178: An Interview with My Mother

I endured our journey to my lord’s great house in the countrie without complaint.   My lord’s great house in the countrie: Place House, from an image held by the Hampshire Records Office.

That house was most strange to me, but I lost no time in enkwiring for my lady mother.  I nosed my way to the stable, the best place for newes.

A cat there told me, “Is she whom you call mother the incomer that claims precedence over us all?  And tells of her high doings in London?”

“Most like,” sayt I, scarce able to believe mine ears.

He sayt, “We arrkst her why she came here.  She sayt she was awaiting our Earl.  Yet we knew he was in the Tower.”

“I was in the Tower, too,” sayt I.  “Perchance you’ve heard her speak of me?”

An alert-looking black and white cat
Harry in the Tower.

They had not.

One sayt, “A cat here had a sister that went to London.  She called your mother an impostor, swearing her sister was gone from this world.  Your mother had at her, crying: Liar!  You was ever against me!”

Another sayt, “They fought so fierce we all bristled up.  None knew what to believe.”

“Then,” sayt the first, “the incomer came here and was granted admittance to the house.  So we think it was her sister that lied.”

Sure, that incomer was my mother.  But would she remember me?

They did not know where she might be found that day.  “When next we go to our Field to hear newes and joy ourselves,” sayt one, “she’ll be there.  All love her rebellous tales.”

Tricks – Harry’s mother.

I had no need to find that Field.  The next evening I glimpsed my lady mother in my lord’s garden!

I thought she’d heard of my coming, but when I went to greet her she gave me dark looks.

“Don’t you know me?” I arrkst.  “I’m your son Harry, come with newes of Snakes-Purr.”

“Harry?” sayt she.  “I’ve birthed more Harries – sons and daughters both – than I can number.”

“I’m Harry that was in the Tower,” sayt I.

Still she frowned on me.  I had no choice but to whisper, “Harry the fool kitling.”

“I guessed as much,” sayt she.  “But any cat that flees London for her life must be careful of herself.”

“All is changed now,” sayt I.  “We are safe, because the King and Mr Secretary love our Earl right well.”

“Not well enuff for the King to make him one of his Council,” sayt she.

“Our Earl is one of the Queen’s Council,” sayt I.

Strange attire – and body paint.

“Council for what?” arrkst she.  “Maskings and merriments in strange attires?”

Not even my newes of the attack on Snakes-Purr smoothed her.  “Picker and Stealer have sworn to chase him over the river,” sayt I.  “To the south bank or to hell.  That’s what they say.”

“I doubt those starvelings have riz so high that they can choose who dwells in the citie,” sayt she.

Could I say nowt to please her?

I bethought me of the knave who’d turned the King against my lord by whispering he was plotting treason, and sayt, “Then we must turn some great personage against Snakes-Purr.”

“True,” sayt she. “But how?  I once made a libel against Mr Secretary, naming him Sir Spyder, and writ W.S. below it.  Nowt came of that.”

“Belike Mr Secretary thought the verse too good to have been writ by that thief,” sayt I.

She sayt, “Belike the wind carried all copies away, and Mr Secretary never saw one.”

I sayt, “Then we must weave a web worthy of the Spyder hisself.  And snare Snakes-Purr so well that all the world may know him for the felon he is.”

“You’re not so fool as you look,” sayt she.

From a mother such as mine, that were praise indeed.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorI’m glad Harry managed to find Tricks, even if his reception wasn’t as warm as he’d hoped.  She’s well up on London gossip, so she must be spending most of her time in the household of the woman who inadvertently took her to London in 1598, and  brought her back to Titchfield in 1602.

Four years is a long time in the life of any cat, so it’s not surprising that the locals – save her sister, who’d inherited their mother’s barn – didn’t remember her.  Nor is it surprising that she was wary of Harry.  His first visit to Titchfield was in 1605, and Tricks hadn’t seen him since his kitlinghood in 1601.

The “maskings and merriments in strange attires” Tricks refers to are Queen Anne’s masques.  Anne was an enthusiastic patron of the arts, and her masques were court entertainments with a mix of music, dancing, speech and mime.  They were mostly scripted by Ben Jonson with elaborate sets and costumes designed by Inigo Jones, now best-remembered for his architecture – particularly the Queen’s House at Greenwich.

Some people thought the masques scandalous, because the Queen and the ladies of her court danced in them.  Even worse, Queen Anne was said to have displayed her legs below the knee.

29 thoughts on “178: An Interview with My Mother

  1. Timi Townsend July 26, 2019 / 2:03 am

    It is most wondrous indeed to encounter Tricks again, even with her suspicious attitude toward Harry upon their reunion. Still, that is reasonable, considering their long separation and catitude.

    I am a great fan of Ben Jonson and the masques of Queen Anne. Perhaps we will hear more of them in Harry’s future writings? ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi August 1, 2019 / 10:10 am

      Sorry Timi – I haven’t been ignoring you. I just somehow missed seeing your comment until now. I’m a fan of Ben Jonson’s too, but I’ve seen only one of his plays on stage. That was ‘Bartholomew Fair’ way back when I was at university. It’s a source of ongoing annoyance to me that so few of works of other Elizabethan dramatists are staged nowadays – though I can appreciate that the masques may be a big ask. I suppose the modern term for Inigo Jones’ costumes would have been “wearable art”.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend August 1, 2019 / 10:37 am

      Ha! That’s a good term for some of Inigo Jones’ masque costumes. But I did see a few on some program about clothing in Queen Anne’s reign that looked rather nice, although feathery. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 1, 2019 / 10:46 am

      The masques also had lighting effects that impressed the audience. I wonder how they managed those?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. April Munday July 26, 2019 / 3:58 am

    I’m glad Harry and Tricks are reunited and that he’s impressed her.

    Queen Anne is turning out not to be at all what I imagined. The Danish court must have been a very wild place. Poor John Dowland must have found it a bit racy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2019 / 2:30 pm

      Anne of Denmark seems to have been overlooked by many historians, or presented unfavourably. Originally, I had the impression of a dim-witted, extravagant woman. She may have been extravagant (as was James) but from the little I’ve read of her recently she doesn’t seem at all dim. Apparently her father King Frederick’s court was pretty riotous – though I don’t know if he was also a patron of the arts. I’m now keen to read a good biography of her.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 26, 2019 / 6:09 pm

      I always thought that she was quiet, but I suppose James’ court was pretty scandalous. I’ll have to read Unnatural Murder again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 27, 2019 / 8:45 am

      Two scandalous courts, because Anne soon established her own. The scandalous side has probably been over-promoted; women were always targets for malicious gossip, while James’ fondness for attractive young men didn’t incline earlier historians towards fair assessments of him as a King. Thanks for the heads-up on Unnatural Murder – I haven’t read it, but will.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 27, 2019 / 6:49 pm

      I took it off the shelf yesterday and had a look at some of the illustrations. The women display rather more flesh than I remembered. Elizabeth Freemantle (as E.C. Freemantle) recently wrote a fictional account of the events – The Poison Bed. I’ve read some of her Tudor books. I can’t say that I enjoyed them, but they’re good stories well told.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi July 27, 2019 / 8:10 pm

      The fashionable bodice seems to have been very low cut! Interestingly, Queen Anne doesn’t seem to have worried that the ladies of her court might outshine her in beauty and brains.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday July 27, 2019 / 9:28 pm

      I wonder if that was because she was a sensible woman, or because James’ tastes meant that another woman wasn’t going to have more of the king’s attention than she had.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend August 2, 2019 / 2:09 am

      But why do you think John Dowland was a timid type, April? I played his lute songs for nearly fifty years without ever having that impression.

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday August 2, 2019 / 3:44 am

      I don’t think he was timid, just that he described himself as doleful.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 2, 2019 / 4:48 am

      Being doleful was the fashion. In fact, I think chronic depressives might have felt more cheerful back then because melancholy was in vogue.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Timi Townsend August 2, 2019 / 3:20 pm

      I always thought that that was just a play on his name, Dowland.

      Liked by 2 people

    • April Munday August 3, 2019 / 8:41 am

      It was a play on words, but I think it worked because he was melancholic.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. colonialist July 26, 2019 / 9:17 am

    Methinks the cats of the time were even more devious and complex than the humans!

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2019 / 2:03 pm

      Devious and complex? Cats? Oh no, I can’t believe that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • colonialist July 26, 2019 / 10:32 pm

      What COULD I have been thinking of? Contrary? Otherwise? Stubborn? Adorabubble?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Catwoods July 26, 2019 / 10:21 am

    The reunion of Tricks and Harry so like that of my family’s Annabelle and Bud. My mom took in Annabelle and we took in her kitten Bud. When mom passed years later and Annabelle came into our household, there was no recognition or affection between the two of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi July 26, 2019 / 3:01 pm

      Cats can grow apart very quickly. In a long life of living with or around cats I’ve only known three who seemed capable of recognising old friends. My brother and I each had a kitten (they weren’t related) and when I left home I took my cat. Occasionally my cat would be sent home to stay while I was away on holiday or whatever, and he and my brother’s cat always got along fine. Another cat I had seemed to have an extraordinary memory for people he’d known, on one occasion running to greet a former neighbour of mine, even though he hadn’t seen the neighbour for at least 10 years. But these cats were exceptions to the norm, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Rachel McAlpine July 28, 2019 / 8:07 am

    Harry’s journey in search of his birth mother and their first encounter could have come straight off a modern TV show. Just insert a doleful human commentator and you have it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi July 28, 2019 / 8:35 am

      I fear poor Harry may never be able to win the maternal approval he craves.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. mitchteemley August 16, 2019 / 2:43 pm

    Huzzah! Mother and son reunited at last (even if it is with a Will to kill)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi August 17, 2019 / 10:31 am

      First catch your Will! He’s such an elusive character, which explains why so many of his modern “biographers” have to be so inventive. We must be grateful that cats would never do such a thing.

      Liked by 1 person

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