188:  Of My Lord’s Cousin

My lord’s cousin is a geck.

My lord’s cousin: Anthony Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount Montague, stands between his younger brothers.   The painting, by Isaac Oliver, is dated 1598, and gives their ages, but no names.  Lord Montague is 24, and his brothers are 21 and 18.  The young man (21) entering at the right is unknown.

And if what I heared of the little book the cousin writ be true (and I have no cause to doubt it) he keeps greater state in his house than the King do.

And he a mere Viscount, lesser than my Earl.

I would hate to be the Cat of his household.  He would set down rules for me to live by.  Make me change the colours of my fur, most like.

Oh, he would have been dismayed by his lodgings in the Tower.  Belike he starved there.

For who in the Tower would make their curtseys to his table and bestow kisses on it before his dinner was served?

And, while his meats were on the range, would there be a servant standing by to see that no cook nor kitchen boy was so unseemlie as to turn his back on said meats?

I think not.

Who would doff their hat and stand submiss while his dinner was carried to his chamber?


And, when his table was cleared, would there be any to ensure that what remained on his trencher was not hid in corners (where swift-pawed cats do likewise hide)?

’Tis well that puffed-up papist never went to fight the Irishes as my lord did.  He requires three men to help him to his horse.  One to hold his horse’s head.  One to hold the stirrup.  One to help him onto his horse’s back.

An alert-looking black and white cat

Before he were in the saddle the Irishes would have cut their throats, taken captive his horse, and fled into their bogs.

I marvel a fourth man is not employed to bestow kisses on his saddle before he sets his arse in it.  Yea, and a fifth to kiss his horse’s arse as well.

I have not the stomach to spend more ink on this fool.

Toutparmoi - Note from the Editor Harry’s taken against the Earl of Southampton’s cousin, Anthony Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount Montague/Montacute (1574 – 1629), so I’ll try to be fair to him.

Lord Montague inherited their wealthy grandfather’s estates at the age of 18 in 1592.  His country seat was Cowdray, at Midhurst in Sussex.

Harry’s great-uncle Gib. Soul of the Age.

Perhaps things at Cowdray had got slack.  Harry’s great-uncle Gib lived there for a while.  Gib opened his memoirs with an account of spraying on some books.  Later he writes of climbing the tapestries when the family was away.  The servants who’d remained at Cowdray weren’t behaving well, either.

Anyway, in 1595 Lord Montague wrote “A Book of Rules and Orders for the better Government of My Household and Family…”  “Family” here means his servants.  He begins by listing, in order of rank, the officers of his household.  Many would have had oversight or direct control of others.

His book’s short, but not an easy read.  It opens a window into the running of a lord’s household, and that makes it fascinating.  So fascinating, and unintentionally funny, that I’ve started summarising who was meant to do what.   It’s a work in progress; the page will expand in time.

All the officers Lord Montague lists are male.  A few had specific responsibilities to Lady Montague, but there’s no mention of female servants. They were part of her establishment, not his.  He goes on to provide what we would call individual job descriptions, dress codes, and advice on conduct.

A great estate was an economic enterprise, and Lord Montague’s Steward was its general manager and chief financial officer.  He was also responsible for discipline,  correcting “the negligent and disordered persons…the riotous, the contentious, and quarrellous…, the revengers of their own injuries, the privy mutineers, the frequenters of tabling, carding, and dicing in corners and at untimely hours and seasons, the conveyers of meat and other matter out of my house, the haunters of alehouses or suspicious places by day or by night; the absenters from their charge… and they that have leave of absence that do not return home at their time…; such and their like (be they gentlemen or yeomen)…”.

Now we know what servants got up to.  Note the reference to conveying meat (i.e. food) and other matter out of the house.  In a society where everybody expected jobs to provide perks, many servants probably saw food, especially leftovers, as theirs by right.

Lord Montague has a lot to say about food – particularly the ceremonial serving of his dinner at 10.00 in the morning, and supper at 5.00 p.m.

He, Lady Montague and her gentlewomen seem to have eaten upstairs, but most of the household ate in the Hall.  The tables they sat at were ordered by rank, and where each person sat was specified.

Harry isn’t exaggerating about the required rituals of service, though how people could prepare meals for so large a household without turning their backs on the lord’s roast, I do not know.

To be fair, the book is about more than the maintenance of status.  Importance is placed on the need to keep all rooms “cleane and sweete”, and how strangers [guests] should be accommodated.  Still, it seems an odd thing for a 21 year old to have written, and borders on the obsessive.

In early 1606, things weren’t looking good for Lord Montague.  Guy Fawkes, a former employee, had said (under torture) that he was one of the lords warned to keep away from parliament on 5 November because they could do no good there.  But did he know about the plot?    

I’ve no idea what Southampton himself thought of his cousin.  They must have known each other as children, but seem to have had little to do with each other in later life.

Cowdray House .