Portrait of King James I.

King James I

(1566 - 1625)

King James I was crowned King James VI of Scotland at the age of thirteen months and ruled that country independently by age eighteen. He secured an alliance with Queen Elizabeth I, unwavering even when she executed his own mother, and ascended the English throne in 1603 at the age of thirty-seven, claiming to be “an old and experienced king.” In 1604 he published one of the earliest texts to condemn tobacco, blaming the “Indians” for introducing it to Europe and complaining of its harmful effects to the lungs. That same year he commissioned forty-seven scholars to produce a new translation of the Bible, later published in 1611 as the famous King James Version.

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In his Brief Lives, John Aubrey wrote that in 1618 Walter Raleigh “took a pipe of tobacco a little before he went to the scaffold, which some formal persons were scandalized at, but I think ’twas well and properly done to settle his spirits.” Often credited with popularizing smoking in England, Raleigh was sentenced to death for treason by King James I, who had published his Counterblaste to Tobacco in 1604.

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