443 years ago, at the end of July 1570, the 4 year old King James VI of Scotland got a new tutor, George Buchanan.
Buchanan would have known the young James before he was a man, and what he wrote about his time as a tutor gives us a fascinating glimpse of the future King of England and Scotland.
|King James, in 1574, when he was 8 years old|
It would seem that James was an unruly and disobediant student. In Alan Stewart’s excellent book, The Cradle King, he describes how the young James did not learn Buchanan’s lessons well.
From what I have read, Buchanan is a remarkable character in the life of King James.
He was something of a father figure to James, whose real father was something of a mystery -- was it Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (murdered in a garden by an explosion of gunpowder) or was it James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (who killed Darnley in the garden)?
Buchanan was the man most responsible for educating and shaping the mind of a very troubled child, who happened to be the King of Scotland.
Buchanan died in 1582, long before King James claimed the throne of England in 1603.
Little did he know that his ill-tempered and misbehaving pupil would become one of the most influential and important Kings in the history of England.
Shakespeare was familiar with Buchanan and his books. He probably read Buchanan's book, Rerum Scoticarum Historia, as a source for Macbeth -- which was written during the reign of James.
|James McAvoy in a recent production of Macbeth|
I wouldn't be surprised if Shakespeare read Buchanan's Baptistes, and while reading the dedication, Shakespeare would have understood full well what Buchanan had been afraid of.
Buchanan had been right to worry about the tyrannical nature of the boy James, who did go on to subject England to some of its worst miseries and tortures.
It was the same miseries and tortures that led Shakespeare to write Macbeth -- a bloody play for bloody times.
David B. Schajer
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