73:  Newes of My Lord

A young and fluffy black, white, and orange cat.
Gib’s Niece

I’ve writ little of late.  My niece was fire-hot for her lessons, and that kept me occupied.  Then she disappeared.

Gone to find a handsome stone-cat or two that might occupy her.  Or so I believe.  Such is the way of the world.

I went to the Cat’s Field, but did not see her there.

Linkin gave newes.  He sayt Her Majestie was wearie of the Earl of Essicks [Essex], and had showed our Earl some favour.

Linkin oft knows newes from London.  He hears it from his mistress, whose son dwells there.

But I knew more of this than Linkin did.  True, Her Majestie was most kind to my lord, but then she offered him an insult.

My lord went to hand her to her horse, and she disdained him before all.  He was so shamed he had no choice but to quit her household.

He’s back there now, but I do not think he will forgive her.  Nor would I.

The Earl of Essex (and his horse) dressed for jousting. Attributed to Nicholas Hilliard.
The Earl of Essex (and his horse) dressed for jousting.

My lord never wisht to take the place of Essicks, who is his friend.  But the truth is, our Earl and his friends must strive to please the old Queen, because they can do nowt without she say so.

Should they wish to marry, travel over sea for their education, or join an expedition to have at the Spanish or some other enemie, they must seek her permission.  And she loves to say, No.

The other cats could scarce believe their ears when I told of this.

One arrkst, “Which among us ever sought permission from any?  Save our mother?”

Another added, “And not always her, if truth be told.”

At our next meeting I gave newes of the great celebration that is held every year to mark the day Her Majestie first took her place.

Dressed for jousting: George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1603) - by Nicholas Hilliard.
The Queen’s Champion: George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1605) – by Nicholas Hilliard.

All love a celebration, even if they no longer love the reason for it.

Many lords and horses don fine armour and make a great show of theirselves.  Play-fighting, that they call the just [joust].

My lord rode in the just as Bevis of Southampton.

A great screech went up then.  All hereabouts know the tale of Bevis, and what an evil woman his mother was.

They begged to hear some scandal about our Earl’s mother, the Countess.

I would not tell any.  True, I have slandered our Countess in my poetick fictions, but she was a good wife to her second husband, who died not long since.

“She poisoned him!” came a call.

“No, friend,” I sayt. “That was in our play, and is not true.”

Gib's lord, the Earl of Southampton, with his armour. Artist unknown; probably painted c1598.
Gib’s lord, the Earl of Southampton, with armour.  Artist unknown; probably painted c1599.

But, as all wisht to hear something to make them merrie, I sayt, “Friends, when last my lord was here I caught a scent of queen about him.

“I do not mean a queen-cat, nor Her Majestie.  I mean a young woman.  It was not his sister, Lady Moll.  This was a woman I do not know.

“Has our Earl a sweetheart?  Have they done no more than touch noses and cleanse each other’s ears, as we cats do in amity?  Or has she hoist her tail and let him seize her by the scruff?”

Linkin thought this woman’s name might be Puss Fur-None [Bess Vernon], but he could not swear to it.

“They all called Puss,” he sayt.  “The old Queen is Puss, and all the hot young queens are Puss too.  Many are given to hoisting, which displeases Her Majestie mightily.”

And we arrkst ourselves if that was why the Queen had snibbed our Earl.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorGib probably wrote this at the end of 1595.  The Earl of Southampton turned 22 in October that year.  A few points:

The young Earl was briefly tipped by court gossips to become Queen Elizabeth’s new favourite.  She may have been growing weary of the sulks and self-promotion of the brilliant but erratic Earl of Essex.  It was also around this time that she found out that four years earlier, Essex had had an affair with one of her maids-of-honour, who’d given birth to a son.

Perhaps Queen Elizabeth was using Southampton to show Essex he was disposable?  A tricky situation for Southampton, who wouldn’t have wanted to annoy either Essex or the Queen.

The annual celebration Gib refers to is Accession Day on 17 November, when an elaborate display of jousting was put on.  The poet and playwright George Peele wrote an account of the 1595 occasion in Anglorum Feriae: England’s Holidays.

Puss Fur-None, better known as Elizabeth Vernon (1573-1655?) was Essex’s cousin, and another of Queen Elizabeth’s maids-of-honour.  Southampton’s interest in “the faire Mistress Vernon” was court gossip by September 1595.

The Queen wouldn’t have approved.  Her maids-of-honour were the most junior of her well-born female attendants, and there to learn courtly ways.  She may have resented their flirtations (sometimes innocent, sometimes not) with her male courtiers.  But, more importantly, Queen Elizabeth – as that rare being, an unmarried woman ruler – had also to consider the reputation of her household.


53:  Southampton’s Star

A painted image of Gib's dappled face.There are many comings and goings.  My lord’s friends visit him, and he rides out to visit them.  When my lord is away the fare is poor.  I get no choice of meats at supper.

When he’s here, I entertain myself by attending the performance of his dressing. 

Oh, how his linen must be of the whitest, his colours suited one to another, his barber ever on hand to arrange his curls. 

In truth, his barber has little else to do, for my lord has no whiskers to speak of.

I’ve heard talk of another performance, but I do not know what that may be.  So I keep my ears pricked, in hopes of learning something new.

And still they poets pursue us.  While my lord contemplates his image in his glass (so wide-eyed that, were he a cat, you would think he sought to fight hisself), a fellow stands by to read him his dedications.

A young man lying full-length on his side, with his head propped on his hand and a book beside him. He is in a formal, stylised garden setting.
Looking melancolie: Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, to whom The Honour of the Garter is dedicated. By Nicholas Hilliard, c.1595 via Wikimedia Commons.

And sometimes a poem or two.

A geck has writ on the honour of the garter, though I know not which garter it may be.  (I have stole a few from time to time.)

This poem was for another Earl, not mine, but the starveling upcreeper that wrote it sought to praise my lord therein, naming him Southampton’s star.

Insolencie.  Southampton has but one star.  Me.

But my lord loves to hear hisself praised.

I do believe his longing for praise is so great that even if his name were hallowed in every region of the globe it would not be enough for him.

I fear his head is fuller of wilder fancies than mine own.  And I fear that some may praise him only to prey on him, while others laugh up their sleeves at him.

As some cats here make mock of me.

On a quiet day, when I was not obliged to conceal myself for fear of strangers in the house, I snapt a choice fish from the kitchen.  None saw me.  Then I finished the rough of a deep-brained sonnet on the good and evil within myself.

A fine conceit, and it joys me to write of my wickedness. 

Two cats am I, of sweetness and of spite,

each in my motley coat displays his hue.

My evil spirit is a cat full white,

my feline angel hath a coat of blue.

To drive me to despair, my whitely cat

doth tempt my spotted self to wicked hurts:

to seat myself within my lord’s new hat,

and set my mark upon his cast-off shirts.

As cold as wintry wastes where poor folk freeze,

or starve and shrink in hovels without fires,

is this cat’s heart.  Oh, how he hates the ease

of all not in accord with his desires.

So must I live, beset by greed and doubt,

till my blue angel smokes my bad cat out.

But I can think of none I can tell this sonnet to, for it may cause them to believe I’m a worser cat than I am.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorI’m taking a short break, so there won’t be a post from Gib’s journal next week.  We’ll leave him brooding on the poets who’ve annoyed him, and celebrating his evil streak.

In 1593, shortly after the Venus and Adonis dedication, the Earl of Southampton was one of several aristocratic men and women whose virtues were extolled by Barnabe Barnes (c1571-1609) in dedicatory sonnets accompanying his not-very-readable Parthenophil and Parthenophe: Sonnets, Madrigals, Elegies and Odes.

The Honour of the Garter by George Peele (1556-1590) – “a Poem gratulatorie” – was dedicated to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, who was created a Knight of the Garter on 26 June 1593.  Peele, presumably with an eye to future prospects, also managed to work in a compliment to the Earl of Southampton.

I think the Earl of Northumberland paid £3 to George Peele for his poem, and the same amount to Nicholas Hilliard for his portrait.