137:  A Cunning Plat or Two

A dark-haired young man with a spade-shaped beard, He's wearing a glossy white satin doublet.
The Earl of Essex in happier times, after his 1596 victory at Cadiz.

The Earl of Essex were a desperate man.

He’d not been permitted to speak private with Queen Puss since he came hot from Ireland and ran into her bedchamber.

He knew his enemies were slandering him.  While he was denied her presence there would be no justice for him or his friends. 

And he had friends a-plenty, as I have writ.  More came to Essex House everie day. 

I walked among the legs and petticoats, and saw all.

Lords and gentlemen with discontentments.  Soldiers who lacked employment.  Catlicks who sought freedom of conscience.  And Puritans too, who preached in the yard. 

Many came from the citie to hear these men, because they were apt to slip words on the proper duties of a prince into their sermons.  (By Prince, they meant Queen Puss.)

I had not the patience to heark them, but I glimpsed our mistress (a politick puritan herself) with Little Wattie.  For once, I pitied that poor dog.

Doubtless there were also spies there.  We who could be trusted met at another house that lay nigh.  Sir Charles Daffers [Danvers] lodged there.  As did our Earl, sometimes.

Though this house was situate in Scabface’s manor, he would not enter with me.  He swore he would as lief step into his grave as into any house where the door might be made fast and he emprisoned.

Scabface’s manor – apart from the river, which he probably regarded as a waste of space.
Sir Walter Ralegh’s town residence, Durham House, is marked at the far left.  Essex House is at the right.
Drury House, where the core conspirators met, sits where the now lost Wych Street runs into Drury Lane.
– From John Norden’s 1593 map of Westminster.

Some of the talk in that house were tedious, but this is what I learnt.

More lords, knights and gentlemen than six cats could number on their claws were sworn to aid the Earl of Essex.

First, their plat was to seize both the Court at White-Hall and the Tower.

Then they thought to seize onlie the Court.  They did not fear the palace guard, because many were friends to Essex.

Some of our number would slip in early and clear the way for Essex to come with the rest.

Essex and other earls could present theirselves most humble to the Queen.  Not in her Bedchamber, but in the Privy Chamber. 

There she would hear how Essex had been grievous wronged.  Then she would call a parlement, and his enemies would be punished.

Or so some believed.  I thought Queen Puss were as like to hear them as I would be to hear a posse of pigeons that wished to bell me.

Others may have thought the same, for soon all fell to arguing.

A soldier preparing to tie a round bell about a sullen-looking cat's neck.
Belling the cat – this time by a soldier literally armed to the teeth.
A detail from Pieter Brueghel’s ‘Netherlandish Proverbs’ c.1559

Our Earl lost patience then.  He cried, “Then it seems we shall resolve upon nothing, though we’ve been thinking on some actions these three months past.”

So back to Essex House again, where the Earl of Essex agreed we should seize White-Hall. 

Scabface was joyed to hear that newes. 

He sayt he had never trod so far as White-Hall – it lay not in his manor – but he would set forth straightway.  He hoped to see much fighting, and do some hisself if he came upon a White-Hall cat or dog.

I told him there was preparations to be made.  Nowt would happen that night, nor in the coming days.

“The best you can do,” sayt I, “would be some hurt to Sir Water Rawlie [Walter Ralegh].  He’s captain of the palace guard and a great enemie to Essex. If he’s at White-Hall that day, there will be blood.”

Then I wished I’d kept that to myself, because blood was what Scabface wished to see.

As we lingered on the river wall, we saw a boat come to Essex’s stairs.  A couple of men stepped out and were admitted to the garden.

Just as the waterman turned to row away a cat slipped from ’neath a seat, leapt to the stairs and thence up the wall. 

He halted when he saw us, and called most sweet, “Save you, friends!”

“A spy,” sayt I to Scabface.  “Seize him.”

Just for fun, here’s Scabface’s “manor” from Google Maps.  It’s marked to show the approximate locations of Durham House, Drury House, and Essex House.