Arbella Stuart

Arbella Stuart (* 1575; † 27 September 1615) was the daughter of Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart Darnley, making her a direct cousin of James VI of Scotland. Her parents' clandestine marriage defied Elizabeth I’s consent, thrusting Arbella into contention for the English throne. Orphaned early, she was raised by her domineering grandmother, Elizabeth Hardwick, Lady Shrewsbury, but remained subject to others' whims. In 1610, Arbella secretly wed William Seymour, yet another aspirant to the throne, and five years later, she met her demise in the Tower.

On 1 October 1592, Elizabeth Hardwick, Lady Shrewsbury, penned a letter to Lord Burghley, detailing a troubling incident involving her granddaughter:

"On Morley, who hat attend on Arabella and read to her for the space of three year and a half, showed to be much discontented since my return into the country, in saying he had lived hope of having some annuity granted him by Arabella out her land, or some lease of grounds to the value of £40 a year, alleging that he was so much damnified by leaving of the University … I understanding by divers that Morley was so much discontented, and withal of late having some cause to be doubtful of his forwardness in religion (though I cannot charge him with papistry), took occasion to part with him. After he was gone from my house, and his stuff carried from hence, the next day he returned again, very importunate to serve."

In 1937, it was suggested that the disgruntled servant might have been Marlowe.2 While initially overlooked, this theory, given Arbella’s royal claims and Catholic background, aligns with the surveillance preferences of Francis Walsingham or Burghley. Though some evidence implicates Marlowe,3 it’s widely accepted that the individual in question was a relative of composer Thomas Morley.4

Handover, P. M. 1957. Arbella Stuart: Royal Lady of Hardwick and Cousin to King James. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.

  1. BL Lansdowne MS71, art. 2↩︎
  2. Brooks (27.02.1937)↩︎
  3. Baker (1997); Hopkins (2008)↩︎
  4. Boas (06.03.1937); Handover (1957); Nicholl (2002)↩︎

Aktualisiert am 24.05.2024

Comments are closed.