116: The Bloodie Banquet

A cat standing on a window sill surveys a table laden with foodstuffs, while a greyhound - also interested in the food, looks up suspiciously.
The makings of a banquet.
From a painting by Franz Snyders.

Next came a tale from Linkin.  One he’d not wished to tell.  

I told him he’d get no more help in his Irish investigations if he did not oblige me with this.

He sayt he could not swear to the truth of it.

“Who troubles with truth at a Revel?” sayt I.

So Linkin spake well.

“Friends,”  he sayt.  “If you have ears, prepare to prick them now. 

“I’ll tell of a deed so foul you’ll ne’er take meat from any paw but your own.  Else you may be lured to your destruction.”

All screeched in feigned fear.

“The year my lord of Southampton first oped his eyes [1573], Her Majestie sayt the Earl of Essex could go to Ireland.  This Earl was not the Essex we know and love, but his father.

“I shall call him Wat Devilry.  That’s like enough unto the name he had before he was called Essex.  He was a good soldier, but then he sought reputation and riches by chasing the Irishes from their rightful places.

A handsome young man wearing decorated field armour. In the left-hand corner of the portrait is the motto of Knights of the Garter, surmounted by an Earl's coronet.
Wat Devilry, better known as Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex.
In April 1572 he was made a Knight of the Garter, and in May created Earl of Essex.  This portrait by an unknown artist celebrates both events.

“First, he hoped to make the Irishes fight among theirselves and against the Scots that dwell there.  Two things they’re never loathe to do.

“But, as we cats know, to fight each other to prove our valour is one thing.  To fight at the behest of our enemies is quite another.

“The Irishes aren’t fool.  They knew Wat Devilry was not the Lord Deputie of Ireland.  Queen Puss [Bess] had made him governor of Ulcer [Ulster].  Nothing more and nothing less.  And what need had the Ulcer men of a governor?  They would not do Wat’s bidding.  They sent him a gift of cows, then stole them away.

“Wat Devilry waxed wearie.  ’Twas in the dark of winter that he conceived his bright idea.  He offered a good dinner to the Irish lord whose lands and cows he swore were his.

“This Irish lord brought with him his wife and his friends.  They came with cleanlie faces, and hope in their hearts.

“I know not what vittles were served forth, but there was plenty.  Fancy, if you can, the flavours of the fish market, and the scents of a score of cookshops.  Pies and pasties, meats baked and broyled, sweet sauces and good gravies!

“And tipple, too.  Beer and wine and uskwibow.  Did Wat’s men drink deep to readie theirselves for what was to come?  Or were they ’stemious, so their sword arms might be the stronger?

“The Irishes, fearing nowt, ate and drank their fill.  Then Wat Devilry gave the word.

“His men slew them all, save the lord, his wife, and his brother.  They were taken to be hanged for treason, and cut into collops for all to admire.”

Some cats were so mazed by this tale they bristled up.  Others wauled so loud I feared they’d wake our household.

“May we be assured,” called Picker, with virtuous mien, “that Wat Devilry’s son will not do the like in Ireland?”

A fair-skinned young man with medium-length dark wavy hair and a light-brown spade-shaped beard.
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, whom Linkin so admires.

“Upon my life,” swore Linkin, “Lord Essex would sooner slay hisself.  He will beat his foe in the field.”

“Or not at all,” sayt Picker.

Stealer arrkst, “Did you not say in our parlement that the Irish don’t fight in the fields?  But in their bogs and woods?”

“By field,” sayt Linkin, “I mean the field of battle, not the field where housewives dry the linen.”

Then he added, “Wat Devilry did not prosper.  Some say the Queen Cat of Heaven turned his bowels to blood.  Others that Lord Lester [Leicester] poysoned him.  May all such false folk perish!”

He stepped from the centre of our circle, to great applauds.

Then Picker and Stealer sayt they’d brought newes for all to hear.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorLinkin tells a dramatic tale, but the gist of it seems true.  Accounts differ, as atrocity accounts do. 

However, English and Irish sources usually agree that in November 1574 Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, and Sir Brian mac Phelim O’Neill met for a conference and feast in Belfast, where about 200 of Sir Brian’s retainers were slaughtered and he was arrested for treason.  This was followed by the judicial murder of Sir Brian, his wife Anne, and his brother in Dublin.

Brian mac Phelim O’Neill, lord of Clandeboye – a territory disputed among the O’Neills themselves – had formed a mutually beneficial alliance with Sir William Piers, who held Carrickfergus as an English garrison.  Brian was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and seemed prepared to accommodate English ambition – up to a point.  That point being the takeover of Clandeboye.

Part of a map of Ireland c1570, showing Ulster and the O’Neill territory of Clandeboye in the north-east.  The map is from Richard Bagwell’s “Ireland under the Tudors” (1885) via Wikimedia Commons.

Walter Devereux’ grand design was to colonise eastern Ulster and create a barrier between the wild Irish and the equally wild Scots coming in from the Hebrides.  Queen Elizabeth agreed to back him, and he mortgaged a third of his properties to her for the enormous sum of £10,000.  She also agreed to cover half the cost of his troops.

He’d underestimated woefully.  The difficulty of obtaining supplies, the ever-shifting local alliances, the Irish guerrilla-style warfare, disease, desertions…  His debts escalated; his judgement deteriorated.

Initially, O’Neill had joined with other local leaders to offer resistance.  Then he seemed prepared for reconciliation…

Walter Devereux died at the age of 36 in Dublin in September 1576, probably of dysentery, though he suspected poison.  A young woman who’d drunk from the same cup as he died too, and his boy (attendant) became ill.

In September 1578 his widow Lettice Knollys married the Queen’s long-term favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  Queen Elizabeth never forgave Lettice for that crime.


17 thoughts on “116: The Bloodie Banquet

  1. leggypeggy December 7, 2017 / 6:14 pm

    Rather appropriate that Wat Devilry did not prosper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 7, 2017 / 9:00 pm

      It was. It was foolhardy mission he went on, and it led only to ruin.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Valentor December 7, 2017 / 6:23 pm

    Interesting story! Seems both Devereux were impulsive hot-heads that got themselves in big trouble with Queen Puss!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 7, 2017 / 9:03 pm

      I don’t think Queen Puss was troubled by Walter Devereux’ behaviour, but the fact that he died owing her thousands would have upset her. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi December 7, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      It really was what we call a hospital pass. I’m surprised that anyone wanted to go there, and those who survived their tours of duty seem to have been happy to get home.


    • April Munday December 7, 2017 / 10:16 pm

      They must either have known they were going (more or less) to their doom, or have had supreme self-confidence and the belief that they were the one who was going to succeed where others had failed.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 8, 2017 / 9:10 am

      Walter Devereux set off with self-confidence, but he appears to have had little idea of what he was headed for. I wonder how much his fate influenced his son’s behaviour there.
      Robert Devereux may have announced that he would beat the Earl of Tyrone in the field, but privately he was much less sanguine.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. roshendalal December 7, 2017 / 8:22 pm

    history has so many horror stories–cats are much better than people!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. dornahainds December 8, 2017 / 4:01 am

    Talk about Cautionary Tales! Aye! 😎😎😎😎😎

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 8, 2017 / 9:26 am

      It sounds more like something we’d see on Game of Thrones.


    • dornahainds December 9, 2017 / 2:27 am

      Ah! Yes! I had not seen the setup coming -at all. Those poor unsuspecting dinner guests. (@–>–)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rachel McAlpine December 8, 2017 / 8:58 am

    No sign of bias in this well researched account, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 8, 2017 / 9:51 am

      The pro-Irish and pro-Essex Linkin treads a fine line, something cats are supremely well-suited for.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine December 8, 2017 / 11:37 am

      He he.

      Liked by 1 person

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