On This Day - 27th September 1615: Lady Arbella Stuart dies

Lady Arbella Stuart

Lady Arbella Stuart

Lady Arbella Stuart, dressing like the Queen she could have been
Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

September the 27th marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Lady Arbella Stuart. Lady Arbella (or Arabella if you don’t fancy the alternative spelling) came as something of a surprise to me. Despite the fact that she is closely related to many of the people I have been fascinated by since childhood I had never heard of her before. Upon closer study it seemed even more peculiar that I had never come across her before. She, who was intimately connected to the courts of both Elizabeth I and James the VI & I and lived with her grandmother, the famous Bess of Hardwick. Did I even remember reading her name? No! I was astonished.

Bess of Hardwick as Mistress St Lo

Bess of Hardwick, Lady Arbella’s grandmother
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Not only did she have extremely famous relatives but during her short lifetime she ticked many of the boxes that normally makes our generation go absolutely mad about icons of that era. My jaw dropped further. Far from being an obscure cousin no-one really talks about she was actually closely considered as a potential heir for Elizabeth I (The Virgin Queen) losing out by a whisker to her cousin, James VI of Scotland 

James VI and I (dressed in white)

James VI & I
John de Critz the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

England clearly couldn’t face the radiance of another female monarch so soon, don’t think they really got the hang of it until good old Queen E2.

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) by Steven van der Meulen (FL.1543-1568)

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603)
Steven van der Meulen (fl. 1543–1568) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For those not so interesting in royal succession and more into blood, murder and good old scandal, I can reveal that her paternal uncle was no lesser an infamous person than Henry, Lord Darnley who following a short and spectacularly unsuccessful marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots was murdered in cold blood at Kirk o’ Fields, a mystery unsolved to this day. 

Mary Stuart James Darnley

Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry, Lord Darnley in happier times 
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Not content to let her relations fill the court gossip columns for too long Arbella herself formed a scandalous marriage, to Lord Beauchamp, without the King’s permission (which was a really big deal back then, like massive). This became the talk of the town, especially when the lovers were imprisoned, escaped and attempted to flee (separately due to pre-i-phone communications) to France. You are beginning to imagine the film right? Lots of cheesy music and sexy sword fights. Bliss… 

Lady Arbella's re-capture and death in the Tower of London due to refusal to eat should have made her the stuff of modern day legend but strangely she has never been sensationalised. Yet. Perhaps now, on the 400th anniversary of her death, it is finally the time to start remembering her extraordinary life. Watch this space… ;)

Arbella Stuart 1588

Lady Arbella Stuart, 1588 (age 13)
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


© Isla Robertson 2017