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Arbella: England's Lost Queen by Sarah…

Arbella: England's Lost Queen (edition 2003)

by Sarah Gristwood

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275641,194 (3.64)7
Title:Arbella: England's Lost Queen
Authors:Sarah Gristwood
Info:Bantam Press (2003), Hardcover
Collections:Your library, Biography
Tags:Biography, England, 17th century

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Arbella: England's Lost Queen by Sarah Gristwood



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This is an interesting read, if it doesn't quite cover the slightly provocative sub title.
Arbella Stuart was the niece of Mary, Queen of Scots and a cousin of James I. She was, for much of her youth, touted as a possible successor to Elizabeth I. That never happened for an entire array of reasons, a lot of which seem to be Arbella doing exactly the wrong things at just the wrong moment. It seems that she spends quite a long time apologising and trying to present her actions in an alternative light.
A lot of the evidence comes from extensive letters, from Arbella herself as well as from those around her. She was of interest to the court, so appears in those records at various times. It, therefore, seems somewhat cruelt hat she ended her days in the Tower of London and there remains very little information about her time there. She was, it seems imprisoned for who she was, not so much as for what she had done.
It has a lot of possible interpretation of her actions and these remain speculative, although acknowledged as such they are well reasoned.
An interesting character at an interesting time in history who seems somehow out of step with her times. ( )
  Helenliz | Mar 27, 2017 |
The tragic story of Arbella Stuart, first cousin once removed to Queen Elizabeth I, and potential heir to her throne. ( )
  Oodles | Feb 16, 2016 |
I loved that this book gave so much insight on a woman that I really knew nothing about. I would have given it a 5 but as most biographies it can get a bit dry. ( )
1 vote Desilu42 | Aug 1, 2013 |
3.5 stars

This review was first published at the Just A Reader book review blog.

Arbella: England's Lost Queen by Sarah Gristwood is a biography of a less popularly known figure in the Elizabethan era. Arbella Stuart was third cousin (I think that's correct) to Elizabeth I and first cousin to James I. She was, at one time, a serious consideration as heir to Elizabeth's throne. For anyone interested in that era of British history, this biography is a good addition to the field and gives a great deal of detail on a person who hasn't been written about in as much detail as the more well known figures such as Elizabeth, James, Robert Dudley, and others whose names are recognizable to popular audiences even today.

Gristwood writes with an amazing amount of detail and uses a prodigious amount of source quotes. Arbella seems to have left a large number of letters from which to pull information and, as a possible contender to the throne, her name and events in her life were topics of gossip and letters by a variety of officials of the era - from Cecil to James to foreign ambassadors. Like most documentation from that time period, there are gaps in what has survived and conflicting information slanted by whoever wrote it for their own political purposes.

Arbella's life is a rollercoaster with seemingly more downs than ups. Her fate rests entirely in the hands of others and yet she attempts to take control of her own destiny several times. Her royal blood makes her both incredibly valuable and equally dangerous, cutting her off from both of the avenues for which she was raised - ruling and marriage. Her attempts to get won or the other are met with hostility by both Elizabeth and James. Arbella seems at all times to keep one eye on her political ambitions which can never help her marital cause. Her family member's ambition is an equal part of the problem as, much like Jane Grey, Arbella is blamed for the plots of others - though neither woman is without ambition.

Arbella: Englad's Lost Queen seems to be the first biography by Gristwood and she does a fair job of it - it's a well-written and engaging read but Alison Weir's works of the same time period remain my favorites to this point. It may simply be that Gristwood has not found her stride yet and I'm certainly going to read more of her work. ( )
1 vote Irishcontessa | Mar 30, 2013 |
Taking what she can from the evidence this is an interesting account of the life and death of Arbella Stuart. A woman constrained by the fact that she was from the royal family and living in a period where her possible marriage would mean a contender for the throne.

Gristwood speculates about Porphyria being the cause of some of her issues, she had frequent bouts of illness and what would appear to be depression. I'm pretty sure these weren't helped by the constant suspicion that she was going to be the centre of a plot to take over the throne, willingly or unwillingly.

While Elizabeth willingly avoided marriage for politics sake, Arbella fell in love and her marriage was roundly condemned by James I, leading to her imprisonment in the Tower of London and subsequent to her escape and recapture, her death.

She's a woman about whom I had never heard before but I found quite interesting and had some pity for, she lived a very constrained, pressured life that had a continuous shadow of death.

I liked the story, the author seems to have a lot of sympathy for the character and her times. ( )
1 vote wyvernfriend | Nov 10, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618341331, Hardcover)

In this U.K. bestseller, Lady Arbella Stuart emerges as a most contemporary royal, a young woman determined to shape her own destiny in the midst of her plot-ridden world.

Arbella was niece to Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to Elizabeth I — who indicated that the teenage Arbella was to be heir to her throne. A critical pawn in the struggle for succession, particularly during the long, tense period when Elizabeth lay dying, the young Arbella endured twenty-seven years of isolation at the grand Hardwick Hall, held by her scheming and powerful grandmother.

The accession of James I, Arbella’s first cousin, ended the young woman’s royal aspirations but thrust her into James’s licentious court. Then, at age thirty-five, she risked everything to make a forbidden marriage. An escape in disguise, a wild flight abroad, and capture at sea led in the end to an agonizing death in the Tower. Yet nothing is as remarkable as the almost modern freedom with which, in a series of extraordinary letters — more passionate and extensive than those of any other woman of this suffocating age — Arbella Stuart revealed her own compelling personality.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:45 -0400)

Based on letters written by England's "Lost Queen," this portrait describes the niece to Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to Elizabeth I who became a pawn in the power struggles of her age and tried unsuccessfully to flee her fate, dying a tragic death in the tower of London.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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