Arabella, Stuart

, commonly called the lady Arabella, was so often talked of for a queen, that custom seems to have given her a right to an article in this manner under her Christian name, as that by which our historians distinguish her. She was the daughter of Charles Stuart, earl oY Lenox, who was younger brother to Henry lord Darnley, | father to king James VI. of Scotland, and First of England, by Elizabeth, daughter of sir William Cavendisu, km. She was born, as near as can be computed, in 1577, and educated at London, under the eye of the eld countess of Lenox, her grand-mother. She was far from being either beautiful in her person, or from being distinguished by any extraordinary qualities of mind; and yet she met with many admirers, on account of her royal descent and near relation to the crown of England. Her father dviug in 1579, and leaving her thereby sole heiress, as some understood, of the house of Lenox, several matches were projected for her at home and abroad. Her cousin, king James, inclined to have married her to lord Esme Stuart, whom he had created duke of Lenox, and whom before his marriage he considered as his heir; but this match was prevented by queen Elizabeth, though it was certainly a very fit one in all respects. As the English succession was at this time very problematical, the great powers on the Continent speculated on many husbands for the lady Arabella, such as the duke of Savoy, a prince of the house of Farnese, and others. In the mean time, this lady had some thoughts of marrying herself at home, as Thuanus relates, to a son of the earl of Northumberland, but it is not credible that this took effect, though he says it did privately. The very attempt procured her queen Elizabeth’s displeasure, who confined her for it. In the mean time her title to the crown, such as it was, became the subject, amongst many others, of father Persons’ s famous book, wherein are all the arguments for and against her, and which served to divulge her name and descent all over Europe; and yet this book was not very favourable to her interest. On the death of the queen, some malcontents framed an odd design of disturbing the public peace, and amongst other branches of their dark scheme, one was to seize the lady Arabella, and to cover their proceedings by the sanction of her title, intending also to have married her to some English nobleman, the more to increase their interest, and the better to please the people. But this conspiracy was fatal to none but its authors, and those who conversed with them; being speedily defeated, many taken, and some executed. As for the lady Arabella, it does not appear that she had any knowledge of this engagement in her behalf, whatever it was; for domestic writers are perplexed, and foreign historians ruu into absurdities, when they | endeadeavour to explain it. She continued at liberty, and in apparent favour at court, though her circumstances were narrow till the latter end of the year 1608, when by some means she drew upon her king James’s displeasure. However, at Christmas, when mirth and good-humour prevailed at court, she was again taken into favour, had a service of plate presented to her of the value of two hundred pounds, a thousand marks given her to pay her debts, and some addition made to her annual income. This seems to have been done, in order to have gained her to the interest of the court, and to put the notions of marriage she had entertained out of her head; all which, however, proved ineffectual; for in the beginning of the month of February 1609, she was detected in an intrigue with Mr. William Seymour, son to the lord Beauchamp, and grandson to the earl of Hertford, to whom, notwithstanding, she was. privately married some time afterwards. Upon this discovery, they were both carried before the council, and severely reprimanded, and then dismissed. In the summer of 1610, the marriage broke out, on which the lady was sent into close custody, at the house of sir Thomas Parry, in Lambeth; and Mr. Seymour was committed to the Tower for his contempt, in marrying a lady of the royal family without the king’s leave. It does not appear that this confinement was attended with any great severity to either; for the lady was allowed the use of sir Thomas Parry’s house and gardensj and the like gentleness, in regard to his high quality, was shewn to Mr. Seymour. Some intercourse they had by letters, which after a time was discovered, and a resolution taken thereupon to send the lady to Durham, a resolution which threw her into deep affliction. Upon this, by the interposition of friends, she and her husband concerted a scheme for their escape, which was successfully executed in the beginning, though it ended unluckily. The lady, under the care of sir James Crofts, was at the house of Mr. Conyers, at Highgate, from whence she was to have gone the next day to Durham, on which she put a fair countenance now, notwithstanding the trouble she had before shewn. This made her keepers the more easy, and gave her an opportunity of disguising herself, which she did on Monday the 3d of June, 1611, by drawing over her petticoats a pair of large French-fashioned hose, putting on a man’s doublet, a peruke which covered her hair, a hat, black cloak, russet boots with red tops, and | a rapier by her side. Thus equipped, she walked out between three and four with Mr. Markham. They went a mile and half to a little inn, where a person attended with their horses. The lady, by that time she came thither, was so weak and faint, that the hostler, who held the stirrup when she mounted, said that gentleman would hardly hold out to London. Riding, however, so raised her spirits, that by the time she came to Blackwall, she was pretty well recovered. There they found waiting for them two men, a gentlewoman, and a chambermaid, with one boat full of Mr. Seymour’s and her trunks, and another boat for their persons, in which they hasted from thence towards Woolwich. Being come so far, they bade the watermen row on to Gravesend. There the poor fellows were desirous to land, but for a double freight were contented to go on to Lee, yet being almost tired by the way, they were forced to lie still at Tilbury, whilst the rowers went on shore to refresh themselves; then they proceeded to Lee, and by that time the day appeared, and they discovered a ship at anchor a mile beyond them, which was the French bark that waited for them. Here the lady would have lain at anchor, expecting Mr. Seymour, but through the importunity of her followers, they forthwith hoisted sail and put to sea. In the mean time Mr. Seymour, with a peruke and beard of black hair, and in a tawny cloth suit, walked alone without suspicion, from his lodging out at the great west door of the Tower, following a cart that had brought him billets. From thence he walked along by the Towerwharf, by the warders of the south gate, and so to the iron gate, where one Rodney was ready with a pair of oars to receive him. When they came to Lee, and found that the French ship was gone, the billows rising high, they hired a fisherman for twenty shillings, to put them on board a certain ship that they saw under sail. That ship they found not to be it they looked for, so they made forwards to the next under sail, which was a ship from Newcastle. This with much ado they hired for forty pounds, to carry them to Calais, and the master performed his bargain, by which means Mr. Seymour escaped, and continued in Flanders. On Tuesday in the afternoon, my lord treasurer being advertised that the lady Arabella had made an escape, sent immediately to the lieutenant of the Tower to set strict guard over Mr. Seymour, which he promised, after his yxrt manner, “he would thoroughly do, that he would;” but, coming to the prisoner’s lodgings-, he found, to his great | amazement, that he was gone from thence one whole day before. A pink being dispatched from the Downs into Calais road, seized the French bark, and brought back the lady and those with her; but, before this was known, the proclamation issued for apprehending them. As soon as she was brought to town, she was, after examination, committed to the Tower, declaring that she was not so sorry for her own restraint, as she should be glad if Mr. Seymour escaped, for whose welfare, she affirmed, she was more concerned than for her own. Her aunt, the countess of Shrewsbury, was likewise committed, on suspicion of having prompted the lady Arabella, not only to her escape, but to other things, it being known that she had amassed upwards of twenty thousand pounds in ready money. The earl of Shrewsbury was confined to his house, and the old earl of Hertford sent for from his seat. By degrees things grew cooler, and though it was known that Mr. Seymour continued in the Netherlands, yet the court made no farther applications to the archduke about him. In the beginning of 1612, a new storm began to break out; for the lady Arabella, either pressed at an examination, or of her own free will, made some extraordinary discoveries, upon which some quick steps would have been taken, had it not shortly after appeared, that her misfortunes had turned her head, and that, consequently, no use could be made of her evidence. However, the countess of Shrewsbury, who before had leave to attend her husband in his sickness, was, very closely shut up, and the court was amused with abundance of strange stories, which wore out by degrees, and the poor lady Arabella languished in her confinement till the 27th of September, 1615, when her life and sorrows ended together. Even in her grave this poor lady was not at peace, a report being spread that she was poisoned, because she happened to die within two years of sir Thomas Overbury. Sir Bull. Whitlocke has put this circumstance in much too strong a light; for it was a suspicion at most, and never had the support of the least colour of proof. As for her husband, sir William Seymour, he soon after her decease, procured leave to return, distinguished himself by loyally adhering to the king during the civil wars, and, surviving to the time of the Restoration, was restored to his great-grandfather’s title of duke of Somerset, by an act of parliament, which entirely cancelled his attainder and on the giving his royal assent to this act, | king Charles II. was pleased to say in full parliament, what perhaps was as honourable for the family as the title to which they are restored, flis words were these: “As this is an act of an extraordinary nature, so it is in favour of a person of no ordinary merit: he has deserved of my father, and of myself, as much as any subject possibly could do; and I hope this will stir no man’s envy, because in doing it I do no more than' what a good master should do for such a servant.” By his lady Arabella, this noble person had no issue: but that he still preserved a warm affection for her memory, appears from hence, that he called one of his daughters by his second wife, Frances, daughter and coheiress of Robert Devereux, earl of Essex, Arabella Seymour.

Mr. Ballard has given a place, to the lady Arabella, in his Memoirs of British Ladies, who have been celebrated for their writings or skill in the learned languages, arts, and sciences. His reasons for so doing are, that Mr. Evelyn, in hisNumismata, has put her in his list of learned women, and Mr. Philips, in his Theatrum Poetarum, has introduced her among his modern poetesses. Though no works of this lady have appeared, which can serve to shew on what foundation her literary reputation is built, yet it is not probable that Mr. Evelyn and Mr. Philips should, without cause, have assigned her the rank they have done. Three letters of her’s are transcribed, by Mr. Ballard, from a ms yolume in Mr. Ashmole’s study, which prove her to have been a woman of good understanding. It also appears, from Mr. Oldys’s manuscripts, that she had, at least when young, a far greater share of beauty than is above represented. From a picture of her, which was drawn at full length in white in 1589, when she was thirteen years and a half old, it appears that she was, at that time, very beautiful in her person. Her complexion was fair as alabaster; she had sweet large grey eyes and long flaxen hair, flowing almost to her waist, and finely curled at top. Mr. Oldys says that she was born in 1575. 1


Biog. Brit.