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.”
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 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.”
“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.
The 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.