James was crowned King at the age of one year. His mother first served as his regent, but after her remarriage was replaced by the Duke of Albany.
Seeking support for his policies against English opposition, James renewed the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. He first married Madeleine, the daugher of King Francis I of France, and then Marie, the daughter of the Duke of Guise.
James and Marie's two sons both died in infancy. Mary, Queen of Scots, his heir, was born a few days before James's death at age 30.
During his life, James fathered seven known illegitimate sons, including James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, who was influential in the reigns of both Mary and her son, James VI of Scotland, I of England.