The crowning of Their New Majesties was a poor spectacle of State and Pomp. There came such sickness in the citie that there could be no great procession from the Tower to Westminster.
Instead, the King and Queen did no more than go from White-Hall to the church. Same as the funeral for the late Queen, but with fewer folks attending on them.
I doubt King James was sorry. Like unto us cats, he hates to be looked upon.
I heard tell he once complained of gazers. And when he was told his loving subjects wished to see him, he swore he would pull down his breeches so they could see his arse.
That made me merry, but of my life at the court of King James and Queen Anne I will write little here. Save to say that I never thought to know such scandal.
The plots against the King, my lord, and all. The drinkards. The light-tails [female] and spangle-babes [male]. The Scots. No end of wicked folks.
For my safetie I keep a book of secrets, and hide it well. I have secrets enough to send into the world if any of that lousy crew ever seeks to wrong me.
I will say I never got no lice from the Scots, as one young lady swore she and her friends did. And they’d done no more than sit in a gentleman’s chamber!
My lord never got no lice neither. King James gave him many honours and employments. Even before the crowning he was made a proper Earl again.
The late Earl of Essex’s little Robin became a proper Earl too, his father having lost all with his head.
King James sayt Robin was the son of the noblest knight in all England, and took him to be reared in his own household.
Our friends were not forgot. Some were made lords or earls.
The Queen friended the Pretty Penny and two other ladies of our akwayntance, though one was wedded to a coward and the other was mighty hot for my lord and would not have shed a tear had my lady died.
That fellow who rode to Scotland with the newes of the old Queen’s death did not fare so well. The King had made him a gentleman of his bedchamber, but Mr Secretary Cecil was not having it. The fellow lost that place and had to be content with a lesser one. Hah!
That will learn folks to push theirselves in unarrkst.
There were times when I accompanied my lord and lady on their travels. Yes, even unto our castle, where I joyed myself in chasing squirrels.
But Southampton House became my chiefest residence. Right fine it is, so nigh to pleasant fields, so far from citie ruffians [dogs].
It was in the garden of Southampton House that those two grey sisters found me.
Alas, they did not prove to be the friends I’d longed for. They were more akin to the Whisperers in the Tower.
One hailed me as a tim’rous brat.
The other sayt I’d been an undutiful son to my poor mother.
My poor mother?
“Mean you,” I arrkst, “that my mother is gone from this world?”
“No,” sayt one. “But she may as well have. She removed to the country two winters past.”
“Sudden,” sayt the other. “With no farewell to her friends.”
“A player cat of our akwayntance told us she fled in fear of her life. Mr Secretary had learnt she’d writ libels against him.”
“We believe that cat lied. Know you the truth of it?”
“A player cat?” I cried. “Be he a friend to Snakes-Purr?”
“That clown’s a friend to none. After the sickness quit the citie he led us to the villain, who tried to kill us. I bit and clawed his thieving paws and left him cursing.”
“For we are goodly cats who keep the church all call Paws [St Paul’s], and we will have no thieves among us. If you would know more, seek us there.”
Then they slipped away like shadows, and left me gaping in the dark.
The warm spring and hot summer of 1603 led to a major outbreak of the plague. Over 30,000 were reported to have died – about one fifth of the city’s population. The coronation, planned for St James’ Day (25 July), came close to being cancelled.
Instead, it was confined to Westminster, with those deemed strictly necessary for the ceremony forming the procession. Only the Lord Mayor and a limited number of dignitaries were permitted to attend from the city of London itself.
The young lady complaining of Scottish lice was Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) who wrote a brief but lively memoir of 1603. She was 13 at the time, and not much went right for her. Too young to join her mother, the Countess of Cumberland, in watching by Queen Elizabeth’s coffin, and not tall enough to walk in the funeral procession. Not allowed to go to the coronation because of the plague, nor offered a position as a Lady of Queen Anne’s Privy Chamber. Plus her parents were separated, and not on speaking terms…
The two ladies Harry mentions are Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford, whose husband was among the first to abandon the Earl of Essex, and the former Frances Prannell, now Frances Seymour, Countess of Hertford. Her interest in the Earl of Southampton was first noted by Gib in 1598. She continued asking astrologer Simon Forman about him until 1601.
It seems Picker and Stealer finally caught up with Harry in 1604. Despite the fact that they’ve inherited St Paul’s Cathedral from their mother (also known as Paws) they don’t sound like reformed characters.