When Linkin and I next went to parlement, we heared a report on the old King of Spain.
Paws sayt there’d long been talk of his death, but many refused to believe it.
Now the Committy on Spain had completed their investigation.
A queen cat who was chief of the committy came forward to give the informations.
She sayt, “The King was slow in his dying. His lords had time enough to order fine funeral clothes.”
“He was so full of corruptions his servants had to crawl beneath his bed and claw holes in the mattress. This was to drain the evil humours from his sores.”
Onix rose up to say the King had lain a-bed too long. He arrkst, “Why did the King’s servants not lift and turn him?”
“Turn him where?” arrkst the committy cat. “A boil showed on his leg. After it was oped and cleansed, four more grew on his breast. The foul matter in them bred a great host of lice that were very hard to kill.”
(Applauds. But I thought those lice were more likely bred in the poetick soul of some Spanish cat. Did not my uncle sit prick-eared at the door when our Earl’s father died, then tell of a host of maggots that carried off his soul?)
Onix sayt, “All cats should take heed. We must ever be up and brisk about our business, lest we too grow such sores.”
The committy cat arrkst, “When was the King of Spain not brisk about his business? I mean the ruination of this country, and many more besides.”
“He was bit by rats!” came a call. “They give you sores.”
“Well, he’s being turned now,” came another. “On the devil’s spit.”
“Order!” called Paws.
The committy cat continued her report. Viz.
The King commanded that his coffin be brought forth. And that a dead man’s skull be set upon his cupboard, wearing his imperial crown.
All was done.
Then he arrkst that a little box be fetched. Therein lay a precious jewel that he gave to his daughter. And a piece of paper for his son, whereon was writ how to govern his kingdom.
The King told his son to have a great care and regard for his sister, who had been his looking glass and the light of his eyes.
(In other words, the favourite kit. And doubtless his son was joyed to hear it.)
Paws rose and gave thanks for the report.
“I’ve more to tell,” sayt the committy cat.
“Also in the box was a whip with little knots in it, all bloodie. The King told his kits that the blood on it was that of his father who was king before him. He beat hisself with it.”
None could credit that, but the committy cat swore ’twas true.
“The King gave word that those imprisoned for hunting could be loosed, and some that were to be hanged, pardoned.”
“For hunting what?” arrkst a cat.
“Rats,” called another. “But he was bit, and learnt the error of imprisoning us.”
Paws sayt that the next who spake out of turn would be arrkst to leave.
“Then,” sayt the committy cat, “the King gave orders for his funeral, and left this world.”
“A better place without him,” sayt Paws. “And here ends your report.”
“Not so,” sayt the committy cat. “For there’s a new King now. He hates us as his father did. The Spanish are like to come at us through Ireland, and Her Majestie fears the King of Scots may aid them.”
“Enough!” cried Paws, and bade her be gone.
The committy cat gave her evil looks, but did as she was told.
Linkin (with Paws’ permission) arrkst, rhetorickal, “What says the Earl of Essex? Crush Spain, and Ireland will not trouble us.”
Some gave him applauds. Others cried that Essex thought of nowt but war and his own advancement.
Paws sayt, lofty, “What Essex thinks matters not. I hear on good authority that he shall be sent to subdue the Irishes.”
Then she arrkst Linkin to convoke a committy on Ireland. He was well pleased.
I warned Linkin that all his committy sittings would give him sores on his bum.
There’d been a rumour of his death almost a year earlier, so I’m not surprised the cats remained sceptical until they’d heard a satisfactory account of his last days.
Philip had been a constant presence in Queen Elizabeth’s life: first, her brother-in-law and king for the duration of his marriage to her half-sister Queen Mary I, then her suitor, and finally her enemy. His death must have been another sharp reminder of her vanishing world.