Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name James

James is ultimately derived from the ancient Hebrew “Yaakov” which is the origin of the name Jacob, traditionally thought to be derived from the word "akev" - which literally translates to "at the heel". In Genesis 25:26, Jacob was born the younger twin to Isaac and Rebecca and he "came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob." The Lord told Rebecca that the younger would be stronger, and that the older would serve the younger. As the Biblical story progresses, the cunning Jacob eventually supplants his older brother by stealing his birthright and his father's blessing. "Is he not rightly named Jacob?" Esau asks in Genesis 27:36. "For he has supplanted me these two times." Therefore, the name Jacob is also associated with the verb ‘to supplant.’ The Greek form of the name Jacob (Iakobos) was given to the Latin (Iacomus) which eventually got anglicized to James. Sounds strange, but this is how languages mutated over time and geographical space. Historically it was thought that James and Jacob were two distinct names, but most etymologists would now agree James came from Jacob (even though the New Testament features two Disciples of Christ with the name James). The name became popularized in England and adopted by royals in the 15th century onward. James is a persistent favorite among all English-speaking nations. In 2009, the name ranked #3 in Scotland, #5 in Ireland, #9 in England, #11 in Australia and #17 in Canada. In 2010, James was the 19th most popular name for boys in the United States.

All About the Baby Name – James

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME JAMES

The Three energy is powerful and enthusiastic. These personalities are cheerful, full of self-expression, and often quite emotional. They have an artistic flair and "gift-of-gab" that makes them natural entertainers. Their joyfulness bubbles over, and their infectious exuberance draws a crowd. The Three personality is like a child - forever young and full of delight. They are charming, witty, and generally happy people. The Three personality lives in the "now" and has a spontaneous nature. Threes seem to live with a bright and seemingly unbreakable aura that attracts others to them. In turn, they are deeply loyal and loving to their friends and family. Luck also has a tendency to favor number Threes.

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME JAMES

A perennial favorite, the name James has maintained a high position on the U.S. popularity charts for well over a century. It has never left the Top 20 list of most-favored boys’ names. In fact, throughout the 1940’s, James held the #1 position for 13 straight years. Right now, at position #19, James is experiencing its lowest spot on the charts in the history of name-tracking. It’s clear why the name has sustained such an illustrious career; it has just about everything going for it. James is a classic, but never sounds old-fashioned or out-dated. James has an aristocratic, royal essence, but never sounds pretentious. James has been bestowed upon little boys consistently for centuries, but never feels over-used. The name is extremely flexible by nature. It goes beautifully with almost any conceivable surname; it can be shortened easily to initials when paired with middle names (such as J.R., J.J., J.P.), it has many pet forms: Jim, Jimmy, Jaime. And if that isn’t enough, the name’s counterparts in other languages are just as classic: Jacob in Hebrew, Séamus in Ireland, Jacques in French, Jaime in Spanish and Giacomo in Italian. We would almost call James the perfect name.

Quick Facts

ON JAMES

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

English

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

1

RANKING POPULARITY:

13

PRONUNCIATION:

JAYMZ

SIMPLE MEANING:

At the heel, The supplanter

Characteristics

OF JAMES

Communicative

Creative

Optimistic

Popular

Social

Dramatic

Happy

Cultural References to the Baby Name – James

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME JAMES

Having done the longest day in literature with his monumental Ulysses, James Joyce set himself even greater challenges for his next book — the night. "A nocturnal state...That is what I want to convey: what goes on in a dream, during a dream." The work, which would exhaust two decades of his life and the odd resources of some sixty languages, culminated in the 1939 publication of Joyce's final and most revolutionary masterpiece, Finnegans Wake. A story with no real beginning or end (it ends in the middle of a sentence and begins in the middle of the same sentence), this "book of Doublends Jined" is as remarkable for its prose as for its circular structure. Written in a fantastic dream language, forged from polyglot puns and portmanteau words, the Wake features some of Joyce's most brilliant and inventive work. More than sixty years after its original publication, it remains, in Anthony Burgess's words, "a great comic vision, one of the few books of the world that can make us laugh aloud on nearly every page."

Popular Songs

ON JAMES

Jesse James
a song by Bruce Springsteen

Sinking of the Reuben James
a song by Woody Guthrie

Reuben James
a song by Kingston Trio

Tad Loves Kimberly James
a song by Actionslacks

Jimmy James
a song by The Beastie Boys

Little David (James Taylor)
A great little tune by James Taylor.

Frank and Jesse James
a song by Warren Zevon

Just Like Jesse James
a song by Cher

Bells of Saint James
a song by Kansas

Brother James
a song by Sonic Youth

Cool James
a song by Harvey Danger

Dear James
a song by Women in Docs

James
a song by Billy Joel

James Dean
a song by the Eagles

Little James
a song by Oasis

Sweet Baby James
a song by James Taylor

Sinking of Ruben James
a song by The Kingston Trio

Ruben James
a song by Kenny Rogers

Famous People

NAMED JAMES

James M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)
James Buchanan (U.S. President)
James Earl Carter (U.S. President)
James Dean (actor)
James Garfield (U.S. President)
James Earl Jones (actor)
James Madison (U.S. President)
James Monroe (U.S. President)
James Polk (U.S. President)
James Taylor (musician)
James Belushi (actor/comic)
James Blunt (singer)
James Braid (golfer)
James Caan (actor)
James Caviezel (actor)
James Coburn (actor)
James Gandolfini (actor)
James Garner (actor)
James Lofton (football player)
James Spader (actor)
James Sutherland (hockey)
James Van der Beek (actor)
James Woods (actor)
James Worthy (basketball player)
James Cagney (actor)
James M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)
James Buchanan (U.S. President)
James Earl Carter (U.S. President)
James Dean (actor)
James Garfield (U.S. President)
James Earl Jones (actor)
James Madison (U.S. President)
James Monroe (U.S. President)
James Polk (U.S. President)
James Taylor (musician)
James Belushi (actor/comic)
James Blunt (singer)
James Braid (golfer)
James Caan (actor)
James Caviezel (actor)
James Coburn (actor)
James Gandolfini (actor)
James Garner (actor)
James Lofton (football player)
James Spader (actor)
James Sutherland (hockey)
James Van der Beek (actor)
James Woods (actor)
James Worthy (basketball player)
James Cagney (actor)
James M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan)
James Buchanan (U.S. President)
James Earl Carter (U.S. President)
James Dean (actor)
James Garfield (U.S. President)
James Earl Jones (actor)
James Madison (U.S. President)
James Monroe (U.S. President)
James Polk (U.S. President)
James Taylor (musician)
James Belushi (actor/comic)
James Blunt (singer)
James Braid (golfer)
James Caan (actor)
James Caviezel (actor)
James Coburn (actor)
James Gandolfini (actor)
James Garner (actor)
James Lofton (football player)
James Spader (actor)
James Sutherland (hockey)
James Van der Beek (actor)
James Woods (actor)
James Worthy (basketball player)
James Cagney (actor)

Children of Famous People

NAMED JAMES

Reese Witherspoon;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME JAMES

Jimi Hendrix was one of the most important and influential popular musicians of the twentieth century, who crammed a great deal of living into his (almost) 28 years. Skyrocketing to fame after appearing at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, we went on to headline at Woodstock in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. He is credited with popularizing the use of the wah-wah pedal and stereophonic effects in recordings, as well as highly amplified feedback. He received numerous music awards, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously, and was named by Rolling Stone as “the greatest guitarist of all time”. Jimi Hendrix died a drug-related death in London; he is buried in Seattle.

The famous outlaw Jesse James was born Jesse Woodson James in Missouri to a Baptist minister. During the Civil War, James left Missouri to fight as a Confederate guerilla and once killed eight men in a single day. After the war, he returned to Missouri and became the leader of one of history's most notorious outlaw gangs. With his brother Frank James and several other ex-Confederates, including Cole Younger and his brothers, the James gang robbed their way across the Western frontier targeting banks, trains, stagecoaches, and stores from Iowa to Texas. Eluding lawmen, the gang escaped with thousands of dollars. James is believed to have carried out the first daylight bank robbery in peacetime, stealing $60,000 from a bank in Liberty, Missouri. In 1873, the gang pulled off the first successful train robbery in the American West. Despite their criminal and often violent acts, James and his partners were much adored. Journalists, eager to entertain Easterners with tales of a Wild West, exaggerated and romanticized the gang's heists, often casting James as a contemporary Robin Hood. His humanitarian acts were probably more fiction than fact. In 1876 in Northfield Missouri, all the gang members were either killed or captured after a botched bank robbery attempt. All but Jesse and his brother, that is. The James men’s wives tried to get them to take on a normal life, but with bounties on their head, they had no choice but to hide out. He eventually recruited the Ford brothers for another heist, but was double-crossed when Robert Ford, hoping to claim the $10,000 reward on Jesse, shot and killed him. Jesse James’ mother provided his epitaph: “In loving memory of my beloved son, murdered by a traitor and coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.”

The famous outlaw Jesse James was born Jesse Woodson James in Missouri to a Baptist minister. During the Civil War, James left Missouri to fight as a Confederate guerilla and once killed eight men in a single day. After the war, he returned to Missouri and became the leader of one of history's most notorious outlaw gangs. With his brother Frank James and several other ex-Confederates, including Cole Younger and his brothers, the James gang robbed their way across the Western frontier targeting banks, trains, stagecoaches, and stores from Iowa to Texas. Eluding lawmen, the gang escaped with thousands of dollars. James is believed to have carried out the first daylight bank robbery in peacetime, stealing $60,000 from a bank in Liberty, Missouri. In 1873, the gang pulled off the first successful train robbery in the American West. Despite their criminal and often violent acts, James and his partners were much adored. Journalists, eager to entertain Easterners with tales of a Wild West, exaggerated and romanticized the gang's heists, often casting James as a contemporary Robin Hood. His humanitarian acts were probably more fiction than fact. In 1876 in Northfield Missouri, all the gang members were either killed or captured after a botched bank robbery attempt. All but Jesse and his brother, that is. The James men’s wives tried to get them to take on a normal life, but with bounties on their head, they had no choice but to hide out. He eventually recruited the Ford brothers for another heist, but was double-crossed when Robert Ford, hoping to claim the $10,000 reward on Jesse, shot and killed him. Jesse James’ mother provided his epitaph: “In loving memory of my beloved son, murdered by a traitor and coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.”

Yes, we know that "Madison" is his last name, but we wanted to throw him in here given his obvious influence on the popularity of the name Madison as a given name in America. James Madison was one of our Founding Fathers, a Congress member, the Secretary of State under Jefferson and finally the 4th President of the United States. He had a shy, reserved personality, but also a bawdy sense of humor. He is known for being on the winning side of almost all political arguments given his keen intellect and his thorough preparedness. His Presidency is probably most defined by the War of 1812 against the British. The war begins badly (the United States had twenty ships to Britain’s one-thousand!) Just as America is about to lose, General Andrew Jackson leads his rag-tag army to victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Madison is also known for his vivacious, popular wife, Dolley Madison.

Yes, we know that "Madison" is his last name, but we wanted to throw him in here given his obvious influence on the popularity of the name Madison as a given name in America. James Madison was one of our Founding Fathers, a Congress member, the Secretary of State under Jefferson and finally the 4th President of the United States. He had a shy, reserved personality, but also a bawdy sense of humor. He is known for being on the winning side of almost all political arguments given his keen intellect and his thorough preparedness. His Presidency is probably most defined by the War of 1812 against the British. The war begins badly (the United States had twenty ships to Britain’s one-thousand!) Just as America is about to lose, General Andrew Jackson leads his rag-tag army to victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Madison is also known for his vivacious, popular wife, Dolley Madison.

No wonder the Scots love the name James. It was borne by several Scottish kings, covering over two centuries. Here’s a brief history of the Scottish kings named James. When the great Robert the Bruce failed to produce a male heir, the throne was passed to his grandson in the female line (Robert Stuart, son of his daughter, Marjorie), and thus began the House of Stuart in the illustrious history of the Scottish and British monarchy. Robert II's grandson, James I (1406-1437), was to prove one of Scotland's ablest kings. He was Robert III’s younger son (his older son David died suspiciously), so the younger son James was sent to France for his safety. Upon his return to take the throne, he was captured, imprisoned and held for ransom for 18 years. The ransom was eventually paid by Scotland, so James I came back to asset his authority (along with his new English bride). He centralized control of the Scottish crown, but was ultimately assassinated for the bad publicity that came along with that accomplishment. His son James II continued his father's policy of weakening the great noble families to bring more power to the House of Stuart. His son, James III, was responsible for the last great acquisition of Scottish territory through his marriage to a Dane (her dowry included the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands). With his death came his son and successor, James IV, who is notable for ending the quasi-independent rule of the Lord of the Isles, bringing the Western Isles under effective Royal control for the first time. He is also remembered for marrying King Henry VII's daughter, Margaret Tudor, thus laying the foundation for the 17th century Union of the Crowns. James IV's reign was during the European Renaissance, a time when Scottish culture blossomed along with the spread of education and the founding of St. Andrews University. James IV died in battle when they invaded England in support of the French in 1512. Regents once again controlled the Scottish government in the name of his son; the infant James V. James V would eventually escape the custody of the regents and go about his father’s work of subduing the rebellious Highlands, Western and Northern Isles. James V had a fairly successful reign but died shortly after another devastating campaign against England. Just before his death, the Scottish king learned of the birth of his only heir by his French noblewoman wife, a daughter: Mary, Queen of Scots. He apparently remarked: “it cam wi a lass, it will gang wi a lass" - referring to the House of Stuart which began with Walter Stuart’s marriage to the daughter of Robert the Bruce. Since Mary is a baby, the rule goes back to the regents. While Mary is still a toddler, King Henry VIII attempts to use military force to ensure Mary marries his son, Edward. So Mary is sent to France by her French mother in the hopes that she’ll marry the heir to the French throne. Her mother, Marie de Guise, stays behind in Scotland to look after her daughter’s interests. Finally, in 1550, England withdrew from Scotland completely and Marie assumes the regency, continuing to advance French interests in Scotland and keep Mary’s interests in-tact. In 1560 Marie died, but the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, providing for the removal of French and English troops from Scotland. The Scottish Reformation took place only days later when the Scottish Parliament abolished the Roman Catholic religion and outlawed the Mass. Meanwhile, Queen Mary had been raised a Catholic in France. As planned, she married the Dauphin Francis in 1558, and become Queen of France on the death of his father the following year. When her husband died, Mary, now at the ripe old age of nineteen, decided to return to Scotland to assume her authority in a hostile atmosphere. Despite being Catholic herself, she refrained from imposing Catholicism on her largely Protestant subjects, thus straining relations with the chief Catholic nobles. Her reign was riddled with crisis: rivalries, the murder of her secretary, the murder of her second husband, and her abdication. She was eventually imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle during which time her infant son James VI would ascend to the throne. Mary eventually escaped from Loch Leven, and brashly attempted to regain the throne by force (don’t you just love Sagittarian women?). In Scotland, the Regents fought a civil war on behalf of James VI against his mother's supporters (talk about dysfunctional families!). Meanwhile, back in England Mary became a symbol of Catholic dissention and was eventually tried for treason and beheaded on the orders of her cousin Elizabeth I. So that’s how James VI became King of Scotland (eventually James I of England, more on that above). After that, Elizabeth I essentially hands him all of England, and the monarchy is unified.

Six Presidents of the United States bore the name James. The fourth President of the U.S. was James Madison (1809-1817) known as "His Little Majesty" (as he was the shortest of all U.S. President standing at 5’6” tall). James Madison was one of the Fathers of the Constitution and a brilliant, well-prepared politician. His presidency was defined by two things: the war of 1812 and the popularity of his wife, Dolly Madison. Next came the 5th U.S. President, James Monroe (1817-1825). He was known as "The Era of Good Feelings President" because of his falsely easy presidency. He was noted for the “Missouri Compromise” (which allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state, even though he had made efforts to send slaves back to Africa, think: Monrovia) and the “Monroe Doctrine” (which rejected European attempts to colonize the western hemisphere). The 11th U.S. president was James Polk (1845-1849) who is sometimes referred to as the hardest working president in history. Also referred to as "Polk the Plodder," the man set an agenda and made it happen. He secured the Oregon territory by threatening war with England, he brought California into statehood, he lowered tariffs, he established an independent Treasury and he went to war with Mexico to settle the Texas dispute. All of this in four years, and did not seek reelection. Unfortunately, he would die three months after his term ended. The 15th U.S. President, James Buchanan (1857-1861), was called "Ten-Cent Jimmie" for his insensitive comment that 10-cents a day was plenty for folks to live on. This James is usually ranked at the bottom of all presidents and was thankfully followed by Abraham Lincoln (to whom he said: “If you are as happy to be coming into the office of the Presidency as I am to leave it, then you are a very happy man”). James Garfield (1881-1881) was the country’s 20th President, whose presidency only lasted 200 days before being assassinated by a crazy man. Had Garfield served his term, historians speculate that he would have been determined to move toward civil service reform and carry on in the clean government tradition of President Hayes. He also supported education for black southerners and called for African American suffrage. Lastly, there was Jimmy Carter, the 39th U.S. President (1977-1981) who unfortunately inherited a White House riddled with problems after the Nixon/Ford debacles during a problematic time in U.S. history. While all historians agree that Carter was a president of great intellect, he was eventually referred to as "President Malaise" due to his “crisis of confidence” speech and the appearance that he did not have the White House under control. He is probably better known and respected for his accomplishments post-presidency.

James Macpherson is often referred to as the Scottish Robin Hood and famous for his fiddle tune “Macpherson’s Rant” he played in the gallows awaiting his execution (later rewritten by the Scottish poet Robert Burns). He was born the illegitimate son to a Scottish Lord and a beautiful Scottish tinker (the equivalent of a gypsy woman). The Lord took him into his house and provided for him until he died, upon which time the child James was returned to his mother. He became a pirate of sorts, but never perpetrated a crime on the vulnerable or distressed; hence, his Robin Hood association (rob from the rich, give to the poor). A posse of rich Lords and farmers eventually captured him and he was sentenced to death. His famous “rant” sings in part: “Ach, little did my mother think / When first she cradled me / That I would turn a roving boy / And die on the gallows tree…Sae rantingly, sae wantonly, / Sae dauntingly gaed he; / He play'd a tune, and danc'd it roon' / And they hanged him from a tree.”

When Queen Elizabeth I of England died in 1603, she had one last trick up her sleeve. She bequeathed the throne to her first-cousin-once-removed, James VI of Scotland (who also happened to be the son of Elizabeth’s nuisance of a cousin, Mary Queen of Scots). This also transferred the royal power from the House of Tudor to the House of Stuart. James I reign is notable for a few things. First of all, he felt it was his “divine” right to rule with absolute power and therefore basically ignored Parliament until he needed them to help support his lavish lifestyle. Secondly, he didn’t quite know how to placate the religious issues pervasive throughout England (Elizabeth I had reinstated the Church of England to the Protestant faith) and yet all of Europe was predominately Catholic (so were many of the English for that matter). Complicating matters, the Puritans were an ever-growing sect of the Protestants and were demanding the eradication of all remnants of Catholic practices still permeating the church services. James basically told the Puritans to get lost (and they did, by sailing to America on the Mayflower in 1620). Despite his lack of diplomacy and insensitivities to religious matters, the publication of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 was met with extensive approval. Another piece of history important to know about James I is that he was the ruling king when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament and the king, intending to “blow the Scots back to Scotland.” That effort failed, but the British still “Remember, remember the 5th of November!” (1605 that is). James I died at the age of 58, and despite his relatively lackluster reign, he still had the affection of the people. His son, Charles I would inherit the throne.

James the II of England was the grandson of James I, the son of Charles I and the brother of Charles II (see the name Charles for more information on their reigns). In a nut shell, Charles I inherited the throne (from James I) and was eventually executed after Oliver Cromwell became “Lord Protector” of England and stamped out the monarchy for 11 years. After Cromwell’s death, Charles I’s son, Charles II, would return from European exile to re-establish the monarchy with the support of the English people. Charles II became known as the “Merry Monarch” due to his pursuits of pleasure (he was also a closeted Catholic, and converted to Catholicism on his deathbed), but he also knew how to play politics and keep the peace. His brother, the openly Catholic James II, would ascend the throne much to the chagrin of Parliament and the English people who predominantly did not want to return to Catholicism. So James II was immediately faced with overthrow attempts and his over-zealous defense did nothing to gain further support. Fortunately, for his detractors, James II’s first wife was Protestant, so his Protestant daughter Mary was recognized as the preferred heir along with her also-Protestant Dutch husband, William of Orange. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 ensued and James II was forced to abdicate or lose his life. His reign lasted a little more than three years.

No wonder the Scots love the name James. It was borne by several Scottish kings, covering over two centuries. Here’s a brief history of the Scottish kings named James. When the great Robert the Bruce failed to produce a male heir, the throne was passed to his grandson in the female line (Robert Stuart, son of his daughter, Marjorie), and thus began the House of Stuart in the illustrious history of the Scottish and British monarchy. Robert II's grandson, James I (1406-1437), was to prove one of Scotland's ablest kings. He was Robert III’s younger son (his older son David died suspiciously), so the younger son James was sent to France for his safety. Upon his return to take the throne, he was captured, imprisoned and held for ransom for 18 years. The ransom was eventually paid by Scotland, so James I came back to asset his authority (along with his new English bride). He centralized control of the Scottish crown, but was ultimately assassinated for the bad publicity that came along with that accomplishment. His son James II continued his father's policy of weakening the great noble families to bring more power to the House of Stuart. His son, James III, was responsible for the last great acquisition of Scottish territory through his marriage to a Dane (her dowry included the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands). With his death came his son and successor, James IV, who is notable for ending the quasi-independent rule of the Lord of the Isles, bringing the Western Isles under effective Royal control for the first time. He is also remembered for marrying King Henry VII's daughter, Margaret Tudor, thus laying the foundation for the 17th century Union of the Crowns. James IV's reign was during the European Renaissance, a time when Scottish culture blossomed along with the spread of education and the founding of St. Andrews University. James IV died in battle when they invaded England in support of the French in 1512. Regents once again controlled the Scottish government in the name of his son; the infant James V. James V would eventually escape the custody of the regents and go about his father’s work of subduing the rebellious Highlands, Western and Northern Isles. James V had a fairly successful reign but died shortly after another devastating campaign against England. Just before his death, the Scottish king learned of the birth of his only heir by his French noblewoman wife, a daughter: Mary, Queen of Scots. He apparently remarked: “it cam wi a lass, it will gang wi a lass" - referring to the House of Stuart which began with Walter Stuart’s marriage to the daughter of Robert the Bruce. Since Mary is a baby, the rule goes back to the regents. While Mary is still a toddler, King Henry VIII attempts to use military force to ensure Mary marries his son, Edward. So Mary is sent to France by her French mother in the hopes that she’ll marry the heir to the French throne. Her mother, Marie de Guise, stays behind in Scotland to look after her daughter’s interests. Finally, in 1550, England withdrew from Scotland completely and Marie assumes the regency, continuing to advance French interests in Scotland and keep Mary’s interests in-tact. In 1560 Marie died, but the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, providing for the removal of French and English troops from Scotland. The Scottish Reformation took place only days later when the Scottish Parliament abolished the Roman Catholic religion and outlawed the Mass. Meanwhile, Queen Mary had been raised a Catholic in France. As planned, she married the Dauphin Francis in 1558, and become Queen of France on the death of his father the following year. When her husband died, Mary, now at the ripe old age of nineteen, decided to return to Scotland to assume her authority in a hostile atmosphere. Despite being Catholic herself, she refrained from imposing Catholicism on her largely Protestant subjects, thus straining relations with the chief Catholic nobles. Her reign was riddled with crisis: rivalries, the murder of her secretary, the murder of her second husband, and her abdication. She was eventually imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle during which time her infant son James VI would ascend to the throne. Mary eventually escaped from Loch Leven, and brashly attempted to regain the throne by force (don’t you just love Sagittarian women?). In Scotland, the Regents fought a civil war on behalf of James VI against his mother's supporters (talk about dysfunctional families!). Meanwhile, back in England Mary became a symbol of Catholic dissention and was eventually tried for treason and beheaded on the orders of her cousin Elizabeth I. So that’s how James VI became King of Scotland (eventually James I of England, more on that above). After that, Elizabeth I essentially hands him all of England, and the monarchy is unified.

Six Presidents of the United States bore the name James. The fourth President of the U.S. was James Madison (1809-1817) known as "His Little Majesty" (as he was the shortest of all U.S. President standing at 5’6” tall). James Madison was one of the Fathers of the Constitution and a brilliant, well-prepared politician. His presidency was defined by two things: the war of 1812 and the popularity of his wife, Dolly Madison. Next came the 5th U.S. President, James Monroe (1817-1825). He was known as "The Era of Good Feelings President" because of his falsely easy presidency. He was noted for the “Missouri Compromise” (which allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state, even though he had made efforts to send slaves back to Africa, think: Monrovia) and the “Monroe Doctrine” (which rejected European attempts to colonize the western hemisphere). The 11th U.S. president was James Polk (1845-1849) who is sometimes referred to as the hardest working president in history. Also referred to as "Polk the Plodder," the man set an agenda and made it happen. He secured the Oregon territory by threatening war with England, he brought California into statehood, he lowered tariffs, he established an independent Treasury and he went to war with Mexico to settle the Texas dispute. All of this in four years, and did not seek reelection. Unfortunately, he would die three months after his term ended. The 15th U.S. President, James Buchanan (1857-1861), was called "Ten-Cent Jimmie" for his insensitive comment that 10-cents a day was plenty for folks to live on. This James is usually ranked at the bottom of all presidents and was thankfully followed by Abraham Lincoln (to whom he said: “If you are as happy to be coming into the office of the Presidency as I am to leave it, then you are a very happy man”). James Garfield (1881-1881) was the country’s 20th President, whose presidency only lasted 200 days before being assassinated by a crazy man. Had Garfield served his term, historians speculate that he would have been determined to move toward civil service reform and carry on in the clean government tradition of President Hayes. He also supported education for black southerners and called for African American suffrage. Lastly, there was Jimmy Carter, the 39th U.S. President (1977-1981) who unfortunately inherited a White House riddled with problems after the Nixon/Ford debacles during a problematic time in U.S. history. While all historians agree that Carter was a president of great intellect, he was eventually referred to as "President Malaise" due to his “crisis of confidence” speech and the appearance that he did not have the White House under control. He is probably better known and respected for his accomplishments post-presidency.

James Macpherson is often referred to as the Scottish Robin Hood and famous for his fiddle tune “Macpherson’s Rant” he played in the gallows awaiting his execution (later rewritten by the Scottish poet Robert Burns). He was born the illegitimate son to a Scottish Lord and a beautiful Scottish tinker (the equivalent of a gypsy woman). The Lord took him into his house and provided for him until he died, upon which time the child James was returned to his mother. He became a pirate of sorts, but never perpetrated a crime on the vulnerable or distressed; hence, his Robin Hood association (rob from the rich, give to the poor). A posse of rich Lords and farmers eventually captured him and he was sentenced to death. His famous “rant” sings in part: “Ach, little did my mother think / When first she cradled me / That I would turn a roving boy / And die on the gallows tree…Sae rantingly, sae wantonly, / Sae dauntingly gaed he; / He play'd a tune, and danc'd it roon' / And they hanged him from a tree.”

When Queen Elizabeth I of England died in 1603, she had one last trick up her sleeve. She bequeathed the throne to her first-cousin-once-removed, James VI of Scotland (who also happened to be the son of Elizabeth’s nuisance of a cousin, Mary Queen of Scots). This also transferred the royal power from the House of Tudor to the House of Stuart. James I reign is notable for a few things. First of all, he felt it was his “divine” right to rule with absolute power and therefore basically ignored Parliament until he needed them to help support his lavish lifestyle. Secondly, he didn’t quite know how to placate the religious issues pervasive throughout England (Elizabeth I had reinstated the Church of England to the Protestant faith) and yet all of Europe was predominately Catholic (so were many of the English for that matter). Complicating matters, the Puritans were an ever-growing sect of the Protestants and were demanding the eradication of all remnants of Catholic practices still permeating the church services. James basically told the Puritans to get lost (and they did, by sailing to America on the Mayflower in 1620). Despite his lack of diplomacy and insensitivities to religious matters, the publication of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 was met with extensive approval. Another piece of history important to know about James I is that he was the ruling king when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament and the king, intending to “blow the Scots back to Scotland.” That effort failed, but the British still “Remember, remember the 5th of November!” (1605 that is). James I died at the age of 58, and despite his relatively lackluster reign, he still had the affection of the people. His son, Charles I would inherit the throne.

James the II of England was the grandson of James I, the son of Charles I and the brother of Charles II (see the name Charles for more information on their reigns). In a nut shell, Charles I inherited the throne (from James I) and was eventually executed after Oliver Cromwell became “Lord Protector” of England and stamped out the monarchy for 11 years. After Cromwell’s death, Charles I’s son, Charles II, would return from European exile to re-establish the monarchy with the support of the English people. Charles II became known as the “Merry Monarch” due to his pursuits of pleasure (he was also a closeted Catholic, and converted to Catholicism on his deathbed), but he also knew how to play politics and keep the peace. His brother, the openly Catholic James II, would ascend the throne much to the chagrin of Parliament and the English people who predominantly did not want to return to Catholicism. So James II was immediately faced with overthrow attempts and his over-zealous defense did nothing to gain further support. Fortunately, for his detractors, James II’s first wife was Protestant, so his Protestant daughter Mary was recognized as the preferred heir along with her also-Protestant Dutch husband, William of Orange. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 ensued and James II was forced to abdicate or lose his life. His reign lasted a little more than three years.

The famous outlaw Jesse James was born Jesse Woodson James in Missouri to a Baptist minister. During the Civil War, James left Missouri to fight as a Confederate guerilla and once killed eight men in a single day. After the war, he returned to Missouri and became the leader of one of history's most notorious outlaw gangs. With his brother Frank James and several other ex-Confederates, including Cole Younger and his brothers, the James gang robbed their way across the Western frontier targeting banks, trains, stagecoaches, and stores from Iowa to Texas. Eluding lawmen, the gang escaped with thousands of dollars. James is believed to have carried out the first daylight bank robbery in peacetime, stealing $60,000 from a bank in Liberty, Missouri. In 1873, the gang pulled off the first successful train robbery in the American West. Despite their criminal and often violent acts, James and his partners were much adored. Journalists, eager to entertain Easterners with tales of a Wild West, exaggerated and romanticized the gang's heists, often casting James as a contemporary Robin Hood. His humanitarian acts were probably more fiction than fact. In 1876 in Northfield Missouri, all the gang members were either killed or captured after a botched bank robbery attempt. All but Jesse and his brother, that is. The James men’s wives tried to get them to take on a normal life, but with bounties on their head, they had no choice but to hide out. He eventually recruited the Ford brothers for another heist, but was double-crossed when Robert Ford, hoping to claim the $10,000 reward on Jesse, shot and killed him. Jesse James’ mother provided his epitaph: “In loving memory of my beloved son, murdered by a traitor and coward whose name is not worthy to appear here.”

When Queen Elizabeth I of England died in 1603, she had one last trick up her sleeve. She bequeathed the throne to her first-cousin-once-removed, James VI of Scotland (who also happened to be the son of Elizabeth’s nuisance of a cousin, Mary Queen of Scots). This also transferred the royal power from the House of Tudor to the House of Stuart. James I reign is notable for a few things. First of all, he felt it was his “divine” right to rule with absolute power and therefore basically ignored Parliament until he needed them to help support his lavish lifestyle. Secondly, he didn’t quite know how to placate the religious issues pervasive throughout England (Elizabeth I had reinstated the Church of England to the Protestant faith) and yet all of Europe was predominately Catholic (so were many of the English for that matter). Complicating matters, the Puritans were an ever-growing sect of the Protestants and were demanding the eradication of all remnants of Catholic practices still permeating the church services. James basically told the Puritans to get lost (and they did, by sailing to America on the Mayflower in 1620). Despite his lack of diplomacy and insensitivities to religious matters, the publication of the King James Version of the Bible in 1611 was met with extensive approval. Another piece of history important to know about James I is that he was the ruling king when Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up Parliament and the king, intending to “blow the Scots back to Scotland.” That effort failed, but the British still “Remember, remember the 5th of November!” (1605 that is). James I died at the age of 58, and despite his relatively lackluster reign, he still had the affection of the people. His son, Charles I would inherit the throne.

James the II of England was the grandson of James I, the son of Charles I and the brother of Charles II (see the name Charles for more information on their reigns). In a nut shell, Charles I inherited the throne (from James I) and was eventually executed after Oliver Cromwell became “Lord Protector” of England and stamped out the monarchy for 11 years. After Cromwell’s death, Charles I’s son, Charles II, would return from European exile to re-establish the monarchy with the support of the English people. Charles II became known as the “Merry Monarch” due to his pursuits of pleasure (he was also a closeted Catholic, and converted to Catholicism on his deathbed), but he also knew how to play politics and keep the peace. His brother, the openly Catholic James II, would ascend the throne much to the chagrin of Parliament and the English people who predominantly did not want to return to Catholicism. So James II was immediately faced with overthrow attempts and his over-zealous defense did nothing to gain further support. Fortunately, for his detractors, James II’s first wife was Protestant, so his Protestant daughter Mary was recognized as the preferred heir along with her also-Protestant Dutch husband, William of Orange. The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 ensued and James II was forced to abdicate or lose his life. His reign lasted a little more than three years.

James Macpherson is often referred to as the Scottish Robin Hood and famous for his fiddle tune “Macpherson’s Rant” he played in the gallows awaiting his execution (later rewritten by the Scottish poet Robert Burns). He was born the illegitimate son to a Scottish Lord and a beautiful Scottish tinker (the equivalent of a gypsy woman). The Lord took him into his house and provided for him until he died, upon which time the child James was returned to his mother. He became a pirate of sorts, but never perpetrated a crime on the vulnerable or distressed; hence, his Robin Hood association (rob from the rich, give to the poor). A posse of rich Lords and farmers eventually captured him and he was sentenced to death. His famous “rant” sings in part: “Ach, little did my mother think / When first she cradled me / That I would turn a roving boy / And die on the gallows tree…Sae rantingly, sae wantonly, / Sae dauntingly gaed he; / He play'd a tune, and danc'd it roon' / And they hanged him from a tree.”

Six Presidents of the United States bore the name James. The fourth President of the U.S. was James Madison (1809-1817) known as "His Little Majesty" (as he was the shortest of all U.S. President standing at 5’6” tall). James Madison was one of the Fathers of the Constitution and a brilliant, well-prepared politician. His presidency was defined by two things: the war of 1812 and the popularity of his wife, Dolly Madison. Next came the 5th U.S. President, James Monroe (1817-1825). He was known as "The Era of Good Feelings President" because of his falsely easy presidency. He was noted for the “Missouri Compromise” (which allowed Missouri to enter the union as a slave state, even though he had made efforts to send slaves back to Africa, think: Monrovia) and the “Monroe Doctrine” (which rejected European attempts to colonize the western hemisphere). The 11th U.S. president was James Polk (1845-1849) who is sometimes referred to as the hardest working president in history. Also referred to as "Polk the Plodder," the man set an agenda and made it happen. He secured the Oregon territory by threatening war with England, he brought California into statehood, he lowered tariffs, he established an independent Treasury and he went to war with Mexico to settle the Texas dispute. All of this in four years, and did not seek reelection. Unfortunately, he would die three months after his term ended. The 15th U.S. President, James Buchanan (1857-1861), was called "Ten-Cent Jimmie" for his insensitive comment that 10-cents a day was plenty for folks to live on. This James is usually ranked at the bottom of all presidents and was thankfully followed by Abraham Lincoln (to whom he said: “If you are as happy to be coming into the office of the Presidency as I am to leave it, then you are a very happy man”). James Garfield (1881-1881) was the country’s 20th President, whose presidency only lasted 200 days before being assassinated by a crazy man. Had Garfield served his term, historians speculate that he would have been determined to move toward civil service reform and carry on in the clean government tradition of President Hayes. He also supported education for black southerners and called for African American suffrage. Lastly, there was Jimmy Carter, the 39th U.S. President (1977-1981) who unfortunately inherited a White House riddled with problems after the Nixon/Ford debacles during a problematic time in U.S. history. While all historians agree that Carter was a president of great intellect, he was eventually referred to as "President Malaise" due to his “crisis of confidence” speech and the appearance that he did not have the White House under control. He is probably better known and respected for his accomplishments post-presidency.

No wonder the Scots love the name James. It was borne by several Scottish kings, covering over two centuries. Here’s a brief history of the Scottish kings named James. When the great Robert the Bruce failed to produce a male heir, the throne was passed to his grandson in the female line (Robert Stuart, son of his daughter, Marjorie), and thus began the House of Stuart in the illustrious history of the Scottish and British monarchy. Robert II's grandson, James I (1406-1437), was to prove one of Scotland's ablest kings. He was Robert III’s younger son (his older son David died suspiciously), so the younger son James was sent to France for his safety. Upon his return to take the throne, he was captured, imprisoned and held for ransom for 18 years. The ransom was eventually paid by Scotland, so James I came back to asset his authority (along with his new English bride). He centralized control of the Scottish crown, but was ultimately assassinated for the bad publicity that came along with that accomplishment. His son James II continued his father's policy of weakening the great noble families to bring more power to the House of Stuart. His son, James III, was responsible for the last great acquisition of Scottish territory through his marriage to a Dane (her dowry included the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands). With his death came his son and successor, James IV, who is notable for ending the quasi-independent rule of the Lord of the Isles, bringing the Western Isles under effective Royal control for the first time. He is also remembered for marrying King Henry VII's daughter, Margaret Tudor, thus laying the foundation for the 17th century Union of the Crowns. James IV's reign was during the European Renaissance, a time when Scottish culture blossomed along with the spread of education and the founding of St. Andrews University. James IV died in battle when they invaded England in support of the French in 1512. Regents once again controlled the Scottish government in the name of his son; the infant James V. James V would eventually escape the custody of the regents and go about his father’s work of subduing the rebellious Highlands, Western and Northern Isles. James V had a fairly successful reign but died shortly after another devastating campaign against England. Just before his death, the Scottish king learned of the birth of his only heir by his French noblewoman wife, a daughter: Mary, Queen of Scots. He apparently remarked: “it cam wi a lass, it will gang wi a lass" - referring to the House of Stuart which began with Walter Stuart’s marriage to the daughter of Robert the Bruce. Since Mary is a baby, the rule goes back to the regents. While Mary is still a toddler, King Henry VIII attempts to use military force to ensure Mary marries his son, Edward. So Mary is sent to France by her French mother in the hopes that she’ll marry the heir to the French throne. Her mother, Marie de Guise, stays behind in Scotland to look after her daughter’s interests. Finally, in 1550, England withdrew from Scotland completely and Marie assumes the regency, continuing to advance French interests in Scotland and keep Mary’s interests in-tact. In 1560 Marie died, but the Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, providing for the removal of French and English troops from Scotland. The Scottish Reformation took place only days later when the Scottish Parliament abolished the Roman Catholic religion and outlawed the Mass. Meanwhile, Queen Mary had been raised a Catholic in France. As planned, she married the Dauphin Francis in 1558, and become Queen of France on the death of his father the following year. When her husband died, Mary, now at the ripe old age of nineteen, decided to return to Scotland to assume her authority in a hostile atmosphere. Despite being Catholic herself, she refrained from imposing Catholicism on her largely Protestant subjects, thus straining relations with the chief Catholic nobles. Her reign was riddled with crisis: rivalries, the murder of her secretary, the murder of her second husband, and her abdication. She was eventually imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle during which time her infant son James VI would ascend to the throne. Mary eventually escaped from Loch Leven, and brashly attempted to regain the throne by force (don’t you just love Sagittarian women?). In Scotland, the Regents fought a civil war on behalf of James VI against his mother's supporters (talk about dysfunctional families!). Meanwhile, back in England Mary became a symbol of Catholic dissention and was eventually tried for treason and beheaded on the orders of her cousin Elizabeth I. So that’s how James VI became King of Scotland (eventually James I of England, more on that above). After that, Elizabeth I essentially hands him all of England, and the monarchy is unified.

Yes, we know that "Madison" is his last name, but we wanted to throw him in here given his obvious influence on the popularity of the name Madison as a given name in America. James Madison was one of our Founding Fathers, a Congress member, the Secretary of State under Jefferson and finally the 4th President of the United States. He had a shy, reserved personality, but also a bawdy sense of humor. He is known for being on the winning side of almost all political arguments given his keen intellect and his thorough preparedness. His Presidency is probably most defined by the War of 1812 against the British. The war begins badly (the United States had twenty ships to Britain’s one-thousand!) Just as America is about to lose, General Andrew Jackson leads his rag-tag army to victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Madison is also known for his vivacious, popular wife, Dolley Madison.