105:  Scandal and the Citie

When I first met Onix, he sayt he was so necessary in his employment he had scant leisure.  I think the truth of it was, he had few friends.  His scents were so uncatly.

Once he knew Linkin and I did not distain him, he came to visit us by day.

We three were sat peaceable in our yard when I saw two lean shadows creep along the wall.

“Greetings, friends,” they called.  “We thought it time we was better akwaynted with the new stars in our fundament.”

A lean grey tabby with an intense green stare licks her nose.
Picker, a wicked cat.
– from Shubhankar Sharma via Unsplash.

Linkin and I let that pass.

“I call myself Picker,” sayt one.

And the other, “All know me as Stealer.”

Picker sayt, “We bring newes of your lord, the Right Honourable Earl of Southampton, Baron of Itch-Filled.”

“Titchfield,” sayt I.

“Cry you mercy!” sayt Stealer.  “We meant no offence.  You’re spoke of here as the Itch-Filled queen.”

Oh, I itched.  I itched to have at the saucie sluts.

But I narrowed mine eyes most courteous, and sayt, “Titchfield is a hard word for they that have no education.”

A lean grey tabby cat with an intense green stare and the tip of one ear missing.
Stealer, an equally wicked cat.
– from Shubhankar Sharma via Unsplash.

Stealer sayt, “Not so hard as the thought of your new Countess lying in prison at the pleasure of Her Majestie and the expense of her cousin, the Earl of Essex.”

“That’s not newes,” sayt I.  “All know Her Majestie hates any fair lady loved by a young lord.”

“Has Lady Essex a place at Court?” arrkst Linkin, rhetorickal.  “Will old Lady Lester [Leicester] ever be forgiven?”

“Or Mistress Rawly [Ralegh]?” sayt Onix. “First she was in the Tower, now she molders in the country.”

“Who trod on your tail?” arrkst Stealer.

Picker continued, “We also hear your Earl makes as great of a fool of hisself in Paris as he did here.  He does nowt but play [gamble] at games he rarely wins.”

“Surely, all know that lords love to play?” I arrkst.  “I once did battle with a great rat in the court [courtyard] at Titchfield, while my lord and his friends hung from the windows and laid wagers on us.  I earned my lord three hundred crowns.”

“Praise the day!” cried Stealer.  “But he’s lost three thousand since.”

“Doing battle at tennis and ballon with French lords,” added Picker.

“My lord is suttle,” sayt I. “The more money he loses in France, the better their King will love him.”

They fell silent then.  One clawed at her fleas, while the other cleansed her filthie paws.

Truth to tell, I enjoyed that bout of wits.

’Twas not long ere they came me again.

“Haply, you can answer this,” sayt Stealer.  “A cat in the household of a learned doctor tells of another fair lady who’s hot for your Earl.  How stands she in his affections now he’s wed?”

“Old newes,” sayt I.  “Nigh on a year has passed since I heard she was pursuing him.  Is one husband not enough for her?”

“Perchance she hoped her husband dead,” sayt Stealer.  “And herself a widow rich enough to hook any Earl.”

Picker arrkst, “Did your lord tell of the letter she sent him before he went to France?”

Linkin cut in quick.  “He did, and he chose not to answer her.  You may guess why.”

“We can,” they sayt.  “We do.  Your lord is Essex’ creature to the core.”

And away they flew.

“When heared you of that letter?” I arrkst Linkin.

“Never,” swore he.  “But if Picker and Stealer knew more than we, they would have put a different question to us.”

Then he rose and walked about our yard, setting his mark here and there to rid us of their presence.

I sayt to Onix, “I marvel that Paws, so sober and statelie, admits those dawkins to her parlement.”

“Did you not know?” he cried.  “They’re her daughters, and her spies.  Many fear them.”

Fear them?  Not I.  Like His Harryship, I loved to play.

When I was scarce more than a kit, I oft leapt into the yard where his hunting dogs lodged.  Most were in their house.  One or two might be free for exercise.  I watched them from afar ere I entered.

Oh, the joy when I cleared the wall again with their hubbubs and hot breaths behind me!

I guessed my love of excitations would serve me well in this citie.

A drawing of the Earl’s house – The Place – at Titchfield.
The dog yard Tricks found so exciting is shown upper right.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorTricks and Linkin defended the Earl of Southampton well.

He certainly didn’t seem to be doing much to help himself – apart from maintaining that he’d done nothing dishonourable, and his only error was to marry without Queen Elizabeth’s consent.

However, lingering in Paris and pleading poverty while losing huge sums of money wasn’t a good look.  In late September 1598 Sir Robert Cecil had word from France that the Earl was making wagers of 1,000, 2,000, and even 4,000 crowns.

And what of Mrs Prannell (nee Frances Howard), whom Tricks last heard of in 1597? She had consulted astrologer Simon Forman again in early February 1598, when the Earl first left for France.  She asked: Would the Earl like her any better?  Did he tell of the letter she’d sent him?  When would he return?

By October 1598 many people must have been asking that last question.

A late Elizabethan grey stone house, surrounded by parkland.
A view of Sir Walter Ralegh’s Sherborne Castle today.
Completed in 1594, and not so large then, it was where his wife Elizabeth  “Mistress Rawly” lived.  There are worse places to “molder”!  Anyway, she would have been kept busy.

 

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104:  My First Parlement

And what a strange thing it was!

When Paws called for order, a fierce stone-cat [tom-cat] leapt onto the wall to serve as our watch.  Though whether he were there to keep us in or others out I knew not.

Another cat rose and arrkst the Queen Cat of Heaven to look with favour on our parlement.

Then Paws sayt, “Are there new members here?”  (Though I swear she saw us enter.)

A black and white cat posed against a wooden bench with copper, brass and eathernware vessels and a pile of cinnamon quills.
Onix, who has employment in an apothecary’s shop.

Onix begged permission to speak.  He sayt he wished to present two that were in the service of the Earl of Southampton.

That caused a stir.  Linkin and I were called to show ourselves.

Paws arrkst who was the member for our household.

I knew not what she meant by that, but Linkin sayt he was.  And that I lodged with him against our Earl’s return from France.  “Which,” added Linkin, “our Earl says he cannot do, because he lacks for money.”

That set all screeching.  “An Earl with no money?” called some.

“Come he must, if Her Majestie commands it,” sayt Paws. “And take his punishment like a lord.  His cat has no place of her own, and his poor wife and her cousin the Earl of Essex must bear all Her Majestie’s wrath.”

Some cats called, “Shame!”

Then Linkin was arrkst to give an account of hisself.

Linkin, Law-Cat and Member of Parlement.

He boasted so well of his learning that he was welcomed by other law-cats, and invited to sit on their committy.

I was left at the back with the likes of Picker and Stealer.

Then came the reports, as ordered by Paws.  Most tedious, save when a cat told of the funeral of old Lord Purrlie [Burghley].

She sayt that the Earl of Essex had come from his hiding place in the country, and wore the sorriest face of all.

“Sorry for hisself, most like,” she added.  “He’ll get nowt by Lord Purrlie’s death.  All the good places old Purrlie held are taken by Sir Rabbit [Sir Robert Cecil] and his friends.”

Another arrkst if it were true that Essex was in hiding because Her Majestie had struck him a blow, and he’d wauled most fierce at her.

I pricked my ears, for I knew nowt of that.

But Paws sayt that we’d had no report of any fight, and our parlement was not for gossips’ talk nor slander.

I could scarce keep from yawning.

Then Paws invited talk of Ireland, where ’twas said that the Irishes had been attacking the English mightily, and won a glorious victory.

Some cats sayt that if the English were taking their places, the Irishes should chase them out.

A dark-haired young man with a spade-shaped beard, He's wearing a glossy white satin doublet.
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.

Linkin (getting the nod from Paws) sayt, “And if Her Majestie wishes to punish the Irishes, who can she send against them but the Earl of Essex?”

That brought applauds.

“Certes,” sayt Paws, “many hope Essex will return to Her Majestie’s household, but he lies sick a-bed in his house beyond the citie.”

“Sick of old Queen Puss,” sayt I, not soft enough.  Picker and Stealer turned to give me looks.

Then Picker or Stealer – I knew not which – sought to speak.

I feared she meant to have me chased off, and readied myself for flight.

Instead she sayt, “I slander none, but I hear Essex has sayt that even princes can err, and wrong their subjects.  And that no earthly power is infinite.  Can such wild words be true?  Or has fever enflamed his brains?”

Oh, that was suttle.

“I fear,” sayt Linkin (having the nod again) “that the most noble and heroick Essex has stepped forth upon a slender branch.  We must pray it bears his weight, lest he should fall and look fool.”

That brought great applauds.

How well Linkin could play at politicks.  And Picker and Stealer too.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe fight between Queen Elizabeth and Essex occurred at a meeting on 30 June or 1 July 1598.  Sir Robert Cecil and the Lord Admiral Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, were also there, and the Clerk of the Signet.

In the absence of a record by anyone present, modern historians rely on the brief account written some years later by William Camden (1551-1623) in his history of the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  Camden calls it a “sharp dissention”.

Queen Elizabeth, from the first volume of Camden’s Annales (1625 edition).

The Lord Deputy of Ireland had recently died, and there was an argument (apparently driven by rivalry between Essex and Sir Robert Cecil) over who should replace him.

When Queen Elizabeth dismissed Essex’ suggestion, he turned his back on her.  She gave him “a cuff on the ear and bade him be gone…”.  He placed his hand on his sword hilt.  The Lord Admiral stepped between them.

Essex announced that he couldn’t swallow such treatment, nor would he have taken it from King Henry VIII – Elizabeth’s father, with whom she liked to be compared.

He left the Court and went to his house at Wanstead (now part of greater London).  He remained there throughout July and August resisting his friends’ and allies’ advice to make peace with Queen Elizabeth, and appearing only at Lord Burghley’s funeral on 30 August.

Essex seems to have been prone to bouts of depression, but after Lord Burghley’s funeral he became dangerously ill.  He was then forgiven by Queen Elizabeth.

The story of the “dissention” has grown in the telling.  Essex was later reported to have also said that the Queen’s conditions (disposition) were as crooked as her carcass – or words to that effect.  He may well have made this remark at some stage, but I find it hard to believe that even he would have said it in her hearing.