On Mary’s abdication in 1567, her infant son James became King.
Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray, was the first of James' regents and had to cope with the fact that Mary still had strong support in Scotland.
Moray gained Protestant support by passing the laws of the Reformation Parliament of 1560 which favoured the Kirk. He also took action against Catholic priests, satisfying the Protestants and reducing Mary’s support.
He was eventually murdered in Linlithgow in January 1570 by one of Mary’s followers. Moray was succeeded as regent by the Earl of Lennox (James’s grandfather) and then by the Earl of Mar.
From 1572, the Earl of Morton became Regent and was to guide policy throughout the remainder of James’s youth. He looked to restore law and order, and secure the Protestant religion.
Town councillors were now to declare an oath of loyalty to the King and the Kirk. Ministers too, were to declare that they accepted the King as Supreme Governor of the Kirk. Bishops were also appointed causing further arguments.
However in 1574 Andrew Melville returned to Scotland after spending ten years studying and teaching in France and Geneva. On his return Melville was appointed to the influential position of Principal, first of the University of Glasgow then of that of St Andrew’s University.
Melville was to become the new leader of the Reformed Church in Scotland although he held different views from John Knox. Melville was opposed to bishops and wanted a theocracy - a Presbyterian church where all ministers were to be of the same rank. There was no hierarchy. Through presbyteries and general assemblies, Melville wanted the Church to have a self sufficient organisation in which neither the King nor Parliament had any part.
This would mean that the Kirk, not the King, would rule the Church. This issue was subsequently pursued by King James himself.
Morton had no further part to play as his policies led to increased resentment towards him from members of the nobility. He was executed in 1581 for complicity in Darnley’s murder.