King James I of England and VI of Scotland

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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King James I of England and VI of Scotland

by Daniel Mytens
oil on canvas, 1621
58 1/2 in. x 39 5/8 in. (1486 mm x 1006 mm)
Purchased, 1860
Primary Collection
NPG 109

On display in Room 3 on Floor 3 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Daniel Mytens (circa 1590-1647), Portrait painter. Artist or producer associated with 50 portraits, Sitter in 5 portraits.

This portraitback to top

James was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and her second husband, Lord Darnley. He became king of Scotland at the age of one, on the abdication of his mother, and the country was run until his majority by a succession of Protestant Regents. Crowned king of England in 1603, James's unshakeable belief in the 'Divine Right of Kings' and the money and honours he showered on his favourites such as the Duke of Buckingham made him widely unpopular. He was however an able scholar and theologian and under his patronage the sermon developed into a significant literary form. In this portrait the tapestry behind the King, who wears full robes of the Garter, incorporates the Tudor rose and the motto BEATI PACIFICI: 'blessed are the peace makers'.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG D48138: King James I of England and VI of Scotland (source portrait)

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), p. 114 Read entry

    James I was famously reluctant to sit for artists, so, compared with Elizabeth I, there is very little variety in his portraits. This late representation, showing him in the robes of the Order of the Garter, celebrates the role he cast himself in as a peacemaker in Europe, with the inscription Beati pacifici (Blessed are the peacemakers) above him.

  • Cooper, John, A Guide to the National Portrait Gallery, 2009, p. 17 Read entry

    An able scholar and theologian, James I lavishly rewarded favourites, such as George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, incurring resentment in Parliament and leaving an awkward political legacy for his son Charles I.

  • Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 66
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 332
  • Strong, Roy, Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, 1969, p. 177
  • Williamson, David, Kings and Queens, 2010, p. 108
  • Williamson, David, The National Portrait Gallery: History of the Kings and Queens of England, 1998, p. 108

Events of 1621back to top

Current affairs

Parliament assembles amid fears of Catholicism sweeping Europe. Initially, it enthusiastically supports James I's proposal for diplomatic intervention in Bohemia, however, upon hearing of his considerations towards a Spanish marriage, Parliamentarians adamantly refuse to grant further funds.
Lord Chancellor Bacon is found guilty of corruption under revival of judicial impeachments.

Art and science

The University of Oxford Botanic Garden, is founded as a physic garden by Henry Danvers.
The appearance of the first newspaper in English, the Corante, translated from a Dutch coranto, promises reports from Europe but is prevented from containing English news under the Star Chamber Decree, 1586.


Philip IV of Spain ascends the throne at the age of sixteen.
In France, Louis XIII moves to eradicate the rebellion by Huguenots who fear renewed persecution. After several victories, he is forced to abandon his siege of the city of Montauban, a Huguenot stronghold.

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Stephen Chappell

17 December 2017, 22:54

Actually, I’d really like to see you add something about the really large frame which surrounds this portrait. I know the NPG will move frames around from time to time, but it would be great to see a few get a bit of a write up (as you’ve done with the Elizabeth I coronation portrait frame - in the 19th C ‘Sansovino’ style). The frame around this portrait of James I/VI of Scotland is ... enormous. It would be great to learn more about it.