This extraordinary document (D1897/1) is an inventory of her jewellery, which itemises the pieces given to her by ‘the Lord Cavendish’ (William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire). It dates from 1607 and is signed by Arbella herself.
Arbella Stuart (1575-1615) was the grandaughter of Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury (d 1608), also known as ‘Bess of Hardwick’. At the end of the 16th century, Arbella was next in line to the English throne after King James VI of Scotland. Her father, the Earl of Lennox, was the younger brother of James’s father and a grandson of Margaret Tudor. Arbella spent much of her early life with her grandmother and this document appears to record the return to her of her jewels from her uncle, William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, Bess of Hardwick’s second and favoured son. Arbella was regarded as a traitor by King James, (by then also James I of England), after her unauthorised marriage in 1610 to William Seymour, grandson of Lady Catherine Grey, heiress to the English throne under Henry VIII’s will. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, Arbella died there in 1615.