Arbella Stuart

Arbella Stuart was the great granddaughter of Margaret Tudor (through her second marriage to Archibald Douglas) and also the niece of Mary Queen of Scots. In 1610 she married William Seymour, Duke of Somerset (the great-great grandson of Mary Tudor and grandson of Catherine Grey).

However, in 1602 Arbella wrote a letter to a John Dodderidge, asking him to arrange a meeting between herself and the eldest grandson of the Earl of Hertford (Edward Seymour, her future husband’s older brother) with a view to marriage. In the letter written before Christmas Day, Arbella asks that Edward bring with him some proof of identity.

‘as somm picture or handwriting of the Lady Jane Gray whose hand I know. and she sent hir sister a booke at her death which weare the very best they could bring…’ (Steen, 1994).

When the Earl of Hertford learned of the plan, he informed Queen Elizabeth and the meeting never took place.

A full version of her letter can be found in the following:

The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart edited by Sara Jayne Steen

Extracts can be found in the following:

Early Modern English Noblewomen and Self-Starvation: The Skull Beneath the Skin by Sasha Garwood

Arbella: England’s Lost Queen by Sarah Gristwood

Devices & Desires: Bess of Hardwick and the Building of Elizabethan England by Kate Hubbard

After Elizabeth: How James King of Scots Won the Crown of England in 1603 by Leanda de Lisle

Women’s Wealth and Women’s Writing in Early Modern England by Elizabeth Mazzola

In the Shadow of the Throne: The Lady Arbella Stuart by Ruth Norrington