Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Stuart Would Be Queen - The Lady Arbella IV

Prince Henry
In May 1606, despite a pension of £800 per annum from the king, Arbella’s debts were mounting. She wrote to Cecil;
‘I lately moved his Majesty to graunt to me such fees as may arise out of his seale which the Bishops are by the law to use……I am inforced to make somme suite for my better support and maintenance……so I must earnestly entreate your Lordship to further this my suite.’[i]
James was not moved to grant Arbella’s petition although he was often profligate with gifts and pensions. In a court where the ethos of conspicuous consumption ruled, display was essential. Arbella was not the only courtier short of money; despite his huge income Secretary Cecil spent nearly double his income.
James wore a new pair of gloves every day and money was poured out upon the king’s favourites; Lady Frances Howard was given £10,000 of jewellery[ii] upon her marriage to the King’s favourite, Robert Carr. Fabulous amounts were spent on the wardrobe of the 13 year old Prince Henry and courtiers were quick to follow suit.
Robert Carr
Food became ever more elaborate and costly and drinking large amounts of alcohol became commonplace. After a banquet to honour Queen Anne’s brother, King Christian IV of Denmark, the ladies of the court were so drunk that a representation of King Solomon in the temple ended with the lady playing the Queen of Sheba falling at the Danish king’s feet.
On Twelfth Night the queen had ordered the performance of a masque in her brother’s honour. Arbella performed in the Masque of Beauty[iii] wearing clothing and jewels estimated to be worth over £100,000[iv]. Anyone attending the revels had to be able to throw £300[v] on the gaming table.
In 1608, still desperately in need of money, Arbella petitioned for the right import Irish hides and to nominate the sellers of Irish wine in Ireland. In October there was talk of putting in a claim for the Lennox lands taken by Queen Elizabeth, but nothing came of these grandiose demands. But however short of money she was to keep up with court fashion, Arbella was able to buy a small house in Blackfriars for £200[vi], where she could retire from court.
Christian IV of Denmark
Arbella’s relative the Countess of Nottingham thought that King Christian had informed her husband that she was cuckolding him[vii]. Arbella intervened to sort out this storm in a tea cup. That she managed to smooth things over meant that Arbella had a conduit to the Danish court and she strove to keep the connection to Christian alive with over effusive letters and small gifts.
A death, hardly unexpected in an eighty year old lady, must have upset Arbella despite the recent coolness in their relationship. Bess of Hardwick died on 13th February 1608. Gilbert Talbot wrote to Robert Cecil;
‘The old lady…..had that blessing of sense and memory, even to the end.’[viii]
Immediately upon receipt of the information Arbella set out for Hardwick as Cecil informed Gilbert. She stayed for several weeks, while Bess laid in state; Arbella left before the funeral. While at Hardwick Arbella wrote to King Christian;
‘If at this time I shall seem not to have satisfied my duty unto you, I ask and implore that your most illustrious Majesty attribute this to my grandmother the Countess of Shrewsbury who, having very recently and sadly died, surrendering her wishes for her own property and me.’[ix]
Bess had died fully aware of what she was doing, having made a final alteration to her will on the 4th February, deleting a bequest to Arbella.
At the beginning of 1608 Arbella was requested to send her lutenist Thomas Cutting[x] to replace John Dowland at the Danish court. It was a request she could not refuse and Arbella mourned her loss;
‘Although I know full well how more easy it is for so great a prince to command the best musicians of the world than for me recover one not inferior.’[xi]
In December 1608 Arbella fell ill with the pox; she was looked after by a Lady Skinner, who apparently took great pains to look after her patient. With Lady Skinner’s help Arbella overcame the disease. In the summer Arbella went north to stay with Gilbert and Mary, a visit that culminated in Arbella’s grand tour; from London she went to see Gilbert and Mary and then Chatsworth and Buxton[xii]. Arbella spent £300[xiii] on the trip.
William Seymour
Arbella secretly married William Seymour[xiv], thirteen years her junior, on 22nd June 1610. It would appear that Arbella was the prime mover in the marriage. Despite having already been censured by the king for entertaining a marriage without his consent on 2nd February, and despite William having promised not to rekindle the relationship, Arbella and William became engaged in her chamber at Whitehall.
‘The Lady Arbella who (as you know) was not long ago censured for having without the king’s privity entertained a motion of marriage, was again within these few days was apprehended in the like treaty with the Lord Beauchamp’s second son, and both were called and examined at the court about it.’[xv]
The marriage of his only cousin Arbella to William[xvi], another descendant of Henry VII did not please James. His policy was to keep Arbella unmarried and childless to protect his children’s inheritance. Only days before Arbella had performed in a masque with the queen as part of the celebrations of the investiture of the seventeen year old Prince Henry as Prince of Wales.
Imprisonment Drear
Tower of London
On 8th July William was sent to the Tower and the following day Arbella was given into the custody of Sir Thomas Parry, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Arbella was concerned about her servants, many of whom had been with her for years; Mary and Gilbert undertook to look after them.
Within a month Arbella’s body started bloating and her dresses needed taking out. Arbella thought she was pregnant[xvii]. Queen Anne, Prince Henry and Cecil all advised James to be lenient. By December, despite countless letters from Arbella, James was still determined to keep Arbella under lock and key.
Arbella wrote to James protesting her loyalty
‘I have long desired to merit of your Majesty…….and though your Majesties neglect of me [and] my love to this gentleman that is my husband and my fortune drew me to a contract before I acquainted your Majesty I humbly beseech your Majesty to consider how impossible it was for me to imagine it could be offensive to your Majesty.’[xviii]
In January 1611 Arbella was informed that her husband was sentenced to life imprisonment in the Tower and that she was to be sent north to Durham.
Vain Protestations
Sir Edward Coke
Arbella was driven into a frenzy of letter writing to Sir Edward Coke[xix], Sir Thomas Fleming[xx], Viscount Fenton and others protesting this move from all that she had known. It was in vain; the Bishop of Durham presented himself at Lambeth on 15th March. Arbella refused to go quietly and the bishop’s men had to carry her out on a mattress.
Arbella was carried to Highgate where she was attended by her own physician, Dr Moundford. The following day Moundford told the bishop that Arbella could not be moved. She protested against this sentence writing to the Privy Council;
‘I protest I am in so weak a case as I verily think it would be the cuase of my death to be removed any whither at this time though it weare to a place of my likeing. My late discomfortable journey(which I have not yet recovered)had almost ended my days.’[xxi]
On 21st March the Bishop of Durham was commanded by the king to move his charge to Barnet. Once again Arbella was carried out on a litter. The Bishop spoke to the king about Arbella’s plight, but James was unmoved. Arbella wrote to Fenton;
‘I can neither gett clothes nor posset ale for example nor anything but ordinary diett and complement fitt for a sicke body in my case when I call for it not so much as a glister[xxii]……that unlesse I may be suffered to have those about me that I may trust.’[xxiii]
Although James was determined to have Arbella in Durham he was persuaded to allow her to stay in Barnet until 5th June, when she might be fit enough to make the long journey north.
The Early Stuarts – Godfrey Davies, Oxford University Press 1987
King James – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1974

Arbella – Sarah Gristwood, Bantam 2004
Robert Cecil – Alan Haynes, Peter Owen Publishers 1989

Bess of Hardwick – Mary S Lovell, Abacus 2006
The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart – Sara Jayne Steen ed, Oxford University Press 1994


[i] The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart - Steen
[ii] In 2013 the relative: real price of that commodity is £1,614,000.00 labour value of that commodity is £28,080,000.00 income value of that commodity is £55,180,000.00
[iii] Composed by Ben Jonson
[iv] In 2013 the relative: real price of that commodity is £16,650,000.00 labour value of that commodity is £266,500,000.00mincome value of that commodity is £564,000,000.00
[v] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £49,940.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,692,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £12,070,000.00
[vi] In 2013 the relative: real price of that commodity is £33,290.00 labour value of that commodity is £533,100.00 income value of that commodity is £1,128,000.00
[vii] Christian’s English was not very good
[viii] Bess of Hardwick - Lovell
[ix] The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart - Steen
[x] Son of the lutenist Francis Cutting who worked for the Howard family
[xi] Arbella - Gristwood
[xii] Developed as a spa by the former Earl of Shrewsbury, Mary, Queen of Scots had taken the waters there
[xiii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £48,850.00
economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,482,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £10,480,000.00
[xiv] Later Duke of Somerset
[xv] Arbella - Gristwood
[xvi] His Great-Great Grandmother was Princess Mary, youngest child of Henry VII
[xvii] Gristwood believes this may have been a symptom of porphyria as, unless the couple had already anticipated their marriage, the child in the womb would have been too small to cause any swelling
[xviii] The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart - Steen
[xxi] The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart - Steen
[xxii] Enema
[xxiii] The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart - Steen

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Stuart Would Be Queen - The Lady Arbella III

The New King
Funeral of Elizabeth I
In early April James wrote to Henry Grey[i], the Earl of Kent, asking if he would take Arbella to live with him;
‘We are desirous to free our cousin, the Lady Arbella from that unpleasant life which she hath led in the house of her Grandmother, with whose severity and age, she – being a young lady – could hardly agree.’[ii]
Arbella departed on a visit to her cousin at Wrest Park[iii]. As Elizabeth’s highest ranking female relative Arbella was invited to attend the state funeral on 28th April as Principal Mourner. She refused on the grounds that she was not allowed near Elizabeth during her lifetime and had no intention of being staged as a public spectacle.
James I
James entered his new capital on 7th May; and on the 11th wrote inviting Arbella to visit the new court at Greenwich. Of the meeting the Venetian envoy wrote;
‘Lady Arbella, who is a regular termagent came to visit the King on Sunday last with a suite of ladies and gentlemen.’[iv]
Her behaviour impressed Lord Cobham to write that he would never press his suit upon Arbella. A Talbot retainer hinted that Arbella showed a lack of composure and talked in a tumultuous fashion, something that is noticeable in some of her letters. James allowed Arbella freedom of movement and she went to stay at Sheen, home of the Marchioness of Northampton[v].

Freedom of a Sort
On 14th June 1603 Arbella wrote to Cecil asking him to petition James to allow her a pension; the annual monies she received from Elizabeth had ceased on her death. Four letters later Arbella took pen in hand to write again to Cecil on 30th June thanking him for the lump sum of £666[vi] granted as a stop gap until the matter of her pension was decided.
‘I have received His Majestie’s liberality by your Lordship’s meanes; for which I acknowledge myself greatly bounden to your Lordship.’[vii]
Anne of Denmark
When Queen Anne arrived at in London Arbella returned to court. Although there is no record of her having attended the coronation, Arbella’s absence would surely have been noted by interested observers. She was certainly in attendance when the court moved to Farnham, taking precedence over all ladies with the exception of the queen and the princesses;
‘In her [Arbella] appointments, table and rank, she takes precedence of all the other ladies of court. She has already begun to bear her Majestie’s train when she goes to chapel.’[viii]
Dangerous Times
At the age of twenty seven Arbella was now in partial control of her destiny. She was tangentially linked to the Bye Plot[ix], by one of the conspirators, Griffin Markham[x], who had been a neighbour at Hardwick. The Bye Plot was linked to the Main Plot; the plotters planned to kill James and the eleven year old Prince Henry and place the Princess Elizabeth, or in default of her Arbella, on the throne with the assistance of the Spanish.
Princess Elizabeth
The Venetian envoy wrote;
‘Most of the conspirators belong to her [Arbella’s] faction.’[xi]
Lord Cobham had written to Arbella asking her to write to Philip III of Spain and other Spanish dignatories, promising that she would allow Catholic toleration and stop English support for the revolt in the Netherlands. Arbella immediately handed the letter over to the authorities.
The summer and autumn of 1603 saw the plague return with a virulence to London[xii] and the court wended its way round southern England, Arbella in its train. James enjoyed the hunting at Woodstock, but his courtiers were less impressed with the old palace.
Robert Cecil
November saw the beginning of the Main Plot trial and Henry Cavendish was summonsed to London for interrogation and then released. Arbella complained much of her health at this time in her letters to Gilbert and Mary Talbot; the strain of the trial was telling on her. The prosecutor Coke’s attempts to involve Arbella were forestalled by Cecil;
‘Here hath been a touch of the Lady Arbella Stuart, the king’s near kinswoman. She is as innocent of all these things as I, or any man here: only she received a letter from my Lord Cobham to prepare her, which she laughed at and immediately sent to the king.’[xiii]  
But records of the interrogations[xiv] indicate that Arbella was more involved than the evidence made public showed. There was more than one letter from Lord Cobham and Arbella answered them, such answers being burnt by Cobham. Indeed Frances Kirton, Cobham’s kinswoman in Arbella’s employ, stated that;
‘The lady [Arbella] was desirous to be acquainted with him [Cobham] and to be advised by him.’[xv]
On 28th November Arbella had a headache that meant she could only write a few lines to Uncle Gilbert and thanks to Mary who had sent pills and hartshorn[xvi]. On 8th December her letter to Gilbert rambled through visions of St Ursula and her thousand virgins and biblical prophecies. The letter ended with the news that James had pardoned the ‘not-executed’ traitors.
A Desire to Return Home
Prince Henry
In the summer of 1604 Sir William Cavendish came to court and Arbella was reconciled with her uncle; she even sent her regards to Bess and a short note; the first communication between the two since Arbella had left Hardwick. William stayed at court as Arbella was trying to get her uncle a peerage[xvii]; she spoke four times to James on the matter and even recruited Prince Henry’s support with a marked lack of success;
‘Mr Cavendish……waits hard on my Lady Arbella for his barony; but I am confidently assured that he will not prevail.’[xviii]
Arbella was incapable of living within her income and was running up debts[xix]; she also seems to have been homesick, often asking about Hardwick in her letters to Gilbert and Mary Talbot. Gilbert and Mary were also piling up the debts. During this period Arbella turned down a number of proposals for her hand in marriage.
In early 1605, when Bess was reported to be very unwell, Arbella asked James for permission to leave court to visit her grandmother. James was only too happy to promote a reconciliation between the two, even writing personally to Bess asking her to treat Arbella kindly. The visit did result in Arbella and Bess reconciling, but Arbella was no longer Bess’s favourite ‘jewel’[xx].
Back at Court
On her return to court Arbella was chief godmother of the baby Princess Mary[xxi]; the Countess of Northumberland was the other godmother and the Queen’s brother Duke Ulrik of Holstein[xxii] was Mary’s godfather. The ceremony was held on 19th April and to mark the occasion a number of peerages were bestowed; Cecil was made a baron and James gave Arbella a blank warrant to complete herself. She made her uncle William a baron[xxiii] and he was one of eight who carried the canopy over Princess Mary at the baptism.
Gunpowder Plot Conspirators
At the end of the year Gilbert Talbot was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, he was vindicated but there was gossip about Mary Talbot’s involvement. Mary was known to have leanings towards Catholicism, wore a crucifix and was friendly with Walter Ralegh. Mary issued a writ against Lady Anne Markham and Edmund Lascelles, the perpetrators of the rumours; the pair retracted their accusations and apologised.

The Early Stuarts – Godfrey Davies, Oxford University Press 1987

The Gunpowder Plot – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1996
King James – Antonia Fraser, BCA 1974
Arbella – Sarah Gristwood, Bantam 2004

Robert Cecil – Alan Haynes, Peter Owen Publishers 1989
After Elizabeth – Leanda de Lisle, Harper Perennial 2006

Bess of Hardwick – Mary S Lovell, Abacus 2006
The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart – Sara Jayne Steen ed, Oxford University Press 1994


[i] Arbella’s cousin was married to the Earl’s nephew and eventual heir
[ii] Bess of Hardwick - Lovell
[iii] Near Bedford
[iv] Arbella - Gristwood
[v] A friend of the old queen
[vi] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £139,800.00
economic status value of that income or wealth is £4,007,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £29,870,000.00
[vii] The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart - Steen
[viii] Arbella - Gristwood
[ix] James was to be kidnapped and forced to give Catholics wider rights than they already possessed
[x] He went abroad to Europe as a spy for Cecil
[xi] Arbella - Gristwood
[xii] The first week of August saw 1,922 dead
[xiii] Arbella - Gristwood
[xiv] Uncovered at the end of the 20th century
[xv] Arbella - Gristwood
[xvi] Hartshorn salts used as a treatment for fevers and smelling salts; jellied and calcinated hartshorn used for diarrhea and dysentery
[xvii] William was made Earl of Devonshire on 2nd August 1618
[xviii] Bess of Hardwick - Lovell
[xix] She may have been trying to get back into her grandmother’s good books by helping her uncle
[xx] Bess’s pet name for her grandchildren
[xxi] Born on the 8th April 1605
[xxii] On a visit to his sister
[xxiii] It is possible that William paid Arbella the sum of £2,000 for her assistance. In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £389,100.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £11,950,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £87,820,000.00