161:  Waiting for Newes

There was not a cat in Black-Fryes who did not wish to know why the Queen Cat of Heaven had shaked our houses.

I thought Paws might call a parlement, but the weather was not fit.

A large tabby and white cat crouched in a tree.A few cats who were well fleshed and furred against the cold came across the rooves to speak with us.

Some sayt the Queen Cat of Heaven was wroth with the wickedness of men and women.  They should heed her warning and be more civil to us.  Else she would flat the citie with one blow of her paw.

Others believed she had but whurred and stretched herself, which signified we would hear good tidings soon.

“Queen Puss will die,” sayt Luvvie the player cat.  “The King of Scotland will come and loose your late Earl from the Tower.  I hear tell the Scotland Queen loves a good play.  I may seek a place in their household.”

“There are many seeking such places now,” sayt I.  “You must be as swift and sly as they.” 

Oh, Luvvie was swift and sly but I did not know that then.

A middle-aged man with fair skin, dark eyes, a receding hairline seated before a window.
Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy.

One of Linkin’s friends brought word of victory in Ireland for Lord Mount-Penny.  (As we saucie cats called him, because he was the Pretty Penny’s other husband.)

The English and the loyal Irishes had triumphed against the rebels and the Spanish.

The rebels had run off, and the Spanish were making readie to go home.

Queen Puss was joyed.  The gentleman who brought her the newes was permit to kiss her paw.  Twice.

Linkin and I did not think the Queen Cat of Heaven were joyed.

’Tis true she does not love the Spanish, and raises great seas against them when she can, but are not the Irishes kin to us cats in their choice of vittles and their manner of fighting?  Yet the cat that brought newes of the victory sayt they now had nowt to eat and no trees left to hide in.

A cloudy night sky.

After our master wed his sweetheart she came to dwell with us.  She did not trouble me, and made no objections to Linkin as a bedfellow.

Next came Picker and Stealer, the cats I most wisht to see.  They were going to seek Snakes-Purr, but they feared he might have quit the citie for the countrie.

“That clown loves to play the gentleman,” sayt they.  “He may be gone to brag to his fellow clods of the wealth he wins here.  Sure, he won’t be telling them by what foul means he makes it.  But we’ll find him if we can and you may take revenge.”

Revenge.  That were sweet in mine ears.

They also sayt they’d heard tell my Earl’s fellow rebels in the Tower were permit to visit him.  All were plotting mischiefs.  Escapes and the like.

That were enuff to make me wish myself in the Tower in place of my kit.

“What?” Picker cried.  “Your kit is in the Tower?”

“We ourselves have never gained entry,” sayt Stealer. “ We must be content with fettering [loitering] nigh.”

I did not tell them Puss Fur-None had carried the young fool thither.

The Tower of London

I sayt, “That kit came into this world most rebellous.  And when my Earl’s mother, the old Countess, sought a place for him with Sir Rabbit [Sir Robert Cecil] he straightway took him for a Miscreant and conveyed him to the Tower.”

Picker and Stealer parted from me more respective than I ever knowed them.

Or would know them, for I never saw them again.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorCharles Blount, Lord Mountjoy, had gone unwillingly to Ireland as Lord Deputy in early 1600.  He proceeded with the war of attrition the poet Edmund Spenser had recommended but Essex had avoided.  (See the note below Linkin Makes his Report.)

In September 1601 Philip III of Spain finally sent a long-awaited Spanish force of around 3,500 to Ireland.  They occupied the port of Kinsale in Munster, a province largely under English control.  In November the rebel leader Tyrone and his allies set out from Ulster to join them. 

Meanwhile Mountjoy’s men, laying siege to Kinsale, were short of supplies and dying from disease and exposure in their thousands.

On 23-24 December 1601 Mountjoy divided his army, leaving two-thirds (about 4,000 men) outside Kinsale.  He took 1500 foot and 500 horse to meet Tyrone, who’d arrived with about 6,000 men.  The subsequent battle took place on the firm, open ground the English cavalry liked.  Historian Paul E. J. Hammer says, “The victory was testimony to Mountjoy’s boldness (or perhaps desperation) and the inexperience of Irish troops in open battle.”[1]

The Spanish who held Kinsale negotiated terms of surrender and were allowed to leave for home.  Tyrone retreated to Ulster and put out peace feelers.

Mountjoy wanted to return to England, but wasn’t going to repeat Essex’s mistake of agreeing to a temporary truce.  Queen Elizabeth refused to treat with Tyrone despite the war’s extraordinary cost in lives and money, so the scorched-earth policy continued with disastrous results for Ireland.

The victory at Kinsale restored Mountjoy to favour.  He’d been implicated in various plans of the Essex faction and was viewed with suspicion, but once in Ireland he concentrated on pursuing the war.  The Queen and Sir Robert Cecil chose to disregard his earlier involvement.

[1] Elizabeth’s Wars: War, Government and Society in Tudor England, 1544-1604 (2003) p227-8