Majestie is a shared biography: that of the first Stuart King of England (James I) and the Bible that goes by his name. It is part tabloid, part history lesson, part speculation; but it’s all James. A biography of James Stuart is a study in paradox, one that entertains as much as it informs. James I waddles through history, sidewise and crablike. Intellectually astute, he can dazzle and charm with the polish of his rhetoric one minute, and speak with the vulgarity of a tavern bawd the next. James is an amusing mix of bombast and majesty, of sparkle and grime, of smut and brilliance, of visionary headship and foolishness. And only he, this all-too-human king, our flawed James, could have given us the great book he did.
Early in his reign, James fashioned himself as the “new Solomon”, the pacifist prince entering the “the land of promise” - that is, the England inherited from his cousin Elizabeth. But the milk and honey he expected was a mirage. Still, in many respects he flirts with greatness. He is the first king of a united, or “Great" Britain. For all his foibles, all his bungling, James possesses an evolved sense of majesty, a type of faith in majesty itself, and wants nothing more than for his new Bible to reflect this majesty, to gild and elevate the reign, to be the great medicine that might heal the realm.
Colorful, witty, imperfect, sensuous, bawdy, intelligent, England has had no king like him, nor any book like the one he bequeathed us, before or since.
©2010 David Teems (P)2011 Oasis Audio
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"A partial success"
Partly a biography of King James, partly an account of the writing of the King James bible, this ends up feeling like two half-written stories which never amount to more than the sum of their parts. There are interesting passages about James's life and character - clever, witty and literate; smelly, foul-mouthed and apt to lose his reason when meeting a handsome lad in tight hose - but whenever Teems really gets going he declares that further detail would be undignified and the story stutters. He also offers interesting facts on the overlaps between the bible's translators and William Shakespeare, who prospered under James's patronage. Once again though we get an outline of the events rather than the fuller exploration that the subject warrants. So I was left frustrated and the narrator's utter inability to pronounce English and Scottish names was an added frustration. Not sorry I bought it but an all-round three stars.
"Interesting perspective on a flawed king"
Jamie Saxt is not someone for whom I have any love, but he emerged from this biography as more sympathetic and understandably damaged by his dreadful childhood than I had expected. His story is told in a lively fashion and brings him into bright focus.
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