Arbella: England's Lost Queen

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Overview

"Lady Arbella Stuart was part Tudor, part Stuart, and a niece of Mary, Queen of Scots. She was introduced at court as a young girl and acknowledged as the heir to the throne by Elizabeth I. As Sarah Gristwood shows, Arbella was literally too royal for her own good. A critical pawn in the struggle for succession, particularly during the long, tense period when Elizabeth lay dying, the young Arbella endured years of isolation, confined amid the rural splendors of Hardwick Hall by her scheming and powerful grandmother." The accession of James I.
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Overview

"Lady Arbella Stuart was part Tudor, part Stuart, and a niece of Mary, Queen of Scots. She was introduced at court as a young girl and acknowledged as the heir to the throne by Elizabeth I. As Sarah Gristwood shows, Arbella was literally too royal for her own good. A critical pawn in the struggle for succession, particularly during the long, tense period when Elizabeth lay dying, the young Arbella endured years of isolation, confined amid the rural splendors of Hardwick Hall by her scheming and powerful grandmother." The accession of James I. Arbella's first cousin, ended her royal aspirations but thrust her into James's licentious court. Then, at age thirty-five, Arbella risked everything to make her own forbidden marriage. An escape in disguise, a wild flight abroad, and capture at sea led, in the end, to an agonizing death in the Tower of London. Yet nothing is as remarkable as the almost modern freedom with which, in a series of extraordinary letters - as passionate and extensive as those of any other woman of this suffocating age - Arbella Stuart revealed her own compelling personality.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The history of Tudor England is rife with claimants to the throne. Gristwood tells one of the more heartrending of these stories: that of Arbella Stuart, the young cousin of the future James I, who appears at times to have been bred by her grandmothers for the precise purpose of challenging the throne. Raised mostly by her maternal grandmother, Bess Hardwick (wife of Mary Stuart's jailer), Arbella grew up isolated and virtually imprisoned by Bess, with an inflated sense of her status and destiny. As a young woman, she attempted to gain her freedom with schemes that were treated as dangerous intrusions into dynastic policy. Her rambling letters from this period suggest that desperation had driven her mad. By the time of Queen Elizabeth's death, Arbella's royal hopes were dashed, but the new king, James, invited her to court. While she gained some independence then, she was still enough of a political hot potato that the king would not sanction her marriage. Frustrated, Arbella eventually arranged her own marriage and ended up, as a result, in the Tower, where she apparently starved herself to death a few years later. Despite the intriguing story, Gristwood occasionally engages in excessive foreshadowing and inconclusive speculation when facts are thin. But she fully supports the contention that contemporaries took very seriously this now obscure young woman's pretensions to the throne. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A British historian offers an intriguing, scholarly look at the short, sad life of Arbella Stuart, cousin to Queen Elizabeth I and too close in the line of succession to enjoy a life of her own. Intrigue marked Arbella's life, and, if you can follow the complicated Tudor-Stuart genealogy lesson, Gristwood's account makes for suspenseful historical reading. The orphaned Arbella, related to Henry VII on her father's side, was, at age six, put in the care of her ambitious maternal grandmother, fourth-time married Bess of Hardwick, who raised the child with an eye to her marrying grandly and/or succeeding to the throne. In fact, Arbella was second in line, after James of Scotland, and thus practically peerless, as well as jealously dreaded by both Queen Elizabeth (who had already had to get rid of Arbella's aunt, the treacherous Mary Queen of Scots) and, later, by James I. Elizabeth didn't know what to do with Arbella, inviting her once to court when she was 11 and using her as a marriage pawn when the queen needed to woo an ally, yet consigning her to Bess's autocratic watch at Hardwick Hall for years of reclusive, hopeless study. Finally, by her late 20s, Arbella acted, secretly initiating her own nuptial match with another glorious lineage, the Seymour sons-first the elder, unsuccessfully, then the younger, William, whom she eventually managed to wed in 1610 before both were thrown into the Tower. From her letters and rather guileless, erratic behavior, Arbella seems truly to have been pleading for the right to personal liberty and the right to love ("When all is done I must shape my own coat according to my cloth") rather than acting out of political machinations. Her tragedy touches insome way all of the schemers close to Elizabeth, such as Mary Queen of Scots, the Earl of Essex, chief minister Lord Burghley, and Sir Walter Raleigh, and they come alive here. A human drama truly Shakespearean.
From the Publisher
"A complete and arresting picture...documented here in flowing prose." Booklist, ALA

[Gristwood]gives us a full, believable portrait, anchoring Arbella in her time and place, revealing her frailties, and detailing her brave efforts to "find a place for herself amid crushing pressures." Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780641921988
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
  • Publication date: 5/28/2005
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Gristwood is an Oxford-trained historian, journalist, and broadcaster.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
The Tudor and Stuart Line of Succession xiii
Prologue 1
Part I 'So good a child': 1574-1587
'The hasty marriage' 11
'Most renowned stock' 21
'My jewel Arbell' 25
'Good lady grandmother' 34
'Little Lady Favour' 47
Part II 'Lawful inheritress': 1587-1602
'She will one day be even as I am' 59
'Court-dazzled eyes' 70
'Exile with expectation' 78
'Slanderous and unlikely surmise' 89
'The disabling of Arbella' 99
'This my prison' 110
'They are dead whom I loved' 118
'Helping myself in this distress' 126
Part III 'My travelling mind': January-April 1603
'This unadvised young woman' 139
'A mind distracted' 154
'So wilfully bent' 163
'A scribbling melancholy' 173
'Disorderly attempts' 180
'That strange outlandish word "change"' 187
Part IV 'My own woman'? 1603-1610
'An unknown climate' 199
'Much spoken of' 211
'A confusion of imbassages' 223
'My estate being so uncertain' 236
'To live safe' 245
'Without mate and without estate' 250
Part V 'A pattern of misfortune': 1610-1615
'Affectations of marriage' 267
'Your faithful loving wife' 279
'A poor distressed gentlewoman' 290
'To break prison and make escape' 299
'A spectacle of his Majesty's displeasure' 309
'A bird in a cage' 317
'The most wretched and unfortunate creature' 327
'Far out of frame' 335
'I dare to die' 346
Epilogue 355
Appendix A 'One Morley' 369
Appendix B Arbella and porphyria 375
Appendix C Places and portraits 381
Family trees 391
Source notes 397
Select bibliography 432
Picture acknowledgments 439
Index 442
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Customer Reviews

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