141:  Actions in the Citie!

I ran across the rooves of Gracious [Gracechurch] Street until I saw a multitude of people.  And horses too.

I guessed some were the Lord Mayor’s servants.  I did not know if they’d come to aid Essex or tell him to quit their citie.

There came another gentleman on horseback.  I later learnt he was Lord Purrlie [Lord Burghley].  Not the old Lord Purrlie I heard tell of as a kitling, but his son who was brother to Sir Rabbit.

Thomas Cecil, 2nd Lord Burghley (1542-1623). William Cecil’s elder son, and Sir Robert’s brother.

A man with Lord Purrlie made readie to speak.

Essex’s friends sprang at him.  Even so, this man cried that Essex and all were traitors, but they who went home now would be forgiven.

Or something like.  It were hard to take his meaning with so many trying to stop his mouth.

Then I saw Essex.  He called, “That fellow will say anything for two shillings.” 

And, “This is the work of mine enemies.  I act for the good of the Queen, the citie, and the Crown of England.” 

Too late.  The word “traitors” had struck terror in many hearts.

Yet none durst touch Essex.  He and his friends came safe away.

I guessed they hoped to leave the citie by the Lud-Gate as they’d entered.  I turned, set my eyes upon Paws tower and ran straight across the rooves.

Paws, better known as St Paul’s.

All the while I saw men slipping into the lanes below me, and heard cats making mock of them. 

“See the faint-hearts flee,” they called.  “And no fights to speak of.”

Near Paws I came upon Picker and Stealer.

“How is it,” I arrkst, “that men can be proclaimed traitors when they’ve done nowt against Queen Puss?”

They did not know.

We watched Essex and my Earl coming through Paws yard.  Picker sayt, “Lord Bedford has bolted and Rutland will run, if he hasn’t already.  When shall Southampton skip?”

I sayt, “It’s not in my Earl’s nature to abandon his friends.”

“A pitie so few remain with him,” sayt Stealer.

True.  We three could almost have numbered them on our claws.

There were chains across the ways that led to the Gate, and armed men to guard them.  Essex arrkst to pass, but the fellow that commanded there would not allow it.

Others arrkst too, saying that the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the citie had parted with Essex on good terms and given him liberty to go to his own house.

The fellow that kept the Gate sayt, No.

Then one told the fellow he would cause much bloodshed, and it would be the blood of earls, barons, and knights.

To which the fellow answered that if their blood were shed, it would be their fault.

Our man sayt, “My lord Essex will and must pass, as a true subject to her Majesty and a friend to the State.  He seeks onlie to suppress the tyranny of those who have betrayed the State to Spain.”

The saucie fellow replied, “It’s above my capacity to understand the designs of his lordship.”

That made us cats merrie.  I glimpsed a knot of Essex’s men draw their swords and rush forward.  Then a cry of, “Shoot! shoot!” and horrid noises sent us flying.

I found shelter and looked back to see two men stretched upon the ground.

Essex and all had departed, and were seeking a way to the river.  There were chains across those ways too, but one was oped for them.  They ran to the stairs where watermen wait.

In their haste to leap into the boats, one gentleman fell in the river.  Others had much ado to pull him out.

Then Picker and Stealer went flying past me.  I called, “They’re not fleeing down river.  They’ll be rowed to Essex House.”

A grey tabby cat leaping across a gap between two stone walls to join its companion.
Picker and Stealer in search of excitement.

“We’re going to the Tower,” they called back.  “We never saw an Earl have his head cut off, and soon we’ll see two.”

I troubled not to answer.  I turned for Essex House.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorTo my modern eye, the Earl of Essex’s rebellion reads more like a demonstration gone wrong.   He seems to have expected the city’s authorities to provide him with an armed escort to take a petition to the Queen.

Sir Robert Cecil pre-empted him by telling them to prepare for trouble, and ordering guards at all the city gates.

 The “saucie fellow” who stood firm at the Ludgate, resisting all pleas and blandishments, was former soldier Sir John Leveson (1555-1615).  He sent in a detailed report.[1]

 In brief: on his way home that Sunday afternoon he’d encountered the Earl of Cumberland and the Bishop of London with an armed “company” – most of whom were the Bishop’s servants.  Sir John was asked to organize the defence of the gate.

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1603) dressed for jousting.  By Nicholas Hilliard.

 At first Sir John demurred, saying he was loathe to give orders to men he didn’t know.  (Did he also wonder why the Earl of Cumberland – an even more experienced veteran – wasn’t doing it himself?)

The Bishop gave the order to “free the street of idle gazers.”  Essex and friends arrived not long after.  In the subsequent skirmish, one of the men guarding the gate was fatally wounded.  Essex’s stepfather Sir Christopher Blount was seriously injured, and Essex’s page “young Mr Tracy” was shot dead.

[1] Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury (the Cecil Papers) Vol. XI, ed. R A Roberts (London, 1906) pp. 59-61


29 thoughts on “141:  Actions in the Citie!

  1. April Munday July 26, 2018 / 2:40 am

    Why did he expect an armed escort to go to the queen? Wouldn’t that be a bit unusual?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 4:04 am

      Very unusual, but Essex was convinced that his enemies (Robert Cecil, Walter Ralegh, and Lord Cobham – whom Tricks is unaware of, despite the fact that he had a house in Blackfriars) were determined to kill him. Also, Queen Elizabeth had refused to see him since the bedchamber episode; he probably attributed that to their evil influence. A show of support from the city would have been useful. However, it’s unlikely he would have managed to get anywhere near the Queen without encountering armed resistance.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 26, 2018 / 5:06 am

      Why would the city support him? Did he just assume it was obvious that his enemies were also the queen’s enemies or had the triumvirate also upset the city?

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 6:06 am

      Ooh, that’s complicated. The city had a mind of its own. I don’t understand why Essex was so popular there, but he was. Looks? Charm? His comparative youth? His patronage of smart people?

      The national economy was still suffering as a result of the poor harvests in the mid-1590s, and the war with Ireland didn’t help. There’d been riots in London (over food prices, I think) plus suspicions that a powerful elite was doing OK at the expense of the rest. It would have been safer to blame the Privy Council for mismanagement than to blame the Queen.

      Plus the city had a very puritanical streak – not so evident in the citizens’ behaviour, but in their interest in preachers and writers who questioned the status quo including the accountability of the ruling elite.

      When it came to the crunch, not many citizens were willing to help Essex, but they don’t seem willing to hinder him, either.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 26, 2018 / 7:15 am

      Ah, so his hope for support wasn’t entirely without foundation. It looks like he learned the hard way that moaning about the government isn’t the same thing as wanting to bring it down.

      I’d forgotten about the Puritans, possibly still lower case at this time, I’m not sure. They did make a nuisance of themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 11:55 am

      I’m still surprised that Essex found anyone willing to follow him on such a rash course. An odd mix of the unflinchingly loyal, the discontented, and the desperate. A couple of eye-catching names are on the list of followers that was later drawn up: Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham. And the man who fell into the river as they scrambled into the boats was Lord Monteagle, who received the 5 November tip-off that Parliament wasn’t the place to be.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 26, 2018 / 6:21 pm

      My goodness. They had a bit of a history as would-be regicides, then. No wonder Sir Robert had his eye on them later.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 6:39 pm

      Come now. I know you’re one of Sir Robert’s many admirers, but I don’t think anyone was intending to make away with the Queen. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 26, 2018 / 6:49 pm

      Perhaps not, but perhaps this occasion taught them how not to do it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 7:01 pm

      Well, if they weren’t fanatic then they certainly became so.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 26, 2018 / 7:57 pm

      So this is the picture I’m getting of the people following Essex to White Hall. There are a bunch of Catholics, who are later responsible for an attempt to assassinate a king and a bunch of Puritans whose descendants (possibly literal as well as figurative) do kill a king. Even if that wasn’t Essex’ aim, he might have been putting ideas into the heads of other people.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 27, 2018 / 1:26 pm

      Spoken like a true Cecilian! And yes, the Earl of Essex’s son (another Robert) was the first commander of the Parliamentary army in the Civil War. If the Earl of Southampton had still been alive, he too may have declared for Parliament – though his strong sense of personal loyalty could have kept him in the Royalist camp.

      On the other hand, one of the Catholics with Essex was Lord Monteagle who took his anonymous tip-off re the gunpowder plot to Sir Robert.

      I think very few of Essex’s admirers would have needed to have ideas put in their busy heads, but they’d previously split into those who favoured direct action, and those who thought Essex should write placatory letters to the Queen and wait.

      One thing that many of the Sunday followers had in common was a lack of employment. About a third were soldiers who’d served with him in Ireland and lost their positions after the change in command. That was probably the Queen’s/Privy Council’s doing, not Lord Mountjoy’s – he was an Essex supporter and de facto brother-in-law. The Ireland veterans in London tended to attribute Essex’s military failure to insufficient support/corruption at home.

      Other Catholics were driven by the desire for religious freedom; King James reneged on that. I don’t doubt that the Protestant/puritan faction was interested in what one could justifiably do (other than moan) in the case of bad government. The historian Alexandra Gajda is very interesting on what they were reading and/or writing, and Paul Hammer is sure to have a lot to say about this in his next Essex book.


    • April Munday July 27, 2018 / 6:44 pm

      The poor Catholics obviously didn’t realise that they were comparatively well off under Elizabeth.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 27, 2018 / 9:32 pm

      Yes they were, though being a second class citizen must have rankled. Things were tougher towards the end of her reign than at the beginning, but they only seem to have got into serious trouble when they were caught sheltering Jesuits or otherwise engaging in anti-establishment mischief.

      Funnily enough, there were rumours of a Jesuit plot to assassinate Essex. It surely must have been a fabrication.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. larrypaulbrown July 26, 2018 / 3:13 am

    I wonder how our American protesters would have fared in those times?

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 4:21 am

      Not well, I’m afraid. Back then, protests of any kind were dealt with harshly, and leaders executed.
      On the other hand, we’re a lot more peaceable day-to-day than the Elizabethans were but protests still seem to erupt into violence without much provocation.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Christine Valentor July 26, 2018 / 12:53 pm

    Poor Essex! He seems either misguided or he had a gigantic ego! (Or both.) In the end I suppose he was a real threat to the Queen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 1:56 pm

      Both, I think! He’s now looking like the brilliant-but-flawed hero of an Elizabethan stage tragedy.

      You’ve just made me think hard about how real a threat Essex was to the Queen.

      The obvious threat was to Sir Robert Cecil, but in the unlikely event that the Queen had agreed to what Essex wanted, i.e. named James of Scotland as her successor, restored Essex to his former positions, and allowed Cecil and friends to be tried for corruption, she surely would have spent her last years as a puppet-Queen. The one thing she’d always made clear she was never going to be.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor July 27, 2018 / 5:04 am

      Yes, that is an interesting thing about Bess — even in her twilight years she seemed to cling to her power. She was probably still pretty sharp.

      I have read many debates and theories about her naming/ not naming James as successor. Still can’t figure out if she actually wanted him on the throne or not…

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 27, 2018 / 1:44 pm

      By descent James had the best claim, and I used to think that Queen Puss could have saved herself and others a lot of grief if she’d named him. He was a peacelover, and I thought he’d probably have waited quite happily on his side of the border.

      More recently it occurred to me that he’d also have expected an increased income and suitable “holiday acommodation” in England for himself, his wife, his growing family and their retainers. And I wouldn’t mind betting that many of her advisers and courtiers would have gone running to him every time they felt like disagreeing with her! She could have been sidelined…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor July 27, 2018 / 4:12 pm

      Yes — her whole life was a big power struggle, because of her supposed illegitimate claim to the throne. Maybe she was even reluctant to name James because he was a man and would have been more respected than her also. I think she was on fairly good terms with him — they wrote letters.

      I read that she, on her deathbed made a gesture that was interpreted as agreeing that he should succeed. (However, those watching this “gesture” also WANTED James on the throne, and most likely did not want the instability of no named successor.)

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 27, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      Exactly! And people would certainly have rated James above her, just because he was a man.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Judith July 26, 2018 / 4:12 pm

    Queen Elizabeth was subject to several attempted assassinations, but none of them succeeded. I think that she must have been accepted as sovereign by a populace relieved to have some stability after the hectic days of Henry VIII and his I,mediate successors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2018 / 6:51 pm

      Yes indeed. They were very glad of the stability her long reign provided, but Roman Catholics were increasingly clamped down on because many of the assassination plots were thought to have been orchestrated by them. Elizabeth’s unwillingness to name her successor also made people afraid that there would be a return to civil unrest after her death.


  5. dornahainds July 29, 2018 / 5:29 am

    Such fools’ some just men make of themselves in pursuit of rightness. 😎🥀

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 29, 2018 / 3:56 pm

      Disaster is imminent, I fear.


  6. mitchteemley August 8, 2018 / 1:05 am

    Contentious times–much like our own. Only then, apparently, the (sometimes) bloodthirsty rabble wore fur.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 8, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      An extraordinary amount of everything is wasted in pointless power struggles.

      Liked by 1 person

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