121:  Alarms and Excitations

A black, white and orange cat against a background of flames.His Harryship did not return to London after he was dishonoured by the loss of his place as General of the Horse.

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.

A thin-faced, bearded man in dark clothes, with papers and an official red, embroidered, dispatch bag beside him.
Mr Secretary – Sir Robert Cecil.  Via Wikimedia Commons.

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.

A man with a long, melancholy face, dressed all in white with a dark cloak.
James VI of Scotland, son of Mary Queen of Scots. Queen Elizabeth’s unwillingness to name him as her successor was making everyone nervous.

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.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThere’s nothing new about fake news and conspiracy theories.  Some Londoners were 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”.


28 thoughts on “121:  Alarms and Excitations

  1. larrypaulbrown January 25, 2018 / 11:02 am

    Am I the only one wondering how all this backstabbing, conspiracy, and treason could have been accomplished without the services of a TWITTER account?

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Timi Townsend January 25, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    Such Tangled Webs, and yet Here be Only Kitties and Humans… and the occasional Horse. 😛

    Liked by 2 people

  3. April Munday January 25, 2018 / 7:59 pm

    The earl has just gone up in my estimation by staying as a volunteer. It might not have been the most sensible thing to do, but it was an honourable thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 25, 2018 / 8:56 pm

      Yes. It was all such a hornets’ nest.

      Sir Charles Danvers (who wrote a very sensible letter) hoped that he might be allowed to keep his position, but also thought staying on regardless would be a good option. That would show he wasn’t just there for the glory of being a General.

      But I think he would have stayed anyway – to support Essex, and because he seems to have seen himself, first and foremost, as a soldier. In an unashamedly status-conscious and hierarchical age it was a big thing for an Earl to lose the place of General and become a captain, even though he would still have been reporting directly to Essex.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday January 26, 2018 / 1:11 am

      I’m beginning to understand that he was a very loyal man, albeit he chose the wrong man to be loyal to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 26, 2018 / 7:55 am

      Gib always had a good turn of phrase. I think he suspected Bess Russell of having designs on his Earl.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn Haynes January 26, 2018 / 12:54 pm

    It’s so nice to get back to your blog Denise. I see I

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn Haynes January 26, 2018 / 12:55 pm

    have much catching up to do. Not to speak of learning how to keep replies in check before they’re complete!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rachel McAlpine January 26, 2018 / 8:01 pm

    Never mind all the politics — plus ca change, etc. I am more worried about Trix: has she too offended, and what will become of her?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 27, 2018 / 12:48 am

      I suspect that when Tricks lacks excitement she creates her own.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine January 27, 2018 / 5:16 am

      She has a high threshold then. Or perhaps she just wants to be the centre of attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. colonialist January 27, 2018 / 10:33 am

    Good Queen Bess wasn’t that good, was she? Rather an idiot in some ways, and with a really nasty streak. Fitting as a monarch to Grey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi January 27, 2018 / 2:34 pm

      She did have a nasty streak, and it had probably calcified over the years.

      Understandable in one way, because she was a Queen at a time when women weren’t thought fit to rule, and she had to battle that prejudice in the men around her. As the historian Paul E J Hammer points out in the intro to his book Elizabeth’s Wars, her man-management style “suppressed any signs of competition for attention by female courtiers and forced her male courtiers to compete for her royal favour as if they meant to woo her. By playing them off against each other in the manner of ‘courtly love’, Elizabeth ensured [they] could not gang up on her…”

      Well and good, in a Renaissance Queen.
      Except, I’ve seen similar games played in today’s workplace by Queen Bees and King Pins who don’t have Elizabeth’s excuse. Stamp on anyone who might conceivably be a competitor and cultivate favourites that you can then play off against each other and dispose of in their turn. Not good at all.


    • colonialist January 28, 2018 / 9:09 am

      Good points. Certainly, nobody could feel entirely secure and at ease with her. Like the Red Queen in Alice, it would seem that one of her favourite phrases was, ‘Off with his head!’

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 27, 2018 / 8:47 am

      Mmm, I don’t know about that. I’d probably need to split it into two – Gib’s Memoirs and then Tricks’s. It could get complicated.


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