137:  A Cunning Plat or Two

A dark-haired young man with a spade-shaped beard, He's wearing a glossy white satin doublet.
The Earl of Essex in happier times, after his 1596 victory at Cadiz.

The Earl of Essex were a desperate man.

He’d not been permitted to speak private with Queen Puss since he came hot from Ireland and ran into her bedchamber.

He knew his enemies were slandering him.  While he was denied her presence there would be no justice for him or his friends. 

And he had friends a-plenty, as I have writ.  More came to Essex House everie day. 

I walked among the legs and petticoats, and saw all.

Lords and gentlemen with discontentments.  Soldiers who lacked employment.  Catlicks who sought freedom of conscience.  And Puritans too, who preached in the yard. 

Many came from the citie to hear these men, because they were apt to slip words on the proper duties of a prince into their sermons.  (By Prince, they meant Queen Puss.)

I had not the patience to heark them, but I glimpsed our mistress (a politick puritan herself) with Little Wattie.  For once, I pitied that poor dog.

Doubtless there were also spies there.  We who could be trusted met at another house that lay nigh.  Sir Charles Daffers [Danvers] lodged there.  As did our Earl, sometimes.

Though this house was situate in Scabface’s manor, he would not enter with me.  He swore he would as lief step into his grave as into any house where the door might be made fast and he emprisoned.

Scabface’s manor – apart from the river, which he probably regarded as a waste of space.
Sir Walter Ralegh’s town residence, Durham House, is marked at the far left.  Essex House is at the right.
Drury House, where the core conspirators met, sits where the now lost Wych Street runs into Drury Lane.
– From John Norden’s 1593 map of Westminster.

Some of the talk in that house were tedious, but this is what I learnt.

More lords, knights and gentlemen than six cats could number on their claws were sworn to aid the Earl of Essex.

First, their plat was to seize both the Court at White-Hall and the Tower.

Then they thought to seize onlie the Court.  They did not fear the palace guard, because many were friends to Essex.

Some of our number would slip in early and clear the way for Essex to come with the rest.

Essex and other earls could present theirselves most humble to the Queen.  Not in her Bedchamber, but in the Privy Chamber. 

There she would hear how Essex had been grievous wronged.  Then she would call a parlement, and his enemies would be punished.

Or so some believed.  I thought Queen Puss were as like to hear them as I would be to hear a posse of pigeons that wished to bell me.

Others may have thought the same, for soon all fell to arguing.

A soldier preparing to tie a round bell about a sullen-looking cat's neck.
Belling the cat – this time by a soldier literally armed to the teeth.
A detail from Pieter Brueghel’s ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’ c.1559

Our Earl lost patience then.  He cried, “Then it seems we shall resolve upon nothing, though we’ve been thinking on some actions these three months past.”

So back to Essex House again, where the Earl of Essex agreed we should seize White-Hall. 

Scabface was joyed to hear that newes. 

He sayt he had never trod so far as White-Hall – it lay not in his manor – but he would set forth straightway.  He hoped to see much fighting, and do some hisself if he came upon a White-Hall cat or dog.

I told him there was preparations to be made.  Nowt would happen that night, nor in the coming days.

“The best you can do,” sayt I, “would be some hurt to Sir Water Rawlie [Walter Ralegh].  He’s captain of the palace guard and a great enemie to Essex. If he’s at White-Hall that day, there will be blood.”

Then I wished I’d kept that to myself, because blood was what Scabface wished to see.

As we lingered on the river wall, we saw a boat come to Essex’s stairs.  A couple of men stepped out and were admitted to the garden.

Just as the waterman turned to row away a cat slipped from ’neath a seat, leapt to the stairs and thence up the wall. 

He halted when he saw us, and called most sweet, “Save you, friends!”

“A spy,” sayt I to Scabface.  “Seize him.”

Just for fun, here’s Scabface’s “manor” from Google Maps.  It’s marked to show the approximate locations of Durham House, Drury House, and Essex House.


22 thoughts on “137:  A Cunning Plat or Two

  1. Claudio LeChat June 28, 2018 / 7:07 pm

    Am enjoying Tricks’ canny first hand interpretation of events. In modern times she would have made for a great foreign correspondent.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi June 28, 2018 / 9:40 pm

      She would have! Particularly one embedded in the action. And don’t you think Scabface’s manor looks a whole lot nicer than it does today?

      Wych Street – still with many of its Elizabethan houses – was demolished in 1901. A sad loss to London, say I. Australia House is a very poor substitute.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April Munday June 28, 2018 / 7:17 pm

    I begin to wonder about Essex’ sanity. How did he think he could gather all those malcontents to him and it not be noticed? Was he really relying on his popularity to carry the day? Perhaps he thought the elderly queen would just pop her clogs as soon as she heard about him leading armed men to Whitehall.

    I suppose Tricks was as enchanted by him as her master was. I suspect Gib would have been wiser.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi June 28, 2018 / 9:24 pm

      I think quite a few of Essex’s contemporaries were wondering about his sanity. I’ve come across the word “crazed” applied to him (with its original meaning of cracked or broken), and also “crasie” in a way that’s very close to our use of the word. Modern historians are cautious, but the word “unstable” appears in their writing. They also point out that it didn’t do to rival Queen Elizabeth in popularity.

      What surprised me was the range of his followers. He’d had some of the liveliest minds in England in his service. (Francis Bacon had only recently switched sides.) It’s easy to see the appeal Essex’s circle held for bright young things on the outer.

      The gatherings at Essex House were certainly noticed. The Drury House meetings might not have been so obvious. Essex himself never went there.

      Tricks is definitely an Essex girl, though I think she’s driven by her taste for adventure in high places rather than loyalty.

      Liked by 3 people

    • April Munday June 29, 2018 / 12:15 am

      I’m afraid I laughed at the idea of Tricks being an Essex girl. She’s far too intelligent to be one.

      I can understand why people of disparate groups flocked to Essex if they thought he would support them and provide some protection.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 29, 2018 / 9:05 am

      Yes – the puritans and Catholics had hopes of greater religious freedom. Others hoped for employment and/or were sick of the ‘reign of the Cecils’. Plus, Essex must have had charisma!

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday June 29, 2018 / 10:12 am

      I think it must have been the charisma. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hunch-backed Sir Robert had none. He did have intelligence, though, and nerve. In so many ways I’m not an Essex girl.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Claudio LeChat June 29, 2018 / 1:29 am

    Totally agree about Australia House. Those Aussies have no taste (altho the Sydney Opera House isn’t bad). The “1593 google map” is very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 29, 2018 / 9:08 am

      Prime real estate. Lucky Scabface.


  4. dornahainds June 29, 2018 / 7:22 am

    These events remind of the many similarities leading up to Caesar’s bloodied death.

    Fantabulous storytelling! 😎🥀

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi June 29, 2018 / 11:20 am

      Thanks! The Elizabethans found the fall of Julius Caesar an interesting political topic. It was also a relatively safe one for them to watch performed on stage or to discuss, because it happened a long time ago.

      Liked by 1 person

    • dornahainds June 30, 2018 / 12:22 am

      A curious thing, History and its eerie repetition. 😎🥀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn Haynes June 30, 2018 / 5:29 pm

    Ahh the plot thickens! I love the picture of an ‘armed to the teeth’ soldier belling the cat

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 1, 2018 / 9:20 am

      I do too – including the expression on the cat’s face. So finely done, and it’s one of many small images packed into a large painting. I don’t think I’d have been able to find it without Wikipedia’s help!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes July 1, 2018 / 9:47 am

      Denise when I think of how technology enriches our lives, I’m willing to forgive some of the dodgy applications. Like everything- it’s how it’s used that counts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 1, 2018 / 1:26 pm

      So true. Since starting this blog I’ve been amazed by just how many historical records are now available on line. When I was young they were only in specialised libraries – few of which I could have had access to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn Haynes July 1, 2018 / 9:50 pm

      I remember having to wait for books to come from the uni library when I was studying remotely. Now you can access data bases around the world from home.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 1, 2018 / 10:55 pm

      I remember asking at the public library to get old books on interloan. That wasn’t always easy. Librarians were frosty back then, and used to look me up and down most disparagingly. Now I can usually find what I want for free at the Internet Archive. (I do send a donation every year.)

      This reminds me of my favourite internet quote. Some years back I read of a competition where people were asked to tell someone living in the 1950s of the greatest change since then and the present. A competitor came up with this: “I have in my living room a device that enables me to access all human knowledge. I use it for looking at pictures of cats and getting into arguments with complete strangers.”

      I read this (of course) on the internet. Since then I’ve seen other internet versions of the quote – the device is now a pocket one. And no word of a competition, or a winner. Was there ever one?
      That’s the internet for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rachel McAlpine July 5, 2018 / 7:53 am

    I read all the comments on your blog as avidly as the blog itself, and that’s saying something.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. kidsofthe50sand60s July 7, 2018 / 6:39 am

    I too, read all the comments. I also enjoy your footnotes as much as the story. Lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

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