Jacobean Pageant: Or, the Court of King James I

By G. P. V. Akrigg | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI

The Languishing Lady

S OON AFTER King James arrived in England he met a lady who had been much on his mind in recent years, though he had never seen her before. She was an attractive blonde with large intent blue eyes and the demure manner (not to say slightly hangdog look) of a girl who throughout her formative years had endured the loving tyranny of a domineering old female. Beneath her quiet exterior lurked a streak of wilfulness and self-indulgence, the product of the spoiling which had alternated with the bullying. James must have regarded the young woman with considerable interest. Had he succumbed to one of the illnesses of his infancy, or perished from an assassin's blow in Scotland, she would have become Queen Regnant of England, and now be ruling in his place. He had, indeed, been frequently aware of her as a possible rival who might yet snatch the English crown from his grasp. This young woman, who now was presented to the King, was Lady Arabella Stuart, or ' Arbella' as she signed herself and was known to her contemporaries. She and King James were cousins on their fathers' side; but whereas James hitherto had never been in England, Arbella had never been out of it.

The two derived their English royal blood from their great-grandmother Margaret, elder daughter of Henry VII. James enjoyed priority, having descended from Margaret's first marriage, that with James IV of Scotland; whereas Arbella was Margaret's sole surviving descendant by her second marriage, that to Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus. Although Arbella's claim to the English throne (not that she ever advanced it) was thus subordinate to that of James, she enjoyed one qualification which her cousin lacked -- English birth. For years James was haunted by the fear that his enemies would exclude him from the English succession by invoking the statute of 25 Edward III which barred anyone born outside England from inheriting land within the realm.

One disqualification applied to both James and Arbella. Henry VIII, using the power Parliament had given him to determine the royal succession, had directed in his will that, should his own issue fail, the descendants of Margaret, his elder sister, were to be passed over and the succession to devolve upon the descendants of his younger sister, Mary. If in 1603 the English had chosen to abide by the will of Henry VIII rather than

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