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Arbella: England's Lost Queen Paperback – 2 Feb 2004
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"'Utterly compelling...an exquisite jewel of a book'" (Alison Weir)
"'Carrying her learning lightly, Sarah Gristwood presents a powerful story of the dynastic insecurity of the Tudors and Stuart'" (The Sunday Times)
"'Sarah Gristwood succeeds triumphantly...an enthralling account of an extraordinary life'" (Spectator)
"'She teases out some vivid threads...and deftly weaves them into a startling "pattern of misfortune"...The delights are in the detail, and Gristwood makes the most of them'" (Daily Telegraph)
"'Well researched and stimulating...A sad but enthralling story'" (Evening Standard)
Taking as its background one of the most famous periods of British history, Sarah Gristwood's historical biography focuses on a hitherto forgotten figure: Arbella Stuart, the niece of Mary Queen of Scots and first cousin to James VI of Scotland. Orphaned as a baby, brought up by her powerful and ambitious grandmother, the four-times married Bess of Hardwick, introduced at court as a young girl where she was acknowledged as her heir by Elizabeth I, Arbella's right to the English throne was equalled only by James. Kept under close supervision by her grandmother, first at Chatsworth and later at Hardwick Hall, but still surrounded by plots, most of them Roman Catholic in origin, she became an important pawn in the struggle for succession, particularly during the long, tense period when Elizabeth I lay dying. But the best was yet to come. At 35 and upon James's succession, Arbella was invited back to court, and fell in love with her cousin, William Seymour, a man 12 years her junior.Notwithstanding the fact that their union was forbidden, and that relationships that did not carry with them the Royal seal of approval were considered treasonous, they married secretly - and were immediately imprisoned. Undeterred, Arbella set about organizing their escape. Dressed up in men's clothing, she set out for Dover, arranging to meet her husband en route. He did not make their rendez-vous, and she was later intercepted off the coast of Calais, and escorted back to the Tower, where she died some years later, alone and, most probably, from starvation. With descriptions of what it was like to live in the late Tudor period - the clothes, the intrigues at court and in the country, the houses with their huge, drafty rooms - Arbella's is a story just waiting to be told. See all Product description
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Unfortunately, apart from a few brief periods of excitement, such as the unsuccessful flight to Calais, most of her life was tedious in the extreme: an unmarriable, Royal heiress (descended from Henry VII's eldest daughter Margaret and so a legitimate heir to the thrones of England and Scotland), forever a threat and magnet for conspicacy, watched by spies (possibly including Christopher Marlowe) she was kept in a sort of extended adolescence as far from court as both Elizabeth I and James I & VI in turn could manage. In between bouts of illness she managed to get a good classical education, become a great embroiderer and write copious letters, but she never achieved the ultimate dream of her ambitious grandmother Bess of Harwick, she was never to become queen.
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