"He has only just emerged from the shadow of his regents"
James Stewart, Earl of Moray
Public DomainJames Stewart, Earl of Moray - Credit: wikimedia commons
A regent is a person who rules in the place of the true monarch, either because the true monarch is a minor or because he or she is debilitated or not present. When James came to power he was only one year old, meaning that regents were needed to rule in his place. James had four regents before he finally took power at fifteen. The first was his uncle, the 1st Earl of Moray, the illegitimate son of King James V. After he was assassinated in 1570, James’ paternal grandfather, the 4th Earl of Lennox, took over, but he was fatally wounded in a raid by Mary Stuart’s supporters a year later.
James Douglas, Earl of Morton
Public DomainJames Douglas, Earl of Morton - Credit: wikimedia commons

He was followed by the 1st Earl of Mar, who fell sick and died in 1572. Last came the 4th Earl of Morton, who finally managed to end the civil war with Mary Stuart’s supporters. Ironically, he introduced an early form of guillotine called a maiden to Scotland, and was eventually executed by it when he fell from favour.

Although he was now free from regents, James remained under the influence of a Frenchman called Esmé Stewart, the cousin of James’ father Lord Darnley. Esmé was the first of James’ powerful male favourites, and was made Duke of Lennox. James’ followers distrusted Esmé, and in 1582 the earls of Gowrie and Angus imprisoned James and forced Esmé to flee Scotland. James was released, and from that point on took more control of his kingdom.