73:  Newes of My Lord

A young and fluffy black, white, and orange cat.
Gib’s Niece

I’ve writ little of late.  My niece was fire-hot for her lessons, and that kept me occupied.  Then she disappeared.

Gone to find a handsome stone-cat or two that might occupy her.  Or so I believe.  Such is the way of the world.

I went to the Cat’s Field, but did not see her there.

Linkin gave newes.  He sayt Her Majestie was wearie of the Earl of Essicks [Essex], and had showed our Earl some favour.

Linkin oft knows newes from London.  He hears it from his mistress, whose son dwells there.

But I knew more of this than Linkin did.  True, Her Majestie was most kind to my lord, but then she offered him an insult.

My lord went to hand her to her horse, and she disdained him before all.  He was so shamed he had no choice but to quit her household.

He’s back there now, but I do not think he will forgive her.  Nor would I.

The Earl of Essex (and his horse) dressed for jousting. Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard.
The Earl of Essex (and his horse) dressed for jousting.

My lord never wisht to take the place of Essicks, who is his friend.  But the truth is, our Earl and his friends must strive to please the old Queen, because they can do nowt without she say so.

Should they wish to marry, travel over sea for their education, or join an expedition to have at the Spanish or some other enemie, they must seek her permission.  And she loves to say, No.

The other cats could scarce believe their ears when I told of this.

One arrkst, “Which among us ever sought permission from any?  Save our mother?”

Another added, “And not always her, if truth be told.”

At our next meeting I gave newes of the great celebration that is held every year to mark the day Her Majestie first took her place.

Dressed for jousting: George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1603) - by Nicholas Hilliard.
The Queen’s Champion: George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1605) – by Nicholas Hilliard.

All love a celebration, even if they no longer love the reason for it.

Many lords and horses don fine armour and make a great show of theirselves.  Play-fighting, that they call the just [joust].

My lord rode in the just as Bevis of Southampton.

A great screech went up then.  All hereabouts know the tale of Bevis, and what an evil woman his mother was.

They begged to hear some scandal about our Earl’s mother, the Countess.

I would not tell any.  True, I have slandered our Countess in my poetick fictions, but she was a good wife to her second husband, who died not long since.

“She poisoned him!” came a call.

“No, friend,” I sayt. “That was in our play, and is not true.”

Gib's lord, the Earl of Southampton, with his armour. Artist unknown; probably painted c1598.
Gib’s lord, the Earl of Southampton, with armour.  Artist unknown; probably painted c1599.

But, as all wisht to hear something to make them merrie, I sayt, “Friends, when last my lord was here I caught a scent of queen about him.

“I do not mean a queen-cat, nor Her Majestie.  I mean a young woman.  It was not his sister, Lady Moll.  This was a woman I do not know.

“Has our Earl a sweetheart?  Have they done no more than touch noses and cleanse each other’s ears, as we cats do in amity?  Or has she hoist her tail and let him seize her by the scruff?”

Linkin thought this woman’s name might be Puss Fur-None [Bess Vernon], but he could not swear to it.

“They all called Puss,” he sayt.  “The old Queen is Puss, and all the hot young queens are Puss too.  Many are given to hoisting, which displeases Her Majestie mightily.”

And we arrkst ourselves if that was why the Queen had snibbed our Earl.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorGib probably wrote this at the end of 1595.  The Earl of Southampton turned 22 in October that year.  A few points:

The young Earl was briefly tipped by court gossips to become Queen Elizabeth’s new favourite.  She was growing weary of the sulks and self-promotion of the brilliant but erratic Earl of Essex.  However, nothing came of it.  Perhaps the Queen was using Southampton to show Essex he was disposable.  A tricky situation for Southampton, who wouldn’t have wanted to annoy either Essex or the Queen.

The annual celebration Gib refers to is Accession Day on 17 November, when an elaborate display of jousting was put on.  The poet and playwright George Peele wrote an account of the 1595 occasion in Anglorum Feriae: England’s Holidays.

Puss Fur-None, better known as Elizabeth Vernon (c1573-1655?) was Essex’s cousin, and one of Queen Elizabeth’s maids-of-honour.  Southampton’s interest in “the faire Mistress Vernon” was court gossip by September 1595.

The Queen wouldn’t have approved.  Her maids-of-honour were the most junior of her well-born female attendants, and there to learn courtly ways.  Queen Elizabeth may have resented their flirtations (sometimes innocent, sometimes not) with her male courtiers.  But she – as that rare being, a single woman ruler – had also to consider the reputation of her household.

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42 thoughts on “73:  Newes of My Lord

    • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 4:57 pm

      Probably not, even though she liked to have attractive men around her. When she was younger there were rumours about her and her favourites, particularly the Earl of Leicester and Sir Christopher Hatton, but these are likely to have been malicious.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Soul Gifts September 29, 2016 / 5:47 pm

        We recently watched the movie in which Cate Blanchett played Elizabeth. She was quite an amazing woman for her time. She was portrayed as quite chaste in that

        Liked by 1 person

        • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 6:15 pm

          I agree, she was amazing. She was under constant pressure to marry and produce an heir pretty much until her late forties, but in an age where women were supposed to be subservient to their husbands she knew she would lose too much of her power. Marriage was never a real option for her, and I suspect the only man she was tempted by was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. She may not always have been wise in her choice of glamorous favourites, but she was very good at picking competent and hard-working administrators.

          Liked by 3 people

          • April Munday September 29, 2016 / 7:25 pm

            It must have been a difficult decision to make. She knew that she would be the last Tudor on the throne.

            Liked by 1 person

            • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 7:37 pm

              True. But the experiences of Mary, Queen of Scots, proved her right. Lord Darnley expected to become King of Scotland after marrying Mary. When that didn’t happen, he turned very nasty. As I read it, subsequent events cost Mary her throne and, eventually, her life.

              Liked by 2 people

              • April Munday September 29, 2016 / 8:23 pm

                Mary was no Elizabeth. Elizabeth also had the experience of her own sister to guide her. Mary Tudor allowed her husband to dominate her as well. I think both Marys fell in love, though. Perhaps that’s what Elizabeth was really afraid of when she rejected suitors she was supposed to be fond of.

                Liked by 1 person

                • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 8:45 pm

                  I agree re the love thing, though I don’t think Mary Stuart’s love for Darnley lasted long. Mary Tudor’s Spanish husband didn’t spend much time with her, but he maintained his claim to the English throne. And Elizabeth’s own mother had been executed by her husband on trumped-up grounds of adultery and incest. Despite the fact that Elizabeth seems to have liked being compared to King Harry, that would make anyone wary of marriage. Had Elizabeth married an Englishman, all sorts of internal rivalries could have arisen. And had she married a foreign prince, preferably Protestant, who would have been in charge and from where? Any marriage could have upset the fragile society of England at the time.

                  Liked by 2 people

                • April Munday September 29, 2016 / 10:06 pm

                  There were, indeed, lots of reasons for her not to be too keen on marriage. And you can see why taking a lover would have been just as dangerous.

                  Liked by 1 person

                • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 10:15 pm

                  Yes – her credibility as a fit monarch would have been at stake. Hence the constant and undermining gossip about her unlikely sexual liaisons.

                  Liked by 2 people

  1. Claudio LeChat September 29, 2016 / 5:52 pm

    The finery displayed in your great selection of portraits is very stylish and fetching, if a tad OTT by today’s standards. What posers! No wonder HM liked to have these “hunks” around her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 6:32 pm

      Yes indeed. That’s their macho stance – one hand on hip, the other reaching out, weapons handy, elaborate armour (but unsuitable for the battlefield). A far cry from the pose for looking love-struck and melancholy.

      I like the way Essex’s horse’s armour and plumes match his. The ultimate accessory.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Claudio LeChat September 29, 2016 / 6:41 pm

    Do you think their proportions are accurate? Or do you think that, in modern parlance, they have been “photo-shopped”?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 7:14 pm

      Hard to say about the “photo-shopping”. But who would want to upset a wealthy patron? Are you looking at their narrow waists? As rich lads, they’d have had a high protein low-carb diet. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a well-preserved suit of armour belonging to the Earl of Cumberland. The armour’s height is given as 5ft 9-and-a-half ins (176.5cm) which indicates he was 2 or 3 inches above average English male height at the time.

      Like

  3. April Munday September 29, 2016 / 7:29 pm

    I hope the young earl marries and settles down soon. He might upset the queen once too often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 7:56 pm

      She seems to have gone out of her way to upset him! The public snub that Gib reports strikes me as cruel. Another problem may have been that even in her sixties she expected her young lords to pay her romantic compliments. The game of courtly love was always her way of managing ambitious young men, but it’s a hard game for a youngster to play with someone old, no matter how well trained in “behaviour” they may be.

      Liked by 2 people

      • April Munday September 29, 2016 / 8:27 pm

        Even a young man must have realised that she wouldn’t go on forever, though. It must have been a tense game on both sides. Everyone must have been testing for the moment when she would lose her grip on her power. It amazes me that she managed to hold on to it at all, with so much against her.

        Liked by 1 person

        • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 9:01 pm

          Yes! I think her courtiers expected her to die any day. That may explain the wayward nature of Elizabeth’s court in the 1590s. But (and this is pure and very risky speculation, because I’m applying 21st century thinking to Elizabethan behaviour) Gib’s Earl strikes me as being an insecure young man. The messy parental separation, the early removal to a very different household, the desire for attachment, the flashy appearance? It doesn’t bode well.

          Liked by 2 people

          • April Munday September 29, 2016 / 10:12 pm

            I’m rethinking my previous comment. Perhaps some of them really did have their eye on the throne. I was thinking earlier today how both the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries ended with someone on the throne who had only a tenuous claim to it, although Henry IV’s claim was much more obvious than Henry VII’s. If you were really ambitious, it must have looked possible to get enough support behind you to fight James Stuart. I wonder what would have happened if he’d been Catholic as well as Scottish/French.

            Liked by 1 person

            • toutparmoi September 29, 2016 / 11:19 pm

              I think that’s why so many of Elizabeth’s courtiers were desperate for her to name Protestant James as her successor and avoid civil war. In this, as in everything, Elizabeth played hard-to-get.

              There seems to have been a number of people around, both Catholic and Protestant, with reasonable claims to the throne. But by then (I suspect) most people, whether or not they had a good pedigree, were over upheavals. Plus, xenophobia counted: Philip of Spain (as Mary Tudor’s husband and therefore “King of England”) was an ongoing worry. The Earl of Essex, a staunch Protestant, looked to James, but he also favoured religious tolerance. I’ve come across mentions of the Earl of Southampton being a Catholic. Certainly, his father and mother were, but the Earl himself consistently displayed Protestant sympathies and was emphatically anti-Spanish.

              Liked by 2 people

              • April Munday September 29, 2016 / 11:46 pm

                It didn’t even occur to me that the young earl might be Catholic. I don’t think you had to be Protestant to be anti-Spanish, although I can see that some Catholics might have thought a Spanish king would be better than a Scottish Protestant.
                I suppose she prevaricated in case the announcement of her successor itself brought about a civil war.

                Liked by 1 person

                • toutparmoi September 30, 2016 / 12:13 am

                  You’re right (I think). Elizabeth was unwilling to name her successor because it wouldn’t have been in her best interests. As for the young Earl being Catholic: no, you didn’t have to be anti-Spain to be a Protestant. The Earl may have been secretive about his true religious feelings, or perhaps he didn’t care much either way. However, I’ve come across a number of references to his “Catholicism”, and this is linked to the idea that Shakespeare was a Catholic. And therefore they had Something in Common. Yawn. It’s amazing what can be derived from the dedications of two poems.

                  Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi September 30, 2016 / 12:31 am

      Exactly. The Earl of Southampton received numerous dedications in his lifetime. Why two from Shakespeare around the time the theatres were closed because of the plague should have led to a widely held belief that they had a steamy long term affair is beyond me.

      Liked by 1 person

        • toutparmoi September 30, 2016 / 1:01 am

          After digging for the historical evidence as far as the Earl and Shakespeare are concerned, the two dedications are it. As for the rest of the story (and there’s an awful lot of it) well, I’d rather take a cat’s word for it.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Timi Townsend October 1, 2016 / 10:14 am

    I do liketh me the looks of Gib’s Niece. I dearly hope that She is not Absent for long, and that wherever She may be (perhaps raising her tail?), She is in Safety held….

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 1, 2016 / 10:57 am

      Me too. But she’s a cunning little thing, and well able to look after herself, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn Haynes October 1, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    Gib reminds me of how humans are not very far in behaviour from the animal world despite our affectations.
    But I was always interested to see Gib make an important distinction between truths – artistic and real life. It is often the case that some see a dramatisation of a real event and it becomes the remembered version – the truth. I’m thinking JFK’s assassination for example. Speculative and artful dramatisation at best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 1, 2016 / 5:40 pm

      So true – about the behaviour, and the appeal of fiction! Gib constantly reminds us that “poets are liars”, meaning that imaginative writers make stuff up. That’s what fiction is. And the “truths” in fiction tend to the moral and psychological, not the verifiable. What we see can be even more convincing than what we read. As the saying goes, “Seeing is believing”. It’s very easy to believe TV docudramas, or those movies that are “based on a true story”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robyn Haynes October 1, 2016 / 6:02 pm

        The concerning thing is many fail to apply a little critical thinking in this regard. I’m trying to teach my eight year old grandson that what he sees on YouTube must be questioned. The scary thing is that many much older students (undergraduates) don’t apply this practise to all they read and hear. I agree with Gib but I’m glad you clarified his statement about poetry. Some of the greatest ‘truths’ are to be found in poetry.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Chris White October 2, 2016 / 4:22 am

    I rather like it that the Earl of Southampton turned 22 in 1595. That was getting on in those days I guess ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 2, 2016 / 10:54 am

      No, still young, but the high infant mortality rate meant it was something to get that far. The Earl’s mother, 43, was getting on, and Elizabeth I at 62 must have seemed old to many of her contemporaries.

      Like

  7. Bun Karyudo October 2, 2016 / 3:52 pm

    If feel sorry for Southampton if Elizabeth was using him to get at Essex. I have the strong impression that in those days, offending the wrong people could lead to extremely bad outcomes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 2, 2016 / 4:13 pm

      I think a few of Essex’s enemies were waiting for him to get his comeuppance – which he eventually did. The trick seemed to be knowing exactly how far you could go, and with whom. Once you slipped, it could be a very long slide.

      Liked by 1 person

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