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Monday, November 26, 2012

King James, Anne of Denmark and Macbeth

King James married Anne of Denmark on 23 November, 1589.

He was 23 and, despite his interest in men rather than women, he needed to start thinking about heirs. A match was made with Anne, who was 14 at the time.





There was a proxy marriage in Copenhagen, and when Anne sailed to Scotland there was a terrible storm and she had to land in Norway.

In what was called "the one romantic episode of his life" the King sailed to Norway to bring her safely home to Scotland. His trip also met with heavy storms.

The couple was married and during this time, with visits to Elsinore (!) and Copenhagen, James learned more about the witch-mania that was sweeping through Denmark, and other countries.

James had a fascination with witchcraft, and considered it a branch of theology.

On their way back to Scotland, there was yet another terrible storm which almost wrecked the ship.

To an already superstitious James, these three uncharacteristically stormy sailings were an omen.

Not long after they settled in Scotland, there were accusations of witchcraft in North Berwick, on the coast of Scotland -- only 37 kilometers, or 23 miles from Edinburgh.






From what it sounds like, James did not just attend the trials, he was in charge of them -- and he personally supervised the brutal torture of the accused women, and their executions.

He was convinced, and the testimony of the witches confirmed in his mind, that the witches had met with the Devil and had caused the storms to occur, in order to prevent the married couple from arriving back in Scotland.

Why would they target James? Because, as the witches told him, Satan considered James to be his personal foe.






James would write a book in 1597, Daemonologie regarding witchcraft. The one and only punishment for accused witches, he believed, was death.






These events would have a lasting and terrible legacy, not only in Scotland, but also when James was crowned King in England, a renewed enforcement against accused witches came with him. The Lancashire Witches trial in 1612, is one example of a case that might have not occurred had it not been for James.

The Salem witch trials in the American colonies in 1692 were the most famous of a series of trials that are directly descended from James.

It has been said that Shakespeare's Macbeth was written to flatter and entertain his patron, King James, because of his interest in witches.


It is fascinating to think that if James had never gone to fetch his bride, we may never have had the witchcraft trials (and the subsequent deaths) but we may never have had the gift that is Shakespeare's Macbeth.


Cheers,

David B. Schajer



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