books,  history,  seasons

Home from Holidays: thoughts about milkweed and Bess of Hardwick

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I’m home! I’m home from holidays, and it is nice to have the sense of perspective that comes from stepping away from everything for a bit.

I remember a few years ago my husband and I were really into rock collecting as we drove. We’d get library books out that explain the rock formations on the driving routes we were taking, and we’d stop at road-cuts to try chisel out bits of garnet, mica and neat quartz formations. Back then it was the folds of rock in the road-cuts that attracted my eyes while driving but this year my eyes were drawn to the plants in the ditches. I admired the roadways where the ditches were left full of life instead of mowed. I watched for the abundant patches of milkweed, wondering about how close together the milkweed patches need to be for the monarchs to find them.milkweedbyroad

I took a book with me, of course. I was reading Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth, and quite enjoying it. Bess spent time living and working at Lady Jane Grey’s mother’s house. Bess’s second husband helped with the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII. Her third husband was part of the security detail for princess Elizabeth during the time of the Wyatt Rebellion and had he implicated her when interrogated she could easily have been beheaded. Her fourth husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury, was the man granted the (very poorly paid or appreciated) ‘honour’ of looking after Mary Queen of Scott’s during the first 15 years of her imprisonment. Bess’ granddaughter Arbella Stuart was for a time considered a possible successor to Elizabeth.

The Earl of Shrewsbury probably suffered some sort of mental decline. Towards the end of his life he wrote constant letters to people at court complaining about his (by then estranged) wife Bess. In replies people, including Queen Elizabeth, called him terms of endearment and were polite and kind to him but unfailingly on the side of his wife. The book suggests people were humouring him, and I find it interesting that thought of how they dealt with him. There’s something neat about catching a glimpse of the very human side of history: people responding to an old friend suffering mental decline in his old age.


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  • clarbojahn

    One of my favorite children’s authors Jane Yolen wrote “Girl in a Cage” about Mary Queen of Scots when this Earl took care of her. He put her in a cage and had the town’s people throw things at her including insults. England was at war with Scotland and having the child Queen or Princess was a way of blackmailing her father and of getting him to come save her into a trap. I loved the story Jane Yolen wrote. it was from the girls perspective and written in first person.

    Welcome home! 🙂

    • ChristyK

      Thanks for the welcome home! And the book reference. I’ll have to see if I can find a copy of the book, though I’m pretty sure it was about Marjorie Bruce, not Mary Queen of Scots.

      Mary Queen of Scots was to be kept ‘as befits a Queen’ because Queen Elizabeth believed in the sanctity of royalty, and because she was next in line for the throne of England so the Earl keeping her wanted to not risk her wrath if she ever inherited. Also, the public was watching. When the Earl would complain that Queen Elizabeth was not giving enough money and he was spending too much of his own money caring for Mary, the Queen would say to cut back on the luxuries, but when he would try to do that then Mary’s supporters in France and Scotland would get upset accusing him of trying starve the Queen if she was served less than 16 dish choices at meal. It was still imprisonment, and I’m sure she hated it and it wasn’t good for her health, but nothing like what Marjorie Bruce suffered.

  • clarbojahn

    Yes, Maybe it was Marjorie Bruce. Not sure now. Great story though. Hope you get to read it. I loved it. I think your kids would like it too. Great history there.

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