But five ministers refused to accept his story as true, or to express their belief in it in the pulpit. After trying his best to convince them of their error, he threatened them with punishment, and finally drove the most persistent of them, Robert Bruce, into exile.
This conflict with the ministers, by whom the Gowrie family was regarded as specially devoted to the defence of the presbyterian system, seems to have strengthened James in his resolution to meet the resolutions of the assembly of Montrose by the direct appointment of three bishops in November 1600. These bishops had seats in parliament, but they in no way represented the church, as the representatives whose appointment had been suggested at Montrose would certainly have done. More regrettable was the king's settled hostility to Gowrie's brothers and sisters. Two of the sisters were at once turned out of the queen's service, and two Ruthven boys, brothers of Gowrie, had to take refuge in England, where they did not venture to appear in public.
James's eye had for some time been fixed on the English succession. His hereditary right, combined with his protestantism, gave to his claim a weight which left him the only competitor with any chance of acceptance. Under these circumstances a man of common sense in James's position would have patiently waited till the succession was open. But James, unable to restrain himself, engaged in a succession of intrigues to secure what was virtually already his own. He had many counsellors who were anxious to bring about an understanding between him and the pope, thereby to secure the assistance of the Roman catholics in England as well as in Scotland. To this James made no objection, though he refused to sign a letter in which the pope was addressed as ‘Holy Father.’ In 1599 a letter so addressed was carried to Rome by Edward Drummond, in favour of the appointment of William Chisholm III [q. v.], the Scottish bishop of Vaison, to the cardinalate, and this letter bore James's signature; but it was subsequently, and, as there is every reason to believe, truthfully asserted by him that the signature had been surreptitiously obtained from him by James Elphinstone [q. v.], his secretary of state (Gardiner, Hist. of England, 1603–42, i. 81, ii. 31). James also entered into secret negotiations with prominent English statesmen and courtiers, among them, fortunately for his prospects, Sir Robert Cecil, Elizabeth's secretary of state, who did his best to keep him patient (Bruce, Correspondence of James VI, Camden Soc.).
At last, on 24 March 1603, Elizabeth died, and James was at once proclaimed in England by the title of James I, king of England, though he subsequently styled himself, without parliamentary authority, king of Great Britain. He left Edinburgh for his new kingdom on 5 April. Coming from a poor country, he fancied that the wealth and power of an English king was far greater than it really was, and before long he scattered titles and grants of money and land with unjustifiable profusion. As he passed through Newark he ordered a cutpurse to be hanged without trial, fancying that the royal authority, so hampered in Scotland, must be without limit in England. As a matter of fact, the tide of public opinion in the two countries was making in opposite directions. In Scotland it was favourable to the creation of a monarchy somewhat after the French type, in opposition to the nobles and clergy. In England, all that a strong monarchy could do had been accomplished, and opinion was therefore in favour of imposing restrictions upon the existing royal authority.
The first test of James's statesmanship lay in the selection of his councillors. Elizabeth had filled her council with representatives of all parties. James kept those whose opinions agreed with his own. He was himself for peace, and he consequently dismissed Raleigh as a partisan of war, and kept Cecil, who was ready to promote peace. He ordered the cessation of hostilities with Spain, though peace was not actually concluded till 1604. Cecil remained to the day of his death James's trusted councillor [see Cecil, Robert, Earl of Salisbury ]. Raleigh was charged with high treason, and condemned to death, but his sentence was commuted by James to that of imprisonment [see Raleigh, Sir Walter].
The first purely political question which confronted James was that of toleration. He had led the English catholics to expect better treatment from him than they had had from Elizabeth; and though James does not seem to have given any express promise of setting aside the recusancy laws, he had used language in writing to the Earl of Northumberland which implied a disposition to show them reasonable favour (Degli Effetti to Del Bufalo, July 16–26, Roman Transcripts, Record Office). Cecil, however, was in favour of the old system, and for some time after James's accession the recusancy fines were still collected. James's language continued favourable, but the action of his government did not respond to his words, and in June a plot for his capture and an enforced change of his system of government was discovered to have been formed by a catholic priest named Watson, and other catholics. The information which led to the discovery