81:  Of Wenches and War

Oh, what times we’ve had at our Field of late.  Nero is in a humour blacker than his coat.  He told me (privily) that his old master has been sick again, and like to die.

Nero fears he will be offered a place in Linkin’s house.  He swore he’d as lief drown hisself.

“There is a willow grows aslant our brook,” sayt he.  “I could climb it and cast myself in.  But water’s an element I’m native and indued to.”

Native and indued.  What fine words.

“Because you was birthed in Fence [Venice]?” I arrkst.

An early view of Venice, by Gabriel Bucelin (17th Century).
A view of Venice, by cartographer Gabriel Bucelin (17th Century). Via Wikimedia.

“And because I swim too well to drown,” sayt Nero, most tragickal.

“Then best you content yourself with making a scene for all to marvel at,” I sayt.  “Come floating by us decked with waterish weeds, and singing sad songs.”

Linkin told me (privily) that he does not fancie Nero as a chamber-fellow, but if his mistress wills such a thing then he must suffer it. 

Ophelia in her wet element.  From Sir John Millais' famous painting, held by Tate Britain.  Were Nero to attempt so tragickal a scene, he would probably have to put his feet as well as his paws above water, and his lack of tail might affect his balance.
Ophelia in her element, singing.  From Sir John Millais’ famous painting, held by Tate Britain.  Were Nero to attempt so tragick a scene, he’d probably have to put his feet as well as his paws above water.  Plus, his lack of tail might affect his balance.

I made all merry with my newes of the shameless Pusses I writ of previous.  And I told of another young wench that Queen Puss [Bess] does nowt but complain of.  Her name is Mary Howit [Howard].

“That very name,” sayt Linkin, “is trouble writ large.”

Nero let out a screech, and bristled up.  He believed Linkin spake against the Lord Admiral (another Howit) who is much loved by mariners.

Other cats called for peace.  They wisht to hear more scandal.  None of us loves Queen Puss.  Her very name is blasphemious.  ’Tis one of the names of the Queen Cat of Heaven, and we never heared that women may take it.

And all know Queen Puss distains our Earl.  It seems he can do nowt to please her.

Linkin told how Mary Howit attires herself most fine, hoping to take the eye of our Earl.  Some say she has received much favour and marks of love from him.

“Marks of love?” came a call.  “What are they?”

“Spittle on scruffs,” one cried.  All screeched so loud I feared we might be chased from our Field.

Queen Puss called Mary Howit an ungracious flouting wench.

Mary was unwilling to carry Her Majestie’s mantle when she took the air in her garden.  Nor was she ready in the Privy Chamber with Her Majestie’s cup.

An elegant but weary looking woman in silvery white, wearing magnificent jewels,
Queen Elizabeth in her sixties – from a portrait unlikely to have been seen by many before her death. The original is held by The Elizabethan Gardens in North Carolina. Visit them (or their website) for the whole painting and the story of its purchase and authentication.

In truth, she’s never where she should be for her duty to Queen Puss.

“She slips out to call for our Earl,” sayt a young queen cat.

“And he runs to her, as all lusty fellows should,” cried a stone-cat.

I sayt, “I hope she has a loud voice, for my lord will soon take ship against Spain.”

True.  He had leave to travel, but now I hear he will join our newest expedition.  Those Spanish rogues are making readie to come at us again, so we will strike at them.

All were mazed to hear of this.

“What?” they cried.  “Old Puss has oped the door?  Our Earl may go forth and fight any that seeks to come into our land?”

I sayt, “Old Lord Purrlie’s son Sir Rabbit [Robert] spake a word for him.”

At last my lord can prove his valour.  And keep hisself safe from the saucie strumpets that serve Queen Puss.

I pray he comes safe home.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorOn 23 May 1597 a William Fenton wrote to Queen Elizabeth’s godson John Harington (of water-closet fame) expressing his dismay at Lady Mary Howard’s attempts to “win” the “young earl.”

Mr Fenton appears to have been a friend of Mary’s, and was concerned that she might lose her place at Court.  He doesn’t name the earl.

I’m happy to take the cats’ word that it was Southampton.  Essex was a more frequent topic of gossip, but he was 31.  Not old, but unlikely to be specified as young.  Also, he was married.  Any winning of him would have been very temporary.

Not only had Mr Fenton attempted to placate the Queen, he also hoped John Harington might help smooth things over, and even arrange for a word on Mary’s behalf to be dropped in Lord Burghley’s ear.

Poor Lord Burghley.  Seventy-six years old and with deteriorating health, he’d have had more important things to worry about.  Such as: famine in parts of the country because of the bad harvests, the ongoing war with Spain, growing resistance in Ireland… 


19 thoughts on “81:  Of Wenches and War

  1. April Munday January 18, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    Things just get worse and worse. I hope Nero doesn’t have to throw himself in the river. It would be a great loss.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 18, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      It’s not all doom and gloom. Things are definitely looking up for Gib’s Earl. And while I like the idea of a warbling Nero bobbing downstream like Ophelia, I’m not holding my breath.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. leggypeggy January 18, 2017 / 9:36 pm

    And then there are the saucie strumpets to worry about. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Soul Gifts January 18, 2017 / 9:56 pm

    Such scandalous goings on – no wonder the cats love their gossip!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 19, 2017 / 5:02 am

      What a pity the cat employed to keep Queen Elizabeth’s apartments free from mice didn’t write its memoirs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Soul Gifts January 19, 2017 / 1:09 pm

      Now that would have been interesting !!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. M. L. Kappa January 18, 2017 / 10:07 pm

    The plot thickens! Love today’s illustrations 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Rachel McAlpine January 19, 2017 / 7:53 am

    Dear dear, this is all frightfully unsettling. It’s all so real to me, like Coronation Street. Luckily you provided an antidote to my distress in this remarkable and new-to-me portrait of the aging Queen Puss.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 19, 2017 / 9:05 am

      It’s certainly an interesting portrait: Queen Puss looks frail but elegant. I’ve come across a couple of portraits (online or in books) of her looking her age. While of the right period, they were probably copied after her death from the more glamorous official portraits.


  6. Robyn Haynes January 21, 2017 / 7:55 pm

    I learn so much from your posts, Denise. The intrigue and political push and shove of the Elizabethans is reflected in the life of the cats.
    I especially like the painting of Ophelia. I can’t imagine Nero would pull of the same scene as well. The portrait of Queen Bess is not so flattering although it possesses a certain dignity and bearing. .

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 21, 2017 / 8:25 pm

      That Ophelia painting is beautiful. About 12 years ago a collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings came on loan to the Dunedin Art Gallery, and I travelled down to see it. Practically every famous painting was there, except Ophelia. Apparently its “travel insurance” was so high it was simply too expensive to borrow. I like the Queen Bess portrait, too. It shows more character than her official portraits do.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes January 22, 2017 / 10:07 am

      What a pity you missed seeing the original. Even photos of it allude to the ethereal quality, that transparency of her skin, almost luminescent. Imagine what the original looks like.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 22, 2017 / 12:46 pm

      It would be lovely. But the other paintings were a treat, and people travelled from all over the country to see them.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. colonialist January 21, 2017 / 10:22 pm

    The ability to swim is a serious obstacle to a tradgickal ending, indeed. Such entertaining insights.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi January 23, 2017 / 11:46 am

      From a cat’s perspective, yes.


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