149:  Sir Rabbit Rules, and Crows Gather

What toyles and tanglings our citie was in as we awaited the Honorable Trial!  Armed men everywhere, to keep the peace.

I kept myself peaceful, for we friends of Essex were hunted in the town.  And across the river.  Some poor servants, who’d stayed hid in Essex House long after all the lords and gentlemen were taken, had fled to the south bank.

A thin-faced, bearded man in dark clothes, with papers and an official red, embroidered, dispatch bag beside him.
Sir Rabbit – Sir Robert Cecil.

Miscreants, Sir Rabbit now named us.

He sent instruction for all the preachers in the churches.  They were to speak against Essex on the day of sermons.  Viz.   

Tell all that Essex is an enemy of the Church of England, a friend to Popish and Protestant malcontents, who wisht to set the Crown of England upon his own head.  Etcetera.

And:

Offer thanks for the citie’s loyalty and for Her Majestie’s safe deliverance.  Etcetera.

Then came a complaynt from the Bishop of London.  Viz.

The Privy Council had commanded all to stay at home that day.  And the Lord Mayor had sayt that none but women could go to church – saving the 500 armed men he planned to have in Paws yard.

And he, I mean the Bishop, did not think such a sermon should be imparted to women.

Paws: St Paul’s Cross, an open air pulpit in St Paul’s Churchyard.

That newes made our mistress merrie.

“Sure,” sayt she, “we witless women will come away from the sermon wondering, Why is Essex afeared that the Crown is sold to Spain if he be so great a friend to papists?”

And:  “We may even be tempted to put our question to the preacher, even with armed men there to hear us.”

A drawing of a mature well-dressed man extending his hand to two women.
Women – much the better for male guidance.

I guessed Sir Rabbit had that same thought, for then men were permitted to go to church too.  At Paws (so the Bishop sayt) there were great applauds, and satisfaction upon every man’s countenance.

Sayt I to Linkin, “Well, there would be, wouldn’t there.  With 500 soldiers standing nigh.”

We also heared of crows (the well-feathered kind, who have stummicks but no wings) awaiting pickings from dead men.

A lord that was friend to Sir Rabbit sought two fine pieces of stone that Sir Killie Murk [Sir Gelly Meyrick] – one of Essex’ men – had brought from Cadiz to make pillars for his tomb.  This lord sayt they was too good for a traitor, and should be his so he could complete a piece of work.  And he promised Sir Rabbit a fine hawk.

What a piece of work that lord were!

A gentleman told Sir Rabbit that one of the Queen’s trumpeters had a horse of Sir Killie’s, and was offering him for sale.  The gentleman sayt this was wrong, for Sir Killie was not yet convicted.  He sought a warrant to seize the horse, and promised to pay a fair price in good time.

Another sought the lease of Drury House that Sir Charles Daffers [Danvers] had, but was now Sir Rabbit’s to bestow.  (Or so he hoped.)

Then came Linkin, hot-foot from the master’s chamber, with newes that was musick to mine ears.  A player had been taken!  One of the Lord Chamberlain’s men from the Glob.

Why?  Because they’d enacted the play that some of Essex’ friends saw the day before our actions in the citie.

Oh, how I prayed that player were Snakes-Purr.  And that he might be cast into a stinking jail.

But no.  This player’s name was Gusty Flips [Augustine Phillips].  He sayt nowt of Snakes-Purr.  Onlie what the Player Cat had already told us.  Viz.

Some gentlemen had arrkst for a play about the deposing and killing of a king, and the players made them pay forty shillings above the ordinary because they feared none else would come.  The play being so old and out of use.

Certes, Gusty Flips then went his way rejoycing because the forty shillings were not confiscate.

And Linkin swore that Essex and my Earl were to be tried for treason on the morrow.  “Just they two.  More will follow, but Earls go first to trial as they do to dinner.”

“But,” sayt I, “another earl was also named in the Proclamation of Treason.  When will he be tried?”

“He sang,” sayt Linkin. “As caged birds do.  Confessed his ill-doings, and our Earl’s too.”


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorI haven’t attempted an exact count of those arrested, but 50 or so were taken after the siege of Essex House on Sunday 8 February.  The number of named participants soon rose to about 100, but not all were in custody.

In the absence of state-controlled radio and TV, the pulpit came in handy.  Essex was denounced on Sunday 15 February, and again a week later.

Tricks’ Sir Killie Murk is Sir Gelly Meyrick (c.1556-1601), Essex’s long-term household, estates, and finance manager.  He’d accompanied Essex on his military campaigns, organizing supplies and pay, and disposal of the spoils of war. 

Sir Gelly was one of the group that went to see the play at the Globe on Saturday.  He was called back urgently to Essex House that evening and was left in charge there on Sunday when Essex made his panicked entry into the city.

The actor/manager from the Globe, Augustine Phillips, was examined on 18 February.  By then the case against Essex must surely have been complete.  He and Southampton stood trial the next day.  The unfortunate choice of play was to be used against Sir Gelly.

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25 thoughts on “149:  Sir Rabbit Rules, and Crows Gather

  1. April Munday September 21, 2018 / 2:26 am

    I see signs that it’s not going to be what we would call a fair trial. I suspect an Elizabethans trial bore little resemblance to a modern one anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 21, 2018 / 3:02 am

      Well – spoiler alert – no defense counsel, for starters. Or knowing in advance what the prosecution was likely to hit you with. Sir Rabbit seems to have had a hit list, and I think it’s because I used to be a bureaucrat that I find his manoeuvres (Sp?) so interesting. On the other hand, Henry VIII would have probably executed everybody even remotely involved (about 200 people?), whereas the executions associated with the Essex ‘rebellion’ were relatively few. I think Elizabeth accepted that Essex had to go, but – as with Mary, Queen of Scots – she preferred to take a back seat and let her administrators get on with it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday September 21, 2018 / 3:44 am

      She was fortunate to have a man willing to do the dirty work. Did you say ages ago that someone has written a biography of Sir Rabbit? If so, I think the time has come for me to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 21, 2018 / 11:37 am

      When I was in the history section at the library I glimpsed the cover of a book I thought was a bio of Sir Rabbit and made a mental note to have a better look some other day.
      But, having just checked the library’s on line catalogue, I see it must have been “The Cecils: Privilege and Power Behind the Throne” by D. M. Loades. So, father and son. I’ve no idea what it’s like.
      Sir Rabbit’s very full and detailed entry in the DNB is a good one.

      Like

    • April Munday September 21, 2018 / 6:35 pm

      Thank you. It has a range of stars on Goodreads. I’ll see if I can get it from the library.

      One of the reviewers says it’s unfair to Sir Rabbit’s sister Anne, who married the earl of Oxford, the man who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays. This has just come up in the third (and very variable) season of Upstart Crow.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 21, 2018 / 11:55 pm

      If the book’s about the whole family, it may not deal with Sir Rabbit – or the last decade of Elizabeth’s reign when the power struggles became so savage – in much depth. It’s odd that there doesn’t seem to be a biography of him alone.

      I wish that a fraction of the energy that goes into the production of endless “biographies” of Shakespeare went into books about other Elizabethan/Jacobean notables who left enough in the way of personal paper trails behind them to make something approaching genuine biography possible.

      So far only one series of Upstart Crow has screened in NZ, which is disappointing, but I also suspect two series probably would have been enough.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday September 22, 2018 / 2:13 am

      Sir Rabbit does have a biography to himself. I discovered when I was putting the other book in my basket in case I can’t get it at the library. It’s called ‘Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury: Servant of Two Sovereigns’ by Alan Haynes. Rather confusingly, Sir Rabbit was the fifth 1st Earl of Salisbury. It’s not loved on Goodreads.

      You’re probably right about Upstart Crow only needing two series. It’s a bit of a one trick pony, although we did get the death of Kit Marlow last week. It wasn’t a surprise, obviously, but I thought it was handled well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 22, 2018 / 10:47 am

      I’d never come across a mention of the Haynes book. Even so, Sir R seems oddly neglected. Does your local library give online access to the Oxford DNB? His bio entry there is very good.

      Do let me know what you think of the Loades book – it will be a fair while before I have time to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday September 22, 2018 / 6:19 pm

      I’ll check with the library to find out.

      It is a surprise that there isn’t more about his life, given that he foiled the Gunpowder Plot.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 22, 2018 / 9:04 pm

      I’m hoping Pauline Croft (who wrote the DNB entry) has something in the pipeline. It would be a massive project, even for a professional historian. Sir R’s a complex man who lived in complex times, and went head-to-head with the equally complex Essex.

      On one hand, writing Elizabethan/Jacobean history (or conscientious historical fiction) should be much easier than writing medieval because there are so many surviving contemporary documents.

      On the other, Elizabeth’s reign has been so “storied” with the trinity of Good Queen Bess, Will Shakespeare, and Merrie England that even professional historians writing for the popular market seem to be falling into the trap of trotting out the old, oft-told tales.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday September 22, 2018 / 9:31 pm

      The number of documents might be part of the problem. You might follow the path that everyone else has trodden rather than look at something that might turn out to be worthless or something that sheds new light on everything.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 23, 2018 / 1:36 am

      Exactly! Particularly with the Cecils, who generated heaps of documents. And letters can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Here’s an example.

      Tricks, in Liars All indignantly refers to a letter sent by Sir Rabbit to “a governor in Ireland” which said, “By the time you receive this, Essex, Southampton, and others will have lost their heads.” That letter was to Sir R’s friend Sir George Carew, then Governor of Munster. Sir R also wrote in similar vein to a number of others including the commanders of the English forces in the Netherlands (many of whom would have known Essex), and to Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, who’d replaced Essex in Ireland and was in Ulster crushing the Irish rebellion.

      The cheerful statement about so many soon-to-be-lost heads struck me as unusually bloodthirsty for Sir R. Then it occurred to me the statement was aimed at one person: Lord Mountjoy. He was Essex’s most powerful supporter; his wife in all but name (Penelope Rich) was in custody, and he’s also said to have indicated (before he left for Ireland a year or so earlier) that if Essex’s life was in danger he would return in force – something Sir R may well have known. So I read Sir R’s statement as, “Don’t even think about it – you’d be too late.”

      Lord Mountjoy probably wasn’t thinking about it. He knew that the old charges of Essex being in cahoots with the Irish Earl of Tyrone were false, but he would also have known that this time Essex had gone too far.

      But that’s just how I read Sir R – writing on the principle of, “If we send the same message to everyone, it won’t be obvious that we’ve got a particular recipient in mind” – whereas I’m sure someone else could interpret the letter quite differently.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday September 23, 2018 / 5:33 am

      How well you understand him. 🙂

      That’s very Sir Rabbit, isn’t it, nipping things in the bud. He was, I think, very farsighted.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel McAlpine September 21, 2018 / 11:32 am

    What a shambles. In reading history it’s tempting to know that at least some of the protagonists knew what was going on, but that now seems unlikely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 21, 2018 / 12:15 pm

      I’m sure Sir Robert Cecil, his key aides, and his fellow members of the Privy Council knew what was going on – but I have to admit I’m amused by the odd combination of praise for the loyalty of the citizens of London, and anxiety about what they might do.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Mick Canning September 21, 2018 / 11:17 pm

    What you say about the praise for the loyalty of the citizens of London and the anxiety seem about right. A case of try to keep them sweet rather than have to bother lopping a few heads off (although that could come later if necessary). Same as ever, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 21, 2018 / 11:59 pm

      London always seems to have had a mind of its own. And unlike other parts of the country that did too, it was far too close to Westminster for comfort.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Christine Valentor September 25, 2018 / 5:30 am

    I am always a bit amazed, and amused, that Snakes-Purr never got in any trouble during all the chaos! (Not just this incident, but many incidents.) I wonder how he escaped it. Although there are some minor offenses of his that were recorded — mostly fighting with and threatening landlords!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi September 25, 2018 / 11:26 am

      I suspect that Snakes-Purr usually kept his head well down. He might have spent more time at home in Stratford than he’s usually thought of doing, too.

      I also subscribe to the theory (as put forward by the historian Paul E. J. Hammer, and the Shakespearean scholar Sir Jonathan Bate) that the play at the Glob had very little to do with the rebellion.

      If the authorities had suspected otherwise, a fair few of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men would have been in prison before they’d had time to divvy up their extra forty shillings 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor September 25, 2018 / 3:56 pm

      Yes, that is true. They had very strict standards of what they allowed — if anyone thought the play would be influential, they would have put a stop to it. I love Jonathon Bate! I think he is probably the best Shakespearean authority alive today.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. colonialist October 5, 2018 / 9:33 am

    It wasn’t such a bright idea to try to drag the lightbulb into it, was it? And Wagglelance knew when to scram.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 5, 2018 / 9:58 am

      It’s a thing Wagglelance’s biographers love to dwell on. How lucky he was to escape punishment, even hanging etc. Whereas the fact that the Lord Chamberlain’s Men didn’t suffer at all suggests that the play wasn’t a matter of concern to the authorities.

      Liked by 1 person

    • colonialist October 6, 2018 / 2:35 am

      It certainly provides scope for much speculation.
      According to the cats it wasn’t Christopher Marlowe wot dunnit?

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi October 6, 2018 / 8:43 am

      Cats would be naturally well disposed to anyone called Kit.

      Like

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