The Lady Arbellas first lettre


This ye old Lady sent vp

My Lady Arbells Declaration to my Lady hir Graudmother
I aknowledge my selfe most bound to hir Majesty for hir [Majesties] grati[ou]s pardon of my offence, which appeareth more disgracefull in hir Majesties eyes your Ladyships and those .2. graue and honorable counsellors by whose letter it pleaseth hir Majesty to reprooue my offence then it yet doth in the opinion of many others upon whose opinion I haue laid the foundation of all the rest of my life. Pardon me thearfore I beseech your Ladyship if with out those ceremonies which either through ignorance, or anxiety of a minde yet distracted between feare and hope, I sett downe the true reasons of this my proceeding. To imploy any, much more such base and unworthy persons in such a matter, had binne a blott to my reputation neuer to be washed away with floods of repentant teares, if my intent had not binne to haue it knowne to hir Majesty that such a matter was propounded seriously, and by somm desired, by others not misliked. but utterly neglected, or reiected by my selfe from the first howre I heard of it, till the last and not more then at the firs[t] now for all my Lord of Hartfords discourteous dealing with me who have deserued better at his hands. and thearfore restraining my frends I respected, I sent such as I thought likeliest to displease his Lordship though I instructed them not to giue his Lordship iust cause of offence, and aduentured no more, then I was desirous they should diuulge so it weare with out my consent, for in truth I cannot finde in my hart to disclos[e] the counsell of any stranger or enimy that either by theyr consent or chanceably commeth to my knowledge if it may be or I do but doubt it may be preiudiciall to them. And I thanck God it fell out better then I and my dearest and besttrusted whatsoeuer he be could hau[e] deuised or imagined though we haue bett our braines about it these .3. yeares.. The ridiculous and contemptuous stile I beseech you excuse with the reasons which this gentleman who taught it me alledged before he could perswade me to play the foole in good earnest. It was conuenient hir Majesty should see and beleeue, what busy bodies, untrue rumor[s], uniust practises, coulorable and cunning deuises, are in remote partes against those whom the world understand to be in a sort exiled hir Majesties presence undeseruedly, though them selues be neue[r] so wary or unwilling any should so much as speake of them. and as hearin[g] your Ladyships wisdom and fidelity hath binne at least comparable with my Lord of Hartfords, so I haue many [good] wittnesses and more then for theyr owne sakes I would I had had that I haue binne as precise and circumspect in auoiding all occasions either of alluring, or encouraging any to reueile theyr affection how great so euer how respectiuely so ever, how well so euer loued or like[d] by my selfe, and whosoeuer hath made triall what would either perswade the most vertuous Lady, or the greatest Lady for [so] by the[yr] commaundment I must needes tell your Ladyship they will needes say and sweare I am the one of theyr knowledge and they could wish me in the highest degree of hir Maiesties fauour, and put me in hope if euer I may attaine hir Majesties presence I shall receuie the like gratious countenance for all this that I haue euer donne. They I say who haue made most triall what promises, othes, vowes, threatnings, unkindnesse kindnesse faire meanes and fowle, neglect of others, with drawing of comfort, counsell, hope of redresse or any other thing in the world could constraine or entice one of my sex, yeares, and hitherto unhappy fortune Can beare me witnesse that I am too stout to request fauour till I be sure I may command it and they [will] take it as a fauour donne to them and not to me of whom they craue not so much as thanckes I assure your Ladyship nor any thing in the world but loue in such honorable and Christian sort, as I weare to be condemned by your Ladyship especially, if for your Ladyships comfort and my owne aduancement, I should still haue reiected or like a deafe Aspe stopped my eares against his voice, who neuer requested any thing but was more for my good and honour then his owne. All the iniuries he could he hath donne me, and h[is] creditt being as he right well deserues great with hir Majesty and his frends ... I impute euen all my wrongs to him and freely forgiue them all who haue binne his (unwitting I am sure) perchance unwilling instruments and if they had knowne by whom, to what end they weare imploied as I thinck uery few if any, for secrecy is one of his uertues and he hath as many as I beleeue any subiect or forrein Prince in all Europe or more. The onely request that euer I made to him (many other thinges I haue in rude and unciuill manner bid him do, and he can take nothing ill at my hand but one as he protesteth and I am as sure as one can be of any mortall creature that he knoweth the valew of an oth and esteemeth it the pawne of his soule) that he would procure my remoue from out of your Ladyships custody, not that I would not thinck my selfe most happy to spend all my life under your Ladyships gouernement, but that I cannot rule loue and ambition in others as I thanck God I can do both uery well in my selfe, and in truth am not infected at all with the latter, nor so apt to to beleeue and soudainely to resolue in so important a matter as I was content it should seeme to my Lord of Hartford. of purpose and not by error I protest. As I may compare the loue of this worthy Gentleman (which I haue already unreuocably accepted and confirmed, and will neuer deny nor can[not] nor will repent whatsoeuer befall) to gold which hath binne so often purified that I cannot finde one fault to [me] Ielousy onely excepted, so I haue dealt unkindely shrowdly proudely with him, and if any liuing haue cause to thinck me proud or shrowd it is he, whom I haue loued too well (euen since I could loue) to hide any thought word or deede of mine from him unlesse it weare, to aw him a little when I thought his loue conuerted into hate for I did him the wrong to thinck so a great while, [or] to make him weary of his Ielousy by letting him see it was the onely way to make me fall out with him and anger him in the highest degree I could imagine. with my Lord of Hartford I haue dealt so precisely that it hath neither binne in his powre to do me more hurt then reueale all he knew by me nor should haue cause or coulour to take any thing so kindely to keepe my counsell. When I writt I wept and I maruell it was not perceiued, for I could neither forbeare weeping at meale times nor in truth day nor night till I had performed my promise and sett downe in good and orderly sort somm of the seuerall deuises and shiftes which more then one had deuised and practised with out either my knowledge till it was past, or allowance either for what was past or to comm and this party who trusts me with more then I would haue him euen the secretest thoughts of his heart hath not nor neuer had so much as a promise that I would keep his counsell. He taught me by the example of Samuell that one might pretend on errand and deliuer an other with a safe conscience. By the example of Sampson that one might and (if they be not too foolish to liue in this world) must speake riddles to theyr frends and try the truth of offred loue and unsuspected frends in somm matter whearin if they deale unfaithfully it shall but make theyr ridiculous mallice appeare to they[r] owne discreditt and no manner of hurt to others. He assured me hir Majesties offense would be conuerted into laughter when hir Majesty should see the honest cunning of the contriuer, to such an end as will be highly to hir Majesties likeing and your Ladyships and my. good many waies. He told me he would haue me enter into somm great action to winne my selfe reputation, try hir Majesties loue to me though neither of us doubted of it, try what my frends would do for me, and how I could imploy my frends and seruants, and make strangers to me effect my desires without being beholden to them. and building my hopes upon the rock lett the windes and billowes and tempests show that though my building be low yet it is not building upon the sand for then had I binn ruined. but like the wise Architect who first draweth his platt and after makes an estimate of the charges giuing somm allowance more then he thinckes will be needfull, and then finding him selfe able to go through cheerfully setteth his workmen to theyr seuerall workes. So we first did deliberately consult, and after speedely execute, that which we knew for a short time would be offensiue to hir Majesty your Ladyship the Earle of Hartford, and diu[ers] others, and worke an effect which I am most assured will be most acceptable to hir Majesty and it is euen the best seruice that euer Lady did hir Soueraigne and Mistresse. I am more desirous hir Majesty should understand euery part and parcell of the deuise, euery Acctor, euery action, euery word and sillable of that hir Majestie hath under my hand or Iohn Goods then your Ladyship is, because I know more then your Ladyship doth or shall (becaus[e] it is most for your Ladyships honour and good it should be so) till hir Majesty be aquainted and fully satisfied that I haue donne nothing foolishly, rashly, or falsely, or unworthy of my selfe. Thearfore I humbly thanck hir Majesty for that liberty it pleaseth hir High[ness] to allow me by the which I may conferre with my frends without which I could not discouer the trueth so soone and so well to hir Majesty as I trust to do, if it please hir Majesty to allow me the space of one moneth to cleare my selfe in, and liberty to send to any priuy counseller, I will be accountable to hir Majesty but not to your Ladyship for all that euer I did in my Life or euer will do. And I will reueile somm secrettes of loue concerning my selfe and somm others which will be delightfull to hir Majesty to understand. I will send somm to complaine of them selues, I will informe hir Majesty of somm matters whearof hir Majesty hath yet no manner of suspition. I will offend none but my vncle of Shrouesbury, my Aunt and my vncle Charles, and them I will anger as much as euer they angred me and make my selfe as merry at them as the last lent they did at theyr owne pleasant deuice for so I take it of the gentleman with ye red eyes, and if they will as they ought in duty reconcile them selues to your Ladyship your Ladyship shall commaund me to forgett all iniuries they haue donne me one onely excepted and that is the wronges they haue donne this most worthy gentleman for whom I haue already forsaken parents, kinne, and all the world hir Majesty onely excepted. For I vow as I shall be saued he telles me plainely he will not offend hir Majesty for my sake, and will rather forsake me for euer then incurre hir Majesties displeasure though the time be neuer so short. and thearfore though I haue kept his counsell these many yeares and will do whilest I liue, if it may be the least hurtfull to him or any of his (for I neuer acquainted any of mine one or other I take God to witnesse) so I thinck it long till I may lett hir Majesty know his name who so farre exceedeth all the examples of hir Highnesse best fauored, that he dare not see nor but by stealth send to hir that he loues as well as euer they did any. And if it please hir Majesty so to accept of him I shall thinck my selfe most happy if hir Majesty will grace him with hir fauor and winne his heart form me if it be possible, and I will dayly pray for hir Majesty and him that he may dayly deserue hir Majesties fauour more and more as I do know he will indeauour, and if it please hir Majesty to giue me but liberty to send to him, and heare from him (which in truth (I must do and he will do though it offend your Ladyship and can do whosoeuer ouersee us) I will show your Ladyship euery letter of his I shall hearafter receaue and be content ... your Ladyship shall reueale all that to your Ladyships knowledge passeth betwixt us not onely to hir Majesty, but to all the world, for I am so farre from being ashamed of my choise, that euen for my owne honour sake I could finde in my heart to reueile him but that in truth I dare not with out his consent and he dare not till he haue his pardon for him selfe and his frends signified unto me by hir Majesties letter which after I am to send to him and heare from him againe, and then he shall either him selfe by what meanes it pleaseth him aquaint hir Majesty with his fearfull presumption, or I will tell your Ladyship upon condition it may please your Ladyship to ioine with me in begging hir Majesties gratious pardon to certein offendours, whose penance shall be to make confession first to hir Majesty and after to your Ladyship how gladly they would haue offended your Ladyship and how farre they haue offended hir Majesty for my sake and if they receiue the sentence of death out of hir Majesties mouth I dare answer for them they shall dy content, but I trust hir// Highnesse will with a smile deride theyr follies, and at one of theyr handes accept a poore present I am in hand with for hir Majesty giue another leaue to deliuer a message or letter to hir sacred Majesty from me hir then fully absolued handmaide, and giue us all leaue to impart our ioy at hir Majesties pardon to us all one to another, and deuise the best manner how to represent to hir Majesty the ioy we concceiue thearof and make our selues merry with makeing our selues perfect in our partes, which for want of conference we haue partly forgotten, and partly understand not, and hir Majesty more merry if it please hir highnesse but to keepe our counsell, and I will instruct them and send them to hir Majesty one after another and none liuing shall understand my drift but hir Majesty the noble Gentleman whose name I conceale and whom it pleaseth them two to aquaint with out limitation. One onely suite will I make to hir Majesty whearin I most humbly craue your Ladyship to assist and further me that is that it may please hir Majesty to suspend hir highnesse iudgement of me till hir Majesty see the end which cannot be so soone as I could wish for I thinck euery minute long but shall be hastened as much as may be I assure your Ladyship on my faith. and surcease hir displeasure to my selfe and all those with whom for my sake I doubt hir Highnesse is offended. and suffer none of them whose names hir Majestie hath under my hand to comm or send to me unlesse I send for them and whosoeuer comm to me at my request or unsent for either I will aquaint your Ladyship or send them up poste or cause them to aduertise som priuy counseller what they do at my request to what [end.] I trust I haue fully satisfied your Ladyship that I am neither so disobedient nor inconsiderat as your Ladyship might thinck me, and because I report many thinges which to your Ladyship seeme impossible your Ladyship next under hir Majesty shall censure all my proceedings, when your Ladyship by hir Majestyes gratious letter or messenger unfoldeth these darke speeches which let others do as please them I will neuer reueale but to hir Majesty neither will I presume to present my vnworthy seruice to hir Majesty till it shall please hir Highnesse to commaund it, for somm reasons whearwith I will with all speed aduertise hir Majesty Whom the Lord blesse and prosper for euer euery way.

Arbella Stuart.

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'Bess of Hardwick's Letters' was developed by The University of Glasgow with technical development provided by The Digital Humanities Institute at The University of Sheffield
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