Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Tudor/Stuart follies
Behind the Palace Doors: Five Centuries of Sex, Adventure, Vice, Treachery, and Folly from Royal Britain. I was familiar with the palace's inception from reading one of the many Tudor-related books we always keep in stock, as the era remains a perennially fascinating one to historians and readers.
Arabella (above, with William at right) asked to be heard in court, but James would have none of it and sent her into exile in the countryside. On her way there, she daringly disguised herself as a man and rode off to meet William, who had disguised himself and escaped from a rather loose confinement in the Tower. Alas, their signals crossed as they attempted to meet and take a ship to France. He escaped to Bruges, but she was captured by the fleet of ships that a furious James sent out to retrieve her. She was put under house arrest (in the "Queen's House" in the Tower of London) and died four years later, after refusing to eat or drink.
Sara Jayne Steen, who edited a book of Arabella's 100 surviving letters, notes that Imogen, the virtuous, cross-dressed heroine of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, has sometimes been read as a reference to Arabella. A happier ending, n'est-ce pas?
Below, James I and a portrait of an unknown gentlewoman thought to be Arabella (National Portrait Gallery, London).