104:  My First Parlement

What a strange thing it was!

When Paws called for order, a fierce stone-cat [tom-cat] leapt onto the wall to serve as our watch.  Though whether he were there to keep us in or others out I knew not.

Another cat rose and arrkst the Queen Cat of Heaven to look with favour on our parlement.

Then Paws sayt, “Are there new members here?”  (Though I swear she saw us enter.)

A black and white cat posed against a wooden bench with copper, brass and eathernware vessels and a pile of cinnamon quills.
Onix, who has employment in an apothecary’s shop.

Onix begged permission to speak.  He sayt he wished to present two that were in the service of the Earl of Southampton.

That caused a stir.  Linkin and I were called to show ourselves.

Paws arrkst who was the member for our household.

I knew not what she meant by that, but Linkin sayt he was.  And that I lodged with him against our Earl’s return from France.

“Which,” added Linkin, “our Earl says he cannot do, because he lacks for money.”

That set all screeching.  “An earl with no money?” called some.

“Come he must, if Her Majestie commands it,” sayt Paws. “And take his punishment like a lord.  His cat has no place of her own, and his wife and her cousin the Earl of Essex must bear all Her Majestie’s wrath.”

Some cats called, “Shame!”

Then Linkin was arrkst to give an account of hisself.

Linkin, Law-Cat and Member of Parlement.

He boasted so well of his learning that he was welcomed by other law-cats, and invited to sit on their committy.

I was left at the back with the likes of Picker and Stealer.

Then came the reports, as ordered by Paws.  Most tedious, save when a cat told of the funeral of old Lord Purrlie [Burghley].

She sayt that the Earl of Essex had come from his hiding place in the country, and wore the sorriest face of all.

“Sorry for hisself, most like,” she added.  “He’ll get nowt by Lord Purrlie’s death.  All the good places old Purrlie held are taken by Sir Rabbit [Sir Robert Cecil] and his friends.”

Another arrkst if it were true that Essex was in hiding because Her Majestie had struck him a blow, and he’d wauled most fierce at her.

I pricked my ears, for I knew nowt of that.

But Paws sayt that we’d had no report of any fight, and our parlement was not for gossips’ talk nor slander.

I could scarce keep from yawning.

Then Paws invited talk of Ireland, where ’twas said that the Irishes had attacked the English mightily, and won a glorious victory.

Some cats sayt that if the English were taking their places, the Irishes did well to chase them out.

A dark-haired young man with a spade-shaped beard, He's wearing a glossy white satin doublet.
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.

Linkin (getting the nod from Paws) sayt, “But if Her Majestie wishes to punish the Irishes, who can she send against them but the Earl of Essex?”

That brought applauds.

“Certes,” sayt Paws, “many hope Essex will return to Her Majestie’s household, but he lies sick a-bed in his house beyond the citie.”

“Sick of old Queen Puss,” sayt I, not soft enough.  Picker and Stealer turned to give me looks.

Then Picker or Stealer – I knew not which – sought to speak.

I feared she meant to have me chased off, and readied myself for flight.

Instead she sayt, “I slander none, but I hear Essex has sayt that even princes can err, and wrong their subjects.  And that no earthly power is infinite.  Can such wild words be true?  Or has fever enflamed his brain?”

Oh, that was suttle.

“I fear,” sayt Linkin (having the nod again) “that the most noble and heroick Essex has stepped forth upon a slender branch.  We must pray it bears his weight, lest he should fall and look fool.”

That brought great applauds.

How well Linkin could play at politicks.  And Picker and Stealer too.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe fight between Queen Elizabeth and Essex occurred at a meeting on 30 June or 1 July 1598.  Sir Robert Cecil and the Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, were also there, and the Clerk of the Signet.

In the absence of a record by anyone present, modern historians rely on the brief account written some years later by William Camden (1551-1623) in his history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  Camden calls it a “sharp dissention”.

Queen Elizabeth, from the first volume of Camden’s Annales (1625 edition).

The Lord Deputy of Ireland had recently died, and there was an argument (apparently driven by rivalry between Essex and Sir Robert Cecil) over who should replace him.

As Camden tells it, Queen Elizabeth dismissed Essex’s suggestion and he turned his back on her.  She gave him “a cuff on the ear and bade him be gone…”.  He placed his hand on his sword hilt.  The Lord Admiral stepped between them.

Essex announced that he couldn’t swallow such treatment, nor would he have taken it from King Henry VIII – Elizabeth’s father, with whom she liked to be compared.

He left the Court and went to a house he owned at Wanstead (now part of greater London).  He remained there throughout July and August resisting his friends’ and allies’ advice to make peace with the Queen, and appearing only at Lord Burghley’s funeral on 30 August.

Essex was prone to severe bouts of depression, but after Lord Burghley’s funeral he became dangerously ill.  He was then forgiven by the Queen.

The story of the “dissention” has probably grown in the telling.  Essex was later reported to have also said that the Queen’s conditions (disposition) were as crooked as her carcass – or words to that effect.  He may well have made this remark at some later stage, but I find it hard to believe that he would have said it in her hearing.


17 thoughts on “104:  My First Parlement

  1. April Munday September 14, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    I find it hard to believe that Essex would have turned his back on Henry VIII. At certain points in the king’s life, it would surely have been suicidal.

    On another matter entirely, Upstart Crow is back. It’s still funny, but a lot more contemporary references which won’t make as much sense if you’re not living here now. The young earl makes an appearance in the final one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 14, 2017 / 6:56 pm

      I don’t think Essex would have dared turn his back on Henry, either. But Essex may have felt that Henry would have listened to him more than Elizabeth did.

      I look forward to the next series of Upstart Crow. The young Earl (I think) appeared briefly in the series I saw. A long-haired and moustached young man, who berated Shakespeare for saying (in a sonnet) that he looked like a woman.


    • April Munday September 14, 2017 / 7:33 pm

      Yes, he was in the last series. He has a bit more to say this time. The hair doesn’t look out of place, since the Kit Marlowe character has a lot of hair as well, although most of his goes out sideways. Thomas Morley also makes an appearance. I’ll never be able to listen to his songs in the same way again.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. colonialist September 14, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    So Liz was inclined to slosh her courtiers, was she? I can’t imagine the present version doing that. It would not be ladylike.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 14, 2017 / 10:57 pm

      Elizabeth I was given to hitting her female attendants, but this is the only instance I know of her whacking an Earl. The image of Elizabeth II attempting to deck an uppity lord appeared before me, too, but it somehow didn’t seem right. But who knows what goes on in Buckingham Palace?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel McAlpine September 15, 2017 / 10:04 am

    Thanks for letting us eavesdrop on the Parlement of Cats. Lessons abound for those who would hear.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 15, 2017 / 10:36 am

      They do indeed. I suspect this seemingly well-regulated parlement may be even more subversive than the wicked cats of Titchfield.


  4. claudiothecat September 16, 2017 / 12:00 am

    “He boasted so well of his learning that he was welcomed by other law-cats, and invited to sit on their committy.” You have very deftly and succinctly characterised the ways of a certain sector of the legal fraternity. Linkin is a perfect example. Here’s hoping that Tricks will perfect her own style to penetrate the London set. Am looking forward to learning more about Paws. Do you have a picture?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 16, 2017 / 10:34 am

      Alas, no authenticated portrait of Paws has come to light as yet. I suspect the position of St Paul’s Cat may have been a hereditary one, and the name was handed down the generations.


  5. Robyn Haynes September 16, 2017 / 3:26 pm

    I was intrigued by the way the Queen gave Essex “a cuff on the ear and bade him be gone…”. Rightly you ask what we know of goings on behind closed doors – only what we know from Twitter or intercepted mobile phone calls nowadays. And that lets the royals down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 16, 2017 / 6:46 pm

      Yes! I think William Camden probably got his information from reliable sources, because he probably knew Essex, and certainly knew Henry Cuffe – a classical scholar from Oxford University who left the academic life to work for Essex. The thing that really surprises me is how some modern writers have embroidered the tale, and describe Essex as almost drawing his sword on the Queen. Whereas his placing his hand on his sword hilt was probably no more than a soldier’s instinctive response to a blow from behind.

      Even so, it was a dangerous thing to do – but Elizabeth’s willingness to forgive him suggests she didn’t take it seriously.


  6. chattykerry September 17, 2017 / 1:57 am

    That dissention between the Queen and Essex was quite something. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall or a cat in the room.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Chris White September 18, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    I felt very nervous for them in that place. So entertaining, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 19, 2017 / 12:34 am

      I’m not surprised. For those accustomed to rubbing shoulders with the great or, in the case of cats, rubbing against the legs of, London was a very risky place to be.


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