Memorials of the Tower of London

De Ros, William Lennox






THE dismal records of the Tower present hardly any more melancholy story than that of Arabella Stuart, usually called " the Lady Arabella." She was the only child of Charles Earl of Lennox, younger brother of the unfortunate Henry Darnley, and great-grandson of Margaret Queen of Scots, Henry VII.'s daughter. This connection with the Blood Royal of England caused her to be jealously watched both by Elizabeth and James. Her personal charms, and her cultivated mind (she had been carefully educated by her grandmother, the Countess of Lennox, who resided in London), endeared her to all, and made her one of the brightest ornaments of the English Court.

Prompted by hatred of Elizabeth, the notorious Father Parsons collected all the details of Arabella's connexion with the Crown, which he published in a pamphlet dedicated to the Earl of Essex, in 1594, under the name of Dolman; and though he could not maintain any immediate claim of Arabella's, yet by thus bringing forward her name and descent, in a work which had considerable circulation even among foreign courts, she became an


object of very general interest, which unhappily served to increase the jealousy with which Elizabeth regarded her. James had made an attempt to obtain Elizabeth's consent to a marriage between Arabella and his cousin Esme Stuart, Duke of Lennox; but the Queen refused, on the ground that the Duke was a Papist. A son of the Earl of Northumberland then became her suitor; but the Queen, as soon as she observed that Lady Arabella viewed him favourably, placed her in confinement, from which she was not released till she had disclaimed any further communication with her admirer.

On James's accession to the English throne her position was by no means improved. The wild schemes of Lord Cobham and his reckless conspiracy, embraced, among other absurd projects, that of raising Arabella to the English throne. On Cobham's trial, at which she was present, Lord Burleigh vindicated her from any knowledge of this treason, by saying in open court, " Here hath been a touch of Lady Arabella, a near kinswoman of the King's. Let us not scandal the innocent. She is as innocent of all this as I or any man here; for when she received a letter from Lord Cobham, she only laughed at it, and immediately sent it to the King ;" to which the old Earl of Nottingham, who was standing next her, added, " The lady here doth protest, upon her salvation, that she never dealt in any of these things, and so she wills me to tell the Court."

James appears to have been satisfied for the moment with this solemn denial; but, with his usual meanness, he so scantily supplied her with the means of maintaining


her exalted rank, that she was reduced to the most distressing straits and difficulties. Her employments, according to a letter of the Queen's Master of Requests, would seem to acquit her of all ambitious designs, or of meddling in state affairs. " She spends her time," writes Fowler, "in lecture-reading, hearing of preaching and service, and visiting the Princesses."

About the year 1608, James seems to have received her into better favour, for he gave her 1000 marks to pay her debts, and 200L. worth of plate for her table, with permission to marry, provided she chose a British subject. Her choice fell upon W. Seymour, grandson to the Earl of Hertford; but whether from doubts of the King's sincerity, or other reasons, Arabella required that their marriage, which took place in 1609, should be kept secret. It was the discovery of the secrecy of her marriage which gave the King a pretext for the persecution, with which he now began to harass his unfortunate cousin. Upon a rumour of her having renewed her intimacy with Seymour, they were both summoned before the Privy Council; but, after a short examination, their denial appears to have been admitted, and they were released from custody. Next year, however, further proofs being obtained by the King, the lady was placed in charge of Sir T. Parry, at Lambeth, and her husband committed to the Tower. One Melvin, confined there as a Nonconforming minister, addressed this distich to him:-

"Communis tecum mihi causa est carceris, A ra- bella tibi causa est, Araque Sacra mihi.'


There is a letter of Arabella's to the King in the Earl of Oxford's collection, which was probably written at this time:-

Extract of Letter from LADY ARABELLA to LORD (NORTHAMPTON ?).

"MY LORD,-The long acquaintance between us, and the good experience of your honourable dealing heretofore, maketh me not only hope, but be most assured, that if you knew my most discomfortable and distressed estate, you would acquaint his Majesty withal, and consequently procure my relief and redress, as you have done at other times. I have been sick even to the death, from which it hath pleased God miraculously to deliver me for this present danger, but find myself so weak by reason I have wanted those ordinary helps whereby most others in my case, be they never so poor or unfortunate soever, are preserved alive at least for charity, that, unless I may be suffered to have those about me, that I may trust, this sentence my Lord Treasurer pronounced after his Majesty refusing that trifle of my work [she had worked a piece of embroidery for the King, who refused to accept it], by your persuasion, as I take it, will prove the certain and apparent cause of my death, whereof I thought good to advertise you, that you both may be the better prepared in case you, or either of you, have possessed the King with such opinions of me as thereupon I shall be suspected and restrained, till help come too late; and be assured that neither physician, nor other, but when I think good, shall come about me whilst I live, till I have his

Majesty's favour, without which I desire not to live; and if you remember of old, I dare die, so I be not guilty of my own death, and oppress others with my ruin too, if there be no other way, as God forbid. .... I can get neither clothes nor posset at all, for example, nor anything but ordinary diet, nor compliments fit for a sick body in my case when I call for it."

It was perhaps in consequence of the unhappy lady's reasonable and humble appeal that she was removed to a less rigorous confinement, at a Mr. Conyers's house, near Highgate; and Mr. Seymour obtained " the liberty of the Tower." But the King, being informed by his spies, that they were taking advantage of this relaxation, to renew their correspondence, ordered Lady Arabella to be removed to Durham Castle; and then, driven to despair, they formed that plan of escape which, failing by a most unhappy mistake, they never met again.

For some days Arabella appeared to renounce all hope, and submit herself to the King's will, and thus " induced her keepers and attendants into securitie by the fayre shew of conformitye and willingness to goe on her journey towards Durham," which journey was appointed for the next day. She then put on her disguise, which consisted of a large pair of French-fashioned hose, a man's doublet, a large peruke with long locks, a black hat, black cloak, white, or, as another account says, russet boots with red tops, and a rapier by her side. Thus equipped, on Monday, the 4th of June, between


three and four in the afternoon, she boldly went forth, accompanied by Mr. Markham, one of her attendants. They went on foot for a mile and a half, till they reached a small tavern, where Crompton, a devoted attendant, waited for them with saddle-horses. But in the shattered condition of Arabella's health, even the short walk had been too much for her. She turned sick and faint, and could scarcely mount her horse. " That gentleman will hardly reach London," said the ostler, as he held the stirrup for her to mount. As the distance, however, was short, and her attendants were careful not to hurry her, she reached Blackwall by six o'clock. There, at the tavern, they learned that a flaxen-haired man, accompanied by a gentleman, had set off a little before. Arabella waited at Blackwall an hour and a half, her servants arriving one after another. But she waited in vain for Seymour, till delay became so hazardous that she was forced to depart, taking with her only one female attendant. She set off in a boat with "a good pair of oars," followed by another carrying their baggage. The rest waited for Seymour. Arabella and her maid were in the first boat, Crompton and Markham in the second. They rowed down the Thames till. nearly opposite Leigh, where they saw a vessel lying at anchor. Upon their hailing her, and asking whither she was bound, Briggs, the master, answered, "For Berwick." Then the youngest of the two servants said to the master, that if he would leave his voyage, and serve him, he would give him any money he chose to ask. The master refused the offer, saying that he was bound to his merchant, and


could not break his word. They then asked him if there was not a French vessel lying somewhere near. The master answered that he knew not, unless it might be a vessel that was riding about a mile and a half up the river. They said that, if it were the right ship, they should recognise her by a flag which the master had promised to hold out; so rowing up to her, they found she was the desired bark, and all four went on board, in the sight of the Berwick captain. The latter particularly noticed the company, which he described as consisting of " a man about forty years, with a long flaxen beard, something corpulent, and, as he remembered, in a suit of grey cloth, with a rapier and a dagger gilt. The other was younger, with a little black beard, who was the man that most desired the master to receive them, and carry them for Calais, with large proffers for the passage, who, as he remembered, was in black apparel. The third man he did not notice, and therefore could not describe him. Of the women one was barefaced, in a black riding safe-guard, with a black hat, having nothing on her head but a black hat and her hair. This last he took to be Moll Cutpurse; and thought that, if it were she, she had made some fault, and was desirous of escape. The other woman sat close covered, with a black hood or veil over her head and face, so that he could not see her: only saw that under her mantle she had a white attire (a glimpse of her white boots), and that, on pulling off her glove, 'a marvellous fair white hand was revealed.'"

Arabella had now escaped the greater dangers, and reached the French ship. But where was Seymour? At


every station she had lingered with fatal delay, in the hopes of his joining her; and now, having exhausted the last moment of time, she besought the ship to remain at anchor till he arrived. Her followers, more prudent, knew that imminent danger had already been incurred by the time they had lost, and that they risked the whole enterprise by these dangerous delays. Nothing but the dread of her husband's capture, if he did not reach the French ship, can account for her imprudence. Her followers at last refused to listen any longer to her entreaties, and, desiring the master to make sail, proceeded to sea, with their charge, a prey to dreadful anxiety as to whether her husband had eluded pursuit.

In the mean time Seymour's escape from the Tower had been managed with entire success. He had obtained a disguise, consisting of a peruque and beard of black hair, and a tawny suit. A cart had come into the gate early in the morning, bringing his billets of wood, and Seymour "walked alone without suspicion from his lodging, following this cart, as it returned," by the Tower wharf, and passing the warder at the iron gate, where he found one Rodney waiting for him with a boat. With two servants and Rodney, he rowed hard till they came to Leigh, hoping to find the French ship; but as no sign of her was to be seen, and the sea was becoming too rough for their boat, they hired a fishing-boat, for twenty shillings. to carry them to a collier, which was visible in the distance, slowly sailing down the river. The master, seeing "a gentleman in a full suit of satin, laid with gold and silver lace, asked his name; who answered, 'Rodney;' "


and after some talk, the master agreed to put off his voyage to Newcastle, and, for the sum of forty pounds, to carry the boat's crew to Calais. The collier, having received them on board, proceeded down the Thames till they drew near to a place called "the Buoy." Suddenly, Rodney saw a French vessel in the distance, and hurriedly called on the master of the collier to speak with her. The master declared that in the position they were it was impossible to approach her, but promised, if they " anchored near, to send his boat on board the same."

At noon they cast anchor at "the Buoy," and a quarter of an hour after the French bark cast anchor about a mile and a half off. The boat of the collier was then lowered, and boarded the Frenchman, but, finding the vessel was not that of which they were in quest, they again weighed their anchor. The wind preventing them from standing for Calais, they put in near Harwich on Tuesday night; and on Thursday, the wind being still contrary, they made for Ostend. Some of the crew of the collier beginning to ask questions, Rodney said they were leaving England on account of a duel. On Friday morning, at eight o'clock, they reached Ostend; and the master, having received the money for his voyage, returned to Ipswich, carrying with him a letter from Rodney to Francis Seymour.

The moment it was known at Court that Arabella and Seymour had escaped from Conyers' house and from the Tower, one of the King's messengers came galloping from Lord Salisbury to Phineas Pette, at Deptford, the


King's master-shipwright, "to man the Light Horseman with twenty musqueteers, and to run out as low as the Nore head, to search all shippes, barks, and other vessels, for the Lady Arabella." The order was promptly obeyed, but the vessels were searched in vain, as well as every house in the town of Leigh.

On the same day, the following proclamation was made, forbidding any to assist the fugitives, and commanding all, under high penalties, to surrender them:-

"Whereas we are geven to understand that the Lady Arabella and William Seymour, second Sonne to the Lord Beauchampe, being for divers great and haynous Offences committed, the one to our Tower of London, and the other to speciall Guard, have found the means, by the wicked Practises of divers lewd Persons, as, namely, Markham, Crompton, Rodney, and others, to breake Prison and make Escape, on Monday, the third of June, with an intent to transport themselves into forreyne Partes. Wee doe hereby straightly charge and command all Persones whatsoever, upon their Allegiance and Dutie, not onlie to forbeare to receave, harbor, or assist them in their passage anie way, as they will answer it at their Perilles; but upon the like charge and Paine to use the best meanes they can for their Apprehension, and Keeping them in safe Custody, which Wee will take as an acceptable Service.

"Given at Greenwich, the fowerth Daie of June, 1611 "PER IPSUM REGEM."



Salisbury was then ordered to send a letter, post haste, to the Governor of Calais, to stop the fugitives should they arrive in that port. The French ambassador was also requested to send a message to the Governor of Calais to detain them, till the pleasure of the King of France should be known. James added that he did not think they meant to stay in France, or that they "expected anie good that way," but only to land, and from thence have an easy passage to some place on the Continent.

The next step was to send vessels to sea in pursuit. Admiral Monson discovered, by means of the waterman who had rowed her down the river, that Arabella had gone on board the French ship at about four o'clock in the morning; and that she had been detained two hours by the ebb, which, however, he reckoned would be recovered, for he calculated that she could not fetch beyond the North Foreland; and if the wind were east, it would be impossible to reach Calais that night. He immediately ordered a ship of war to stand over for Calais; and, while the larger vessel was preparing, he seized an oyster-boat, and put six men, with shot, in her, to hasten after the fugitives with all speed. The Admiral himself went out in a light fishing-craft, and sent a vessel, named the Adventure, towards Calais, while another was despatched to the coast of Flanders.

About half-Channel over, the Adventure got sight of a small vessel under all sail for Calais, and crowded sail to pursue her; but so little wind blew that neither pursuer nor pursued could make much way. The Adventure then lowered a boat, with an armed crew, which


soon arrived at the French vessel, and, having vainly challenged her, endeavoured to stop her course by firing musketry, while the Adventure was fast gaining on the chase. The French vessel stood thirteen shots before she surrendered, when Arabella-for it was too truly her vessel-seeing that all hope was over, came forward and discovered herself to the officer of the boat, who instantly demanded her husband. She answered bravely, that she had not seen him, but hoped he had got safely over, declaring that her joy at his escape was greater than her grief at her own capture. She was then taken on board the Adventure, and there kept close prisoner till they reached the river, when Monson sent the intelligence to Lord Salisbury, not permitting Arabella to leave the ship till he received orders, though he declared that "in the mean time she should not want anything the shore could afford, or any other honourable privilege." James immediately ordered her to be sent to the Tower. Sir John More, writing to Sir Ralph Winwood, says, " In this passionate hurry here was a proclamation first conceived in very bitter terms; but my Lord Treasurer's moderation seasoned at the print, as now here you find it. There are likewise three letters despatched in haste, written by Sir Thomas Lake to the King and Queen Regent of France, and to the Archdukes, all written with harsher ink than now if they were to do (I presume) they should be, especially that to the Archdukes, which did seem to presuppose their course to tend that way; and all three describing the offence in black colours, and pressing their sending back without delay. Indeed the genera


belief was that they intended to settle themselves in Brabant, and under the favour of the Popish faction; but now I rather think they will be most pitied by the Puritans, and that their course did wholly tend to France. And though for the former I had only mine own corrigible imagination, yet for the latter many potent reasons do concur: As that the ship that did attend them was French, the place that Mr. Seymour made for was Calais, the man that made their perukes was a French clockmaker, who is fled with them, and in the ship is said to be found a French post with letters from the Ambassador.

"The proclamation for the oath is by divers found strange, for that it is so general; but where love is, loyalty will not be found wanting."

An examination was shortly held before the Lords of the Council, in which every attempt was made to entrap the prisoners into some confession which should legally justify their imprisonment, and prove them guilty of high treason. Arabella answered calmly; but the Countess of Shrewsbury was so excited and indignant at the unjust and secret tribunal before which she was summoned, that she declared that she would answer nothing in private; if she had offended against the law, she would answer it in public. The chief evidence against her consisted in the large amount of ready money that was found at her disposal-no less than 20,000l., besides bills of exchange for the use of Arabella. All this was supposed to be destined to bribe the Catholic party; and though it was acknowledged that Arabella had "not yet been found inclinable to Popery," yet, says the sagacious More, "her aunt made account belike that, being beyond the seas in the hands of Jesuits and priests, either the stroke of their arguments or the pinch of poverty might force her to the other side. Our Scots and English differ much," he continues, "in opinion upon this point. These do hold that, if this couple should have escaped, the danger was not


like to have been very great, in regard that their pretensions are so many degrees removed, and they ungraceful both in their persons and in their houses ; so as a hot alarm taken at the matter will make them more illustrious in the world's eye than now they are; and so it is said to fill his Majesty with fearful imaginations, and with him the Prince, who cannot easily be removed from any settled opinion."

In addition to the above arrests, the Earl of Shrewsbury was kept a prisoner in his own house; and the old Earl of Hertford summoned to Court, with the proviso, "if he be found healthful enough to travel, he must not delay his coming."

An appearance of indifference was the only way by which W. Seymour could hope to disarm the King's anger against him; and not only did he abstain from any further endeavour to rescue Arabella, but it appears too sure that he never attempted to soothe her distress by getting any letters conveyed to her. Had he done so, her reason might possibly have been preserved under all her sorrows; and there can be little doubt that subordinate persons, in attendance on the Tower prisoners, might have been bribed for this purpose. But it would seem that, whatever the loyalty and spirit afterwards shown by Seymour, in his gallant adherence to the fortunes of James's son and successor, he was a stranger to that devotion which the conduct of his wife must have inspired in a more tender nature. It is, however, to be remembered, whether from revival of old feelings, or some regrets at his former conduct, Seymour, when an old


man, and after many years of marriage to a second wife, expressly desired, in his will, to be buried by the side of Arabella Stuart.

Lady Shrewsbury, though detained a prisoner, was granted many indulgences. She was allowed the liberty of the Tower, and even permitted a short respite to wait on her husband, who was attacked with illness. It was believed that she might have regained her liberty altogether, had it not been for some incoherent accusations made against her by the Lady Arabella, whose sorrows had at length affected her reason. Upon the pretext of these accusations James again ordered her into close constraint till she should answer certain interrogatories; but she still proudly refused to answer anything in private, although she declared her willingness to submit to a public examination. On the 2nd of July, 1612, she was called before the Privy Council and Judges, at the Lord Chancellor's, where she was "charged by the Attorney-General with contempt towards the King by refusing at the first summons to answer all questions." Her persistent refusal, it was said, greatly aggravated her fault, as well as the scornful terms she used towards some of the lords. She again urged "the privilege of her person and nobility," and, after a fruitless discussion, was sent back to the Tower, with a menace of a proceeding in the Star Chamber if she persisted in her wilfulness.

The death of Lord Beauchamp, in July, 1612, brought William Seymour a step nearer to the succession, and rendered it the more important in the King's eyes that Arabella and he should never be reunited;


but there was little fear of that now. At times her intellect showed signs of its former brightness, and a feigned cheerfulness took the place of her despair. " To express her joy" at the marriage of the Princess Elizabeth, she decked herself in courtly robes, and " provided herself with four gowns of the richest description;" but this pretended satisfaction produced no result, as the Princess, in all the joy of bridal pomp and happiness, "had not a thought" for her miserable cousin in the Tower.

Early in March, 1613, Arabella was attacked with convulsions, and declared distracted by the physician- a declaration which probably saved the Countess of Shrewsbury, by invalidating the accusations which her niece had in her frenzy made against her.

On the 13th of May, 1613, Sir William Waad, the Lieutenant of the Tower, was discharged from his place, "to the great contentment of the prisoners," on an accusation of embezzling the lost jewels of Arabella. Whether he or his wife or daughter took them, was not clearly proved, but they had certainly disappeared; and he had acquired such a bad name by his extortions and hard usage of his prisoners that no one regretted his disgrace.

"On the 25th of September, 1615," says Nichols, "that ill-fated and persecuted lady, Arabella Seymour, daughter of Charles Earl of Lennox, cousin-german of Henry Darnley, father of King James, died in the Tower of London."

In the dead of night this daughter of a line of


kings was carried, by water, all pomp and ceremony being forbidden, from the Tower to Westminster Abbey, and there deposited in the royal vault, beneath the coffin of Mary Queen of Scots. The burial-service was read as if by stealth over some felon's grave, "because to have a great funeral for one dying out of the King's favour, would have reflected upon the King's honour."

For more than two centuries Arabella Seymour has lain in her unnoticed grave in Henry VII.'s Chapel. No monument marks her resting-place, and no epitaph records her virtues, her courage, and her misfortunes.

" Where London's Tower its turrets show,

So stately by old Thames's side,

Fair Arabella, child of woe,

For many a day had sat and sigh'd.

And as she heard the waves arise,

And as she heard the bleak wind roar,

As fast did heave her heartfelt sighs,

And still so fast her tears did pour."

EVANS'S Old Ballads.