Now that Mary, Queen of Scots had been tried and executed, the question remained, how would James react to Elizabeth executing his mother? James hadn’t seen since her since he was less than two, he could barely remember her. If he had acted to protect her or sought revenge of any kind, he would surely forfeit his right to succeed Elizabeth. If he did nothing, how would the Scots nobles those loyal to Mary react? Would they look for opportunity to plot against James? As it turned out, James would follow the his ambitions of his perceived, divine destiny. Although he had asked Elizabeth to exile Mary, it was no more than a token gesture. Mary, Queen of Scots had to be executed. Now, he only had to wait it out, until Elizabeth’s passing. James firmly believed female monarchs are the handiwork of the devil, Bloody Mary, Catherine de’Medici (known for conjuring and casting spells on her enemies), Mary Guise, Elizabeth, even his own mother Mary had abandoned him. His mother’s violent death seems to have inspired in James a dark fascination with magic. “His Highnesse tolde me her deathe was visible in Scotlande before it did really happen,” told by Sir John Harington, years later, “being, as he said, ‘spoken of in secrete by those whose power of sighte presentede to them a bloodie heade dancinge in the aire".
Throughout his youth, James was publicly promoted for his chastity, since he had showed little interest in women, but he reality was, he continued to prefer his male companions. With Elizabeth in firm control, James kept his attention on Scottish matters and knew he would need to produce an heir to secure his own realm. A suitable marriage, however, was necessary to reinforce his monarchy, and the choice fell on fourteen-year-old Anne of Denmark, younger daughter of Protestant Frederick II.
In 1589, James would married Anne of Denmark and produced three children, Henry, Elizabeth and Charles. James spent his time trying to pacify the 'barbarian' Gaels in the Highlands and Islands and rooting out witches from his kingdom. He wrote two books that clearly demonstrated his style of kingship. In 'The Trew Law of Free Monarchies’ and the 'Basilicon Doron', James eschewed the belief that the rights of a divinely appointed kings were granted by God, and God alone and furthermore, as such, they were above all other men. The education he received at the hands of George Buchanan had all been in vain.
The Reformation carried out in Scotland in the mid-sixteenth century, was heavily influenced by Calvinism and amounted to a revolution of religious practice. Sermons were now the focus of worship. The Witchcraft Act 1563 had previously made witchcraft, or consulting with witches, capital crimes. In 1590–91 and again in 1597 there were series of sensational witch trials, that came about under the direction of King James’ church-controlling Episcopacy. In one such trial in February 1591 a Scottish woman called Agnes Sampson was accused of witchcraft during the North Berwick Witch Trials. She said that Robert Bowes was "a little black and fat man with black hair", who had given her gold in a cellar while James VI was in Denmark to make a charm with a toad to hurt the king and make him infertile. Everyone knew England has always desired to rule Scotland for centuries, militarily and or politically. But this one accusation raised their fears to nothing short of a national scandal. Because Robert Bowes, was England’s appointed ambassador in Scotland and now was in league with the devil, resorting to using witchcraft in meddling with Scotland’s future. Covertly he had had the difficult tasks to counteract the influence of France’s hold on James VI, to keep an alliance together of nobles that was favorable to England, and, to counteract the influence of Esme Stewart, lord of Aubigné, James’ love interest.
Witch-hunting is normally seen as an extension of the Protestant Reformation as parish ministers and government authorities sought to create a “godly state” in which everyone must worshipped correctly, and sin and ungodliness were to be eradicated. In numerical terms, Scotland’s witch hunts were severe. Between 1590 and 1662, intense panics erupted across Scotland. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people, mostly from the Scottish Lowlands, were tried for witchcraft in this period, a much higher rate than their neighbors in England. Seventy-five per cent of the accused were women. Modern estimates indicate that more than 1,500 persons were executed; most were strangled and then burned.
In 1590, King James believed that he and his Danish bride, Anne, had been personally targeted by witches who conjured dangerous storms to try to kill the royal couple during their voyages across the North Sea. Spurred on by his newfound conviction, James instigated a widespread purge of witches. He began by rooting out the witches in Scotland he believed to be responsible for the potentially fatal May storms that he was convinced were part of a wide scale plot to end his life.
James decided to personally superintend the interrogations of the accused. He had Agnes Sampson, brought to Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh so that he could question her himself. When she “stood stiffly in denial” of the charges against her, she “had all her hair shaved off, in each part of her body, and her head thrawn [wrenched] with a rope according to the custom of that country, being a pain most grievous”. All of this continued for an hour, while the king looked on. The story of the arrest, trial and confessions of Agnes Sampson and the others accused of witchcraft is known from versions found in a pamphlet printed in London in 1591, ‘the Newes from Scotland’, and from contemporary letters and trial records. She denied all the charges. The most dramatic moment of the interrogation was when James, responding to something that Agnes had said, leapt up and declared her a liar. James later claimed that she had convinced him of her magical powers by telling him certain “secret matters” that had passed between him and his new wife on their wedding night. She was fastened to the wall of her cell by a witch's bridle, an iron instrument with 4 sharp prongs forced into the mouth, so that two prongs pressed against the tongue, and the two others against the cheeks. She was kept without sleep and thrown with a rope around her head, and only after these ordeals did she confess to the fifty-three indictments against her. From thhi time forward, his interest in witchcraft deepened into a dangerous obsession.
Six years later another panic broke out. Once again, witches were reported to be conspiring against King James personally. A woman named Margaret Aitken, the so-called great witch of Balwearie, claimed a special power to detect other witches, many of whom were put to death on her word alone. From March to October 1597. At least 400 people were put on trial for witchcraft and various forms of diabolism during the witch hunt. The exact number of those executed is unknown during this time, but is believed to be about 200. Once the initial suspects were pressed to name accomplices, the latter were often accused of having made a pact with the devil. For women, this usually included a sexual relationship with the male devil. The few accusations against men omitted the sexual element. A man had to do something quite specific and rare in order to be charged with witchcraft. As a result, 85 percent of the convicted witches were women. Sadly, Witch-hunters created evidence through torture. Panics were created and fueled by torturing suspects and then asking them to name their accomplices. The people thus named could be arrested and made to confess to a pact with the devil. Some confessions also included fantastical elements and told of bizarre experiences.
Since King James’s viewed himself and his role as a divinely ordained king, he believed or was taught, that he alone, stood as Satan’s primary threat to world domination. Being a prideful intellectual, he wrote a book to explain the way in which the devil operated in the world and was the leader of fallen angels, who had become demons. These demons made pacts with people and granted them powers to work harmful magic. According to James’s book, titled ‘Daemonologie’, witchcraft was a secret conspiracy between humans and demons, who were out to do all the harm they could. Against this conspiracy, the faithful’s only hope was to appeal to God - and especially to the God-given powers of kings, like James. His book was a philosophical dissertation on contemporary necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination used from ancient black magic. This included a study on demonology and the methods demons used to bother troubled men. It also touches on topics such as werewolves and vampires. It was a political yet theological statement to enlighten a misinformed populace on the history, practices and implications of sorcery and the reasons for persecuting a person in a Christian society accused of being a witch under the rule of canonical law.
James VI spent nine days at St Andrews at the university, attending the trials of witches researching his sources. There was said to be large number of witches of several social classes who had dedicated themselves to the devil and had a witches mark. Rumors of witchcraft had permeated Scottish society, the notion of witches as a demonic conspiracy descended through the lower levels of local government, making the witch hunts of the 16th century local as well as national affairs.
For several years Johne Davidson had frequently preached in Edinburgh and then he officiated as minister of the Second Charge of the abbey at Holyrood.
On two Sundays in December, 1592, Johne Davidson publicly denounced these noblemen and witch-hunters in his severest manner, and strongly inveighed against their reception among Christian men. Informed of his procedure, the king styled Davidson "a writer of ballads and playbills," and commanded the Provost of Edinburgh to prohibit his again preaching in the city. Some of his friends lamented his excess of zeal, and entreated him to offer reparation. Influenced by their counsels, he in a subsequent discourse recalled or qualified his denunciations, but for some months he continued his ministrations at Edinburgh in defiance of the royal will. Apprehending serious consequences, Johne in a discourse Edinburgh at St. Giles on the 18th March, 1593, announced that owing to "the molestation of wicked persons" he would temporarily suspend his labors. On Sunday, 22nd July, he preached again where he denounced as "black" the parliament some of the king's special favorites which had sat in the city the week before, and designated them as arch-traitors and persecutors. When occasion suited he was not more sparing of his ministerial brethren. Preaching before the Synod of Fife, at St. Andrews, on the 26th September, he reproved the ministers for negligence, worldliness, and lack of zeal. On a public fast, in June, 1594, he discoursed in the High Church of Edinburgh on ministerial defection, maintaining that his brethren were "daubed with untempered mortar," and sought more the welfare of their wives than their own improvement. In this discourse he thanked God that the king had, contrary to his intention, done service to the Church; adding that nothing good from him might be looked for till he was brought to repentance. Pointing to the royal pew, the king being absent, he expressed a hope that its royal owner would no longer exalt himself, but "seek pardon on his knees." He described the nobles as oppressors of their tenantry, and condemned the commons for imitating their vices. Though esteemed for his ministerial earnestness and private virtues, the presence of Mr. Davidson in the capital was attended with embarrassment to the king. To the less ardent section of the Church his denunciations were obnoxious, while the foremost of his own party could not maintain that he always expressed himself discreetly. Johne was counseled to accept a rural charge and relocate to East Lotian at Prestonpans in Haddington. In the spring of 1595 he was named for the second charge of Haddington, but proceedings for his settlement were suddenly broken off. Ironically, not long after the publication of Daemonologie in 1603, his fascination with the trails, he became more skeptical and in that same year he revoked the standing commissions on witchcraft, limiting prosecutions by the central courts.