A Tragic Tale of Unpunctuality
“She is the Eighth Wonder of the World,” breathed a breathless courtier as Lady Arbella Stuart passed before the group of virile young swains, a vision of loveliness and heaven.
“Keep away from her, man,” growled another. “She’s already done for Raleigh.”
“‘Tis true. The great buccaneer and seaman, Sir Walter Raleigh currently languishes in the Tower for trying to put her upon the throne in a papish plot against the King,” murmured a third, expositionally.
“Ay, but she is a beauty.” Will Seymour insisted. “Did ye see her in that Johnson’s play…”
“…Masque of Beauty. I was next to you, you dolt. You were slobbering like a calf.”
All eyes rested upon the ravishing girl in question, giggling with the queen and her women, a flurry of silk and velvet, veils and simpering. Will sighed.
“Why Ambassador, you are truly spoiling us,” twinkled Lady Arbella, tapping the dashing Spaniard lightly with her fan and glancing saucily across at the group of admiring courtiers. “You delay your return to Spain merely to bring a great store of fripperies for us. Heavens! Gloves – hawks’ hoods – leather – perfume – small cheap chocloate balls wrapped in gold paper – goodness! Do you mean to flatter the ladies or,” she darted a sideways glance at Seymour, “emasculate our men?”
Lord Dewsbury scowled. “She’s forbidden fruit, Seymour. Keep your hands away from that one.”
Will Seymour’s pounding heart and burning loins simmered quietly. He knew the King was ill at ease with this stunning young girl – so close to the throne, so dangerously Catholic. But so far she had shown the King no disloyalty. He could do nothing but watch and wait.
“Your highness. They have been seen again, walking in the grounds,” whispered a nervous courtier. “It is rumoured she has even dropped her hankerchief and he has picked it up for her. It is said they are secretly married at Greenwich Palace-”
“Enough,” roared the King. “I will not support such outrage in my kingdom. To the Tower with the scallywag! And as for her – she is to be locked in her room. I will not have handkerchiefs dropped willy-nilly in my own country!”
“My dearest Lovey-Dovey,” wrote Seymour, from a not-terribly-well-guarded prison cell. “Let us fly tonight. I have secured the assistance of my lackey who will lie convincingly tucked-up on my meagre pallet in my stead. I will don his filthy rags and excape this pestilent place. You, my darling Fluffikins, must disguise yourself as a gay young gallant. No – not a word of dissent, my bunny-wunny. You have the legs for it – not a soul will penetrate your cunning disguise. I will meet you at Greenwich, where, under the very shadow of the ancient palace walls, daring sailors congregate to assist offenders to escape the King’s dominions to The Continent!”
“Oh, My Lady,” Lady Grey (no, not that one) Lady Arbella’s closest confidente clucked. “‘He is such a brave young man – but you, my dove. I fear for you. You are such an innocent young* thing-”
“Just get the seams straight on these hose, will you. And does my bum look big in these puffy pants?”
“But My Lady – you must make sure you have everything. I have made a checklist… Bodices, Gloves, Shoes, Sun Tan Oil, Flip Flops…”
“Heavens, Cathy, I shall be late!”
“…a good book, beach ball, bucket and spade…”
As she thundered through the night towards the walls of Greenwich Palace, Lady Arbella, had a horrible sinking feeling. Had she turned off the gas? Better go check.
“I’m sorry M’Lady. He thought you weren’t coming. He’s been gone these past two hours. He left this note.”
My Darling Poopsy, I will meet you at Dunkirk. In haste, Flopsy.
“Cathy – change cloaks with me. In this amazing disguise I will fool the lightermen and escape to the bark bound for France.”