Arbella: England's Lost Queen

Arbella: England's Lost Queen

by Sarah Gristwood
     
 

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In this U.K. bestseller, Lady Arbella Stuart emerges as a most contemporary royal, a young woman determined to shape her own destiny in the midst of her plot-ridden world.

Arbella was niece to Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to Elizabeth I—who indicated that the teenage Arbella was to be heir to her throne. A critical pawn in the struggle for succession,

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Overview

In this U.K. bestseller, Lady Arbella Stuart emerges as a most contemporary royal, a young woman determined to shape her own destiny in the midst of her plot-ridden world.

Arbella was niece to Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to Elizabeth I—who indicated that the teenage Arbella was to be heir to her throne. A critical pawn in the struggle for succession, particularly during the long, tense period when Elizabeth lay dying, the young Arbella endured twenty-seven years of isolation at the grand Hardwick Hall, held by her scheming and powerful grandmother.

The accession of James I, Arbella’s first cousin, ended the young woman’s royal aspirations but thrust her into James’s licentious court. Then, at age thirty-five, she risked everything to make a 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. Yet nothing is as remarkable as the almost modern freedom with which, in a series of extraordinary letters—more passionate and extensive than those of any other woman of this suffocating age—Arbella Stuart revealed her own compelling personality.

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Editorial Reviews

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

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618341337
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
05/28/2005
Pages:
464
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)

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