101:  More of our Earl and his Mistress

A black, white and orange cat against a background of flames.My aromatickal friend accompanied me to my lodging in Black-Fryes [Blackfriars].  I told him I did but bide there against my lord’s return.

“Which will be soon, I trust,” sayt he, virtuous.  “I hear poor Mistress Fur-None [Vernon] is grown so fat she feigned illness and fled the Court for fear of Her Majestie’s displeasure.”

I was vexed that I’d not known this.  “To hell with Her Majestie,” sayt I.

His eyes grew round. “That’s wicked talk.”

“I mean,” I sayt, to smooth him, “that my lord has done no wrong.  Before he set forth for France ’twas sayt he and Mistress Fur-None would marry.”

“Then it matters not how hard upon the wedding their kit comes,” sayt he.  “There’s no shame to speak of.”

“Were they cats,” I sayt, “there’d be no shame nor no wedding.”

“True,” sayt he.

We sat a while longer.

I arrkst him if he went to Paws’ yard [St Paul’s churchyard].  I’d seen cats gather there, and guessed they met for newes or merriment as we’d done in our Field at home.

A reconstructed image of Old St Pauls, via Wikimedia Commons. Neither Tricks nor the Earl of Southampton would have ever seen its spire, which was destroyed by fire in 1561, and never rebuilt.
The cathedral itself was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, 1666.

He told me he had scant leisure, so necessary was he in his employment.  “But if the night’s fair when my mistress and her maid set forth on women’s work, I slip out too.”

He offered to call for me when next he went to Paws.

I was of a mind to tell him he had no need to call, for I could nose him a mile off.  But I forebore.

I told him my name was Tricks.  He sayt London cats go by many names, but in his household all called him Onix.

What a fool name for a cat.

And so we parted friends, though I arrkst myself if Picker and Stealer might prove better company.

“What?” called Linkin, when he saw me at our window.  “Back so soon?  And not yet Lord Mayor?”

A black, white and orange cat peering through a leaded window-pane.

“How is it,” I arrkst, “that Mistress Fur-None has a kit in her belly, and I must hear it from an up-puffed pomander?”

“I know nowt of that,” sayt Linkin.  “The night’s talk here was of Lord Purrlie.  He’s on his deathbed.  Queen Puss [Bess] went to visit him, and fed him broth with her own hands.  She won’t know herself without him.  His first son Thoms [Thomas] will have the name Lord Purrlie, but his clever son Rabbit [Robert] will have his place at the Queen’s elbow.”

“I care nowt for politicks,” sayt I.  “This cat sayt Puss Fur-None is hiding from the Queen.  And where’s his Harryship?  In hiding from Puss Fur-None?”

“Our Earl’s not one to forsake his friends,” sayt Linkin.  “He helped the Daffers [Danvers] brothers flee, and now they’ll have their pardon.  And did not our friend Nero say that when the Mathew lay stricken in the water, our Earl’s Garland stood by to give aid?  Certes, if he and Puss Fur-None are not already wed, they soon will be.” 

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorWilliam Cecil, Lord Burghley, died in London in early August 1598, aged 77.  He’d been at Queen Elizabeth’s side throughout her reign, and I suspect she would have been too distressed to give any thought to Elizabeth Vernon’s departure from Court.

Tricks may have been unimpressed by Onix, but he seems well up on city gossip.

It wasn’t unusual for Elizabethan brides to be pregnant on their wedding day; I’ve read that parish records of marriages and baptisms indicate around 20-25% were.

Social historians attribute this to the custom variously referred to as betrothal, espousal, contracting, or hand-fasting.  A couple exchanged vows to marry de presenti (i.e. now) or de futuro (in the future).  The vows were usually made before witnesses, and often involved the exchange of small gifts or rings.

As far as both the church and the law were concerned, people weren’t legally married until a ceremony had been performed by a priest or minister, and no preliminary exchange of vows was necessary.

However, a betrothal de presenti was binding even though not strictly legal.  Couples considered themselves married, with predictable results.  The church might not have approved but the wider community was less concerned, provided the wedding took place before the baby was born.  Otherwise the child’s legal status was compromised.  However, a percentage of the poor probably never bothered with a wedding.  As they had little or nothing to leave their children, rights of inheritance were irrelevant.  

A betrothal de futuro could be broken off by mutual consent, but if the couple had sexual intercourse then it too became binding.


30 thoughts on “101:  More of our Earl and his Mistress

  1. Christine Valentor August 24, 2017 / 4:41 pm

    Lord Purrlie! I am sure Queen Bess was lost without him. I had heard before of Southampton’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Vernon. I wonder if the cats will sneak in to attend?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 24, 2017 / 5:48 pm

      I’m sure Tricks would love to, but I suspect Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon will be keeping well out of sight.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor August 25, 2017 / 2:40 am

      I always find it interesting, how the marriages worked and no one at court was allowed to wed without the Queen’s permission.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 25, 2017 / 10:38 am

      Yes! A number of her courtiers must have resented this. I think it was you who suggested a while back that with so many aristocrats who had some sort of a claim to the throne, it was her way of guarding against dangerous family alliances?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor August 25, 2017 / 9:03 pm

      Yes, I am sure that was the reason behind the strict marriage laws. If you look into Bess’ court (and any king’s court) you see everyone was some kind of relative. The royals would have to be really careful of who was allying and conceiving babies…

      Have you ever heard this — I am not sure it is true, but I was once told that FUCK originally meant ‘Fornicating Under the King’s Consent’. The consent was given to ‘safe’ couples who did not pose a threat to the crown. Hence the peasants were free to fuck — but fucking at court? Frowned upon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 29, 2017 / 10:11 am

      The origins of the word “fuck” are a mystery! My go-to source for words is the Oxford English Dictionary, which I can access online through my local library. According to the OED, “fuck” was in use well before people started using acronyms, and the origin is probably Germanic – pointing to words in Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor August 29, 2017 / 10:31 am

      Yes, I think that acronym is not true — although it does sound very funny haha! I read there was a Germanic word ‘fokken’ that meant kind of like ‘to hit’… and it evolved as slang does.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 29, 2017 / 10:47 am

      That sounds most likely. The earliest written reference in English the OED has found dates from around 1500, but they suggest it was used in speech well before that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Robyn Haynes August 24, 2017 / 4:53 pm

    Interesting stuff about betrothal customs. I agree with Tricks, the cats had it easier – or maybe just less complicated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 24, 2017 / 6:11 pm

      Less complicated, I think. I suppose our custom of “getting engaged”, which was more of a formality when I was young, descended from these betrothals? Just as the betrothal exchange of vows seems to have descended from the way people could marry in medieval times with no priest needed?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. April Munday August 24, 2017 / 7:05 pm

    I always think of Elizabeth as being hard as nails, but she probably wasn’t. Wasn’t it Cecil who brought her the news that she was queen, or am I confusing him with someone else? Either way, he was her staunch supporter and his loss after so long must have been a blow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 24, 2017 / 8:10 pm

      I don’t think he was the one that brought her the news that she was queen, but he was one of her administrators/advisers at Hatfield House while she was still a princess. When she called her first Council there, she appointed him Secretary of State. After his death it was said she shed tears at the mention of his name.


  4. chattykerry August 25, 2017 / 3:56 am

    How fascinating! I didn’t know anything about Elizabethan marriage or courtship. In Texas there is an old law (from Scotland) where live in couples are treated as married – this predates current social trends. In Scotland the law stood until European law overrode it but we still refer to the person living with the householder as the ‘Bidie In’ (to abide with) and there is definitely a sexual inference. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 25, 2017 / 10:49 am

      “Bidie in” is a great expression. It would be so helpful for people who need to clarify whether the person they’re living with is a flatmate (roommate), or someone with whom they’re sharing more than accommodation!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. colonialist August 25, 2017 / 4:16 am

    Fur None with kit did Earl right ultimately.
    De futuro undoings do seem to tie in with modern broken-off engagements.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dornahainds August 25, 2017 / 6:28 am

    To lose su h a Trusted Consult must have poor ed very difficult then as it does throughout all Time.. 🥀🥀🥀

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 25, 2017 / 11:06 am

      Yes – Queen Elizabeth was 65, and few of her old friends and supporters were still alive.


  7. Rachel McAlpine August 25, 2017 / 9:55 am

    So his name is Onix. A semi-precious name for one who may prove valuable to Tricks if only she can see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 25, 2017 / 11:09 am

      I’m sure poor Onix will prove his worth, but right now Tricks seems to be finding him just a little too precious.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine August 25, 2017 / 11:42 am

      An acquired taste no doubt.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. kidsofthe50sand60s August 27, 2017 / 9:34 am

    Wonderfully written and researched as always! I enjoy your historical facts at the end as much as the original posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 27, 2017 / 1:35 pm

      Thanks! Social historians differ about the finer details of marriage customs, but I think I’ve got the gist of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. claudiothecat August 28, 2017 / 7:04 pm

    I didn’t realise that there was an elder son Burghley. The “marriage” customs are fascinating. Call me old fashioned, but I am not enamoured of the current trend of getting married with all your children present at the ceremony. This seems to be all too prevalent these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 29, 2017 / 9:46 am

      I think Thomas Cecil also inherited old Lord Burghley’s famous fur-lined robe, which the cats liked to claim was lined with cat fur!


  10. Léa September 3, 2017 / 6:28 pm

    The purrfect way to start a Sunday morning…

    Thank you for choosing to follow one of my blogs. I hope you will continue to enjoy the posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 3, 2017 / 7:30 pm

      I’m sure I will. I’ll keep an eye on the doings of Colette and Simone, too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Léa September 4, 2017 / 5:32 am

      Wonderful! Kisses from the two divas. They have some new crinkly sacs to play with but otherwise I know they would stop what they are doing to thank you themselves. Gratitude from the human

      Liked by 1 person

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