65:  Nero Gives Newes

Yes.  That braggart Nero gave newes to spite me.  He guessed there was much about our scandal that I was keeping secret.

Black Cat (Nero) peeking over a plank.

He boasted of his investigations, and of all he’d seen.  (I marvel that he did not bombast it out in blank verse.)

 But I must set this down more orderly.

The morning after I last writ, my lord came home to breakfast.  He arrkst me why I stared so, and called me a fat owl.  In truth, I’d passed the night waking, so I slept that day.

My onlie trouble was a noise like sudden thunder.  I could scent no coming storm, nor was my fur a-prickle.

Later, I visited the stable cats.  They’d heared that the brothers Linkin called murderers had fled across the river Hammel [Hamble].  They did not think the brothers had gone far, because a boy had been sent to the kitchen to fetch food for them.

Cat with basketThe kitchen cat told me that my lady Moll’s cook had filled a basket with roast meats and a pie.

She nosed beef and mutton before the knave thrust her away.

A stable boy took the basket, and she has not seen it since.

For a time all seemed quiet.  Then strangers came to my house in the dead of night.  I arrkst myself what this meant.  I did not see them, but I heared them and I nosed them.   

Next came Nero, calling, “Hot newes.”  Here is the tale he told when we assembled at the Cats’ Field.

“My master goes no more to sea,” sayt Nero, “but he and a friend have a boat.  We, being curious, set forth to Hammel haven.  There came cannon shot from the near castle [St Andrews], which stung mine ears and affrighted many who were fishing.

“I espied upon the water a vessel that my master sayt was not on lawful business.  I saw it put ashore at the far castle all call Calshot.  Some men went to the castle gates for admittance.

“Then my master and his friend complained they could see nowt, and we came home.

A section of a 17th century map of Hampshire, showing the locations Nero refers to. Marked are Titchfield House (Place House, where Gib lives), Hamble Haven (where Nero claims he went, with St Andrews castle nearby, and Calshot castle across the water.
A section of a 17th century map of Hampshire, showing the locations Nero refers to. Marked are Southampton, Titchfield House (i.e. Place House, where Gib lives), Hamble Haven (where Nero claims he went) with St Andrews castle nearby, and Calshot castle across the water.

“When next we visited the haven, my master spake with a woman selling fish.  She’d heard that the Captain of Calshot was in Southampton, and his deputy too.  The master gunner at the castle had confined the men, and taken their weapons.

“Later (sayt she) the deputy brought word that they were the Captain’s friends, on their way to service in Brittany.  The deputy dined with them.  Two men seemed very sad, though all ate well of beef, mutton, and the venison pasty they had with them.”

When Nero sayt that, a great screech went up.  Many turned to me and our kitchen cat.

“What know you of this?” called one.  And another, “None sells such fodder on the keys [quays].”

Closeup Portrait of ginger and white cat

“My lord is ever willing to aid his friends,” I sayt.  “As I hope we all are.”

“What?” cried Linkin.  “Do you seek to explain or to justify our Earl’s behaviour?”

I sayt, “I did not come hither to be examined by any who fancies hisself a lawyer because he’s set his bum on a law book or two.”

Linkin bristled up, but other cats called for peace.

They wished to hear more from Nero.

He sayt, “I was with my master at the key [Hamble Quay] when one of the Captain’s men came from Southampton.  He was full of beer and woe, for he knowed he did wrong.  He brought warning from the Captain that the men should flee the castle, because the Captain had received letters that left him no choice but to send orders for their capture.

“Next came a gentleman from Southampton, who also hired a boat to carry him to Calshot.  I slipt aboard, and none sayt me nay.  All know a black cat brings good fortune.

“We crossed the water, and the gentleman entered the castle.  After sunset he and a dozen men made haste into the boat, so weighting it we was scarce above the water.  My luck held, and we came safe to our shore.  I heared one enquire of a Mr Timmick [Dymock] if he knew the way to Titchfield.  He replied that he would know it at midnight.

“I stayed in the boat and was carried back to Hammel, where my master was still drinking with his friends.”   

Then Nero eyed me. “Where are they miscreants now?” he arrkst.  “Not yet in France – the weather’s foul, and the wind unfavourable.”

Nero was toying with me.  He knows full well where they are.  As do I, now.

I called, “Friends, I can tell you.  They’re hid in my house.  I would have told you sooner, but wished to hear our friend’s newes first.”

That took the wind from Nero’s sail.  And I care not if Linkin runs to tell his mistress.  She will not take his meaning.

Calshot Castle, one of a number of forts Henry VIII had constructed for coastal defence.
Calshot Castle, one of a number of forts Henry VIII had constructed for coastal defence.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorIt’s not surprising that Nero should have been so well-informed.  His old sea-captain master would have had many contacts around the coast.

It seems the Danvers brothers’ escape plan meant keeping ahead of the hue and cry until they could get a passage to France.

Pretending they and their helpers were soldiers bound for Brittany, and hiding at Calshot castle (with the Captain’s connivance), was a bold move.  The plan fell through after official word of the killing reached Southampton, and the Captain had to take action.  The brothers fled back to Place House.  They’re next heard of in France.

There was a formal examination into the matter in early January 1595.  Statements from a stable boy, several Hamble locals, soldiers at Calshot, etc. are recorded in the Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury (“the Cecil papers”) Vol V pp 84-90, available on line.

Then the inquiry fizzled out, presumably because the Earl of Southampton’s involvement was so obvious.  Some of his closest servants and attendants  – his steward, the keeper of his wardrobe, his barber, his gentleman of horse (stables manager) – were mentioned in the statements, though none appears to have been interviewed.

An interesting example of the extraordinary influence an Elizabethan Earl could wield in his home territory.


23 thoughts on “65:  Nero Gives Newes

    • toutparmoi August 4, 2016 / 6:28 pm

      Thanks! The story gives us a fascinating insight into law and order in Elizabethan England. I suspect most people took their lead from what their neighbours were saying and doing. Heaps of people must have known what was going on, but nobody seems to have been in any hurry to turn the Danvers brothers in.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Soul Gifts August 4, 2016 / 7:21 pm

    Maybe they had as much distrust in law enforcement as we do. So much corruption within those hallowed halls.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi August 4, 2016 / 7:51 pm

      True. I suspect most people just wanted to keep their heads down and get on with their lives. Particularly as the punishments could be so brutal. Writers who fell foul of the law could have a hand cut off! We would have had to watch our wicked little mouths. Or hands.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris White August 4, 2016 / 9:12 pm

    Your attention to detail always amazes me. Scary stuff about writers and their hands though!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi August 4, 2016 / 9:28 pm

      Yep! Watch yourself. Mind you, I think it was the right hand that went. Left-handers might have felt safer.


  3. April Munday August 4, 2016 / 11:39 pm

    It’s a good thing Nero is a seafaring cat, otherwise he might have been too ill to notice what was going on.

    In some ways it’s similar to the earl of Oxford running the butcher through and it being judged suicide. I suppose earls could get away with most things, except treason, and even that sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi August 5, 2016 / 12:08 am

      I think Gib is sceptical about Nero’s observations. Nero (poet/liar) may have done no more than listen to what his master’s drinking mates had to say.

      But yes, Earls did seem able to get away with a lot. However, Gib’s Earl seems to have been what we might call an accessory after the fact.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 5, 2016 / 12:11 am

      Did they make that distinction then? There was a time when that would have made him as guilty as the murderers. And just as likely to be hanged.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 5, 2016 / 9:44 am

      No – they wouldn’t have made that distinction. And one way or another there would have been a huge number of guilty people between Titchfield, Calshot, and Southampton. That may have been another reason why the enquiry fizzled out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 5, 2016 / 5:43 pm

      I’m shocked by the number of people willing to help. If even a close friend of mine killed someone (not that they would) my first thought would not be how to help them evade justice.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 5, 2016 / 7:06 pm

      It might be if you lived in Elizabethan England! Another story associated with the Danvers incident is that the distinguished scholar and translator John Florio, who at that time was tutoring the Earl in Italian, chanced to be in the same boat (probably from Itchen Ferry) as the sheriff of Southampton. Florio threatened to throw him overboard. That must have upset the sheriff’s wife, who was on board too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 5, 2016 / 11:52 pm

      It is a completely different way of thinking. Perhaps the Danvers brothers were absolutely wonderful men, beloved by all, but I suspect not.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 6, 2016 / 10:27 am

      The Danvers brothers do seem to have earned the admiration of many of their contemporaries, including Henri IV of France. They remained outlaws in Europe until 1598, when they received a pardon. This was probably the result of their mother’s strenuous lobbying. The elder, Sir Charles, took part in the Essex uprising (probably against his better judgement) and was beheaded in 1601. The younger, Sir Henry, lived to a ripe old age, was created Earl of Danby by Charles I, and founded the Oxford Botanic Garden.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday August 6, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      My word! I’m not surprised Sir Charles wasn’t given a third chance. The younger seems made the most of his second chance, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. masonbranchblog August 5, 2016 / 1:31 am

    What a interesting way to tell a story. Throughly enjoyed it and other articles you have posted!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. dornahainds August 5, 2016 / 6:34 am

    My favorite line front the whole magnificent tale!

    ‘I did not come hither to be examined by any who fancies hisself a lawyer because he’s set his bum on a law book or two.’

    Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi August 5, 2016 / 9:46 am

      Gib has a way with words.


  6. Rachel McAlpine August 5, 2016 / 9:32 am

    I appreciate the portraits of Nero, the kitchen cat, and Linkin. Quite the rogues’ gallery.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Timi Townsend August 7, 2016 / 6:49 am

    I continue to be astounded at the inventiveness and obvious scholarship that your post embodies, while retaining the utmost entertainment value!

    I wanted to let you know that I’ve just now updated my post “What I’ve Been Reading Lately” to mention and link to both your blog and April Munday’s. And I’ve emailed those links to a friend of mine, my bff Josie (she is mentioned and pictured in “Childhood”), who is a retired medievalist with a wonderful sense of humor. She will love your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 7, 2016 / 10:31 am

      Thanks, Timi. Yes – I remember Josie from your Childhood post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Bun Karyudo August 9, 2016 / 2:48 am

    I guess in those days, few people would dare get on the wrong side of an earl if they could avoid it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 9, 2016 / 9:26 am

      True. And I suspect the sailors and boatmen along the coast were a law unto themselves – especially when generous payments might be involved.

      Liked by 1 person

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