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Out of the Shadows: The Life of Lucy,…

Out of the Shadows: The Life of Lucy, Countess of Bedford

by Lesley Lawson

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Lucy, Countess of Bedford was one of the most brilliant, powerful, and influential women in the early court of James I. Married to the young Earl of Bedford at only 13, she suffered a series of miscarriages and infant deaths, near financial ruin due to the couple's extravagant lifestyle, and the shame of political exile following her husband's participation in the Essex Rebellion. But when Queen Elizabeth was nearing death, Lucy and her mother raced to Scotland to accompany the new queen to London. This began a friendship that placed Lucy at the center of power, enabling her to sue for offices, favors, and commisions for her friends and clients. She was a featured performer in the Jacobean court masques and was patroness to John Donne (she owned Twickenham), Ben Jonson, John Florio, Samuel Daniel and others. As a Sidney cousin, her political and artistic circle included many powerful figures: William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke; his mother, the Countess of Pembroke, Robert Sidney and his daughter, Lady Mary Wroth; Sir John Harrington; and many others. Though we know that Lucy was also a poet, none of her work survives--in fact, not much aside from her court activities is known about her life. Lawson brings together the facts here with some intriguing speculation. ( )
  Cariola | Aug 10, 2009 |
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