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.

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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.