166:  The Terrors of the Tower

Face of a black and white kittenOh, how wretched were my first days in that strange place!

Our Earl was not pleased to see me.  He sayt, “I wanted the pretty she-cat that used to follow me like a little dog.”

His lady – her name is Puss [Bess] – sayt, “We searched high and low, but could not find her.  This is her kitling, very sportive.”

The Earl turned his meloncollie eyes away from me, and I concealed myself beneath his bed.  He began to complain of his akes and pains, while Puss spake to him most sweet.

So at odds they seemed, I wondered why one did not strike the other a blow.  He showed his discontentments, she chirruped to smooth him.  I knew little of the world, but I knew that when he-cats and she-cats meet, ’tis the he who does the smoothing.

When a bell gave a loud clamour I near leapt out of my skin.  Puss leapt too, and sayt she must be gone, else she too would be made prisoner that night.

And what a night it was.  I believed myself to be lodged in a place of ghosts and shadows.  Yes, and monsters too.

Worst were the two whisperers who crept to the door and taunted me.

“What do you here?” arrkst one.

I, mindful of my old nurse’s warning, sayt nowt.

“We know you’re within.  We seen you carried hither.  Tell us who your friends are,” sayt the other.

The first sayt, more amiable, “We shall send to them for a bed you can lie on.”

I did not think they could see me, so to sure myself I had a bed I crept out from under my lord’s and sprang onto it, concealing myself beneath his coverlid.

A black and white cat peering out from underneath a coverlet.

“We can make you answer us,” came a whisper.  “We have a worrint here.”

Then, “Are you not afeared?”

I knew not what a worrint was, and nothing could have made me more afeared than I was already.

“We know a chamber where they stretch folks.  Hang them up or lay them down, they’ll come out longer than they went in.  We would not wish to see any cat used so ill.” 

“When you are permit to have the range of our household,” sayt the other, “we shall show you the instruments.  If you tell us nowt, doubtless you’ll taste them all.”

They fell silent, but I heared them scratching theirselves and cleansing their paws.  “Belike that poor cat’s deaf,” sayt the one that seemed more amiable.

“Belike he came here to have his head cut off on the morrow,” sayt the other.  And then, to me, “Best you make your confession to us now.”

Next came an unkind whisper of, “You got ears, or no?”

They crept away, but I knew they would return.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorCats tend to share the interests of their households and pay close attention to tasks in hand, so I’m not surprised that the Tower’s resident mousers picked up a few pointers on how to conduct an interrogation.

The “worrint” they claimed to have would be a warrant from the Privy Council authorising Harry’s torture.  Showing prisoners the instruments used could be enough to make them talk.  I think that most, if not all, of the men tortured in the latter years of Elizabeth’s reign would have been captured Jesuit priests, with the aim of getting them to name their friends, i.e. other members of the Roman Catholic underground.

Harry, safe in the Earl of Southampton’s comfortable apartment, was well away from such doings, but he wouldn’t have known that.  The loud bell that so alarmed him was one rung to warn visitors and others admitted on lawful business that the Tower was about to be locked for the night.  Even back then the Tower was something of a tourist attraction with people coming in to see the animals in the menagerie. 

The Tower of London: fortress, royal lodging, armoury, secure treasure house, mini zoo, and a prison for political prisoners.  From Michael van Meer’s Friendship Book held in the British Library. (CC BY-NC-ND-4.0) © The University of Edinburgh.



24 thoughts on “166:  The Terrors of the Tower

  1. Christine Valentor March 7, 2019 / 5:36 pm

    Poor kittie! It must have been a dreadful experience! I think I missed a few posts, I’ll go back and read them 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Timi Townsend March 7, 2019 / 5:58 pm

    Those awful Whisperers! Poor Harry got quite an earful of scary stuff for his first night in the Tower.

    Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi March 7, 2019 / 9:22 pm

      In terms of feline behaviour, the technical term might be “establishing a pattern of dominance”. But who knew just how nasty cats can be to the newcomer in the household?

      Liked by 3 people

    • Timi Townsend March 8, 2019 / 1:05 am

      I have introduced new cats to the group from time to time, always with a closed door separating them, so they could smell and hiss without doing any actual physical damage. But I never realized just what was being communicated with the hissing in terms of words! I will listen more creatively in the future after reading this post. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi March 8, 2019 / 1:27 am

      Yes! Cats communicate with us by miaowing, but they have far more subtle ways of communicating with each other.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. April Munday March 7, 2019 / 7:51 pm

    Poor Harry. No one seems to want him. I’m sure a bit of affection would go a long way to making him a braver cat.

    Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi March 7, 2019 / 9:27 pm

      I’m sure his Earl will come round in time, but Harry’s certainly having a tough apprenticeship.

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday March 7, 2019 / 11:26 pm

      He is. It’s a shame he lacks the confidence the rest of his family seems to have in abundance.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mick Canning March 7, 2019 / 11:42 pm

    Perhaps it will all toughen him up. i suspect he’s a survivor – he comes from a line of survivors!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi March 8, 2019 / 12:47 am

      He does. I suspect little Harry may be smarter than he thinks he is.

      Liked by 3 people

    • toutparmoi March 8, 2019 / 7:47 pm

      I can see that in the Tower the temptation to become a whisperer would be strong!


  5. larrypaulbrown March 8, 2019 / 4:50 am

    I am liking Harry. He can come to live with me and mine if he chooses.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi March 8, 2019 / 7:49 pm

      Harry’s certainly not having an easy start in life. I’m sure he would have been very grateful for an offer such as yours.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. April Munday March 9, 2019 / 2:37 am

    This has no connection with the post, but yesterday’s In Our Time programme on Radio 4 was about William Cecil. The people discussing him were Diarmaid MacCulloch, Susan Doran and John Guy. You probably can’t listen on iPlayer, but you might be able to download the podcast https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0002zq6.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 9, 2019 / 1:10 pm

      Thanks, April. I’ll check out the podcast – I’ve listened to a few In Our Time programmes, so I should be able to get this one.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 11, 2019 / 9:49 am

      I’ve listened now, and the podcast was great. I was particularly interested in Diarmaid MacCulloch’s comments about the Cromwell effect and William Cecil. I’d have liked to hear more from him and Susan Doran, and less from John Guy. John Guy’s knowledge of the period is impressive, but he tends to deflate his own arguments by slipping in odd and often anachronistic statements which make me want to say, “Come on, mate. You know better than that.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday March 11, 2019 / 8:12 pm

      My heart always skips a beat when I hear that Diarmaid MacCulloch is one of the guests. Not only is he very knowledgeable, but he’s also very good at sharing what he knows. I bought his biography of Thomas Cromwell as soon as it came out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 12, 2019 / 7:58 am

      I haven’t read anything by him (he’s been added to my list), but he’s certainly great to listen to.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave Ply March 14, 2019 / 5:24 am

    I know how some of the cats are when they arrive at the Humane Society shelter, it’s intimidating if they’re naturally shy. I can only imagine what arriving at the Tower would be like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi March 14, 2019 / 2:11 pm

      And the Tower cats are such a nasty crew, so skilled in the art of intimidation!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rachel McAlpine April 1, 2019 / 1:52 pm

    Please tell me that Harry is not going to be bullied by the Whisperers? His fate is unnerving enough without that.

    Liked by 1 person

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