Tag Archives: Arbella Stuart

Tudor dolls

Arbella Stuart

Up until the fourteenth century the great hall doubled as a place to sleep for all but the wealthiest. As the decades progressed vernacular building styles changed and more people could afford their own private chambers. For instance chimneys replaced open hearths.   This meant that the hall could now be a ground floor space with a first floor above it rather than being open to the roof. Ultimately the wealthy dined in private rooms and the servants were relegated to the servant’s hall. Once food was removed from the hall it changed into a grand entrance way. As times became more peaceful the hall could be extended into part of a winged building. The great hall disappeared altogether where builders began from scratch.

Hardwick-Hall-plan-1024x621

 

So – Renaissance halls were much less functionally important than their medieval predecessors but still an important statement of wealth and ostentation. Four times married Bess of Hardwick poured her wealth into her building projects from her home at Chatsworth, via Buxton Old Hall and alms houses in Derby to Hardwick. Hardwick Hall is famously “more glass than wall” and it has a great hall style space which lays at its very heart  as shown in the plan above– but no staircase in that particular location! England’s first official architect Robert Smythson who was also responsible for Longleat built it.

 

However, there’s plenty of information about Hardwick available on-line so my third advent for 2017 is this image of Arbella Stuart. Bess of Hardwick forged strong marriage alliances for her off-spring but over-stepped herself when she arranged a marriage between her daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Lord Darnley’s younger brother Charles Stuart. Lord Darnley was, of course, Henry Stuart the murdered spouse of Bess’s” house guest” Mary Queen of Scots. It happened that Bess was friends with Margaret, Countess of Lennox – the mother of the Stuart boys. And, of course Margaret’s mother was Henry VII’s eldest daughter Margaret Tudor. Bess of Hardwick became grandmother to a contender for the throne. No wonder she described Arbella as “my jewel.”

 

The story goes that Margaret was travelling with her son Charles from London to their lands in Yorkshire. They stopped off at Rufford Abbey – one of Bess’s residences purchased by husband number two, William Cavendish, at the dissolution of the monasteries. Bess arrived with her daughter Elizabeth in tow. Margaret promptly became unwell and what was Bess to do but nurse her poor friend, leaving their children to get to know one another better. It all sounds very romantic but the two women had been plotting for the better part of a year to arrange the match. Bess’s husband the earl of Shrewsbury was not amused when he heard the news. The marriage into the Tudor family line and the arrival of little Arbella were nails in the coffin of Bess’s final marriage.

 

Arbella was born in 1575 – probably at Lennox House in Hackney. Charles died the following year and the title that should have been Arbella’s went back to Scotland. It is significant that the portrait identifies Arbella as the countess of Lennox. It would be a claimed that she pursued intermittently for the rest of her life.

 

bartholomews babyThis portrait was painted by an unknown artist in about 1577 and one of the things I love about it is the doll. Dolls as toys have been around for a very long time. There’s a Roman ragdoll in the British Museum for instance. There are other sixteenth century portraits of children with dolls but this one is done up to the nines – so its more of a fashion doll for an adult rather than a child’s toy. It suggests that the infant Arbella was much cossetted.

Dolls were sometimes called Bartholomew babies according to information I once read at Knebworth House because they were often purchased at St Bartholomew’s Fair in London. These dolls were carved from wood. They had a head and a torso but no arms or legs. The wooden shape could then be painted and dressed. The British Museum has another kind of doll in its Complete-pewter-doll-bluecollection dating from Tudor times and also thought to be sold at fairs like St Bartholomew’s. It was found in the Thames and is a rare survival made from lead alloy.

By 1582 there was a tax on foreign made dolls though they weren’t known as dolls until the eighteenth century.

 

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Gunpowder, treason and plot

 Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

king-james1Actually there’s every reason why the plot might have been forgotten!  There were at least four plots against James I during the early years of his reign. Yet it is Guy Fawkes, a York boy, who is remembered.  This post is about two earlier plots and the wonderfully named Sir Griffin Markham.

Sir Griffin, the eldest son and heir of Thomas Markham, of Ollerton in Nottinghamshire, served as a soldier under the Earl of Essex in an expedition sent by Queen Elizabeth to the assistance of Henry IV of France. He was knighted during the siege of Rouen in 1591. He afterwards served in Ireland but there was a problem for this soldier that got worse with the passage of time. Sir Griffin was a Catholic at a time when being Catholic was a cause for suspicion and an impediment to power.

In the Parish Register of Mansfield it is stated that Griffin Markham was at the Market Cross in Mansfield and other gentlemen of the region for the proclamation of the accession of James I (pictured at the start of this post). Catholics had every reason to hope that persecution, which they faced during Elizabeth’s reign, might ease – after all, James’ mother and wife were Catholic. Yet, it appears that within a very short time of James’ accession Sir Griffin wasn’t a happy man. Four months later he was arrested on a treason charge – he’d become involved in a plot that history knows as the Bye Plot or the Treason of the Priests. (Ironically, Jesuits who were concerned that the Bye Plot was a harebrained scheme that would result in major difficulties for English Catholics revealed the conspiracy to Cecil.)

During the course of investigations into the Bye Plot a second plot, which became known as the Main Plot, was uncovered. The two were separate but involved many of the same people!

Sir Griffin Markham, Lord Grey (a radical puritan), Lord Cobham and George Brooke found themselves incarcerated in the Tower along with a couple of catholic priests- William Watson and William Clarke. They were charged with a plot to kidnap James and his Privy Council and then force them to make concessions to the Catholics including the repeal of anti-Catholic legeslation…like that was going to happen and with only three hundred men – not that there is any evidence of Sir Griffin being able to round up a posse that size. This was the Bye Plot.

arbella_stuart_15881At the same time Sir Walter Raleigh found himself under arrest on account of a slightly different plot called the ‘Main Plot’ to depose James (‘the kyngge and his cubbes’) and replace him with Arbella (Arabella) Stuart, the grand-daughter of Bess of Hardwick through her daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart Earl of Lennox – who was the son of Margaret Douglas who in turn was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of King Henry VII of England.

It is probable that Raleigh was caught in the net of the Main Plot because of his friendship with Lord Cobham who’d been travelling around Europe have shady chats with Spanish types looking at bankrolling the venture. The problem for Raleigh was that Cobham travelled home via Jersey where Raleigh was governor and clearly stopped off for a chat with his old friend. Cecil put two together, or so it would appear, and found an opportunity to rid himself of a political adversary. There’s another theory that says that Raleigh played his old friend along playing the role of agent provocateur and then managed to get caught in Cecil’s net – whichever way you look at the Main Plot it seems hard to believe that Raleigh would plot with the Spanish. There’s a third view that Raleigh himself spoke of at his trial which was that he thought that he was being offered a pension – not treasonable and something that Cecil was in receipt of himself!

The common denominators between the Main Plot and the Bye Plot were George Brooke and Lord Cobham who were, incidentally, brothers.

The Bye Plot conspirators including Lord Cobham were tried in Winchester and found guilty. A scaffold was built especially for the occasion in Winchester Castle. The warrant was signed on the 7th December and Sir Griffin went to his fate on the 9th complaining bitterly that his confession had been given on the promise of leniency. It was only as he was just about to lay his head on the block that a member of the King’s household arrived with another warrant from James I giving him an extra two hours of life. The same grisly process awaited Lord Grey who prayed for half an hour before the sheriff issued the stay of execution and then Lord Cobham. All three mounted the scaffold, thought their last moments had come only to be given a short reprieve at the last moment – sounding suspiciously like someone somewhere had a very nasty sense of humour or someone in authority wanted to entrap Raleigh through a pre-execution confession from his fellow conspirators.

Each of the three men also believed that the other two men had been executed until they were all bought back to the scaffold for a piece of Jacobean theatre contrived by the king for the news that they were to be spared death but banished from the kingdom. Brooke was the only one to be executed in Winchester, even though he might have reasonably expected leniency being married to Lord Cecil’s sister (talk about a family embarrassment).

Raleigh spent the next thirteen years in The Tower and Parliament passed an act called the ‘Statute Against Catholics’ banishing Catholic priests from England was passed into law as a result of the Bye Plot. Sir Griffin ended his life in continental poverty. According to some stories it is said that he often donned disguise and returned home, and that he assisted in the attempted escape of Arabella Stuart.

Fraser, Lady Antonia. (2003). The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605. London: (Phoenix) Orion Books

Orange, James. (1840) History and Antiquities of Nottingham Vol II. London: Hamilton, Adams and Co. pp733-745

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