Linkin sayt I’d grown hawtie and uppish at Essex House. And that I stunk worse than Onix.
Sure, he was envious.
My new scents made our mistress most curious. She oft lifted me in her arms to nose my fur. She sayt I’d been among ladies who used sweet perfumes. But she could not guess where.
I did not tell her.
Linkin tried to take me down a peg.
He sayt, “You might believe that you and all at Essex House are the world’s wide wonder, but I know different. Look to your safety. Plats are being hatcht against your fine friends, even as they hatch their own.”
Then he fell to boasting of all the newes he’d heard of late.
He sayt, “Queen Puss is much offended by the soldiers coming hither from Ireland. They’re idle rogues all sworn to Essex, and run loose about this citie drinking to his health and his enemies’ damnation. Then they can scarce pay for their booze.”
And, “Before Essex agreed the truce with Tire-Own [Tyrone], chief of all the rebels, he had private speech with him. What did Essex promise that arch-traytor?”
And, “Tire-Own is a saucie knave that Queen Puss raised from blacksmith’s son to Earl. He sent her a list of conditions that would leave her Queen of Ireland in nowt but name.
And, “Were his demands granted, he’d chase all good protestants out of Ireland. The Spanish would help him do it.”
And, “Essex is not sick. He’s fayning [feigning], so as to evade justice.”
“Justice, Master Law Cat?” arrkst I. “What proofs have you of his treachery?”
Linkin looked shamed. “I did not say I believed all this talk. I’m warning you, that’s all.”
“Well,” sayt I, “it’s true that Essex made our Earl a General, and bestowed knighthoods on men he could not otherwise reward. Nor can any deny that he returned for discourse with Queen Puss without her say so. Worser yet, he left both the rule of Ireland and our army in the hands of loyal men. What villainy!”
Linkin sayt, “With such a spirit as Essex has, and so great an army as he took to Ireland, he might have passed clean through Spain.”
“True,” sayt I. “For the Spanish fight like men. The Irishes are suttle, and fight like us cats.”
Linkin gave me sour looks, for that was the verie argument he’d have used to another cat.
“And what of Spain?” I arrkst. “I hear tell that Mr Secretary [Sir Robert Cecil] is fire-hot to make peace with that nation, even though their new King hates us.”
Linkin sayt, “I believe the talks of peace will not be with him, but with his sister. But there’s no truth in the rumour that Mr Secretary hopes to see the old King of Spain’s daughter take the place of Queen Puss.”
That made me merry. I’d learnt from soldiers’ talk at Essex House that the Irishes call wine the King of Spain’s daughter.
“Tragedie!” sang I. “Her goodly cask would better grace the throne than Queen Puss’s carcass. And think how merry the Westminster parlement might be if all the lords and gentlemen could enjoy her!”
And so joyed was I by my own wit I ran around the hall like a mad thing.
Then, after Linkin had settled himself by the fire, I cried, “I’ll show you how the Irish fight!” and leapt on him from behind.
The mistress called me a little stirrer, and cast me out the door.
There’s no justice in this world.
But was I troubled?
No. I was full of excitations.
The Earl of Essex had not committed any crime, and he’d admitted he’d made mistakes. He was also on the verge of a complete mental and physical breakdown. It was becoming difficult to justify keeping him under house arrest – and that not even in his own house. Some of his fellow Privy Councillors may have favoured releasing him, but Queen Elizabeth felt some form of punishment was necessary.
Hugh O’Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone (c.1550-1616) was a remarkable man. The earldom of Tyrone had been created by Henry VIII, and when Hugh was born his father Matthew was heir to it. Other O’Neills had different ideas, and put it about that Matthew was the illegitimate son of a blacksmith.
Accounts of his life vary; this one (linked) dates from the 1870s. The first Essex mentioned in it is Walter Devereux, the Earl of Essex’s father.
In the 1550s the young Hugh may have spent some time in the Dublin household of Sir Henry Sidney (later a Lord Deputy of Ireland). Later, presumably as a result of O’Neill rivalries, he became a supporter of Walter Devereux.
However, his growing power in Ulster and the fact that he began corresponding with both Spain and Scotland made the English uneasy, to put it mildly. This eventually brought him into conflict with the Crown, and open rebellion. His list of conditions for peace, upon which Sir Robert Cecil scrawled “Ewtopia”, would, if met, have made Ireland a self-governing, Roman Catholic state under the Queen’s Viceroy.