James I Addresses His First Parliament - With Fine Contemporary Provenance

James VI and I, (1566-1625), King of Scotland, England, and Ireland

The Kings Maiesties speech, as it was deliuered by him in the vpper house of the Parliament to the Lords spirituall and temporall, and to the knights, citizens and burgesses there assembled, on Munday the 19. day of March 1603. being the first day of this present Parliament, and the first Parliament of his Maiesties raigne

London: by Robert Barker printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie, 1604


Quarto: 17.5 x 13.5 cm. [14] lvs. A-D4 Lacks A1, blank except for signature mark, and final blank.


Bound in 20thc. brown calf, gilt. A fine copy, with James I/VI's arms printed on the verso of the title page. Occasional underscores. Provenance: Inscription on title "Liber Richardi Crakanthorp.", almost certainly the clergyman and logician Richard Crakanthorpe (bap. 1568 – 1624), who preached "A sermon at the solemnizing of the happie inauguration of our most gracious and religious soveraigne King James" at Paul's Cross as part of the propaganda campaign for the Virginia Company to establish an English colony in America (See ODNB).

James I's addressed his first Parliament on 19 March 1604. To memorialize the occasion, Ben Jonson wrote a poem, in which Themis, the goddess of justice and social order, acts as a mediator between James and his audience, instructing James on his royal duties and announcing to the assembly just how fortunate they are to have such a sovereign.

Although James had been crowned king in 1603, the convening of Parliament was delayed due to an outbreak of plague, God's "devouring angel"(leaf A3r). This first Parliament was one of only four that James would convene on his twenty-two years on the throne. It lasted through five sessions, ending in 1610, and is best remembered for the Gunpowder Plot (5 November 1605), the Catholic plot to blow up the House of Lords, and with it the king and the members of the upper house.

The primary theme of this inaugural address was the unification of Scotland and England, the central pillar of James plan to end the divisive turmoil that marked the end of Elizabeth's reign and the months of confusion and uncertainty that followed. But James met with almost immediate resistance, and by 1607, the issue was dead, and James' vision of a "Great Britain" would not be accomplished for another hundred years.

Notably, the speech includes James' famous remarks on royal oratory: 

It becometh a King, in my opinion, to use no other Eloquence then plainnesse and sinceritie. By plainnesse I meane, that his Speeches shoul be so cleare and voyd of all ambiguitie, that they may not be throwne, nor rent asunder in contrary sences like the old Oracles of the Pagan gods. And by sinceritie, I understand that uprightnesse and honestie which ought to be in a Kings whole Speeches and actions: That as farre as a King is in Honour erected above any of his Subjects, so farre should he strive in sinceritie to be above them all and that his tongue should be ever the trew Messenger of his heart: and this sort of Eloquence may you ever assuredly looke for at my hands.

STC 14390.3. Literature: Mondi, "The Speeches and Self-Fashioning of King James VI and I to the English Parliament, 1604-1624"