Grey told me that men and women know nowt of the Queen Cat of Heaven. While some do speak of Heaven’s Queen, they believe her to be a woman.
Though Grey had heard tell that sometimes when they make a picture of her they will add a cat, to hedge in their bets.
For on the matter of what they call religion they can never be of one mind.
The catlicks say they have the truth of it, but others call them papists. Why? Because catlicks feed on the pap of Error.
The others protest that theirs is the true religion, but the papists call them error-ticks. Why? Because they seek to drain the blood from this Error’s veins.
Sometimes the papists rise up and kill the error-ticks, and sometimes the error-ticks have at the papists.
“We cats,” sayt Grey, most majestical with his paw on my head and my chin in the dirt, “are in a mixture of felinity and policy. We prefer in felinity the Queen Cat of Heaven, and we prefer in policy the greatest Queen on this earth. She is an error-tick, and so be all her friends.”
Then he sayt, “The papists want another queen to chase her from her place and take it for herself. That is the catlick Stew Queen, and the error-ticks do watch her very close. So if you wish to prosper you will serve the Great Queen, and her friends too.”
I arrkst, “Then why may I not go to Lord Purrlie’s house with my lord?”
Grey sayt that Lord Purrlie lived many ways off in the town. “There is no place in his household for you. You are but a country clown.”
He told me that if I did not stay close to the young lady, I would have no place at all. “Your sister is the stable queen. Your uncle is a cook’s good boy and bedfellow. He will go where his cook goes. But who will employ you when your young Earl is gone?”
I had not thought of that.
“You might,” sayt Grey, “believe yourself to be the young Earl’s poet, but onlie cats hear your fool tales. Your lord knows nowt of what you say. Which is well, because your slanders might offend him. So now I come to it. The Countess will fight the old Earl’s will. She is kin to the Lord Lester, and he has the ear of the Great Queen. The Countess will win her daughter, and you must accompany her.”
“Is the Countess an error-tick?” I arrkst.
“No. She and her old father lick up the pap of Error, but they wipe their whiskers clean before they show their faces to the Great Queen. We have more dangerous instruments in view. But I would have a pair of ears in their household, and those ears will be yours. I may wish to know if they have cheese-wits [Jesuit priests?] hid.”
“As it pleases you, Master,” I sayt, though I know not where a cheese-wit could be hid, outside of a cheese.
And Grey sayt, most sweet, “If it does not please you, then think on the tenter frame and of how you will be stretched. Now, do not raise your head when I raise my paw. Do not think to look upon me. Count your claws, and stir not until you’re done.”
No need to tell me twice. But I arrkst, “How will I find you when I have newes?”
“You cannot find me,” he sayt. “I will find you. Keep close to the young lady.”
I heared him set his mark upon the leaves wherein I lay, scuff it about, and pad away.
Oh, that night I, the young Earl of Southampton’s Gib, sometimes called Bevis, was turned.
I was reared in a good catlick household, and I never knowed this Error nor was I fed on pap. But I turned.
I knowed of Grey’s Great Queen. I had heard her named slurper [usurper?] and past it [bastard]. I knowed of one called Lord Lecher, who killed his own wife because he wished to marry that Queen.
And when nowt came of that, he poisoned another man and took his wife instead. They who stand betwixt Lord Lecher and what he desires will never live long. But he has the Jezebel’s ear (oh, Grey’s Great Queen has many names). And more of her besides, or so some say.
So I turned. I became a spy for this Grey and a friend to error-ticks.
Grey’s “Great Queen” is Elizabeth I. “Lord Lester” or “Lord Lecher” is her long-term favourite and friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (c.1532-1588). He was never free from the rumours that he was responsible for the death, in mysterious circumstances, of his first wife Amy Robsart. There’s more about him on Wikipedia.
The “catlick Stew Queen” is Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots, who was in captivity in England. Grey probably heard the name Stuart as “stew”. While it’s possible he intended an insult, “stew” being a term for brothel, a cat would probably think a brothel as good a house as any in which to have a place. And cats like stew, in the ordinary sense of the word.
The Countess’s “old father” is Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague. Although he was initially opposed to Queen Elizabeth’s religious policy and was regarded with suspicion for some time, he later seems to have been able to reconcile private belief with public policy.
Grey is extraordinarily well-informed, but I have no idea whose household this feline spymaster was from or why he thought cats should be Protestant in policy. Strict Protestants and puritans were starting to question contemporary attitudes to animals, but none so radically as the Catholic thinker and essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592).
Anyway, the 2nd Earl of Southampton is said not to have allowed Protestant tenants on his estates, so Grey either came from further afield, or was of the contrary disposition frequently met with in his species.