136:  An Attempt to Murder Our Earl

Yes.  That were what our world had come to.

The attack was the doing of Lord Grey, whom we’d thought a mere hornet.  He now showed hisself to be a mad dog.   And the attack did not happen oversea, but here.

Scabface – he that keeps the river wall by Essex House and holds the lands thereabouts as his manor – saw it with his own eyes.

A light coloured cat with a fierce eye and a scarred nose.

And I heard talk of it at Essex House where the Earl of Essex was a free man even though he’d lost all his places and his payment. 

He could not go to the Court, but he could entertain his friends, and we were many.  I shall write more of that anon.

This is how Lord Grey’s attack came about.

As all know, our Earl saw he could do nowt to please Queen Puss in Ireland.  He went to the war in the Low Countries.  Lord Grey, who hated him, was alreadie there. 

Lord Grey and our Earl were commanded to be peaceable together.   Queen Puss disliked private fights.  (I’ll say nowt of all the blows she struck her poor maids.)

Head and shoulders of the Earl of Southampton
Our Earl

Our Earl offered to fight Lord Grey as a matter of honour, because Lord Grey had insinuate he were a coward.

Then our Earl came home.

Being a good husband, he went first to see Puss Fur-None [Bess Vernon] who was lodged in the countrie.

Next I glimpst him at Essex House.

All was well until that wintry day he rode along the Strand.  Lord Grey, upon some new-conceived discontent, assalted him on horseback.

This were no matter of honour.  Lord Grey had his friends with him, while our Earl was accompanied by one servant.  A mere boy.

Scabface sayt that our Earl’s horse was most heroick.  He turned this way and that to fend off the attackers.  The boy was not so skilled in fight.

Scabface nosed blood (he knew not whose) before stout lads ran from the streets nearby to aid our Earl.   

A large, grey stone building with crenellations.
Durham House, viewed from the Thames.  Not far along the Strand from Essex House, the attack is said to have happened nearby.
At the time it belonged to Sir Walter Ralegh, one of Essex’s enemies.

“We’re beset on all sides by our foes,” sayt I to Linkin, after I’d returned to our house. “What justice may we have?”

“Lord Grey was sent to the Fleet Prison,” sayt Linkin.  “For contempt against the Queen’s commandment.”

“And how long was he confined?” cried I.  “No longer than our Earl was for marrying Puss Fur-None.”

Then I arrkst, “Think you that Sir Rabbit [Sir Robert Cecil] told Grey to attack our Earl?”

Linkin sayt, “Think you that our Earl might have been wise to remayn oversea?  Who arrkst him home?”

“Who arrkst Lord Grey?” was my answer.  “Those curs have brought down the most noble and heroick Essex, and now they seek to kill our Earl.”

“Were Essex wise,” sayt Linkin, “he’d have lived quiet in the countrie and waited for Queen Puss to die.  I love Essex as well as any in this citie do, but I fear he’s crasie.”

“Crasie or no,” cried I, “we are sworn to live or die in his service.”

“You may be,” sayt Linkin. “I’m sworn to live or die in mine own service, as are all wise cats.

I began to cleanse his head and ears, thinking to give him a few sharp nips by way of reply.

Then came a whisper from my heart.  Linkin was old and not long for this world.  Whereas I was young and temerarious and fire-hot for action.

I knew where to find it.

A gold sword hilt
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorLord Grey seems to have become the Earl of Southampton’s self-appointed nemesis. 

Their initial falling-out occurred in Ireland in 1599 when Grey was disciplined for going against Southampton’s orders.  His subsequent complaints may have contributed to Southampton’s demotion from General of the Horse.

Grey’s next move was to challenge Southampton to a duel.  Southampton refused to fight in England, but offered to do so in Ireland or France.  Grey went off to soldier in the Netherlands. 

By the time Southampton arrived there the Privy Council had written to each with the Queen’s command to keep the peace.  However, the London gossip was that they fought and wounded each other.  Southampton returned to England in September 1600.  Grey’s attack took place in January 1601.

But is Tricks correct in asserting that all was well till then?

The Earl of Essex knew his enemies (led by Sir Robert Cecil) were still determined to find proof of his “treason”.  In December 1600 he’d written to King James VI of Scotland complaining they were trumping up evidence against him.  He also claimed they were conspiring against James, and intending to offer the throne to the Infanta of Spain.

Essex believed it was up to him to stop the “wickedness and madness of these men” and save England.  He wanted James to send an ambassador to insist that Queen Elizabeth name James as her successor, and reinstate him (Essex) in his previous positions.  Essex, as James chief supporter, could then deal with Sir Robert Cecil.  Or so he hoped.

Then came Grey’s attack.  If Southampton had required a last straw to push him into rebellion, that was it.  And while cats are said to lower blood pressure, I don’t see any calming tendencies in Tricks.


20 thoughts on “136:  An Attempt to Murder Our Earl

  1. April Munday June 21, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    Was Essex writing to James at the same time that Sir Robert was? If they were, it must have fed James’ paranoia no end.

    I don’t suppose history records whether or not the boy survived the attack.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 22, 2018 / 12:30 am

      As far as I know, Sir Robert didn’t start writing secretly to James until Essex was out of the way.

      Details of the Grey attack are skimpy, unless I’ve missed something (which is quite likely) . The Earl of Southampton’s three biographers (Stopes, Rowse and Akrigg) all tell the same story: Grey and his attendants set upon Southampton; Southampton’s attendant lost a hand in the fray.

      Mrs Stopes gives two references which I checked. Letter-writer John Chamberlain refers to ‘a little bickering in the Strand on horseback, for the which the Lord Grey was committed to the Fleet.’ A letter from Sir Henry Neville refers more seriously to the assault and Grey’s committal, but there’s no mention of any injury.

      The matter upset both Earls – Mrs Stopes later refers to a report from their trial where Essex spoke of it. But still no mention of a severed hand, so I wonder if it’s just one of those eighteenth or nineteenth century tales that come to be accepted as fact.

      Scabface says nothing of a severed paw. Perhaps he suffered a nosebleed as the result of his own excitement?

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday June 22, 2018 / 1:06 am

      Dangerous times for men and their servants. We must hope that it was a Victorian invention (like so many other things) and that the boy lived a long and useful life.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 22, 2018 / 2:05 am

      Yes indeed. Mrs Stopes’ biography was published in 1922, and G P V Akrigg and A L Rowse probably took their information from it. She was a formidable researcher, but not always accurate in her referencing. By the time she completed her book her eyesight was failing, and she was having difficulty reading her notes. She may well have read a more detailed account of the assault, possibly in manuscript, but lost the reference.

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday June 22, 2018 / 2:31 am

      That’s a shame. On the plus side, it’s still there waiting to be found again.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. larrypaulbrown June 22, 2018 / 7:10 am

    Hmmmm, blood pressure. Perhaps I shall adopt another half dozen. Mine just had his twice monthly bath.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi June 22, 2018 / 11:06 am

      Unless he’s one of those rare cats who love water, surely that sent his blood pressure up?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave Ply June 23, 2018 / 11:46 am

    As tangled as this web has become, perhaps Tricks should confer with a spider…

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 23, 2018 / 8:24 pm

      She should! I suspect a very cunning web is being spun for the Earl of Essex to entangle himself in.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 2, 2018 / 10:56 am

      He does! Queen Elizabeth seems to have had a soft spot for him, however.


  4. kidsofthe50sand60s July 7, 2018 / 6:31 am

    on a whim, I have just looked up Durham House, Essex House and Fleet Prison thinking I could check them out next time I’m in London – I love looking at old buildings with tales to tell! – but they no longer stand. What a shame!
    Fascinating story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 7, 2018 / 8:53 am

      I love old buildings too – particularly the ones that haven’t changed much over the centuries. But what with the Fire, urban development, and the Blitz, there’s not many left in London!


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