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'It is Arbella they would proclaim Queen if her mistress should happen to die' Sir William Stanley, 1592 Niece to Mary, Queen of Scots, granddaughter to the great Tudor dynast Bess of Hardwick, Lady Arbella Stuart was brought up in the belief that she would inherit Elizabeth I's throne. Her very conception was dramatic: the result of an unsanctioned alliance that brought down the wrath of the authorities. Raised in restricted isolation at Hardwick, in the care - the 'custody' - of the forceful Bess, Arbella was twenty-seven before, in 1603, she made her own flamboyant bid for liberty. She may also have been making a bid for the throne. If so, she failed. But the accession of her cousin James thrust her into the colourful world of his court, and briefly gave her the independence she craved at the heart of Jacobean society. Then, aged 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 in 1615. Along with the rumours about her sanity, her story influenced even Webster's The Duchess of Malfi. Yet perhaps nothing in her tale is as striking as the degree to which a woman so widely discussed in her own day has been written out of history. Nothing as remarkable as the almost modern freedom with which, in a series of extraordinary letters, Arbella Stuart revealed her own passionate and curiously accessible personality. Drawing on a wide variety of contemporary sources, Sarah Gristwood has painted a powerful and vivid portrait of a woman forced to carve a precarious path through the turbulent years when the Tudor gave way to the Stuart dynasty. But more remarkable still, the turmoils of Arbella's life never prevented her from claiming the right to love freely, to speak her wrongs loudly - and to control her own destiny.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780553815214
ISBN-10: 0553815210
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 127mm x 36mm)
Pages: 576
Imprint: Bantam Books (Transworld Publishers a division of the Random House Group)
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 2-Feb-2004
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » 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 in some 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. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Sarah Gristwood

After leaving Oxford, Sarah Gristwood worked as a journalist specializing in the arts and women's issues. She is a regular contributor to The Times, Guardian, Independent and the Evening Standard. Arbella, her historical biography of Arbella Stuart, was widely acclaimed in hardcover, and is available as a Bantam paperback. Her forthcoming anthology of women's diaries through the ages will also be published in paperback by Bantam Books in 2006.

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