174:  Rewards and Revengeance 

The crowning of Their New Majesties was a poor spectacle.  There came such sickness in the citie that there could be no great procession from the Tower to Westminster.

The Countess of Southampton (Elizabeth Vernon), dressed for the coronation.

Instead, the King and Queen did no more than go from White-Hall to the church.  Same as the funeral for the late Queen, but with fewer folks attending on them.

I doubt King James was sorry.  Like unto us cats, he hates to be looked upon.

I heard tell he once complained of gazers.  And when he was told his loving subjects wished to see him, he swore he would pull down his breeches so they could see his arse.

That made me merry, but of my life at the court of King James and Queen Anne I will write little here.  Save to say that I never thought to know such scandal.

The plots against the King, my lord, and all.  The drinkards.  The light-tails [female] and spangle-babes [male].  The Scots.  No end of wicked folks.

For my safetie I keep a book of secrets, and hide it well.  I will send my secrets into the world if any of that lousy crew ever seeks to wrong me.

I will say I never got no lice from the Scots, as one young lady swore she and her friends did.  And they’d done no more than sit in a gentleman’s chamber!

My lord never got no lice neither.  King James gave him many honours and employments.  Even before the crowning he was made a proper Earl again.

Robert “Robin” Devereux (1591-1646) – from a painting of a hunting scene c.1605.

The late Earl of Essex’s little Robin became a proper Earl too, his father having lost all with his head.

King James sayt Robin was the son of the noblest knight in all England, and took him to be reared in his own household.  

Our friends were not forgot.  Some were made lords or earls.

The Queen friended the Pretty Penny and two other ladies of our akwayntance, though one was wedded to a coward and the other was mighty hot for my lord and would not have shed a tear had my lady died.

That fellow who rode to Scotland with the newes of the old Queen’s death did not fare so well.  The King had made him a gentleman of his bedchamber, but Mr Secretary Cecil was not having it.  The fellow lost that place and had to be content with a lesser one.  Hah!

That will learn folks to push theirselves in unarrkst.

There were times when I accompanied my lord and lady on their travels.  Yes, even over the sea to our castle, where I always joyed myself.

Our castle: Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight. Photo by DeFacto via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0
The Earl of Southampton was appointed Governor of the strategically important Isle of Wight in 1603.

But Southampton House became my chiefest residence.  Right fine it is, nigh to pleasant fields and far from citie ruffians [dogs].

Harry on the staircase of Southampton House.

It was in the garden of Southampton House that those two grey sisters found me.

Alas, they did not prove to be the friends I’d longed for.  They were more akin to the Whisperers in the Tower.

One hailed me as a tim’rous brat.   

The other sayt I’d been an undutiful son to my poor mother.

My poor mother?

“Mean you,” I arrkst, “that my mother is gone from this world?”

“No,” sayt one. “But she may as well have.  She removed to the country two winters past.”

“Sudden,” sayt the other.  “With no farewell to her friends.”

“A player cat of our akwayntance told us she fled in fear of her life.  Mr Secretary had learnt she’d writ libels against him.”

“We believe that cat lied.  Know you the truth of it?”

“A player cat?” I cried. “Be he a friend to Snakes-Purr?”

“That clown’s a friend to none.  After the sickness quit the citie he led us to the villain, who tried to kill us.  I bit and clawed his thieving paws and left him cursing.”

“For we are goodly cats who keep the church all call Paws [St Paul’s], and we will have no thieves among us.  If you would know more, seek us there.” 

Then they slipped away like shadows, and left me gaping in the dark.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe warm spring and hot summer of 1603 led to a major outbreak of the plague.  Over 30,000 were reported to have died – about one fifth of the city’s population.  The coronation, planned for St James’ Day (25 July), came close to being cancelled.

Instead, it was confined to Westminster, with those deemed strictly necessary for the ceremony forming the procession.  Only the Lord Mayor and a limited number of dignitaries were permitted to attend from the city of London itself.

The young lady complaining of Scottish lice was Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) who wrote a brief memoir of 1603.  She was 13 at the time, and not much went right for her.  Too young to join her mother, the Countess of Cumberland, in watching by Queen Elizabeth’s coffin.  Not tall enough to walk in the funeral procession.  Not allowed to go to the coronation because of the plague, nor offered a position as a Lady of Queen Anne’s Privy Chamber.  Plus her parents were separated, and not on speaking terms… 

The two ladies Harry mentions are Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford, whose husband was among the first to abandon the Earl of Essex, and the former Frances Prannell, now  Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford.  Her interest in the Earl of Southampton was first noted by Gib in 1598.  She continued asking astrologer Simon Forman about him until 1601. 

It seems Picker and Stealer finally caught up with Harry in 1604.  Despite the fact that they’ve inherited St Paul’s Cathedral from their mother (also known as Paws) they don’t sound like reformed characters.


15 thoughts on “174:  Rewards and Revengeance 

  1. colonialist May 3, 2019 / 3:54 am

    Within an ace of losing his head, and then back to favour again.
    That is a good portrait of Harry. Who is the lesser being featuring there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 3, 2019 / 12:06 pm

      Yes – that was an extraordinary turnaround in his fortunes. The picture of Harry on the reasonably authentic staircase of Southampton House has been digitised (shall we say) by my talented illustrator – though the cat did feature in the original. I have no idea who the lesser being is. Possibly Harry’s personal attendant? Such is the life of an Earl’s former cell mate.


    • colonialist May 3, 2019 / 11:00 pm

      A former Earl’s cell mate surely, and now the housemate of a no longer former Earl . . . enough to give a headache.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. April Munday May 3, 2019 / 4:48 am

    I’m looking forward to the scandal at court.

    Carisbrooke Castle had an even more interesting history than I knew if the earl was governor there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 3, 2019 / 11:54 am

      1603 must have been an amazing year for the Southamptons. Historians tend to date the earl’s misfortunes from his secret marriage in 1598 but, apart from a brief spell in Elizabeth’s favour in the early 1590s, he was on the outer before then. Without royal favour there was little an earl could do, so he’d gone from being under-employed, broke, and rebellious to becoming one of the leading peers of Jacobean Britain. By then he was 29, and Bess Vernon was 30. I don’t think she was offered a position in Queen Anne’s household. That suggests she didn’t want one. She’s more likely to have wanted a proper household of her own and more children.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday May 3, 2019 / 6:20 pm

      I hope he appreciated his good fortune.

      I’m not sure how wise it was of James to have rewarded those who appeared to have rebelled against his predecessor. Perhaps he thought they were less likely to do him any harm if he kept them close.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 3, 2019 / 9:21 pm

      James was shrewd, and not one-eyed. He also reappointed most of Elizabeth’s Privy Councillors, including some who’d been anti-Essex. Francis Bacon became a King’s Counsel, and was knighted. I think it may have been Robert Cecil who never quite trusted Southampton again, even though they were reconciled. Incidentally, I came across “A Life of Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury” by Algernon Cecil on the Internet Archive. Published 1915. I haven’t had a chance to have much of a look at it, but what I have seen looks good, and it’s well-referenced with footnotes on most pages.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 5, 2019 / 8:20 am

      He was the complete opposite to Elizabeth, who really understood the importance of “image”.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 5, 2019 / 8:52 am

      Not the paparazzi, perhaps. They’d have made it their mission to catch her without her make-up on.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi May 8, 2019 / 1:46 pm

      Picker and Stealer’s tenacity in pursuit of Shakespeare is astounding. I suppose it provides them with a legit reason for committing crimes.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.