Sederi 19 — 2009
Francisco José Borge López
Mª Jesús Pérez Jáuregui, “Henry Constable’s Sonnets to Arbella Stuart.” SEDERI 19 (2009): 189-202.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.34136/sederi.2009.9 Download PDF
Although the Elizabethan poet and courtier Henry Constable is best known for his sonnet-sequence Diana (1592), he also wrote a series of sonnets addressed to noble personages that appear only in one manuscript (Victoria and Albert Museum, MS Dyce 44). Three of these lyrics are dedicated to Lady Arbella Stuart – cousin-german to James VI of Scotland–, who was considered a candidate to Elizabeth’s succession for a long time. Two of the sonnets were probably written on the occasion of Constable and Arbella’s meeting at court in 1588, and praise the thirteen-year old lady for her numerous virtues; the other one seems to have been written later on, as a conclusion to the whole book, implying that Constable at a certain moment presented it to Arbella in search for patronage and political protection. At a time when the succession seemed imminent, Constable’s allegiance to the Earl of Essex, who befriended Arbella and yet sent messages to James to assure him of his circle’s support, raises the question of the true motivation of these sonnets. This paper will analyze these particular works in a political context rife with courtly intrigue.
Keywords: Henry Constable, Arbella Stuart, Elizabethan sonnets, Succession debate, Elizabeth I’s Court.
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