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James I and the performance and representation of royalty

By Jane Rickard


This thesis explores how James I performed and represented his royalty in two key areas. The first is his engagement with the European tradition of magnificence, which was a central aspect of Renaissance court culture, in such areas as public appearance and liberality. The second is his self-representation in his writings. James prioritised verbal over visual forms of self-representation and portrayed himself as a Writer-King, and these are amongst the most distinctive aspects of his kingship. The thesis examines a range of primary sources, principally James’s writings but also contemporary responses to the king’s self-representation, such as letters and ambassadorial reports, and engages with other critical and historical studies.\ud \ud The gaps and misapprehensions in accounts of James that this thesis contributes towards rectifying derive from several general tendencies. There has been an over-reliance on the early historiography of James, a lack of work on the Scottish and European contexts for his self-representation in England, and little attention paid to his writings. This thesis combines the close reading of the ‘literary’ approach with the attention to context of the ‘historical’ approach, placing the discussion of James’s self-representation within the cultural and political contexts of Scotland and England, and considering his cultural and political engagement with continental Europe. It has four main chapters, one on James’s background in Scotland, one on his performance of the role of magnificent king in England, and two on the writings he wrote or republished in England. The discussion reveals that in Scotland James developed tendencies, strategies, and anxieties that would continue into his English reign, and argues that negative perceptions of him in England derived largely from a clash between the style he had developed and the expectations of his new subjects. It examines James’s attempts to combine authorship and authority and reveals their problematic relationship. The discussion suggests that James was aware of the importance of effective self-representation, but his style, the clash of expectations, and problems inherent in the representation of royalty, meant that his attempts to reinforce his image risked undermining and demystifying the king

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  1. (1998). Assessing "Cultural Influence": James I as Patron of the Arts',
  2. (1999). Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, vols IIX-XII
  3. (1999). Letters of King James VI and I (Berkeley, Los Angeles; London: University of California Press,

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