Anne of Denmark, Queen
of England (1603-16190
and wife of James I
When Queen Elizabeth I died in on March 24, 1603 she was succeeded on the throne by her distant cousin, King James VI of Scotland. James was the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and thus aunt to Elizabeth. Or, to look at it from another perspective, Elizabeth’s grandfather, Henry VII of England, was great-great grandfather to James. In either regard Elizabeth and James were not close. Indeed, there was Arbella Stuart, cousin to both James and Elizabeth, whom some felt had a stronger claim to the Throne. Elizabeth’s chief minister, Robert Cecil (later, Earl of Salisbury) maneuvered James in as heir, however, as he was more confident of being able to manage James—a foreigner—than of being able to exercise influence over Arbella. It was probably a mistake and James was far more influenced (and not for the good) by the self0-interest of his “favorites,” especially Lennox, Somerset, and Buckingham than by Cecil.
James, though the son of Mary Queen of Scots, was a convinced Protestant. He had been taken from his mother when he was only a year old and he was raised in the Reformed religion to which the vast majority of Scots had turned after 1560.
The Church of Scotland at the time was a curious thing. Under the tutelage of John Knox who had spent time in Calvin’s Geneva, the Scots Church was definitively Calvinist in doctrine. At the same time, it was not yet Presbyterian in governance but still had bishops. It was only in 1582 that the Church of Scotland eliminated bishops and adopted the Reformed model of Church governance by boards of elders and ministers called “presbyteries.” James was not happy about the abolishment of bishops as he held to the axiom: “No Bishop, No King.” But the King of the Scots lacked the authority of the King of England. Henry VII and Henry VIII had broken the power of the feudal nobility and the Tudors were laying the foundation, a very sound foundation, for absolute monarchy. In Scotland, due to different historical circumstances and especially the long rule of women with the regency of Mary of Guise and the tragic misrule of her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, the Crown had not broken the power of the feudal nobility. So while Mary remained Catholic, the nobility and the nation had gone Protestant and thus the Protestant Church was accustomed to being self-determinative in its governance.
This whole matter of Bishops versus Presbyterian Government will play a very important role in the history of the Church of England throughout the first three quarters of the seventeenth century. The Church of England also had bishops and, unlike their Scots counterparts whose authority was overshadowed by fierce evangelical preachers such as Knox and Andrew Melville, the Bishops in England wielded both strong political and ecclesiastical power. The Puritan party in England was not happy with this as they favored the introduction of Presbyterian Church Polity on the Geneva model as the Scots had done.
Another sore point for the Puritan party was the Prayer Book and its Liturgy which the Puritans regarded as have retained too much of the pre-Reformation Catholic worship. The Puritans favored more extempore prayer rather than the set collects and litanies of the Prayer Book. As the Church of England had done away with vestments, crosses, candles, altars etc. in favor of Spartan Puritan bare-bones worship, however, the differences in Presbyterian and Anglican worship were not that apparent. (The Church of England officially had retained the Surplice for clergy to wear over their black gowns and had even retained the use of the Cope in cathedral and collegiate churches, but in practice the use of these vestments was very rare. In most churches the minister wore only the same plain black gown, perhaps with tippet and/or preaching tabs, as the Presbyterian clergy north of the border wore.)
The Church of England had, like other Churches coming out of the Reformed Tradition (as distinct from the Evangelical or Lutheran Tradition) minimized its sacramental practice. Only Baptism and Holy Communion were recognized as sacraments although there were, of course, rites for marriage, ordination of clergy, and confirmation. Unction of the sick and sacramental reconciliation (aka “confession”) disappeared from church practice. In most parishes Holy Communion was celebrated somewhat infrequently—usually monthly—and Morning Prayer became the more normal Sunday worship. The Presbyterian model in Scotland, however, was even less sacramental and Holy Communion was far more rare, perhaps once a quarter.
Despite the difference in Church governance and worship, however, the Church of England (Episcopal) and the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) were both Calvinist in doctrine and “low-church” in practice. The Presbyterian faction in the Church of England agitated for change, but was able to accommodate itself for the time being to both the Prayer Book and bishops. Despite having bishops, parishes tended to be more congregational in governance and frankly the Prayer Book was used selectively in some place and all but totally ignored in others.
When James ascended the English throne England and Scotland remained two separate kingdoms with two separate parliaments but each having the same king. James tried—successfully—over the course of his reign to re-introduce bishops into the Church of Scotland and he certainly defended both episcopacy and the Prayer Book in England. The re-introduction of bishops in Scotland would prove fatal for the monarchy but that is a future story.
In 1589 the 23-year-old James married the 14-year-old Princess Anne of Denmark. Despite James’ romantic and sexual preference for men, the marriage was initially a happy one. Anne bore James seven children, though three died in early childhood and one in young-adulthood. She also had two stillbirths and three miscarriages, bringing the number of pregnancies to twelve. The problem was that Anne seems to have secretly converted to Catholicism at some point. The story is that raised a Lutheran in the somewhat ritualistic Church of Denmark, she was bored by the sterile Calvinist worship of the Church of Scotland and found herself more at-home with Catholic worship. She was very discreet. James was not happy at the thought of her becoming a Catholic and as he had not yet inherited the English Throne, a Catholic wife could have imperiled his acceptability both to Elizabeth and to her Parliament. Indeed, Elizabeth wrote Anne warning her not to listen to any who would try to dissuade her from Protestantism and Anne wrote back somewhat dissembling letters to reassure the English Queen that any attempts to convert her (Anne) had failed. There is no doubt, however, that Anne had embraced Catholicism and she refused communion during the Anglican service of her English coronation on July 25, 1603. She had several Catholics among her Ladies in Waiting. Moreover, she supported the idea of a Catholic bride for her son, the future Charles I. Anne’s official chaplain, Godfrey Goodman, was the Anglican Bishop of Gloucester but had strong Catholic leanings; he officially converted to Catholicism in about 1642 but may have secretly converted at an earlier period. Rumors of Anne’s Catholicism made her unpopular in Protestant circles both in Scotland and later in England and even strained James’ credibility among the Puritan party. James’ having a crypto-Catholic wife, his support of bishops, and his favoring the Prayer Book and its Liturgy alienated the more extremely Puritan faction in the Church of England who had hoped that a Scots monarch would bring Presbyterianism to England.