40: Old Gib Cats and Mighty Queens

Dappled catMy household has been in disarray.  I never before saw so many strange folk about the house and yard.  And many carts come and go.

The kitchen cat sayt new cooks are here.  Which means great folks are too.  I arrkst myself, Were the Countess or my lady Moll come? For me?

I hid myself in the stable.

When I was left forlorn at this place, I wished to be sent for.  But now I have friends here, and fame as a poet.

For a time, I believed my lord would come here when he ended his studies at college.  Then I heared that he was at Gray’s Inn, and I wondered if that was where the fearsome spy cat Master Grey lodged.

Linkin the Law Cat
Linkin the Law Cat

But Linkin the Law Cat (and Know All) sayt that Gray’s Inn was an inn among other inns where good industrious boys go to learn the law so they might get their honest livings, and idle rich boys go to joy theirselves ere they live off the honest toil of others.

(By “good boys” Linkin means his master, and by “idle boys” he means my lord, but I did not quarrel with him.)

Next, Linkin told me that Lord Purrlie [Burghley] wants my lord to marry, and has a wife ready.  But my lord has arrkst for time to think on it.

It shames me that I must hear this from Linkin. 

Linkin’s master writes from London to his prating puritan mother, and she reads passages from his letters to her household.

None writes to me.

As I lay concealed in the stable thinking on all this, I heared a young stone-cat come by calling, “Newes, newes.”

I made haste to our Field to hear him.

This cat sayt he’d gone a-courting, and travelled far.  He met many cats along the way.  One told of an old gib cat who spake of a palace where once he’d been received with honour.  Now a mighty queen had been admitted at its gate.

All the stone-cats pricked their ears.  They love a tale of queens.

A blue cat, close-up in grass
Gib’s friend Smokie

I pricked mine, too.  Could this palace be the house where I once lived?  And he that these young cats call “an old gib” my sweet friend Smokie?

Joyed as I was to have word of him (and to me he never can be old), I was troubled that I too may seem an old gib.

’Tis true I’ve seen ten winters, which is more than most cats do.  But they go young from this world.

I whispered to Nero, “How many winters have you seen?”

A close-up of a black cat

He was listening to the young cat’s newes, and did not reply.

I arrkst, “Are we old gibs?”

He answered, “I’m not a gib, I’m a castrato.  I sing very fine.”

I had forgot he claims to be Italian.

The young cat sayt this mighty queen did eat, at breakfast, three oxen and one hundred and forty geese.  Then she went out into the yard and killed three or four deer.  And later many bucks were killed for her delight, and a pond emptied of its fish.

All marvelled that any cat could eat so much.

In a trice it come to me.  I called, “This were no queen cat, but a woman.  She that the night-walking spy cat Master Grey calls the Great Queen.  And many call Her Majestie.”

The young cat arrkst, “How can that be?  The old gib sayt that in his shop, folk call her Queen Puss.”

“Friend,” I sayt, “The worthy gib of whom you speak is my friend, and the cat you met with was mistook.  She that the common folk call Queen Puss [Queen Bess] is a woman.”

“Blasphemious!” called some.  (Puss is one of the names of the Queen Cat of Heaven.  Only we cats may have it, in her honour.)

Linkin sayt, “Then all that meat was eat by her wolvish friends.”

The Mad Cat cried, “Locusts!”

“And,” called Nero, not to be outdone, “there be sailors with hurts and maims who never were rewarded for their service in the wars.  They’re now starving unto death, and their poor cats with them.”

“I hear tell,” sayt Linkin, “the cats of this woman’s household (I will not call her Queen) must join with the rats they’re employed to kill in stealing fish from her pantry, they’re so ill-fed.”

“Be that as it may,” I sayt, “I believe my house is being made ready to receive her.  Think you that I shall be on hand to greet her?  No.  What is’t to her whether she kills a deer or a cat?”

“She can eat of a deer,” called my sister.  “Would she dine on a cat?  I think not.”

My sister and the kitchen cat swore that they would see this Queen Puss and bring a report to our next assembly.

“And,” sayt my sister to me, “as you do not mean to attend upon her, you may come to my barn and watch my kitlings.  For great folks oft have hawks with them, and I do not wish to lose any of my kits.”

“I could not wish for better company,” sayt I, sarcastical.

My sister grows more uppish by the day.

A Hawk on A Falconer's Glove
A Hawk on a Falconer’s Glove

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorSome of Gib’s papers may have been lost, or perhaps he had difficulty finding paper and cut quills?  His previous journal entry would have been written in September 1588; this one can be dated to September 1591.

Gib’s young Earl was awarded his MA from Cambridge in 1589, when he was 16.  Then he went to Gray’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court.  (Linkin’s lawyer master may have studied at Lincoln’s Inn, which would explain Linkin’s name.)

Elizabethan England was a litigious society, and a working knowledge of the law was considered useful for landed gentlemen.  However, the gilded youth at the Inns of Court were more inclined towards dancing, fencing, and the theatre than studying law.

 In August/September 1591 Queen Elizabeth spent 6 days at Cowdray House in Sussex (where Gib once lived) then visited Chichester, Portsmouth, The Place at Titchfield, and probably Southampton.

Each summer Queen Elizabeth made progresses (royal visits) around various parts of southern England.  Her subjects could see her and her court in all their splendour, and areas with suspected pockets of disaffection might be won over.  Such visits were a massive undertaking for all concerned.

Elizabeth travelled with up to three hundred people – courtiers, government officials, their staff and servants – and perhaps a thousand horses.  They were housed by the local nobility and gentry, and anywhere else suitable. To entertain her was an honour and a huge expense.


21 thoughts on “40: Old Gib Cats and Mighty Queens

  1. Robyn Haynes February 4, 2016 / 1:54 pm

    Denise I really enjoyed this post, especially for your added explanation. Gib continues to snipe at his sibling which is entertaining. Interesting that the study of law was undertaken at an inn. Perhaps I misunderstand what an inn was in those times. You mention it was an inn of the court.

    I love the term ‘gilded youth’. I think I will adopt and adapt it to represent my generation: the ‘gilded elders’.

    I imagine the logistics of traveling with Queen Bess must have been hugely complex. To feed and house 300+ people aside from the horses, would have been no small undertaking. Obviously necessary as a diplomatic exercise though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi February 4, 2016 / 4:27 pm

      Thanks, Robyn. And yes, “inn” is a strange term for a law school. The Inns of Court (now a prestigious part of the City University London) date back to the middle ages, when “inn” as a place for food and lodging was often applied to what we would call student hostels or halls of residence. By the late 16th century they seem to have been evolving into a de facto third university where the students appear to have enjoyed more freedom than they did at Oxford or Cambridge. That might have been because the students were, on average, older. Though no Elizabethan parent would have wanted to see their sons cutting too loose.

      Queen Elizabeth was a crowd-pleaser, no doubt about it, and understood the importance of image. She had a reputation for being infallibly patient and kind to the “common sort” who turned out to see her, though she was often anything but to her courtiers of both sexes and her administrators. And at her stays in noble households, the entertainment offered could include an event comparable with the opening of – well, maybe not the Olympics – but possibly the Commonwealth Games? No wonder so many noblemen died with massive debts. Plus the food thing. You always had to offer more than even a Queen’s court could possibly eat. Let’s hope the poor who presented themselves at the gates of noble households got some of it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes February 4, 2016 / 4:29 pm

      You have a prodigious knowledge and I’m so enjoying your blog. Thanks for expanding Denise.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 4, 2016 / 4:38 pm

      There’s nowt prodigious about my knowledge! I’m struggling to keep up with the cats.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes February 4, 2016 / 4:50 pm

      I detect a ‘voice’ transference there! Write enough from a character perspective and you begin to transmogrify. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 4, 2016 / 4:55 pm

      Trans-moggy-fy. But I do use “nowt” in normal conversation!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes February 4, 2016 / 5:20 pm

      Clever! I didn’t see that coming.

      Interesting use of words. I associate ‘nowt’ with another era, one before your time. : )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel McAlpine February 4, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    Oh no, I can’t bear it! I didn’t realise that Gib is 10 years old by now. Let us hope he grew prolific in his final years.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi February 4, 2016 / 4:37 pm

      I’m afraid some of his work may have been lost or stolen.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine February 4, 2016 / 4:39 pm

      I’ve been warned. I will brace myself for bereavement.


    • toutparmoi February 4, 2016 / 4:47 pm

      Don’t get out your tissues yet. Just as a number of Elizabethans made it to their eighties or nineties, some cats may have managed the feline equivalent.

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi February 4, 2016 / 9:44 pm

      Many thanks for that link – there’s some fascinating details there, particularly her meeting with the Huguenots. My main source of info was John Nichols’ The Progresses and Public Progressions of Queen Elizabeth (1823) which contains a detailed account from 1591 of her visit to Cowdray. However, John Nichols was unable to track down anything about her visit to Titchfield or Southampton, but he noted that it was certain she did go there in 1591 because of ale having been sent there from Guildford! Let’s hope it travelled well.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April Munday February 6, 2016 / 1:01 am

    I too am worried about Gib growing older, and I’m sorry that three years worth of his tales are lost. perhaps they will be found later.

    To follow up on your point about the food, what was left over would have gone to the poor. In some places that custom continued almost into the last century. Only this morning I was reading about an innovation in the nineteenth century that meant sweet and savoury food was separated before it was sent out. In the days when food was eaten from half a loaf of bread (a trencher) the bread was given to the poor. Since it had soaked up all the juices and sauces it would have been something worth eating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 6, 2016 / 9:08 am

      Yes! I’m sure Nero would have heard old salts’ talk, and Linkin sharp city gossip, about the English follow-up raid in 1589 on the Spanish, from which its leaders – Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Norris – failed to do any significant damage to shipping and (even worse) returned empty-handed. Perhaps Gib got a serious attack of the sulks and simply didn’t record it?

      About the surplus food: Nowadays, I’m very pleased to hear supermarket surplus that’s reached its Best Before date is being redistributed, rather than dumped – which means that people who raid the bins are, strictly speaking, breaking the law. Though – back to the Elizabethans – I sometimes wonder how much of the surplus from noble feasts made its way to the gate. Taking little “extras” in the course of your employment was an accepted method of supplementing your income at every level of society, so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a fair amount of surplus was taken by servants along the chain of command for sale or as gifts to their own families.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday February 6, 2016 / 9:16 am

      Gib’s a very patriotic cat.
      I’m sure you’re right about the servants taking their own share, but since looking after the poor was a religious duty I like to think that most of them gave more thought to their souls.
      I used to work for one of the big supermarkets here and they always gave away not quite past it food, until they started getting sued by the people they’d given it to. So they stopped.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. mitchteemley February 7, 2016 / 11:28 am

    Aha, so it’s Denise, is it? I noted Robyn addressing you as such above. Glad to know your actual name (I’d assumed it wasn’t “Tout”). I tend to think of you as Gib’s mother, Denise, and so fancy that his literary gift as came from you.


    • toutparmoi February 7, 2016 / 1:53 pm

      Yes, I answer to “Denise” as well as “Tout” (there’s a little more about me in my Gravatar profile). I’m not so sure about the “Gib’s mother” bit. While I freely admit to being a baby-boomer, Gib was born in early 1580!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. BunKaryudo February 8, 2016 / 4:07 am

    I’m sure having the queen arrive with her court must have been an honor that her subjects must have dreaded. I imagine the expense was absolutely horrendous.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. larrypaulbrown February 8, 2016 / 3:44 pm

    Imagine that! “Idle rich boys go to learn the law so they can live off the honest toil of others.” Should I believe such a thing?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 8, 2016 / 5:11 pm

      Not if it would upset you. 😉


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