Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Much Harassed Semi-Royal Lass From The Past: The Life Of Lady Arbella Stuart

Lady Arbella Stuart
XI.1575 – 27.IX.1615

 “I should have adjudged my selfe unworthy of life 
if I had degenerated from the most renowned stocke 
whearof it is greatest honour to be a branch.”

Lady Arbella Stuart To Queen Elizabeth Of England

History tells us that Lady Arbella Stuart was a noblewoman from Renaissance England, who due to her role in the often harsh realities of political life at the time and based on the fact that for some time she was considered as a possible successor to Queen Elizabeth I on the English throne, led a tumultuous life, unenvied then as much as now.

Arbella was a woman born to privilege, yet doomed to life as a prisoner, deprived of any semblance of joy, all because of her birthright!  In her final days, as a prisoner in the Tower of London, Arbella, refused to eat, fell ill, and died on September 27, 1615. She was buried in Westminster Abbey on September 29, 1615. Ironically, in spite of all that was thought and leveled against her when it came to a possible succession to the throne of St. George, in reality she never aspired to the English throne.

In fact, there is no evidence that Arbella ever actually wanted to be queen. What plots she hatched were merely attempts to escape her guardians and marry. All her life she was manipulated in the intrigues of others, notably her maternal grandmother Bess of Hardwick. The relationship between grandmother and granddaughter gradually deteriorated as Arbella grew more and more frustrated at the prison-like isolation in which she lived. She was never allowed freedom or a family of her own, as her blood made her such a focus and catalyst for political ambition.

Bess Of Hardwicke
Through her father, Arbella was a direct descendant of King Henry VII of England, first king of the House of Tudor. As the only child of Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, and Elizabeth Cavendish, paternally she was a grandchild of Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, and Lady Margaret Douglas, who was, in turn, the daughter of Princess Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and therefore a granddaughter of Henry VII of England. Arbella's maternal grandparents, although slightly less blue blooded, were Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick.

Not long before Arbella’s birth, one of the shrewdest and most erstwhile women of the Tudor Age, Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury, found it prudent once again to arrange yet another dynastic match that benefitted her own elevated position in society as well as that of the future positions of her children.
One of the greatest Elizabethan Dynast’s of her time, Bess of Hardwick was brilliant and ambitious, vastly wealthy, and a personal friend of Queen Elizabeth I. As a result, she always scanned the candidates queuing in the noble marriage market for the best available match, intent on creating her own noble dynasty through spectacular marriages with the older more established families of the realm. Having weighed her options, Lady Shrewsbury decided to engineer a marriage between her daughter by her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, Elizabeth Cavendish, and Charles Stuart, the brother of Mary, Queen of Scots' husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

In 1574 Bess took advantage of a visit from the Countess of Lennox, niece of King Henry VIII and mother to Charles Stuart, the younger son of the Lennoxes, to bring her plans to fruition.  As was her intention, the couple brought together by the political maneuverings of a powerful Elizabethan lady, was to serve a purpose, and that purpose was to place a member of her own family on the English throne. Thus, she engineered a marriage between her daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart.

A young Charles Stuart With His Brother, Lord Darnley

A rather hurried marriage it was, arranged at Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire. Perhaps the “hushed up” nature of this event was an indication that all the parties involved were fully aware of the risk they were taking in not only promoting but legally securing such a match. The marriage ceremony even took place without the knowledge of Bess’s husband Lord Shrewsbury, who although was well aware of the suggested match some time prior to the event, declined to accept any responsibility in the matter after the marriage contract was signed.

At the time of this marriage, between the noble houses of Stuart and Cavendish, the Tudor succession sweepstakes were in full swing, with satellite members of the Tudor family jockeying for position in the lineup. No matter how tenuous the familial connection, everyone wanted a stake. As such, the Lennox family had a claim to the throne, therefore, the marriage was considered potentially treasonable as no royal assent had been obtained. To show her royal displeasure, Queen Elizabeth had the Countess of Lennox, mother of the bridegroom, sent to the Tower for several months, and sensing Bess as the instigator behind the match, ordered her to London to face an official inquiry, but surprisingly, Bess ignored the summons pleading ill health, and remained in Sheffield until the row died down. Bess’s grandchild born of this surreptitiously arranged marriage was Lady Arbella Stuart, who upon her birth had a claim to the thrones of Scotland and England.

The Earl & Countess Of Lennox

Bess must have been disappointed when her royal grandchild turned out to be a girl. Even so, the new baby had formidable family connections, which meant enormous importance as a political bargaining chip.

It has been suggested by historians that Bess very much desired Arbella to eventually become Queen, the ultimate dream of this dynastically driven matron.  However, it is fact that Bess was forced by order of Queen Elizabeth to keep her granddaughter as far away from Court as possible and so Arbella remained within her grandmother’s household and was closely supervised in rural Derbyshire.

Later in life, Arbella blamed her grandmother for this turn of events, and the two fell out irrevocably when Arbella attempted to run away and marry a man who also had claim to the throne. In retaliation, Bess cut Arbella from her will and begged the Queen to take her granddaughter off her hands. Interestingly, although Arbella's royal claim was never officially recognized, it would take several hundred years before Bess eventually ended up with a descendant on the throne of England when Queen Elizabeth II succeeded in February of 1952.

In the autumn of the year of her birth, Arbella was baptized in the tiny village of Edensor. As was the expected custom of the time, and prescribed only to those of high rank, she was christened, not in the private chapel of the family home, but publicly with all the ceremony befitting the rank of the child. Edensor was the nearest parish church to the imposing Chatsworth House, one of the estates of her maternal grandmother Bess. With the many guests from Court, and representatives of neighboring families, it would not have been a surprise to have found mingling amongst the celebrants that day, a few of Sir Francis Walsingham's spies. The naming of the infant would have proceeded in the manner proper to her semi-royal state with Arbella lying in the arms of one of her sponsors, Lady Mary Talbot, step-daughter of Bess. Charles Cavendish, one of Arbella's uncles, recorded the event; “Arbella whimpered as a fine, white vestment, called a 'chrysome', was laid over her and she was carried, with due solemnity, to the font in the centre of the nave. “ Beside Lady Mary stood another of Arbella's uncles, William Cavendish, these two are the only sponsors recorded, but in the tradition of the age, there were probably three or four others as well. The child was splashed with holy water and anointed with oil. The sponsors offered gifts of gold and silver which were in turn blessed by the priest. When the christening service was over, Lady Arbella Stuart was very rarely, if ever, seen again by the public until she was twelve years old. Margaret Lennox took both parents and child back to London with her.

Granted, Arbella’s family connections were impressive; first cousin of the future King James VI of Scotland; niece of Mary, Queen of Scots; cousin-german of Queen Elizabeth of England; heiress of the earldom of Lennox in her own right, and sixth in succession to the English throne. Initially however, having gotten over her initial disappointment that Arbella was not the long for boy; she was the undisputed favorite granddaughter of the Countess of Shrewsbury and the 'jewel' of that formidable lady's eye.

When Arbella’s father, Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox, succumbed to the destruction of his lungs in April 1576, not surprising to some, since he had been plagued his entire life with ill health; he was only twenty-one years old and had been married about eighteen months. Charles’ sudden death started a family wrangle, which involved Arbella, which was to eventually last for some time.

At the time of Charles's untimely death, both King James VI of Scotland and the Regent Morton, disregarded Arbella as the rightful heir of the Lennox title, and subsequently pronounced the title extinct. As would be expected this caused a great furor and considerable consternation in the household of the two Lady Lennoxes.

Arbella’s grandmother, Margaret Lennox wrote at once to the Scottish Council demanding that the earldom be given back to her granddaughter. So sure was the doting Margaret that she was in the right, she had a portrait painted of the “little countess” at twenty-three months old. In the portrait Arbella is propped upright and dressed as a miniature adult. A plump child's face gazes solemnly from the canvas. In her tightly gripped hand she clutches a doll which perhaps she could not be induced to surrender. Bracelets, a necklace and a pearl-encrusted coronet adorn the baby figure. In the top left-hand corner of the painting is inscribed 'Arbella Comttessa Levinae', arrogantly insisted upon by Margaret Lennox, that this infant was, in fact, the rightful Countess of Lennox. Margaret's demand, the Regent Morton tartly replied that, as James had been a minor when the title was granted to the child's father, it could be revoked at any time. To add further, since the claimant was a female, and a child to boot, this was as good a time to do it as any.

The Young Arbella

Desperate at this response, Margaret turned to James VI’s mother, Queen Mary Stuart to enlist her aid in getting her son to disgorge the title. Mary, who supported the child, drafted a codicil to her will, dated February 1577, in which she commanded James to relinquish the title in favor of Arbella. The following year Mary repeated her wishes to the Bishop of Glasgow. This, in turn, had not the slightest effect, and in May 1578 King James VI conferred the Earldom of Lennox upon Robert Stuart, Bishop of Caithness, Arbella’s great uncle, brother to her grandfather Mathew Stuart, the 4th Earl of Lennox.

While one grandmother approached Mary, Queen of Scots with entreaties of help, Bess felt less kindly towards Mary after Arbella's birth. When the Countess of Lennox died in 1578, Queen Elizabeth seized the English estates of the departed Countess. At the same time she let it be known that the child, Arbella, was now under her protection, whereupon she became the ward of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley.

George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury

Bess and her husband the Earl of Shrewsbury both solicited Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to remind the Queen of the exigency of Lady Lennox and her infant. For this purpose Bess had declared a temporary truce in her quarrel with Shrewsbury. However, Bess who was far too shrewd did not rely solely upon the Queen of England to succor her grandchild. In an about face, she had changed her approach to the deposed Scottish queen, and at that time she was on good terms with her husband's prisoner, Mary Stuart, whose aid she enlisted in an attempt to procure for Arbella any of the deceased Countess's possessions, not yet seized by the Crown.

One item of interest that Arbella inherited when the Countess of Lennox died was her grandmother’s casket with jewels, left into the hands of Mr. Thomas Fowler, to be delivered to the Lady Arbella at the age of fourteen:

1. A jewel set with a fair table diamond, a table ruby, and an emerald with a fair great pearl.

2. A cross all set with fair great diamonds, with a square linked chain.

3. A jewel set with a ballast and a fair table diamond set be-neath it.

4. A H (shaped) of gold set with rock ruby.

5. A burrish set with a fair diamond.

6. A rose set with fair diamonds.

7. A carcenet set with table diamonds.

8. A girdle set with table diamonds.

9. A border set with table diamonds.

10. A fair pearl chain.

11. A chain set with rock rubies, pillar wise.

12. A chain of small turquoise set upon a three-square pillar.

13. A clock set in crystal with a wolf of gold upon.

14. Buttons of rock rubies to set on a gown.

15. Table diamonds to set upon a sleeve.

16. Two tablets of gold, the one with two agates with divers small turquoise; the other enamelled the form of a globe.

17. Bracelets, two pair; one of agate, and the other of plain gold with other things that be not yet in memory.

At Bess's prompting, Mary issued a warrant wrote in her own hand, dated September 19, 1579, addressed to Thomas Fowler, Esq., executor of the will:

'...Be it known that we, Mary, by the grace of God, Queen of Scotland... do will and require Thomas Fowler, sole executor to our dearest mother-in-law and aunt... to deliver into the hands and custody of our right well-beloved cousin, Elizabeth, Countess of Shresbury, all and every such jewels... for the use of the Lady Arbella Stuart, her grandchild, if God send her life til fourteen years of age; if not then, for the use of our dear and only son the prince of Scotland...'

Mary, Queen Of Scots

Admitting failure, it was determined that Leicester did not do so well with Elizabeth, as Bess had hoped when he broached the queen on the subject of an allowance of the widowed countess and her baby, Arbella. Elizabeth, knowing the full reality of Bess’s financial situation, knew that Bess could well afford their upkeep, and therefore was not disposed to subsidize the bereaved in a life of luxury. Only because 'Sweet Robin' was the supplicant, Elizabeth grudgingly bestowed a pension of £400 a year on the Countess of Lennox and £200 for Arbella. As for the jewelry, Elizabeth did not even get a glimpse of them. Thomas Fowler, before the warrant reached him, had returned to Scotland taking the casket with him. Soon after his arrival in Scotland, Fowler died and the jewels were seized by the Crown. Later, Fowler's son, acting on behalf of Arbella, tried unsuccessfully to get the Scots to hand them back. As with her Lennox title, the jewels were hers by right, but James had them both and meant to keep them.

With no other recourse, Arbella and her mother came to live with Bess. Entirely dependent upon Bess, Arbella's mother had no alternative but to yield to the old lady's positive ideas on the upbringing of her daughter. Arbella was a confident, intelligent girl who had inherited her grandmother’s determination, her surviving letters, even those she wrote in childhood, are passionate and articulate. By the time the little girl was six years old, an educational routine had been established from which the child was not allowed to deviate. At seven, she was fluent in French and Latin and well-versed in Italian. Chubby fingers could sew a fine seam, but she found embroidery with stiff silver and gold thread difficult. Long hours were spent mastering the virginals and the lute; and to comport herself with grace in the intricate dances of the period. She was not considered a pretty child but she bore herself well with an excellent carriage inculcated by Bess, herself noted for her splendid straight-backed figure. There were no children of her own age at Chatsworth or Sheffield with whom she could play, or even share her lessons with. Her mother, still grieving for her lost husband, paid but scant attention to her only child. The Earl of Shrewsbury was an austere and remote figure to Arbella, preoccupied as he was with the problem of Mary Stuart, now confined a close prisoner in the Turret House of Sheffield Castle. During the Twelfth Night celebrations at Sheffield, in the year 1582, Arbella's mother complained of feeling unwell. Elizabeth Cavendish, Countess of Lennox, died in 1582, at twenty seven years old, leaving the child in the entire care of Bess.

"Princess" Arbella

During most of her childhood she lived in the protective isolation of Hardwick Hall with her maternal grandmother, the redoubtable Bess. There were, apparently, periodic visits to the court of Elizabeth I of England and to London, including one that lasted for a few years, from September 1589 to July 1592. Historian David Durant has suggested that, during this period, "In effect Bess was moving the operational center of her business empire from Derbyshire to London".

Bess, whose proven mien had been one of progress, promotion and with an ever calculating eye to the future, now wished to discredit Mary Stuart from her right to the English throne, essentially so that her granddaughter would move up a peg and be closer to the position. While imprisoned, Queen Mary spent a great deal of time with Arbella and became fond of the child. It was not too long before she found out Bess's plans for Arbella to possibly inherit the English throne; as a result, the relationship between the two women became very bitter.

It was about this time that Bess, succumbed to the building bug, which she was prone to do, and replaced the old house with what is known as Hardwick Hall, with construction beginning from 1585.  With a distance of four hundred and twenty-five years, it is perhaps easy to surmise that she had it built and furnished for a future Queen of England, which she hoped Arbella to be. However, to be given their due, others say that she built this house to be "a cradle to her birth place".  A grand monument to herself and her achievements!  To whatever school of thought you subscribe, Bess wanted her house to be unlike any before or after it. While Queen Elizabeth was childless and would, with certainty, remain so, Bess felt justified in giving orders to the household staff to address the Lady Arbella as 'Your Highness'. Bess insisted that her granddaughter was, henceforth, to be treated as royalty; served first at table, after the food had been tasted for poison; given precedence over everyone, and curtsies to her were to be as low as those to the queen. In spite of the position accorded to her in her grandmother’s home, Arbella herself was kept firmly at her books.

In an unending game of politics, which left everyone guessing, Queen Elizabeth remained obstinately silent on the subject of her successor. Despite Bess's optimism, she concluded that matters must be pushed a step further and was determined that Arbella make a suitable marriage. Drawing from her past, Bess, experienced match-maker that she was, cast about for a husband for her 'jewel'. After much thought, her choice for Arbella was the Earl of Leicester's son, Lord Denbigh, who was just two years old. Leicester saw in the marriage arrangement a way of staying close to the throne, should Arbella have succeeded to the throne he would been in the enviable position of being the queen's father-in-law. Shades of her own parent’s quietly arranged match were at the fore when Arbella and Robert, Lord Denbigh were formally betrothed. Arbella sent a present to the little boy together with a miniature of herself. Her new status as a future bride aside, she listened gravely as her grandmother explained that it would be some years before she was wed, and then trotted obediently back to her regimen of studies.

Robert Dudley, Earl Of Leicester

Predictably, and in a repeat of her reaction to the Stuart/Cavendish marriage of some ten years before, Elizabeth was outraged when she received the news of the betrothal. Promptly, Leicester was ordered from the Court. Unfortunately, Lord Denbigh died in July 1584 and for the time being, no other marriage agreements were undertaken after this as to not tempt fate.

Queen Elizabeth Of England

Finally convinced that she had no other option, in January of 1587, Elizabeth scrawled her ornate signature on Mary's death-warrant and a few weeks later Mary died horribly at Fotheringay. While the population of London danced in the streets in celebration of the ghastly event, it is rumored that Arbella, eleven years old, wept for the memory of the lady she had known all her life. It is unlikely that the child thought of the dead woman as another barrier removed from her path to the throne. James, King of Scotland was now assumed to be heir-presumptive to the throne of England, but it remained for Elizabeth to name her successor. Arbella's claim was as valid as James's; but with one important qualification.  Arbella had been born in England, while James was of alien birth and, by English law; this fact debarred him from succeeding.

Intent on what he considered his birthright, King James VI insisted upon a written document ensuring his succession. To add further, he had had the impertinence to haughtily request that Elizabeth see to it that the other claimant did not contract a marriage that might strengthen her position. Any talk of the succession presupposed Elizabeth's death, and this was one subject the Queen could not bear to contemplate.

King James

Wily politician that she was and to perhaps teach James a lesson for daring to presume too far, Elizabeth promptly, and openly, acknowledged that there was another in the running. As a result, Arbella was invited to the Court for the first time. Temporarily under a cloud of royal displeasure, because of her marital dispute with Shrewsbury, Bess did not accompany the child to Court but sent her in the care of her son, Charles Cavendish. During the summer of 1587, Arbella was staying in London with Mary Talbot at Shrewsbury House. In August of 1587, at the age of twelve years she went to Court and dined with the Queen Elizabeth. At Court, Arbella found to her delight that she was treated with all the deference due to her rank and, as the only Princess of the Blood in England, took precedence over all the other ladies.

In the following year, 1588, Arbella once again was invited to return to Court. However, Arbella over estimated her importance in the bigger picture and was forced to leave in disgrace. Apparently, she had insisted that she was more important than others in the Queen's presence, which caused conflicts and succeeded with her being ordered from Court by the Master of Ceremonies.

An extant note in French, written to Lord Burghley in Arbella's Italic hand and addressed on the eve of the Spanish Armada battles, was dated July 13, 1588 and "postmarked" from the Talbots' Coleman Street Residence in London. It is certain proof of the London visits.

About 1589, one "Morley" became Arbella's "attendant" and "reader," as reported in a dispatch from Bess of Hardwick to Lord Burghley, dated September 21, 1592. Bess recounts "Morley's" service to Arbella over "the space of three years and a half." She also notes he requested a lifetime stipend from Arbella based on the fact he had "been much damnified by leaving the University"; this has led to speculation that 'Morley' was the poet Christopher Marlowe.

Christopher Marlow

With the beginning of the new decade, great changes started to occur in the lives of both Arbella and her grandmother. In 1590, Lord Shrewsbury died and Bess regained all her lands, Wingfield Manor, its iron works, smithies and glass works, Bolsover Castle and its coal pits, the parks at Alveton in Staffordshire, Shirland in Derbyshire and Over Uden in Yorkshire for their pastures. Minerals and timbers in her tenure were exploited and she gained a large widow's jointure. She was now the richest woman, other than the Queen, in England. 

Owing to Arbella's status as a possible heir to the throne, there was discussion of many appropriate marriages for her throughout her childhood. Various well-born men were considered as prospective husbands for Arbella. Anyone who married her would gain enormous political power, and might well become King of England. This was too great a prize for any faction to allow its rival; thus Arbella was never allowed to stay engaged to anyone for long.

In 1588, it was proposed to King James VI of Scotland that Esmé Stuart, 2nd Duke of Lennox should be married to Arbella, but nothing seems to have come of this suggestion.  It would have suited the Roman Catholic Church for her to marry a member of the House of Savoy and then take the English throne. Things started to look up in 1592, when the marriage of Arbella to Raunutio Farnese, the eldest son of Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and Maria of Portugal, was discussed. Parma wished to see a likeness of this important young lady. Two miniatures of Arbella, by Hilliard, were in existence and one was obtained for the Duke to see. According to the Curiosities of Literature by Isaac D'Israeli, this scheme originated with the Pope, who eventually settled on his own brother, a cardinal, as a suitable husband for Arbella; the Pope defrocked his brother, freeing him to marry "Arbelle", as the Italians spelled her name and thus claim the Kingdom of England. Nothing came of this plan, and in fact there is no direct evidence that Arbella was either a believing Catholic or a Protestant. Unfortunately, the Duke of Parma, steward of the Farnese marriage plan, died shortly after, leaving all plans of marriage for Arbella shattered once again. In 1604, Sigismund III Vasa, King of Poland sent an ambassador to England to ask for Arbella to be his queen. This offer too was rejected.

Around this time in English history, it also coincided that there were many plots hatched and attempted to reinstate the Catholic Church on the throne via Arbella. A rumor sprang up purporting that Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, a powerful catholic nobleman, sought Arbella for his wife. The Percy’s wielded great influence in the North, where the nobles had been known to be sympathetic to Mary, Queen of Scots. Queen Elizabeth knew the Percy’s as potential trouble makers with a family history of plotting and double-dealing not calculated to inspire confidence. Henry Percy had no cause to love the Protestant ruler of England. Sensing it best to play her cards close to the chest, Bess assured the Queen of England that this would not happen.

With Arbella not getting any younger and wanting a much longed for marriage to gain her freedom, in 1602, she began to plot her own marriage to Edward Seymour, the eldest grandson of the Earl of Hertford and Lady Catherine Grey. She could not have tried harder to find a more unacceptable future bridegroom, especially in the eyes of the queen, since both Arbella and Edward were claimants to the throne. The Earl of Hertford apparently didn't gain sympathy for young lovers through his own experience with the queen’s cousin. His eldest son, Edward, having married Honora Rogers, a girl far below his station; Hertford did everything he could to end the marriage and his son threatened to commit suicide rather than return to Hertford's home.

The plot was a simple one, a servant named Dodderage, was sent by Arbella on a horse provided by Henry Cavendish, with a message regarding the marriage of Edward Seymour and Arbella Stuart. On December 30, 1602, Dodderage was held in the gatehouse jail at Westminster for being involved in a plot against the Queen of England. All the while, Arbella awaited the return of Dodderage and Edward Seymour her future husband.  The marriage plans of the young couple had been thwarted, when the supposed groom's grandfather, Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford, reported the plan to the queen.

On January 7, 1603, Sir Henry Bronker, the Queen of England's right-hand man, arrived at Hardwick and gave a letter to Bess and asked to speak to Arbella in private. Arbella was made to write her confession on paper, not happy with her attempted confession, a disappointed Bronker eventually wrote the confession himself and she signed it. Arbella begged pardon from the queen.

A concerned Bess asked that her granddaughter be placed elsewhere to learn to be more considerate or to bestow her in marriage. However, Queen Elizabeth wished for her to stay at Hardwick and have gentlemen and gentlewomen watch over her actions. To which Bess replied, informing the Queen that she could not guarantee the “good carriage” of Arbella.

Sensing the possibility of freedom, Arbella refused to eat until she was removed from her grandmother’s care at Hardwick. Again Bronker returned and Arbella told a story of promised marriage and love which was untrue and had to be pardoned once again. Soon after, Arbella started to write many incoherent letters to Bronker and it was concluded that she was insane. Bess was asked to make sure that her granddaughter stopped the letters. In retaliation, to an even stricter existence imposed upon her due to her loose cannon actions, Arbella rebelled and violent scenes followed between the two women.

On March 10, 1603, Henry Cavendish and Henry Stapleton, a catholic, planned to help Arbella escape from Hardwick. Sadly, this attempted escape was not planned well. The liberators went to Ault Hucknall to watch from the church tower for Arbella to take her exercise in front of Hardwick. However, they were unable to obtain the key from the Vicar. It seems that Bess did not allow Arbella to pass through the porter's lodge on any occasion, and as a result, the grounds of Hardwick were the extent of her freedom.

Hardwick Hall

With no other options, Henry Cavendish and Henry Stapleton, a bit more emboldened went to Hardwick directly and asked to speak to Arbella. Henry Cavendish, known as the bad son, was allowed into the house, but Stapleton was not. It seems that Arbella talked with Henry and walked to the porter's lodge with him. Bess's servants, under strict orders from their mistress, did not allow Arbella's passage through the lodge, as it had become known that a party of thirty to forty men waited for them at Hucknall Village.

Even in old age and poor health, the queen was aware of the going’s on in her kingdom, especially in relation to errant family members and she soon heard of the attempted escape and threats on her life, In retaliation, Elizabeth sent Arbella to West Park, Bedfordshire, house of the Earl of Kent and to her relief, Bess was left in peace.

Soon afterwards, March 24, 1603, Queen Elizabeth died and dashing Arbella’s hopes, named as her successor, King James VI of Scotland.

At some point in 1603, after James's ascension to the English throne, there was a plot, in which Sir Walter Raleigh was alleged to being involved to overthrow him and put Arbella on the throne; but when she was invited to participate by agreeing in writing to King Philip III of Spain, she reported the plan to James.

During the remaining years of her long life, Bess of Hardwick still planned, plotted and schemed with the marriages of her remaining grandchildren.  In 1605, Arbella visited Bess when William Cavendish was raised to the peerage, on behalf of James VI. In return, she was given £300 in cash and a gold cup. Early in 1608, Bess was reported to be so ill her maid could not leave her bedside, day or night. This dynamic old matriarch, an almost iconic symbol of Tudor Womanhood, died on February 13, 1608.  In control to the last and with the “last word”, Bess did not include her son, Henry Cavendish or her granddaughter, Arbella, in her will.

On June 22, 1610, in a secret ceremony at Greenwich, when she was 35, Arbella made the most dangerous of possible marriages with William Seymour, known as Lord Beauchamp, who later succeeded as 2nd Duke of Somerset. William was the younger brother of the Edward Seymour she tried to marry in 1602, Arbella was thirteen years his senior. Predictably the marriage was most certainly disapproved of by King James I of England, since the marriage of two potential Tudor pretenders to the throne, combined with two lines of descendants of both sisters of Henry VIII being united, who were fourth and sixth in line to the English throne respectively, could only be seen as a threat to the ruling dynasty.

William Seymour, 2nd Duke Of Somerset

So great was the panic at court at the prospect of a new and threatening dynasty that they were deliberately separated shortly after their marriage.  Arbella was placed under house arrest in Sir Thomas Perry's house in Lambeth and Seymour was sentenced to be imprisoned for life in the Tower of London, thus becoming the fourth of five generations of Seymour’s to spend time in the Tower.

Initially, the couple had some liberty within their captivity, and some of Arbella's letters to Seymour and to King James during this period survive. When the king learned of her letters to Seymour, however, he ordered Arbella's transfer to the custody of William James, Bishop of Durham. Arbella claimed to be ill, so her departure for Durham was delayed.

Ever resourceful, the couple used that delay to plan their escape. Arbella dressed as a man and escaped to Lee, in Kent, but Seymour did not meet her there before their getaway ship was to sail for France, bad weather and other circumstances having prevented their meeting.  However, Seymour did escape from the Tower, but by the time he reached Lee, Arbella was gone, so he caught the next ship to Flanders. Arbella's ship was overtaken by King James's men just before it reached Calais, France, and she was returned to England and imprisoned in the Tower of London. She never saw her husband again and starved herself to death in the Tower in 1615, without ever being reunited with her husband. William managed to reach safety abroad at Ostend.

Seymour, who succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Hertford in 1621, became a prominent member of the opposition to King Charles I in the House of Lords, supporting the Petition of Right of 1628, and co-signing the letter of the 12 Peers of 1640, along with his brother-in-law the Earl of Essex.

However, Hertford parted company with the more radical opponents of the King in the Long Parliament in 1641, and was created Marquess of Hertford by the king. In the Civil War, Hertford, along with such figures as Sir Edward Hyde, was a moderate royalist, and throughout sought a compromise settlement, continuing unofficial negotiations with his brother-in-law Essex, who became the Parliamentary commander, throughout the war. He was nevertheless a trusted supporter of the king, who made him guardian of his son the Prince of Wales, and who undertook several important military commands in royalist service over the course of the war, commanding troops from South Wales.

After the end of the First Civil War and the king's imprisonment, Hertford was the most prominent nobleman to remain alongside the king throughout his captivity, and was with him up until his execution in 1649. During the Interregnum, Hertford largely kept himself away from both politics and royalist conspiracies, believing that the monarchy would be restored given time, and that conspiracies would only delay the restoration.

When the Restoration came in 1660, Hertford was restored to all his former positions and his services in the Royalist cause was further recognized by King Charles II who restored Hertford to his great-grandfather's dukedom of Somerset which had been forfeited in 1552. He died at Essex House, London and was buried on November 1, 1660 at Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire.

The Quarterings Of A Tudor Heiress
Lady Arbella Stuart

1 – Lady Arbella Stewart


2 - Charles Stewart, Earl of Lennox.
3 - Elizabeth Cavendish.


4 - Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.
5 – Lady Margaret Douglas.

6 – Sir William Cavendish.
7 - Elizabeth Hardwick.

Great Grandparents:

8 - John Stewart, Earl of Lennox.
     ca 1495-1526
9 - Elizabeth Stewart.
     ca 1491-1529

10 - Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.
      ca 1489-1557
11 – Lady Margaret Tudor.

12 - Thomas Cavendish. d. 1523
13 - Alice Smith. d. 1515

14 - John Hardwick.
15 - Elizabeth Leake.
      1499-ca 1570

Great Great Grandparents:

16 - Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox. d. 1513
17 - Elizabeth Hamilton. d. 1531

18 - John Stewart, Earl of Atholl.
      ca 1440-1512
19 - Eleanor Sinclair.  d. 1518

20 - George Douglas.
       ca 1469-1513
21 - Elizabeth Drummond.  d. 1514

22 - Henry VII Tudor, King of England.
23 – Lady Elizabeth Plantagenêt.

24 - Thomas Cavendish. d. 1477
25 - Katherine Scudamore. d. 1499

26 – John Smith.
27 – Alice Brecknock.

28 - John Hardwick. d. 1470
29 - Elizabeth Pinchbeck.

30 – Thomas Leake.
31 – Margaret Fox.

Great Great Great Grandparents:

32 - John Stewart, Earl of Lennox. d. 1495
33 - Margaret Montgomerie.  d. 1493

34 - James, Lord Hamilton.
       ca 1415-1479
35 - Mary Stewart.
      ca 1453-1488

36 - James Stewart. d. 1451
37 - Lady Joan Beaufort.
       ca 1407-1445

38 - William, Lord Sinclair. 1480
39 - Marjory Sutherland. d. 1476/1480

40 - Archibald "Bell-the-Cat" Douglas, Earl of Angus.
41 - Elizabeth Boyd. d. 1497

42 - John, Lord Drummond.
43 - Elizabeth Lindsay. d. 1509

44 - Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.
      ca 1430-1456
45 – Lady Margaret Beaufort.

46 - Edward IV of Rouen Plantagenêt, King of England.
47 - Elizabeth Woodville.
      ca 1437-1492

48 – William Cavendish.
49 – Joan Staventon.

50 – John Scudamore.
51 – Joan Parry.

52 – John Eley Smith.
53 – Joan Brooks.

54 - John Brecknock.
55 – Lettice Spignurel.

56 - John Hardwick. d. 1451
57 - Elizabeth de Bakewell.

58 - Thomas Pinchbeck. d. ca 1492
59 - Ann Greene.

60 – William Leake.
61 – Catherine Chaworth.

62 – William Fox.
63 – Untraced.

Great Great Great Great Grandparents:

64 - Alan Stewart, Seigneur d'Aubigny-sur-Nère.
       ca 1408-1438
65 - Catherine Seton.
       ca 1410-1468/1477

66 - Alexander Montgomerie. d. 1452
67 - Elizabeth Hepburn.

68 - James Hamilton, Lord of Cadzow.
       ca 1390-/1441
69 - Janet Livingstone. d. 1439

70 - James II Stewart, King of Scotland.
71 - Marie van Egmond.
       ca 1432-1463

72 - John Stewart, Lord of Innermeath.
      ca 1360-1421
73 - Isabel of Argyll, Lady of Lorn. d.1439

74 - John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset.
       ca 1371-1410
75 – Lady Margaret Holland.

76 - Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney.
      ca 1375-1410
77 - Jill Douglas.
       ca 1390-1438/

78 - Alexander Sutherland.
      ca 1395-/1458
79 - Catherine Chalmer.

80 - George Douglas, Earl of Angus. d. 1463
81 - Isabel Sibbald. d. ca 1501

82 - Robert, Lord Boyd.  d. 1482
83 - Mariota Maxwell. d. 1473

84 - Malcolm Drummond. d. 1461
85 - Mariota Murray.

86 - Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Crawford. d. 1453
87 - Margaret Dunbar. d. ca 1498

88 - Owen Tudor.
       ca 1400-1461
89 – Princess Catherine of France.

90 - John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.
91 - Margaret de Beauchamp.
      ca 1410-1482

92 - Richard Plantagenêt, Duke of York.
93 – Lady Cecily Nevill.

94 - Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers.
       ca 1415-1469
95 - Jacqueline de Luxembourg.
       ca 1416-1472

96 – John Cavendish.
97 – Joan Clopton.

98 – John Staventon.
99 – Untraced.

100 – John Scudamore.
101 – Alice Glendower.

102 – John Parry.
103 – Untraced.

104 – Roger de la Ya.
105 – Johanna Coffin.

106 –107 Untraced.

108 – David Brecknock.
109 – Untraced.

110 –111 Untraced.

112 - Roger Hardwick
113 - Nicola Barlow

116 - Richard Pinchbeck
117 - Margaret Tailboys

118 - Thomas Greene 1400-/1462
119 - Marina Bellers +1489

120 – John Leek.
121 – Alice de Grey.

122 – Thomas Chaworth.
123 – Isabel Aylesbury.

124-127.  Untraced.

© 2010 The Esoteric Redux. All Rights Reserved