When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, the Tudor line officially expired in the English monarchy since the Virgin Queen had left no heirs, and James VI of Scotland acceded to the English throne as James I, beginning the rule of the Stuart family in England. While Queen Elizabeth had worked to strike a tenuous balance between Protestant and Catholic ideals in religious matters during her reign, James was unable to sustain the same equilibrium as his predecessor. After a group of extremist Catholics led by Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament in what is now known as the Gunpowder Plot, James became more fiercely anti-Catholic, his suspicions constantly aroused regarding potentially mutinous Catholic machinations. James did not capitulate to Puritans, either, more radical Protestants who wanted to see the Church of England stripped of its last popish remnants and to become much less ceremonial and pompous than they believed a God-fearing religious institution should be. Nevertheless, because of the multiple competing factions in religious life during the early seventeenth century, James walked a middle path similar to Elizabeth’s, appointing bishops supporting disparate doctrinal views and not allowing any one sect to gain primacy over another. James’s greatest religious achievement is the King James Version of the Bible, a much more beautiful and literary translation of the central text of Christianity than its popular predecessor in England, the Geneva Bible.

James’s reign struggled with certain problems, chief among them James’s lavish spending and the ever-increasing debt that he attempted to amortize by raising taxes on his subjects against the will of the Parliament. James also granted a large number of titles within the peerage and often for superfluous reasons, among them his romantic and sexual attractions for beautiful young men, leading to widespread rumors about his homosexuality. His marriage to Anne of Denmark was seen as loveless and cold, but it produced heirs and thereby assuaged the anxieties of a generation of people constantly tense about the succession of the throne during the reign of the non-reproductive Elizabeth. The first heir, Prince Henry, died of typhoid fever, meaning Charles eventually succeeded his father and became Charles I, a king who would be tried, sentenced to death, and then executed in 1649, sparking the English Revolution and the Puritan Interregnum under Oliver Cromwell until the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 under Charles I’s son, Charles II.

During the early part of the 1600s, England began its gradual expansion across that globe that would eventually make it one of the world’s largest empires. Settlers first landed in the Americas in 1607 and properly named the settling after the then king, Jamestown. After signing a peace treaty with Spain and thereby pacifying previously embattled waters, the English also started gaining territory in southern Africa and India during this period.