Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Arabella Stuart

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ARABELLA STUART (1575–1615), was the daughter of Charles Stuart, Earl of Lenox, younger brother of Lord Darnley. This earl was, through his mother, the grandson of Margaret, the eldest sister of Henry VIII., by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus. Arabella stood in the line of succession to the English throne next to her first cousin James. When Elizabeth's age made a speedy vacancy probable, there were some persons in England who argued that her title was preferable even to that of James, as she was born on English soil, whereas he, being an alien, and therefore disqualified for possessing land in England, was also disqualified for wearing the crown. A little before Elizabeth's death Arabella was arrested by the queen's orders in consequence of a rumour that a marriage was planned between her and William Seymour, the grandson of Catherine Grey, the heiress of the Suffolk line. James, however, succeeded peaceably, and treated Arabella with favour as a kinswoman, disbelieving the idle rumours which accused her of taking part in the plots of Cobham and Raleigh. She, as we hear, was much in want of money, and we hear of her in 1608 and 1609 begging for English and Irish monopolies. In December 1609 she was put in confinement with her servants, on the ground of her being engaged in a treaty of marriage with some person whose name is not given. She regained the king's good graces by pleading discontent on the ground of poverty, and James, besides valuable new-year's gifts, granted her a pension of 1,600l. a year.

On 2 Feb. 1610, Arabella became actually engaged to William Seymour, whose descent from the Suffolk line made him specially an object of jealousy to James. She and Seymour were summoned before the Privy Council, and declared that he would never marry her without the king's consent. On this Arabella was again taken into favour, and on 22 March received the grant of the Irish monopoly for which she had long been petitioning. Early in July the couple were privately married. The secret was not kept, and on the 9th Arabella was committed to the custody of Sir T. Parry, and her husband to the Tower. On 13 March 1611, she was put under the charge of the Bishop of Durham, to be carried by him to Durham. She appealed in vain for a writ of habeas corpus. On 16 March she was removed in a condition of physical prostration, and was allowed to rest at Barnet for a month. When the month was over, she protested she could not travel. On 4 June she escaped in man's apparel, got on board a French vessel in the Thames, and sailed for Calais. She was captured in the Straits of Dover, brought back, and lodged in the Tower. Seymour was more successful, and landed safely at Ostend. Arabella remained a prisoner in the Tower till her death on 25 Sept. 1615.

[E. Cooper, Life and Letters of Lady Arabella Stuart.]

S. R. G.