The cats are so fond of gossip and scandal it’s not possible to include info about all the people they mention here. Most are easily found on the internet, but below are quick bio notes for those that Gib (1580-1598), his niece Tricks (1594- ?), or Tricks’ son Harry (1601- ?) either knew or chanced to meet. The list will get longer.
In approximate order of appearance, starting from 1: I Begin a True Relation of My Life, they are:
The Countess – Mary Browne (1552-1607). Daughter of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague. Married (1) Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton in early 1566; (2) Sir Thomas Heneage in 1594; (3) Sir William Hervey c.December 1598.
Strong-willed and impetuous; definitely not one to be pushed around. Also loving and loyal to family and friends. Some time after the break-up of her first marriage (see Domestic Difficulties) she returned to her father’s house Cowdray, at Midhurst in West Sussex. Her second husband, Sir Thomas Heneage, owned Copthall in Essex and also had a London apartment in the old Savoy Palace which she retained until her death.
Two children, both from her first marriage, survived infancy: Mary and Harry (below). Harry seems to have inherited his mother’s temperament along with her looks.
Gib’s lord, the young Earl, our Earl – Harry (Henry), Lord Wriothesley, later the 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624). Soldier, patron, courtier, and politician. Supported exploration and colonisation via the Virginia Company; also a member of the East India Company.
Married Elizabeth (Bess) Vernon in 1598; six (?) children, four of whom survived to adulthood.
After his father’s death in 1581, the 8 year old Earl was taken into the household of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, who became his guardian. Burghley later hoped to marry his granddaughter to Southampton, who may have had to pay a hefty fine for refusing the match. (See The Court of Wards and Liveries.)
In the early 1590s Southampton became a close friend of, and was influenced by, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601). Though briefly tipped in 1595 by interested onlookers as a new royal favourite Southampton doesn’t seem to have pursued the role, possibly because it could have brought him into rivalry with Essex and/or led to courtly game-playing that held no appeal for him.
Southampton may have hoped to accompany Essex on campaign as early as 1591, but didn’t see action until 1597 when he went to the Azores as commander of the Garland. (An event covered by the sea cat Nero, who claimed to have gone too.)
In 1599 Essex appointed Southampton as General of the Horse in Ireland, where his courage in the field was noted. However, Queen Elizabeth, furious because he’d married Bess Vernon without her permission, insisted he be deprived of his commission. He stayed on with Essex as a captain, and later returned to Ireland with Lord Mountjoy, who’d replaced Essex as Lord Deputy of Ireland.
In 1601 he was a leader in the abortive rising that cost Essex his head. He was held in the Tower until the accession of James VI (of Scotland) and I (of England) in 1603. His career prospered at James’ court although there were tensions arising from his opposition to the exercise of the royal prerogative without parliament’s advice.
There’s no historical record of any connection between him and William Shakespeare, other than Shakespeare’s dedications of two long narrative poems in 1593 and 1594.
Lady Moll – Lady Mary Wriothesley (c.1570 -1607), the young Earl of Southampton’s sister. Married (1585) Thomas Arundell (later 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour); three children who survived to adulthood.
Her father (below) did his best to deprive his estranged wife of access to both their children, not only during his lifetime but also (by the terms of his will) after his death. However, Mary was returned to her mother’s custody when he died.
Only snippets of information about Mary survive. In the early 1590s she was at a lively gathering where John Harington’s idea of a flushing water-closet was first discussed, and in her brother’s house at Titchfield at the time of the Danvers’ escape to France. (See further down this page.) Her married life wasn’t made easy by her husband’s absence overseas, and her father-in-law’s ongoing hostility – deserved or not, who knows?
The Earl, or the old Earl – Henry Wriothesley, 2nd Earl of Southampton (1545-1581). First husband of Mary Browne (the Countess) and father of Harry and Mary. Staunchly Catholic, and frequently under suspicion.
In 1570 Pope Pius V excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, putting her Catholic subjects in a difficult, some would say impossible, position regarding their allegiance. The Earl sought advice on his duty from John Leslie, Bishop of Ross and the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots’ representative in London. This ill-considered action led to his imprisonment in the Tower from late 1571 until early/mid 1573.
He was delighted when his son was born in October 1573, and for a few years things went well for him, both personally and professionally. Then his health failed and his family life fell apart.
Tommik – Thomas Dymock, one of the old Earl’s gentlemen. Gib was well-aware of his influence in the household, though he may not have known which of the gentlemen he was. The Countess thought Thomas Dymock was the chief cause of the trouble between her and her husband, hated him accordingly, and said her husband had raised him “from nowt”. He did extraordinarily well out of the old Earl’s will.
A faithful servant, grasping opportunist, or conspirator in the break-up of a marriage, who can say? Anyway, Gib’s assassination attempt (in 11: I Visit the Stable) was unsuccessful. Mr Dymock reappears as a key player in the escape of the Danvers brothers (below) in 1594, when they were sought for killing Henry Long. Gib – who spells their surname Daffers, probably because it was pronounced Davers – carried out an investigation into the killing. The young Earl of Southampton helped the brothers flee to France.
Sir Charles Danvers (c1568-1601) had travelled widely in Europe, and soldiered in the Netherlands. After escaping to France, he and his brother Sir Harry/Henry (1573-1644) entered the military service of Henri IV. In 1598 both returned to England, having received a pardon. Sir Charles hoped to join the Earl of Essex on the 1599 Ireland campaign, but Queen Elizabeth did not approve his going. In 1601, out of loyalty to the Earl of Southampton, but probably against his better judgement, he participated in the Essex rising and was executed.
Sir Harry began his military career young, as a page to Sir Philip Sidney (d.1586) in the Netherlands, then served under Maurice of Nassau. He was with the Earl of Essex in Normandy in 1591 and Ireland in 1599. He returned to soldiering in Ireland under Lord Mountjoy, and was not involved in the Essex rising.
Created Baron Danvers by James I, and Earl of Danby by Charles I. He never married, but left a lasting memorial as the founder of the Oxford Botanic Garden.
The Earl of Essex (or Essicks, as Gib spells it) – Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (1565-1601). Elder son of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, and Lettice Knollys. After his father’s death in 1576 he became a ward of William Cecil, Lord Burghley.
Soldier, courtier, politician, and patron. Married c.1590 Frances, the widow of Sir Philip Sidney and daughter of Sir Francis Walsingham. Three of their children survived to adulthood.
Courageous, scholarly, honest, and generous, but also politically naive, over-ambitious, and prone to self-aggrandisement interspersed with bouts of depression. Staunchly protestant and an implacable enemy to Spain, he favoured religious toleration and had both puritans and Catholics among his followers.
Accompanied his stepfather Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, on the 1585 expedition to the Netherlands to aid the Dutch against the Spanish. By 1587, with Leicester’s support, he’d become the Queen’s young favourite; this first brought him into conflict with Sir Walter Ralegh though their rivalry didn’t harden into enmity until the late 1590s.
Led an English army in a joint operation with Henri IV of France in 1591. In 1593 he was appointed to the Privy Council, and hoped to replace the ailing William Cecil, Lord Burghley, as the Queen’s chief adviser (a place earmarked for Burghley’s son, Sir Robert Cecil).
Became a national hero in 1596 after destroying Spanish ships anchored in the bay of Cadiz and storming the city. However, his 1597 ‘Islands Voyage’ to the Azores was bedevilled by ill winds, and just missed intercepting the Spanish treasure fleet.
In 1599 his pride and sense of status as England’s top military commander landed him with the position of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, charged with putting down widespread rebellion. After an expensive and inconclusive campaign, and convinced his enemies in England (particularly Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Walter Ralegh) were undermining him, he agreed to a temporary truce with the rebel leader Hugh O’Neil, Earl of Tyrone, and returned to England to present his own case to the Queen.
In poor health, facing financial ruin, and believing (not without reason) that his enemies sought his death, he and some followers including the Earl of Southampton conceived a plan to appeal directly to the Queen with the support of the Lord Mayor of London and other city authorities. That fell flat, and in February 1601 he and Southampton were convicted of treason. Essex was executed.
The daughter of Sir John Vernon and Elizabeth Devereux of Hodnet in Shropshire, Bess was close to her Devereux cousins, particularly Penelope, Lady Rich (below).
After John Vernon’s death in 1591, Bess’s younger brother Robert became a ward of the Earl of Essex (above). Essex may have got Bess her position as maid of honour around the same time.
There’s no record of when or how Bess met the Earl of Southampton; it may have been as early as 1591/1592. In 1595 the letter-writer Rowland Whyte told his employer (Sir Robert Sidney) that Southampton was courting her with “too much familiarity”. Whyte’s use of the word “court” implies serious intent, but “familiarity” suggests the courtship was rash. Any earl’s marriage was a financial and politically strategic matter. Bess wouldn’t have had much of a marriage portion. Besides, Southampton had recently refused to marry Lord Burghley’s granddaughter; courting one of the maids of honour wouldn’t have pleased the Queen, and marrying into the Essex circle could have been viewed as politically undesirable.
In 1598 Rowland Whyte hinted that Bess was the young Earl’s mistress (in the modern sense of the word) adding that they intended to marry. Southampton left for France; Bess discovered she was pregnant; they were formally but secretly wed later that year. Southampton was punished by being sent to the Fleet prison for a few weeks. Bess may also have been there briefly.
The ongoing hostility the Queen displayed towards Southampton (ostensibly because of their marriage) and its effect on his career might account for the hints of anxiety in Bess’s surviving letters to him. Otherwise, the letters reveal a lively young woman devoted to her husband.
The Pretty Penny – Penelope Devereux (1563-1607). Courtier, Muse, and famous beauty. Elder sister and confidante of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Well-educated, clever, and independent-minded.
Married (1) Robert, Lord Rich in late 1581; five children, four of whom survived infancy; divorced in 1605. (2) Charles Blount, formerly Lord Mountjoy, now Earl of Devonshire by whom she already had five children. (This marriage wasn’t recognised in law – divorced people could not remarry while the former spouse lived.)
She made an instant impression on her first appearance at Court in 1581. Around the same time the gifted poet/soldier/courtier Sir Philip Sidney began work on his sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella which describes the hopeless love of Astrophil (star-lover) for Stella (a star). Puns on the word “rich” in the sonnets indicate that Penelope, now Lady Rich, was the model for Stella.
By 1590, her marriage was effectively over, and she began her relationship with Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy. She remained on cordial terms with Lord Rich, and all her children were usually at his house (Leez) at Leighs in the county of Essex. An active participant in the abortive Essex rising of 1601, she was arrested and interrogated, then released.
Married (1) Sir Philip Sidney in 1583 (2) Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex in 1590 (3) Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde in 1603. Five of her children survived to adulthood: one from her first marriage, three from her second, two from her third.
Her father Sir Francis was ambassador in Paris at the time of the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre (1572) when English Protestants (and possibly others from several nations) sought safety in the residence. Later, Frances may have had a place at Queen Elizabeth’s court, but at 15 or 16 she married Philip Sidney.
After the birth of their first child in 1586, she travelled to the Netherlands where Sidney was soldiering against the Spanish; he died from gangrene resulting from a leg wound a few months later. Her marriage to the Earl of Essex was initially secret, as marriages to the Queen’s favourites had to be, but neither she nor Essex was punished severely. Despite Essex’s occasional infidelities she was devoted to him, supporting him through his periods of disgrace with the Queen.