125:  Of Earls and Ireland

I marvel now that when Linkin told me the Earl of Essex had come from Ireland I cried, “Forget him!  We must strike at that knave Snakes-Purr who stole my uncle’s verses.”

A woman whose face is hidden by her long hair turns a wheel with various animals on it; a monkey, dogs, a large spotted cat, and a donkey. Set against the background of a moon with human facial features.
The Moon and Fortune. By an unknown artist, late 15th century.

I did not yet know how high Fortune would raise me on her wheel, even as she cast so many down.

Linkin sought to smooth me.  “Sure,” sayt he, “Picker and Stealer know all the thieves’ haunts in this town.  We’ll beg them to seek him out.

“But first, hear my newes.  We may have peace in Ireland!

“I heared the master talking private with a gentleman in our yard.  I crept close.

“The gentleman has friends in Westminster who glimpsed Essex there this verie morn.  Essex and a few men took a boat across the river and made off with some horses that were waiting for the ferry.”

“What?” I cried.  “They prigged some prancers?” (I learnt thieves’ talk from Picker and Stealer.)

Linkin sayt, “When the Earl Marshall of England takes horses, it’s not called stealing.  Doubtless he rides to None-Such Palace where Queen Puss is lodged.”

“Is our Earl with him?” I arrkst.

“Not now,” sayt Linkin.  “But it’s rumoured that he and Sir Harry Daffers [Danvers] are here too.  And that our Earl has come to hear if there’ll be an end to fighting in Ireland, and if so he’ll seek another war.

Sir Harry (Henry) Danvers (1573-1644).
The scar beside his left eye is probably from the wound received in Ireland.

“Sir Harry Daffers has a grievous wound in his head, and has come for remedies.  They rode post-haste with Essex through the night.”

“Then,” sayt I, still ill-humoured, “our Earl must be fire-hot to find a new war, and Sir Harry Daffers to find a doctor.”

Linkin let that pass.

He sayt, “The master’s friend spake ill of noble Essex, saying he was crazed by envy and ambition, or by Ireland itself – he knew not which. 

“Our master told him that rightly is Ireland called our graveyard.  Many of our soldiers sicken there and die.

“The voluntarie gentlemen leave daily.  Irishes that were thought loyal join the rebels.  New men sent to Ireland are of no use, and not worth the poor clothing they’re given.  Others go in great fear of the charms and witchcrafts of the Irishry.

 “And all the while it rains.  The lords, colonels, and some others in the army writ to say a march north to Ulcer [Ulster] where the rebels are in strength should not be attempted at this time of year.  And Queen Puss arrkst if there’s any time of year when owt can be done.  For she swears they’ve done nowt yet.

“So Essex went north, but the rebels would not meet him in the field.  

“All to the good (sayt our master) for he had with him scarce 4,000 men against twice as many rebels.  And they’re not all bare-arsed savages, as many here believe, but proper soldiers.  Well trained and armed. 

“The chief rebel called for a parley.  He offered his submission to Her Majestie, provided that he may have freedom of conscience – that is, be a Catlick – and he and his followers retain the lands that are theirs.

“So a truce was agreed.  The master believes that Essex is in haste to justify hisself to the Queen, for she will not be pleased.”

A close-up of a ginger and white cat meowing.

“Did I not say Ireland would be the ruination of him?” added  Linkin.  “The truest words I ever spake.”

“Be that as it may, Queen Puss is past all pleasing by Essex,” sayt I.

They proved to be the truest words I ever spake.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Earl of Essex and his little group left Ireland in early October (24 September by the Julian calendar, still used in England).  They had an easy crossing of the Irish Sea, and rode post-haste (i.e. changing horses every 10 miles or so) to London, completing the journey in about three days.  Early the next morning Essex and a few companions commandeered some horses waiting by the horse ferry at Lambeth to ride the remaining thirteen or so miles to Nonsuch Palace.

Essex wanted to state his case for the truce in person, because he was convinced that his enemies, led by Sir Robert Cecil in cahoots with Sir Walter Ralegh, were doing their best to undermine him.  Queen Elizabeth’s caustic letters to him wouldn’t have helped.

The only affordable way to subdue Ireland was by a scorched-earth policy that starved the rebels into submission, as suggested by the poet Edmund Spenser, but that may not have been Essex’s style.



20 thoughts on “125:  Of Earls and Ireland

  1. April Munday February 22, 2018 / 2:54 am

    It’s not terribly relevant, but I came across a great quote about Fortune recently. “If she were constant and behaved reasonably, so that she was just and true to everyone, she would not be Fortune.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave Ply February 22, 2018 / 4:39 pm

    If cats seem a little mysterious at times maybe it’s because they really can see the future…

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 22, 2018 / 5:04 pm

      They certainly make it their business to know stuff. I’m constantly surprised be seeing strange little faces peering in my windows or through the glass panes in the back door.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. chattykerry February 25, 2018 / 9:21 am

    I am curious as to why there were so many deaths of soldiers in Ireland – was it just general battle wounds or disease?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 25, 2018 / 10:09 am

      Disease – it used to be a much bigger killer than enemy action, even in the days when a comparatively slight wound could become infected and prove fatal. Dysentery seems to have been a particular problem in Ireland.

      I’m not sure if typhus was so much of a problem on that campaign, but it used to be a major killer in armies and navies, and easily spread by body lice.

      Liked by 1 person

    • chattykerry February 25, 2018 / 10:29 am

      Fascinating – thank you! It was the same in the Civil War here. My great great grandfather was a medic on the Confederate side. His grandmother was a native healer and her knowledge helped him become a celebrated doctor. How awful to be a medic in wartime?

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 25, 2018 / 11:01 am

      I hadn’t thought about disease being rife in the Civil War camps, but it would have been. Soldiers returning from war often brought illnesses with them, too.

      Being a medic would have probably been as high risk as being a soldier.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Robyn Haynes February 25, 2018 / 10:43 am

    Another interesting history lesson, thanks Denise. I can’t imagine how utterly miserable it would have been for the soldiers. I enjoy the cats’ vocabulary, especially that of Trix which is quite colourful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 25, 2018 / 11:36 am

      The ordinary soldiers must have had an abysmal time. The gentlemen volunteers who paid their own way, and were likely to be rewarded by Essex with a knighthood, could leave when things got too much for them, but the others didn’t have that choice.

      England didn’t have a standing army, so the men sent from there would have been mustered from towns and villages. Some were able to bribe their way out before they left the country, but for others this wouldn’t have been possible. Few would have been able to read or write, and even if they could I doubt that they could have sent a message home. There must have been many families without a clue how they were faring, or whether or not they were still alive.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes February 25, 2018 / 11:44 am

      So they were conscripted or coerced?With no choice but to go?


    • toutparmoi February 25, 2018 / 12:58 pm

      Yes. If you scroll down the References and More Reading page to the section on the Earl of Essex, there’s a link to an interesting article in the Irish Times where the Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro quotes some figures re the numbers involved. (Though I disagree with Shapiro’s view of Hugh O’Neill as a better military tactician than Essex was; O’Neill had other advantages, including the fact that he was on home ground.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes February 25, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      Denise, your knowledge on this subject is prodigious. My research usually takes me to other areas since it’s not an area I have studied, but I’m grateful to have been introduced to this history in such an interesting way. Thanks for pointing the way to further reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi February 25, 2018 / 2:06 pm

      Robyn, you’re way too kind. It’s amazing what’s available on the internet nowadays, particularly in the way of editions of material from the period.


  5. Timi Townsend March 9, 2018 / 5:19 pm

    I do love that Linkin–he is such a character. It always amazes me how much cats do know of our human doings! Harry Danvers’ scar looks atrocious! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 9, 2018 / 6:33 pm

      Cats are great little eavesdroppers, I think.

      Yes, poor Harry’s scar is shocking. I’ve seen a portrait of him when he was much older, and it’s still very obvious. The scar might be more the result of the treatments he received than the wound itself.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend March 9, 2018 / 6:36 pm

      I can believe that! Medicine was so barbaric then. Well, it often still is! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 9, 2018 / 6:42 pm

      Harry Danvers beard makes him look rather grim. I think he’d be quite handsome without it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend March 9, 2018 / 7:00 pm

      You also have to factor in both the painter’s abilities as well as his attitude toward the subject of the portrait.

      Liked by 1 person

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