70:  At the Cats’ Field

gibs-niece1At our first assembly this spring my little niece leapt up to tell all that her mother was gone from this world.  This angered her grown sister, who had wisht to give the newes.

There was an exchange of insults between them, and I thought they would come to blows. But my little niece yielded, as is proper, and crept over to me.

She still has the scents of my sister about her, most pleasing to my nose.

Then Nero sayt he’d made a verse in my sister’s honour, and walked to the centre of our circle.  He sang:

Not far from this Field now lies
Gib’s good sister, bold and wise,
mother of a host of kits,
none of whom displays her wits.
When shall we know such another?
All that’s left t’us is her brother.

I knew not what to think of his song, but it would have made my sister merry.

Many praised it, and called for it again.  Then some sang with him.

My little niece whispered, “Nero is a turd.”

I told her that was no way for a young cat to speak of her betters.  I also sayt that Nero is a poet, and may be forgiven a fool word or two used for the sake of his rhyme.

She seemed about to make a sharp retort, but then Linkin came forward with newes from London.

Item:  Old Lord Purrlie’s granddaughter, that he hoped to see wedded to our Earl, has married the Earl of Derby.

Head and shoulders of a young man with dark curly hair and a slight moustach, against a blue background.
A Nicholas Hilliard miniature of a young man, probably the Earl of Essex, in 1588.

“Now Lord Purrlie may lie smug in his bed,” sayt Linkin.

“He found another Earl for her.  But Lord Derby may not lie so smug in his, for many say his new wife has a fancie for the Earl of Essicks [Essex].  There may be scandal to come.”

Many cats were joyed to hear it.  The promise of scandal, I mean, not newes of the wedding.

“Who doesn’t fancie the Earl of Essicks?” called a stone-cat.  “I wish I had his luck with queens both young and old.”

Item:  There is talk that our Earl must pay Lord Purrlie five thousand pounds.

Linkin sayt, “That’s the way, when you’ve been someone’s wart [ward] and refused to marry.  And now our Earl’s of full age he must also sue for his liver [livery, i.e. buy himself out of wardship].  That don’t come cheap, but the Queen will have the money, not Lord Purrlie.”

“Best you fill your belly now,” called Nero to me.  “You may not dine so well soon.”

I think my little niece spake true.

Linkin then told what he knew of the workings of the Court of Warts, like the law cat he is, giving out many Latin words and other strange saws [sayings].  Too tedious to set down here.

A group of men in dark suits with white ruffs seated around a table. Lord Burghley is at the head. There are some onlookers behind partitions.
Lord Purrlie, better known as William Cecil, Lord Burghley, presiding over the Court of Wards & Liveries.

I slipt away, as did several others.  I was near my house before I nosed my little niece following me.

I arrkst her what she did, even though I’d guessed.

“I’ve come to dwell with you,” she sayt.

“Be not so hastie,” I replied.  “Where you’ve not been offered a place, you must creep in by degrees.”

“I know that,” sayt she, in her saucie way.  “I’ve friended the cats who keep our Earl’s stable, and will lie there a while.”

I do believe she may grow to be a tricksie queen.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorElizabeth de Vere (1575 -1627) married William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby (1561-1642) in January 1595.  Incidentally, William Stanley is another – along with Elizabeth de Vere’s father, the Earl of Oxford – who’s been proposed as the writer of “Shakespeare”.

The Court of Wards & Liveries (to give it its full name) oversaw the management of the royal wards. Officially the Queen’s, their guardianship was sold to others.

The advantage in having a royal ward was twofold.  Along with administering part of their estate and receiving income from it (a practice open to abuse), you had the “benefit” of their marriage.  That is, the right to arrange it.

Marrying an heir to a member of your family was an attractive option.  Wards were under no legal obligation to accept their guardian’s choice of spouse, but one who dug his or her heels in (as the young Earl of Southampton did) could find themselves having to pay their guardian a substantial fine when they came of age.

There’s no record of the Earl of Southampton ever paying Lord Burghley £5000, but it seems generally accepted that he did.  There’s some additional info here about the Court, and the young Earl’s wardship and financial situation.


23 thoughts on “70:  At the Cats’ Field

  1. Soul Gifts September 8, 2016 / 6:58 pm

    They do love their gossip !!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Chris White September 8, 2016 / 8:13 pm

    “You must creep in by degrees” … such a good turn of phrase. 😀🐈😺🐱😼😹😻😽😿😾

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 8, 2016 / 8:40 pm

      That’s how they do it!


  3. Timi Townsend September 9, 2016 / 12:55 am

    What a wondrous post! I would love to have crept in myself to Cats Field to be among the august assembly there! By the wat, I have always been partial to Nicholas Hilliard (the painter whose portrait, probably of the Earl of Essex is posted herein), because not only is his first name that of my elder son’s, but his last name is the town in which I have lived this many a year… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. April Munday September 9, 2016 / 8:09 am

    Poor Gib. He’s really missing his sister, isn’t he?

    If that miniature really is the Earl of Essex, he was rather good-looking. He also has the air of a man who is used to being followed. I see dark days ahead for Gib and the young earl.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 9, 2016 / 10:12 am

      I think young Essex did have a handsome face, but later took to concealing it behind what to my eyes is a rather unattractive spade-shaped beard. To give himself a greater air of authority?

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday September 9, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Or to hide behind.If the pictures are reasonably true to life it wasn’t a terribly successful beard.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rachel McAlpine September 10, 2016 / 2:01 pm

    I am shocked at how passively Gib allows Nero to steal his thunder. Is he turning soft in his own age? I fear he will pay the price. Go little niece!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 10, 2016 / 2:19 pm

      Gib has definitely mellowed with age, and Nero was ever one to push the boundaries. Though as Gib says, his sister would have thought Nero’s song funny.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Robyn Haynes September 11, 2016 / 12:33 pm

    I do hope Gib’s niece achieves ‘tricksy queen’ status.

    I found the info on royal wards really interesting. A way of using another’s status for political or monetary gain. Is it too harsh to label it a medievel form of human trafficking?

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi September 11, 2016 / 7:33 pm

      Human trafficking? I hadn’t thought of it like that – possibly because it was done by the Crown with and to a privileged section of the population. But the historian H.E. Bell quotes a contemporary observation about wards being bought and sold as though they were horses.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes September 11, 2016 / 7:44 pm

      I always think it’s difficult for historians to be objective across time frames. So many factors in play that make a practice acceptable in one era but not in another. Perspectives must change according to from the vantage point of the observer.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 11, 2016 / 7:58 pm

      True. And some things seem very strange while others sound familiar – but even that can be deceptive.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.