ARBELLA: England's Lost Queen

Sarah Gristwood, Author
Sarah Gristwood, Author . Houghton Mifflin $30 (450p) ISBN 978-0-618-34133-7
Hardcover - 450 pages - 978-0-593-04888-7
Paperback - 299 pages - 978-0-553-81521-4
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The history of Tudor England is rife with claimants to the throne. Gristwood tells one of the more heartrending of these stories: that of Arbella Stuart, the young cousin of the future James I, who appears at times to have been bred by her grandmothers for the precise purpose of challenging the throne. Raised mostly by her maternal grandmother, Bess Hardwick (wife of Mary Stuart's jailer), Arbella grew up isolated and virtually imprisoned by Bess, with an inflated sense of her status and destiny. As a young woman, she attempted to gain her freedom with schemes that were treated as dangerous intrusions into dynastic policy. Her rambling letters from this period suggest that desperation had driven her mad. By the time of Queen Elizabeth's death, Arbella's royal hopes were dashed, but the new king, James, invited her to court. While she gained some independence then, she was still enough of a political hot potato that the king would not sanction her marriage. Frustrated, Arbella eventually arranged her own marriage and ended up, as a result, in the Tower, where she apparently starved herself to death a few years later. Despite the intriguing story, Gristwood occasionally engages in excessive foreshadowing and inconclusive speculation when facts are thin. But she fully supports the contention that contemporaries took very seriously this now obscure young woman's pretensions to the throne. (June)

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