90: Of Lords, Ladies, and Leave-Taking

An idealised image of Queen Elizabeth (late 1590s) by the miniaturist Nicholas Hilliard.

My lord has come hither.  He offended Queen Puss.  But who has not?

He did no more than strike an insolent rogue, who turned cowbaby and ran squealing to her.

My lord greeted me most loving.  He sayt he feared we were not like to meet again.

Soon he goes into France with Sir Rabbit [Sir Robert Cecil], and onward on his travels.  To Italy, I believe. 

But I must set down all in order, as I learnt it.

Item:  Nero sayt that the lady who arrkst the learned doctor about our Earl’s marrying is Mistress Prannill.

Nero did not know the doctor’s answer.

“That’s not newes,” sayt I. “Our Earl shall marry Puss Fur-None [Bess Vernon].  But that’s a secret.”

“I have more,” sayt Nero. “London newes from Linkin.”

Item:  Mistress Fur-None is much grieved at our Earl’s leaving.  And the rogue that turned cowbaby told her something that caused an unkindness betwixt her and our Earl.

None knows what that were.

Item:  The rogue was insolent to our Earl and Sir Water Rawly while they was playing at cards.  Then our Earl came upon the rogue near the tennis court, and struck him a blow.  The rogue pulled his hair, and when Queen Puss heard of this she praised him!

Our Earl and that cowbaby were arrkst to explain theirselves by Essicks and another great lord.

I knowed that.  But I (and my lord) do not know why Queen Puss is so unkind to him.  Small wonder my lord is full of discontentments.   

And if that weren’t newes enough, I hear my lord’s mother the Countess thinks to take another husband.

His name is Swillem Harfie [Sir William Hervey/Harvey].  He went with Essicks to Cadiz.  And to the Asores as captain of the Bonaventure.

“A good ship,” sayt Nero.  “But I never heared that Swillem did owt to tell of.”

My niece sayt, “Perchance he lacks money, and hopes to get his living from the Countess.  And she wants a lusty young man.”

After I had writ all of this, my niece sayt to me, “Uncle, when you go from this world I shall not bide in this place.”

“What?” I cried.  “You have employment here.  The book-chamber will be yours.”

“But I wish to see the world,” sayt she.  “And when our Earl is oversea, this house may be closed to all.  Even us cats.”

I had not thought of that, but I shall not live to see it.  I have immortal longings in me.

“How would you go hence?” I arrkst.

“How came my mother hither?”

“That you know,” sayt I.  “She hid herself on a cart that carried her from the stable where we was born.”

“Then you have your answer,” sayt my niece.

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.Gib would have written this in late January/early February 1598.  It seems the Earl made a quick visit to Titchfield before he and Sir Robert Cecil left for France.  Henri IV of France intended to make peace with Spain – a matter of concern to the English.

Now for an Elizabethan soap opera.

Mistress Prannell (nee Frances Howard) 1578-1639 – later Seymour, and finally Stuart – was a poor relation of the powerful Howard family.

A portrait (c. 1611) of Frances Howard – now Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford.  By Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. Via Wikimedia Commons.

She married three times and died a Duchess, but was slow to give up on the Earl of Southampton.

The cats might have been more interested in her if they’d known that in July and August 1597 she was feeling poorly, and sent urine samples to astrologer and medical practitioner Simon Forman.

The samples would have been no help; reliable diagnoses from urine were not yet possible.

According to historian A. L. Rowse, she thought she might be pregnant.  Simon Forman assured her she wasn’t.

But where was Mr Prannell, a wealthy vinter?  In London or away on business?  Did she think he was the father?

Or did she suspect someone else might be?  Nothing is recorded.

The man Gib calls a rogue and a cowbaby is Ambrose Willoughby, a gentleman of the Queen’s Bedchamber.  He’s unlikely to have entered that sanctum – his job would have been to guard the door.

Rowland Whyte (writing in early 1598 to Sir Robert Sidney) says that the Earl of Southampton, Sir Walter Ralegh, and another gentleman were playing primero – similar to poker – in the Presence Chamber, a large reception room for people admitted to the Queen’s public presence.

The Queen had gone to bed, so Willoughby “desired them to give over”.  Then he threatened to call in the guard to take their table.  Sir Walter Ralegh (captain of the guard) gathered up his money and left, but the Earl “took exceptions”.  It was shortly after this that he hit Willoughby, who retaliated by pulling his hair.

Was an interrupted card game the only reason for the spat?  Or was it something to do with what Willoughby had told Elizabeth Vernon?  Was Mrs. Prannel mentioned?

Rowland Whyte also writes of the Earl being “troubled at her Majesty’s…usage of him.  Somebody hath played unfriendly parts with him.”   And Elizabeth Vernon “…doth wash her fairest face with too many tears” at the prospect of the Earl’s departure.

Whyte hints that her reputation is at risk.  But whether she was quite as weepy as he suggests is debatable: a doleful face before Queen Elizabeth would have got no sympathy, and maybe a slap.

Next, Whyte reports that it was secretly said that she and the Earl were to be married.  Had they contracted to wed on his return from France?

Whatever, the Earl seems to have been, in modern parlance, Over It.

He was 24 with no career to speak of, and in debt.  There was none of the hoped-for glory from the Islands Voyage.  In his absence his executors had leave to sell off any of his properties except those still held by his mother.  He was probably all too keen to get away from Queen Elizabeth’s Court.


15 thoughts on “90: Of Lords, Ladies, and Leave-Taking

  1. April Munday March 23, 2017 / 8:20 am

    The young earl never seems to have good luck, but he’s still allowing himself to be guided by Essex, which has not worked out terribly well for him so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 23, 2017 / 9:04 am

      Fortunately Sir Robert Cecil seems to have had a soft spot for the young earl. It was he who got him permission to go on the Islands Expedition, and then permission to travel.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday March 23, 2017 / 9:08 am

      I was quite tickled by the idea of a chap pulling on the earl’s gorgeous locks of hair. The whole episode doesn’t sound terribly manly.

      I suspect that the young earl won’t listen to good advice, but we can hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 23, 2017 / 9:13 am

      Me too! I think the earl was tall – maybe the swinging locks were all Mr Willoughby could reach?

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 23, 2017 / 10:48 am

      It conjures up a great image. Akin to a maypole. However, I suspect Mr Willoughby would have had to have been of reasonable size to get his job. A pity, though, that the earl didn’t follow Sir Walter Ralegh’s example.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. leggypeggy March 23, 2017 / 9:58 am

    Very entertaining. I liked your use of the word ‘arrkst’. Many Australians still pronounce it that way and may think that’s how it is spelt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 23, 2017 / 10:41 am

      I’m not sure if many Elizabethans pronounced it that way, but I’m pretty sure most cats do – having listened to a fair few demanding moggies in my time.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. trashonthemonocacy March 23, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    The more that I learn about court life, the more I’m convinced it was (is?) its own sort of miserable. Voyaging and travel would have been difficult too (as would toiling as a commoner, I’m sure), but I still would have wanted to run away myself!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 23, 2017 / 12:55 pm

      I would too – it probably seemed (seems?) glamorous and exciting at first, but it would have been such a hotbed of gossip, intrigue and power struggles. I suspect the longer you stayed there the more obvious that would have become.


  4. Chris White March 24, 2017 / 6:09 am

    Excellent and entertaining post. Interesting about the urine samples. Wonder what they said about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 24, 2017 / 7:29 am

      Yes – the urine samples are another example of people being on the right track, but still with a long way to go. I don’t think Simon Forman would have given them much attention. He preferred his astrological charts.


  5. Robyn Haynes March 30, 2017 / 4:00 pm

    I’m so impressed Denise, by your untangling of the personal politics. Well, not always so personal at that societal level I expect. The urine sample was an interesting one. I wonder how much they knew then.

    Liked by 1 person

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