The Life and Letters of the Lady Arbella Stuart
McCoy, R. (2010). The Life and Letters of the Lady Arbella Stuart (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4994
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4994
Lady Arbella Stuart, a woman nearly forgotten in history and literature and yet a woman who lived a full and exciting life which is well documented in her letters to her family, friends and royalty (both Queen Elizabeth I and James VI and I). Arbella Stuart was born in 1575 to Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Darnley and was brought up by her maternal grandmother, Bess of Hardwick. She was educated from birth about her proximity to the throne (there was a chance she could have been queen when Elizabeth died) and the important role she had in life. There have been several biographies written about Stuart over the years and most recently an excellent text of her existing letters by Sara Jayne Steen which is the primary source of information for this thesis. This thesis examines Stuart’s tone, rhetoric and style in a selection of letters written over the course of her life, where possible using manuscripts viewed in the British Library and Hardwick Hall, as well as the published text. Part of what makes Stuart such an interesting subject is her ability to manipulate her reader and assume different personae, depending on whom she was writing to. The young Stuart writes passionately and often without thinking first, putting her thoughts on paper and then quickly sending them off to the Queen and her advisers. An older and wiser Stuart writes from James VI and I’s court and is very formal in her letters to the King. She is more relaxed when writing to her Aunt and Uncle and depicts court life in a lively informal fashion giving us a valuable insight into what life as a courtier would have been like at this time. Finally the thesis examines Stuart’s last letters written from imprisonment, the work of a desperate woman, fighting for her freedom. Stuart, like most of us, had a multi-faceted personality. She was at times an apparently submissive and subservient subject of the King; a well read and educated woman who adopted the guise of humility and deference to those in authority, the patriarchal order in place. This thesis will depict the many different sides to Stuart and give a brief overview of her exciting and turbulent life, told through her letters.
University of Waikato
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