was the inspiration behind this being the November episode.


Outline of the Discussion
  • When Elizabeth I died in 1603, her closest relative was King James VI of Scotland. Thus he became King James I of England. James was born in 1566; the son of Mary, Queen of Scots.
  • James had become King of Scotland at 13 months old.
  • James was raised by Scottish Presbyterian tutors as a staunch Protestant. However, as he grew, he came to dislike the Presbyterian Church because they were distanced from the Crown of Scotland. While he later came to like the Anglican Church (being it’s head once he was crowned King of England,) he was probably not a true believer.
  • In 1589, at age 23, he married 14-year-old Anne, princess of Denmark. Anne’s father was a Protestant, and it was presumed she was too, but she later converted to Catholicism.
  • In 1601, Elizabeth is sickly, and her Secretary of State – Robert Cecil – began preparing James to be King of England.
  • Elizabeth dies on March 24, 1603. Messages are sent to James, and he departs Edinburgh on April 5. He arrived in London on May 7th. He had taken his time, stopping off to meet with various lords along the way.
  • In 1605, a plot was concocted to kill the king and all of Parliament, and establish a Catholic monarchy. This followed a string of four major plots by Roman Catholics to attempt to take out Elizabeth.
  • James had a way about him whereby he would lead people to believe he was on their side on various issues without ever stating so explicitly. He had Catholics believing he would relax various restrictions enacted following the plots against Elizabeth I. When this didn’t materialize, many Catholics saw it as reneging on a promise made (which was never actually explicitly made.)
  • The plot was to blow up Parliament during opening ceremonies, while both Houses were present, as would be the King. Furthermore, the plot was to kidnap the 9-year-old Princess, marry her off to a Catholic Lord, and rule England through her.
  • Guy Fawkes was recruited as the explosives expert. He has the added benefit of being relatively unknown around London.
  • The cellars under the palace of Winchester were available for rent. Lord Thomas Percy rented a unit under where the throne room was located and packed it with 36 barrels of gunpowder.
  • On November 3rd, a Catholic member of Parliament received an anonymous letter warning him not to go to Parliament for opening ceremonies. He was suspicious, and gave the letter to Robert Cecil.
  • The plot, and the gunpowder is discovered and thwarted.
  • This brought Catholic plots against the English throne to an end.
  • Gene ties Guy Fawkes Day to Halloween, and the practice of trick or treat, in the American colonies.
  • We wrap up with a brief preview of the Witch Trials, which will be the subject of the October 2023 episode, then end on a very short section on the King James Bible.
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