As winter drew nigh, I passed many happy hours in Essex House.
Great folks have more than one house. Why should not we cats?
So many ladies and gentlemen called at Essex House it were easy to slip in and out among the legs and petticoats.
There were cats and dogs there, too. All ears were pricked for what Her Majestie might command for their lord.
I told them I was in the honourable service of my lord of Southampton.
They warned me to take heed of what I sayt and to whom, for our enemies were everywhere.
My lord and Puss Fur-None had their own chambers in that house. I marvelled that my lord should have so many houses, yet needs must lodge there.
Sure, Puss Fur-None brought little to him but herself when they was wed.
My lord had forgot I’d dwelt in Titchfield once. He arrkst me where I’d sprung from, and scratched my neck most civil.
He sayt I had a fine white ruff, and that I was well-fed. Which I was, and ever more will be.
What things I heared in that house! Viz:
Essex was ill, troubled by the Irish looseness [dysentery]. Troubled by the Queen Puss looseness, more like.
Old Lady Walsing-Em had begged the Queen that Essex might write to her daughter the Lady Essex, new delivered of a she-brat. Queen Puss was in no haste to grant that favour.
Onlie one lady at Court stood firm for Essex, and she endured much from Queen Puss. May her name be praised! But I, without a tablet [notebook] on which to set her name down, have clean forgot it. This lady had served the Queen for many years and durst say more than most. And she dressed all in black, that others might know her thoughts.
Black is a colour of grief for men and women. (Their ways are strange.)
There was politick talk in Essex House, which the Pretty Penny loved as much as our mistress did. Though some say that’s not seemly in a woman.
But, as all know, the Pretty Penny has two husbands alive. That’s not seemly, neither. In a woman.
Many a queen cat would think shame to have onlie two. And we may be as politick as we choose.
Soldier-friends came to visit. They’d returned from Ireland, unwilling to remain without Essex. I learnt little from them that I did not know.
Then word of all the comings and goings at Essex House reached Queen Puss who’d left None-such and sat a-seething at White-Hall up the river.
To quiet things, Pretty Penny sayt she would go into the country for a few days. Puss Fur-None sayt she would go with her.
My Earl and I wished to stay in the citie. I returned to my own house, and he found other lodgings. (Scabface, who kept the river wall, told me that his mother, the old Countess, dwelt nigh to the house where Lord Essex was confined.)
Scabface sayt he’d heard my lord of Southampton was doing nowt but go to plays. I knew my lord had been whispering with Sir Harry Daffers [Danvers] about what they might do if Essex were not soon freed. They would free him theirselves and help him flee the country!
I sayt nowt of this to Scabface.
Instead, I sayt I was joyed to hear my lord was going to plays. I hoped he’d learnt what a thief that player Snakes-Purr was.
In the 1590s the impecunious Earl of Southampton’s properties all seem to have been leased out. According to the letter-writer Rowland Whyte, the Earl and his wife Bess Vernon had a “house” (apartment) in Essex House for themselves and their “family” – which would include their servants.
The Old Lady Walsing-Em Tricks refers to is Ursula St-Barbe, the widow of Sir Francis Walsingham who’d been one of Queen Elizabeth’s hardest-working and most capable administrators.
In October 1599, Rowland Whyte observed that the Earl of Southampton was going to see plays every day with the Earl of Rutland.
Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland, had also been a ward in Lord Burghley’s household. In 1599 Southampton turned 26 and Rutland 23. Earlier that year, Rutland had married Elizabeth Sidney, the Earl of Essex’s stepdaughter. He then followed Essex to Ireland without the Queen’s permission. He was ordered home, and narrowly escaped imprisonment. With Essex in disgrace, both Earls were at a loose end. The playhouses may also have been places where you could engage in whisperings without arousing suspicion.