37: The Spanish Are Coming

With winter upon us, we cats ceased to meet.  Nero the Sea Cat has yet to conclude his tale of shipwreck on the Spanish Main.  The horses I spake with must believe he is swimming still.

Came spring, a time for joy, but we have no time for fictions.  Linkin the Law Cat gives hot newes or war.  I have learnt much.

Linkin’s master writ from London that the Spanish Admiral was dead, and this gave hope to some.  Another man takes his place, though he does not desire it and knows nowt of war at sea.

Pope Sixtus V, by an anonymous artist.
Pope Sixtus V, by an anonymous artist.

The Pope praises our Queen mightily, even though he calls her an error-tick, and worse.  The Pope does not like the King of Spain.

That did maze me, I confess.

Item:  The King of Spain sends not only his ships against us, but also a great army.  None knows where they may land.  Many ports have been told to make ready their defences, and to provide ships for the Queen’s service.  But some merchants are loathe to send their ships and lose trade.

Nero leapt up and called that Portsmouth was most willing to do all required.  Whereas in Southampton, folk say they spent so much on their fortifications they have not the means to provide a ship.

A black cat looking fierce“What need have they of fortifications?” arrkst Nero.  “At first sight of a Spanish sail the scoundrels will fling wide their gates and cry: Bienvenidos, amigos.  Which way to Mass?”

Another cat had at him then, and our meeting ended in a rawl.  (I guess that cat first oped his eyes in Southampton.)

At our next assembly Linkin told how his master had come from London to take his mother (a prating puritan, my sister says) to a place of safety.  But she is arming her household and would sooner die at her door than be burnt as an error-tick by the Spanish.

Item:  Siffrans Take [Sir Francis Drake] sayt that we should make sail for Spain, and attack them on their coast.

“Better pickings for that wicked pirate!” called a queen cat.  (Certes, she’s from a Catlick household.)

Lord Howard (1536-1624) painted by Daniel Myrtens c1620.
Lord Howard (1536-1624) by Daniel Myrtens c1620. He was in his 80s when this was painted. At the time of the Armada he was 52.

Linkin sayt it was too late for that.  We must meet them off our coast.

Our Admiral, Lord Howit [Howard] and Siffrans are readying our fleet at Plymouth.  They complain of lack of powder, shot, and vittles for the sailors.

If the Spanish make landing, and our soldiers cannot hold them (which is most like), all who dwell near the coast must burn their crops and run, taking their farm beasts with them so the Spanish will find nowt to eat.

Many cats were fearful then.  To hearten them my sister called that we eat vermin, not crops.

Nero sayt the verminous Spanish would eat us.  Which I thought most unneedful, for then all ran home to hide theirselves.

But Linkin, Nero, my sister, the Mad Cat and I lingered for more talk.  Being private, we were less seemlie.

Nero sayt our Queen is too niggardly to pay for supplies.  Yet he’d heard that she had sought to pay the Turks to take their war galleys into the Mediterranean and affright the Spanish into staying home.

Linkin sayt many papists dwell in this land.  All fear they will rise up and slaughter us. By “us” he means they that I call error-ticks, and Linkin calls good Protestants.

The Mad Cat sayt the common people are governed by ignorance, the middling sort (save his good mistress) by avarice, and the nobles by pride.  We should trust none.  The Queen Cat of Heaven told him this.

Linkin did not reprove the Mad Cat for his wild words.  Instead, he gave me the look direct and arrkst, “How stands your young Earl in this matter?”

A pair of dappled cats, Gib and his sister, sitting together and looking self-important“’Tis no great secret,” sayt I, in a manner befitting an Earl’s cat, “that my lord and I were reared in a papistickal household, as was my sister here.  But my lord was taken by Lord Purrlie [Burghley] and is at a good Protestant college in Cambridge.  Were my lord grown to a man’s estate, he would fit out a ship and have at those Spanish villains.”

I did not add that should the villains conquer, I, being suttle, might find it in my heart to turn Catlick again.  And I trust my lord will too.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Spanish Admiral who died (February 1588) was the Marquis of Santa Cruz, said never to have been defeated at sea.  He was replaced by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, probably the most unfortunate naval commander in history.

The great army Gib refers to was that of the Duke of Parma, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands.  There were plans for this army to embark from Flanders and, with the support of the Armada, land at Margate (Kent).  All ports along the south coast of England were on alert. 

Sixtus V (1521-1590), Pope from 1585-1590, was given to expressing his admiration for Elizabeth I, despite renewing her excommunication in 1588 and therefore freeing her Catholic subjects from any duty towards her.  He had little faith in Philip II of Spain, and promised financial support for the Armada only if the Spanish succeeded in landing in England.


20 thoughts on “37: The Spanish Are Coming

  1. Rachel McAlpine January 13, 2016 / 5:56 pm

    I am starting to see this story as a sort of Downton Abbey with only the servants point of view. So refreshing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 13, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      Except “servants” in Elizabethan England tended to be employees rather than the ever-so-humble-and-grateful-for-it underclass that had evolved by Victorian times. (Or was thought to have evolved. By whom? Let’s leave that for now.)

      If you were to ask an Elizabethan noblewoman how many servants she had, the number she gave would include her secretary and her children’s tutors (who were entitled to call themselves “gentlemen” by virtue of their university education, regardless of their parents’ status), her steward (estate manager) who may have been a landed gentleman’s younger son, and her ladies – personal assistants who probably came from other aristocratic households.

      Elizabethan society was profoundly status conscious, but (I’m sticking my neck out here) I don’t think there was a class system. What’s the difference? Status is much more flexible than class. In a country with a population approaching 4,000,000 and a capital city approaching 200,000, a social system that expects people to (a) know their place and (b) stay in it isn’t going to function. It has to keep recruiting talent from the lower rungs of the social ladder.

      Cats, being status conscious animals who are always looking to enhance their positions in their own hierarchy, understand this purrfickly.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Claremary P. Sweeney January 13, 2016 / 11:20 pm

    Your comment on status and class is duly noted. At the first mention of the Queen being an” error-tick” I was a bit lost and then laughed when it finally came to me. And the sister’s consolation about cats eating vermin only to be upended by the news that cats could become the vittals, was a lovely turn. Hope your holidays were restful ones. Glad you’ve returned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 13, 2016 / 11:50 pm

      I had a good break, Clare, and put some time into doing some housekeeping on my blog and working out a better time management system. Plus I’ve finally got on Facebook, though I’m still finding my way with it. We live and learn!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Claremary P. Sweeney January 14, 2016 / 4:37 am

      Oh, do I have to do housekeeping on my blog! The categories, in particularly need to be compressed. I’m afraid I’ll lose everything in the process! The only reason I manage my time relatively well is that I don’t sleep when I’m in the middle of writing a book.Not the greatest method for staying reasonably sane.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 14, 2016 / 2:28 pm

      It’s so hard to switch on and off when writing. That was one of the things that discouraged me from doing much of it when I had a day job.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Claremary P. Sweeney January 14, 2016 / 9:41 pm

      Yes, it certainly is. It’s why I never really managed to complete anything I was writing until I retired. Even then, it took me years to get a book published because too many other things came first. It wasn’t until I had to sit still for a summer with a boot on my injured foot, that I actually began and finished a whole series of books. I’ve found that blogging disciplines me to write on a regular basis and, in a way, hones my writing.skills.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April Munday January 14, 2016 / 1:02 am

    As one who first oped her eyes in Southampton, I’m with that cat, but you do have to wonder what would have happened if the weather had been different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 14, 2016 / 2:25 pm

      That’s a fascinating question – one of history’s biggies. Had the Duke of Medina Sidonia been able to land the soldiers he was carrying, I suspect the English would have fought tooth and nail regardless of religion, and James VI of Scotland would probably have sent aid. So there’s a chance the Spanish would have been defeated on land, even though nobody was optimistic about that at the time.

      However, if the Duke of Parma had also managed to bring his army from Flanders, resistance would have been useless. Credit has to be given to the Protestant Dutch, who sent ships to patrol the coast and prevent him from leaving port. The Armada was meant to have provided him with an escort, but the two Spanish forces never managed to co-ordinate themselves.

      If they had, I think the history of all those bits on the globe that used to be coloured pink and the USA would have been very different.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday January 15, 2016 / 12:01 am

      There’s definitely an alternative history novel to be written there, if it hasn’t been done already.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 15, 2016 / 12:25 am

      True! But an odd thought just struck me. For authenticity it might have to be written in Spanish, English having become a dead language. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn Haynes January 16, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    I am learning so much of the Elizabethan people and times from this blog. I especially like the perspective as others have already pointed out. Your distinction between class and status was an interesting one – do you think they shared the cross-overs and blurring of boundaries of modern times?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 16, 2016 / 7:06 pm

      Ooh, this is complex. (A number of people far more learned than I would argue with my easy distinction between status and class.) But I think it fair to say that there was a certain amount of crossover and blurring of boundaries, though perhaps not like modern times because society was built around households, and the word “family” could mean the total number of people in the household, including servants.

      Which is why the cats all value employment or “a place” in a household.

      Wealth and power were pretty much concentrated in the hands of around 4 or 5% of the population, i.e. the gentry (mostly gentlemen, but including the statistically insignificant nobility). So this group could be said to constitute a ruling class, but how rigid were the boundaries?

      Men with an education in law, medicine, or some other form of what we would call tertiary study, or who’d given public service as “captains in the wars” or by “good counsel … at home”, and who had sufficient means to live without manual labour were defined as gentlemen and could use the honorific “Master (Mr)” or in the case of their wives and daughters “Mistress (Mrs)”. They could bear arms, i.e. wear a sword. And acquire a coat of arms along with a not-entirely-genuine pedigree if they had enough money to pay for it.

      It was possible for bright-but-poor boys to win scholarships to the universities, or to work their way through by acting as servants to wealthy young scholars. But that was a struggle.

      Gentlemen were occasionally wealthier than noblemen. Some yeomen (the rural group just below gentlemen on the status ladder) were wealthier than gentlemen. There was also the rising urban group of merchants and traders – they were considered to sit at the same level on the ladder as the yeomanry, but could soon afford to send their sons to university, buy coats of arms, donate enough “good counsel” in times of war to earn knighthoods, and give their daughters marriage portions large enough to marry into the gentry.

      All this sounds very male. Well, it was. Everyone was expected to live under some sort of (male) authority. Which is why Elizabeth I avoided marriage. Once married, she would have been subject to her husband. Or perceived to be by almost everybody, which amounts to the same thing. However, by remaining unmarried, she retained power but failed the royal responsibility of producing an heir.

      However, Elizabethan women (generally) may not have seen themselves as “kept women”. Marriage portions were their contribution to the finances of the family they married into, and any woman with a sizeable one would have had a marriage treaty (pre-nup) that made sure she maintained a degree of economic independence during and after her marriage.

      Widows could keep their wealth out of the hands of future husbands by setting up the equivalent of a trust fund, and it would have been a silly widow of means who didn’t.

      Plus, Elizabethan women knew how to do their own housework (a massive job in pre-industrial times), even if they didn’t expect to do any themselves. I don’t think that at any level of society they expected a husband to be the sole provider, but saw themselves as sharing responsibility for the support of their children.


  5. chattykerry January 23, 2016 / 1:36 pm

    I thought of myself as a Papist Spanish cougar until I looked at some Ancestry records and discovered that I was distantly related to the Earl Spencer. One of Diana’s uncles had been sent to the colonies and I am one of his many litters.


    • toutparmoi January 23, 2016 / 1:46 pm

      Fascinating! Was Diana’s uncle on her mother’s or her father’s side of the family? If you’re descended from the Spencer side, you’re also related to Gib’s young Earl.

      Liked by 1 person

    • chattykerry January 23, 2016 / 1:48 pm

      Father’s side. I believe he was a fourth son, so useless like the runt of a litter. 🙂


    • toutparmoi January 23, 2016 / 1:56 pm

      Upper-class English families sometimes shipped their ne’er-do-wells out to the colonies and then paid them to stay there to save the family future embarrassment. In NZ and Australia they were referred to as remittance men, because they received a remittance (allowance) from home. No disrespect to your ancestor intended. 🙂 Sometimes younger sons with no prospects of a significant inheritance were also sent out in hopes that they could do better for themselves there.

      Liked by 1 person

    • chattykerry January 24, 2016 / 3:04 am

      I think he was just sent out to make money in the colonies – perhaps to send back? There are plenty of embarrassing skeletons in this cat’s closet including an alleged relationship to John Dillinger…now he was a bad cat!

      Liked by 1 person

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