Many here believed he would. But no. Our Earl chose to remain in Ireland and serve as a voluntary captain.
Linkin sayt, “Her Majestie still seeks to disgrace him for marrying Puss Fur-None [Bess Vernon]. Well, he’s given proof that there was none more fit than he to be the General of Horse. Essex will not put another in his place, but hold it himself.”
Next, we heard Her Majestie was nothing pleased with Essex. Some whispered that she’d sayt she did not allow him one thousand pounds a day merely to go on progress. He’d made two more journeys out of Dublin to quell the rebels thereabouts.
Linkin sayt that now it was harvest time, he’d go north to Ulcer [Ulster] to have at the rebels there.
Then we heard a rumour that Mr Secretary [Sir Robert Cecil] might not be over-hastie in sending the horses and all else that Essex required.
The other newes we heard was that the Spanish were coming. Some sayt the King of Scots was too.
I arrkst, “Why would King James bring soldiers here? When Queen Puss dies this country shall be his to rule.”
“Many hope so,” sayt Linkin. “The Earl of Essex, his sister, and perhaps our Earl too have all sent assurances of loyalty to King James. In secret, because Queen Puss would call it treason. But who will rule King James? Sir Rabbit [Robert] or Essex? That’s the question.”
I knew nowt of King James, but I wasn’t afeard of the Spanish. They’d been coming since before my mother and my uncle first oped their eyes.
But what a turmoil the citie was in! You would have thought the Spanish were at the river’s mouth.
Ships making readie to defend us. Talk of sinking hulks in the river so that none might sail up it. Noblemen and gentlemen preparing their horses and arms, our soldiers in the Low Countries sent for, chains across the streets – we never saw the like.
The cats from the Spain Committy were moved to come across the rooves calling, “False newes”. They swore the Spanish would not attack us. They sayt Mr Secretary and others had long been looking to make peace with Spain. But that was a secret.
So who spread this false newes? And for why?
Picker and Stealer, who spent much time among the vulgar sort, sayt that many believed there was some great mysterie behind these alarms and armings.
’Twas whispered that all was done to show Some who were absent that Others could gather and lead forces as well as they.
Certes, that Some was the Earl of Essex.
The one of note who did come to London was Lord Grey, in a huff of pride because he did not get the place of General of the Horse.
He joined with the enemies of Essex and our Earl. And what an enemie Lord Grey showed hisself to be!
But not before the mistress of our household showed herself to be an enemie to me.
There’s nothing new about fake news and conspiracy theories. Though it’s odd Londoners should have been so quick to suspect that the Spanish panic of August 1599 was a military exercise to impress the Earl of Essex.
In July 1599 Essex, sick and stressed, had reacted badly to the letter from the Privy Council instructing him to dismiss Southampton. In his next report on the situation in Ireland, he launched into a tirade deploring the fact that Southampton was still being punished for his marriage. “Was it treason…to marry my poor kinswoman?”
Essex also pointed out that he already had trouble retaining his voluntary gentlemen-soldiers. Once they saw how Southampton was treated they’d be even more likely to pack up and go home.
A good example of how not to communicate with a Queen.
Queen Elizabeth sent back a blistering response that strikes me as being a good example of how not to write to your Viceroy. She was particularly annoyed by the inference (as she interpreted it) that the volunteers were there to serve Essex, not her.
After criticising everything Essex had done she turned her attention to Southampton, describing him as one “whose counsel can be of little, and experience of less use.” Interestingly, the Calendar of State Papers relating to Ireland (April 1599 – February 1600) records a wording alteration of “whose experience can be of no great use” by Sir Robert Cecil.
Among the letters Southampton received was one from Sir Charles Danvers which contained some frank advice.
Sir Charles suggested that Southampton should write to the Queen himself, in a style “no less fit for this time than contrary to your disposition, it being apparent that Her Majestie’s ill conceit [opinion] is as much grounded upon the sternness of your carriage as upon the foundation of any other offence.”
In other words, Southampton should make the effort to ingratiate himself with the Queen, even though it wasn’t in his nature to do so. Then she might like him better.
Was Tricks’ Uncle Gib right four years’ earlier when he wrote that the Earl would never forgive the Queen for snubbing him when he went to hand her to her horse?
Sir Charles also included a note that Bess Russell had asked to be remembered to the Earl. Gib wouldn’t have liked that. He called Bess Russell and her friend Bess Brydges “saucie strumpets”.