103:  We Go To Paws Yard

There came a sweet night with a fat moon.  Linkin and I knew leaf fall was nigh, and we sat upon our roof tasting the air.

Many cats were a-stir.  We watched them making their ways across the rooves to Paws [St Paul’s], and guessed this was the night for an assembly.

Another view of St Paul’s. The silhouette of the resident cat can just be seen on the roof.

I caught a waft of cinnamon, and saw Onix.  He checked hisself when he saw Linkin, but then (Linkin showing no objection to his presence) he joined us.

He abased hisself so low in friendship he near rolled off our roof.  Then he righted hisself, addressing Linkin as Your Excellencie.  Thinking (most like) that Linkin also served our Earl.

Linkin sayt nowt to correct him.

Onix told us his mistress was fetched out so sudden that her maid, running behind her with her stool, had no time to chase him back into their shop.

“Her stool?” I arrkst, in a maze.  “Are citie cows milked so late?”

That made Onix and Linkin merry.

Onix sayt, “When next my mistress tells me I must bide in at night, I’ll tell her so should she, for all good cows are a-bed.”

A midwife seated on her stool – in this case a small chair. The mother is on a birthing chair, supported by a friend or relative. An early 16th century German illustration, via Wikimedia.

Then he sayt his mistress was no milkmaid but a midwife sworn, and of good report among all.

I was shamed that I’d not guessed this, even though there was no call for midwives in my mother’s barn, nor in my uncle’s bookroom.

Onix sayt he was going to Paws, and invited us to go with him.

I thought Linkin would not come, but he followed us slow and statelie.

Then Onix turned instructive.  Viz:

“First, all must do the bidding of Paws herself, for she keeps both church and yard and no cat may be received there without she say so.”

And, “None may speak unless they’re called upon by Paws, else there’ll be nowt but wauls and brawls and we shall go away no wiser than we came.”

And, “You may be arrkst to give an account of yourselves, so all may know you’re not from strange lands.  There are some in this citie who hate strangers.”

And, “Say nothing against Her Majestie.”

In truth, my heart sank when I heared all this, but Linkin gave me the look that sayt: You’re not in Titchfield now.  So I kept my thoughts well hid.

We leapt up the wall and down to the yard, where cats were gathering in a circle.  A grey queen sat watching all.

Being new, Linkin and I took places at the back, as is courteous.

Before Onix left us, he arrkst if it were true that Her Majestie had sent Mistress Fur-None – her ladyship, as all must now call her – to the prison nigh unto the Stink River [the Fleet].

“For,” he sayt, “a woman in kit should not look on ugly things nor dwell in noisome places, lest the babe takes some hurt thereby.  Or come ugly and stinkish into this world.”

Was ever the babe born that was not an ugly little stinkard?  But I sayt nowt.

Linkin told Onix that we’d heard that newes, but could not swear to it.

Then near me one whispered, “Sister, I could have sworn we was at Paws, but have we strayed among the fields?  Can you not nose a country coney?”

There came the reply, “In truth, sister, I nosed nowt but a passing grocer’s fart that near struck me dead.”

That were Picker and Stealer – the cats that insulted me when first we met.

Onix looked back, hissing, “My master is no mere grocer, as you well know, and my mistress carries with her nowt that is not healthful.”

Then the grey queen cat, who I guessed was Paws herself, stepped forward and called all to order.

A young man (probably an apprentice) is serving a female customer, and a woman (the apothecary's wife or daughter?) is preparing a mixture. Two men are at a desk - one, seated, is writing down what they are discussing.
An apothecary’s shop:  this is a Flemish one, which would explain the un-English looking headgear worn by the two men – one of whom is probably the apothecary, and the other his assistant.  From F. Kitchener’s ‘Illustrated History of Furniture’ (1903) via the Internet Archive.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorEven an Earl’s cat has to learn what it’s like to be a small member of a very large community.

And no surprise that Tricks finds Onix too prim and proper.  Cats share the preoccupations of their households, and midwives were pillars of their communities.

Midwives were supposed to be licensed by the local ecclesiastical authority – though this didn’t always happen, particularly in country districts.  There’s an example of an Elizabethan midwife’s oath printed in John Strype’s Annals of the Reformation… Vol 1 Part 2 (1824 ed).

In summary, Eleonor Pead swears to exercise her office according to her God-given knowledge and skill, help both poor and rich women, endeavour to ensure that only the true father of the child is named as such, permit no baby to be substituted at birth, use no sorcery or incantation, not destroy or dismember any child, and use only proper words and pure water when performing an emergency baptism (i.e. if the child is not likely to survive).

Onix’ announcement that his master was no mere grocer explains his master’s occupation.

Apothecaries (the equivalent of our pharmacists) both used and sold spices, which were considered to have medicinal value.  At the end of the 16th century apothecaries were still members of the Grocers Company, but in 1617 The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London was incorporated.

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102:  Queen Puss Breathes Fire

A detail from an early portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, showing an open jewellery box, a lavish display of pearls, brooches etc, and a pincushion containing the pins grand Elizabethan ladies used to hold their formal attire together. His Harryship and Puss Fur-None were wed in hugger-mugger.

It was the talk of our household.

’Twas sayt that when Queen Puss learnt of it she ran so mad she went not to chapel that day.

I went again to the wall of Essex House, but had no sight of His Harryship or any lady that might be Puss Fur-None.

Even so, Linkin and I were joyed that we’d known of their doings before the master and our mistress did.  Or Queen Puss.

She spake of sending all who were privy to this mischief to the Tower.

Not just our Earl and his Puss, but any who knew of it!

“Well,” sayt I to Linkin, “I always wished to see the Tower.”

He sayt it would not come to that, but the Earl and his new Countess would surely be punished.

We heard the master say that the Daffers [Danvers] brothers were in the citie, and our Earl may have travelled with them.  Even though Sir Rabbit [Robert Cecil] was given a letter from our Earl saying he hoped Sir Harry Daffers would soon come back to France, so they might go into Italy together.

Linkin believed that letter were a trick.  He sayt our Earl wrote it to make Sir Rabbit and all think he was still in Paris, not here.

Oh, his Harryship is suttle.  But how he passed unremarked mazed us both, he being so long and having much hair.

A long-haired young man in a white silk doublet with gold and purple trunkhose, white silk stockings and black shoes. He's also wearing a black and gold gorget, and a plumed helmet and breastplate are nearby.
The Earl of Southampton, or “His Harryship” as the disrespectful Tricks calls him. This is probably his wedding portrait, painted some time after the event.  He wouldn’t have looked like this when he slipped into England.

Then His Harryship returned to France, thinking no harm, and writ again to Sir Rabbit.

This time he arrkst him to tell Queen Puss that he was married.  He hoped Sir Rabbit could do this in such a way as to cause her least offence.

Too late for that.  Queen Puss was alreadie breathing fire.

She sayt he’d brought dishonour upon her Court, and shown hisself most contemptuous in his secret comings and goings.  She commanded him home again.

All here sayt that the longer our Earl tarried in France, the more offended Queen Puss would be.  

Linkin and I agreed that ’twould be no wonder if she sprouted scales and wings, and flew to France to smoke him out herself.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Earl of Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon were married in mid to late August, 1598.  That coincided with the Danvers brothers return to England. 

Elizabeth Vernon was 6 months pregnant.  If the Earl’s plan was to slip unnoticed into England with the Danvers, he may have intended to arrive a month or more earlier, but their departure was delayed because Sir Harry Danvers was ill.

It’s unlikely the Earl was delighted by the pregnancy.  He’d seen no future for himself at Queen Elizabeth’s court and spoken of serving Henri IV, probably in a military capacity.  Henri’s recent peace with Spain would have left him at a loose end, career-wise.

However, I think Elizabeth Vernon has had a grudging press.  One of the Earl’s biographers, A.L. Rowse, announces that the Earl was “homosexual” and married her because her cousin, the Earl of Essex, made him.

G.P.V. Akrigg suggests that the Earl vacillated, balancing his feelings for “the girl” (as Akrigg calls the 25 year old bride-to-be) and his friendship with Essex against his need for a wife with the wealth any Earl could reasonably expect and which the Earl of Southampton needed.

It’s hard to avoid getting the impression that the Earl married Elizabeth Vernon only because she was pregnant.

However, she may have been pregnant because they intended to marry – though probably not until after the Earl, who had Queen Elizabeth’s permission to spend two years overseas, had completed his travels and/or found a niche for himself at a foreign court.

And, despite the Earl’s possible flirtations (and maybe more) in 1597 with Mary Howard and Frances Prannell, he and Elizabeth Vernon had been together for three years.

Perhaps the best comment on their marriage is this unconventional portrait of Elizabeth Vernon.  Is it her wedding portrait?

She’s getting dressed.  Her hair is long and loose, in the style of a virgin bride.  Written on her comb is “Menez moi doucement,” which translates, somewhat inadequately, as “Manage (or Lead) me gently.”

The proportions of her body are odd, so it’s probably accidental that she looks pregnant – even though the position and curve of her left hand draw attention to her stomach.

The little dog on the cushion by her feet may be a favorite pet, but also symbolises fidelity.   

The fur-trimmed red robe lying beside her looks like that of a Countess, to be worn on state occasions.  On the table is a fine display of jewellery, and a pin-cushion with all the pins required to hold a grand Elizabethan lady’s formal attire together.

The portrait, though carefully posed, is unusually intimate for its time.  The Earl must have liked it, otherwise it wouldn’t have survived.