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The Loves Of "The Lady Arabella"
by [?]

In the following year, 1604, I have discovered that for the third time the lady was offered a crown! “A great ambassador is coming from the King of Poland, whose chief errand is to demand my Lady Arabella in marriage for his master. So may your princess of the blood grow a great queen, and then we shall be safe from the danger of missuperscribing letters.”[328] This last passage seems to allude to something. What is meant by “the danger of missuperscribing letters?”

If this royal offer were ever made, it was certainly forbidden. Can we imagine the refusal to have come from the lady, who, we shall see, seven years afterwards, complained that the king had neglected her, in not providing her with a suitable match? It was at this very time that one of those butterflies, who quiver on the fair flowers of a court, writes that “My Ladye Arbella spends her time in lecture, reiding, etc., and she will not hear of marriage. Indirectly there were speaches used in the recommendation of Count Maurice, who pretendeth to be Duke of Guildres. I dare not attempt her.”[329] Here we find another princely match proposed. Thus far, to the Lady Arabella, crowns and husbands were like a fairy banquet seen at moonlight, opening on her sight, impalpable and vanishing at the moment of approach.

Arabella from certain circumstances was a dependent on the king’s bounty, which flowed very unequally; often reduced to great personal distress, we find by her letters that “she prayed for present money, though it should not be annually.” I have discovered that James at length granted her a pension. The royal favours, however, were probably limited to her good behaviour.[330]

From 1604 to 1608 is a period which forms a blank leaf in the story of Arabella. In this last year this unfortunate lady had again fallen out of favour, and, as usual, the cause was mysterious, and not known even to the writer. Chamberlain, in a letter to Sir Ralph Winwood, mentions “the Lady Arabella’s business, whatsoever it was, is ended, and she restored to her former place and graces. The king gave her a cupboard of plate, better than 200l., for a new year’s gift, and 1000 marks to pay her debts, besides some yearly addition to her maintenance, want being thought the chiefest cause of her discontentment, though shee be not altogether free from suspicion of being collapsed.”[331] Another mysterious expression, which would seem to allude either to politics or religion but the fact appears by another writer to have been a discovery of a new project of marriage without the king’s consent. This person of her choice is not named; and it was to divert her mind from the too constant object of her thoughts, that James, after a severe reprimand, had invited her to partake of the festivities of the court in that season of revelry and reconciliation.

We now approach that event of the Lady Arabella’s life which reads like a romantic fiction: the catastrophe, too, is formed by the Aristotelian canon; for its misery, its pathos, and its terror even romantic fiction has not exceeded!

It is probable that the king, from some political motive, had decided that the Lady Arabella should lead a single life; but such wise purposes frequently meet with cross ones; and it happened that no woman was ever more solicited to the conjugal state, or seems to have been so little averse to it. Every noble youth who sighed for distinction ambitioned the notice of the Lady Arabella; and she was so frequently contriving a marriage for herself, that a courtier of that day writing to another, observes, “these affectations of marriage in her do give some advantage to the world of impairing the reputation of her constant and virtuous disposition.”[332]

The revels of Christmas had hardly closed when the Lady Arabella forgot that she had been forgiven, and again relapsed into her old infirmity. She renewed a connexion, which had commenced in childhood, with Mr. William Seymour, the second son of Lord Beauchamp, and grandson of the Earl of Hertford. His character has been finely described by Clarendon: he loved his studies and his repose; but when the civil wars broke out, he closed his volumes and drew his sword, and was both an active and a skilful general. Charles the First created him Marquis of Hertford, and governor of the prince; he lived to the Restoration, and Charles the Second restored him to the dukedom of Somerset.