Monarchs Who Never Were – Hauntings at the Tower of London Part 2

Mar23,2011 #Tower of London
Lady Arabella (Arbella) Stuart

This article is written by Nancy Smith and follows on from “Monarchs Who Never Were – Hauntings at the Tower of London Part 1”.

The Queen’s House on Tower Green, home of the Resident Governor and his family, is said to be the most haunted building in the entire Tower complex.

There have been many disturbing events that have taken place there.  Major General Geoffrey Field, who was Resident Governor of the Tower from 1994-2006, once said that:

“Soon after we arrived in 1994, my wife Janice was making up the bed in the Lennox room when she felt a violent push in her back which propelled her right out of the room!  No one had warned us that the house was haunted – but we then discovered that every resident has experienced something strange in that room!  The story goes that the ghost is that of Arbella Stuart, a cousin of James I, who was imprisoned and then possibly murdered in that room.  Several women who slept there since have reported waking in terror in the middle of the night feeling they were being strangled, so just in case we made it a house rule not to give unaccompanied women guests the Lennox room.”

Lady Arabella (Arbella) Stuart

Lady Arabella Stuart, who was born in 1575, was a direct descendant of Henry VII.  She was the only child of Charles Stuart, 1st Earl of Lennox, and Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter of Sir William Cavendish and Bess of Hardwick.  Her paternal grandparents were Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox and Lady Margaret Douglas.  Lady Margaret Douglas was the daughter of Princess Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, by her second husband, Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus.  Thus, Lady Arabella was the great-great granddaughter of King Henry VII of England.

At the time of the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, she was second in line to the throne of England, preceded only by her first cousin, James VI of Scotland.  Arabella’s father, Charles, was the younger brother of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who became the second husband of Mary Queen of Scots and the father of King James VI Scotland (James I of Great Britain).  As in the case of the Grey sisters, granddaughters of Mary Tudor, the youngest daughter of Henry VII, and her second husband Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Arabella’s proximity to the throne brought her tragedy, not happiness.

Several attempts were made to find a suitable husband for Arabella, and at one point she was betrothed to Robert Dudley, Lord Denbigh, the son of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (and the great love of Elizabeth I) by his second wife, Lettice Knollys.  Since Arabella was only 8 at the time and her betrothed was only 2, obviously the wedding would not take place for many years.  Unfortunately, Lord Denbigh died in 1584 at the age of 3, and Arabella Stuart was again on the marriage market.  In 1592 negotiations were begun for the marriage of 17-year old Arabella to Raunutio Farnese, eldest son of the Duke of Parma.  The Duke of Parma died before the negotiations could be finalized, once again dashing Arabella’s hopes for marriage.  In 1602, during the waning months of the reign of Elizabeth I, at a time when marriage and a family were about all a woman could aspire to in life, 27-year old Arabella decided to take matters into her own hands.  She began plotting her marriage to Edward Seymour, the eldest grandson of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and Lady Catherine Grey.  In December 1602 Arabella attempted to communicate with here future husband via a servant named Dodderage.  On December 30, Dodderage was arrested and held in the gatehouse jail at Westminster for being involved in a plot against the Queen of England.  On January 7, 1603, Elizabeth’s right hand man, Sir Henry Bronker, arrived at Hardwick Hall, where Arabella was staying with her grandmother, and asked to speak with Arabella privately.  He attempted to force Arabella to write a confession admitting that she planned to marry Edward Seymour.  When this failed, Bronker wrote the confession and Arabella signed it.  Arabella was kept under house arrest at Hardwick Hall with gentlemen and gentlewomen watching her actions.

Elizabeth I died on March 24, 1603, naming Arabella’s cousin, James VI of Scotland, as her successor.  James VI of Scotland became James I of Great Britain.  This, however, was not the end of Arabella’s problems.  There are indications that Arabella tried to elope again in 1604, falling afoul of James I.  She was apparently banished from court until 1608, when she was restored to the King’s good graces.

Arabella still hadn’t learned her lesson.  In 1610, 35-year old Arabella, who was fourth in line to the throne, was planning to marry William Seymour, the 22-year old brother of the same Edward Seymour she had plotted to marry 8 years earlier.  The couple was secretly married on June 22, 1610 at Greenwich Palace.  This was the worst possible match Arabella could have made, at least in the eyes of James I.  William was sixth in the line of succession, being the grandson of Lady Catherine Grey, heiress of the Suffolk line of the Tudor family.  The marriage united the descendants of Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII with those of Mary Tudor, her younger sister.  When their secret was revealed, King James was, of course, furious.  He ordered the couple to be imprisoned, Arabella in Sir Thomas Perry’s house in Lambeth and William in the Tower of London.

As both were treated less harshly than most other prisoners, they were able to communicate with each other.  When James I learned of the correspondence, he ordered that Arabella should be transferred into the custody of William James, Bishop of Durham.  Arabella feigned illness, saying that she was unable to travel to Durham.  She and William hatched a plan to escape from their respective prisons and flee to France.  Arabella, dressed as a man, escaped to Lee in Kent, but William’s escape from the Tower was delayed, with the result that their getaway ship, with Arabella on board, was forced to depart without him.  When he got to Lee and realized that he had missed the boat that was to carry Arabella and him to freedom, William caught the next ship to Flanders.  As for Arabella, her freedom was short lived.  After she was recognized, her ship was chased and overtaken by King James’s men shortly before reaching Calais.  She was returned to England and imprisoned again, this time in the Queen’s House in the Tower of London, where she died, allegedly insane, on September 27, 1615 at the age of 45.  Her body was moved to Westminster Abbey, where she was buried in the vault of her aunt, Mary Queen of Scots, on September 29, 1615.

William Seymour returned to England after Arabella’s death, marrying Lady Frances Devereux, daughter of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and Frances Walsingham, daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s spymaster.  Lady Frances was also the granddaughter of Robert Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, who was executed on Tower Green in 1601.  William Seymour succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Hertford in 1621, and died in 1660 at the age of 72, a great age for someone living in the 17th century.


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