James's reign was one of the most important for Britain's history - constitutionally, intellectually, politically and artistically. But most accounts of his life fail to convey the extraordinary and scandalous nature of his court and family life - or the true impact of his early life on his later style of leadership. His was the ultimate dysfunctional family: his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, was believed to be the murderer of his father Lord Darnley. When she fled to England in 1567, James VI became King of Scotland at the age of one. His childhood was overshadowed by political struggles for control over his mind and his body by clerics, kingmakers and courtiers, culminating in virtual imprisonment by the age of 16. But he had learned well from his upbringing. By now a seasoned political operator, he gained the throne of England in 1603, as James I, finally uniting the two kingdoms. From adolescence onward, his personal relationships were the talk of the court. After an early passionate attachment to his older cousin, the glamorous, gallicised Esme Stuart, he moved from one male favourite to the next, showering them with gifts and favours. This lively portrait of a crucial reign in Britain's history focuses on key moments and relationships - his early loves, his relations with his mother, with Elizabeth I and Anne of Denmark, the rise of a trade in pretty young men at court, the impact of a Scottish king on the English throne, his complex relationship with his son and heir, the rise and fall of the powerful later favourites - allowing a new understanding of the man and his colourful times.