109: A Winter of Discontent

I feared the dead time of winter would prove tedious in the citie.  I was not mistaken.

A small brown and white spaniel, with a carved wooden chair back as background,
Little Dog Wattie

The better sort all have their spies, but little dog Wattie, who served as my intelligencer, brought me scant newes. 

He sayt the mistress did but visit friends when they went abroad, and he found their talk so wearisome he scarce troubled to ear it.

He told me our Earl had been loosed from prison, but knew not where he lodged.

I went to invite Onix to accompany me to Essex House, thinking our Earl might be there.  But Onix told me he durst not leave his shop, this being the season when rats and mice were most like to seek entry. 

I arrkst him where Picker and Stealer were.  I’d not seen them since they wished my Earl a sword that would not rust, a coat of well-greased leather, and a horse with swan’s feet.

He sayt they’d boasted of going to see a wicked man hanged. 

“Oh, where?” I cried.

“Many ways from here,” sayt Onix.  “They left long since, and we’re not like to see them soon.”

He told me this man was condemned to die a traitor’s death because he’d sought to poyson first Queen Puss [Bess] herself, and then the Earl of Essex!

“The fellow used such fool means,” he whispered, “sure, he must be mad.  Or else he was put to the question, and had no choice but to confess.  My master and my mistress say that all’s a pack of lies.” 

Then he fled from the window, afeared he’d sayt too much.

A black and white cat peering through an unglazed window in a timbered Elizabeth house.
Onix at the window.

That night I thought to go alone to Essex House, for I guessed our Earl was there.

But Linkin waylaid me.  He (now chief of the Irish committy) told me that Queen Puss had sayt nowt as yet, but there could be no doubting that Essex would go to Ireland.

Essex did not wish to go, but he had no choice.  It were a matter of his reputation.  And our Earl would go with him, if Queen Puss permitted it.

We feared she would say No.  (A pitie she scaped poysoning.)

“Is Ireland a rainy country?” I arrkst Linkin.  “Where none can go dry-foot?”

Linkin did not know.  He told me I must aid him in his investigations.

He’d learnt that the Spain committy had wrought against him.  Their chief had called for any wandering cat that brought newes of Ireland to be sent to her and none other.

“She’ll gain nowt by that,” sayt I.  “In winter no cat travels far.  And if the newes comes from sea cats, who would swear the truth of it?”

A plump, round-faced, ginger and white cat.
Linkin. Law cat, Member of Parlement, and now chief of the Irish Committy.

“Even so, I must do better,” sayt Linkin.  “I shall keep close to the master and our mistress and heed their talk.  You must seek informations from the books in this house.”

That were easier sayt than done, for we had no bookroom.

Law books lay open in the master’s chamber, but other books were kept in a great box, which was oped only when the master or the mistress wished to look on them.

So I could do nowt but haunt that box.  I leapt in every time the lid was lifted, and feigned to nose a mouse within.

I thought that if I did this oft enough, they might take out all the books and leave me time enough to find one about the Irishes.  If there were one to be found.

Such is the way of the world.

Picker and Stealer were gone to a hanging.  Onix lived in a house where he learnt much of poysoning.

Linkin was chief of the Irish committy.

Whereas I, the cleverest of all, who could both write and read, served as Linkin’s secretarie, wearying first my wits and next mine eyes for the sake of his reputation.


Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.The hanging Picker and Stealer spoke of was probably that of Edward Squire, hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn on 23 November 1598.

In 1595 Edward Squire had gone on Sir Francis Drake’s last voyage, been captured by the Spanish, allegedly “turned” by English Jesuits in Seville, and sent back to England as a potential assassin.

He then went on the ill-starred expedition to the Azores (the Islands Voyage), where he allegedly tried to kill the Earl of Essex by putting poison on his chair.  In 1598 he was arrested and charged with poisoning the pommel of Queen Elizabeth’s saddle.

Clearly, Onix’ apothecary master and midwife mistress were sceptical of the charges, and attributed his confession to torture.

Tyburn (near where Marble Arch now stands) was about 3 miles westward through open country.  I suspect Picker and Stealer went no further than Newgate – then a gate in the city wall that doubled as a prison – to see the unfortunate man brought out to begin the sorry journey along Holborn and the Tyburn Road (now Oxford Street).

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83: More Trouble for Lady Moll

Our preparations to have at Spain go well.  Queen Puss is most amiable to the Earl of Essicks.  And to Sir Water Rawly [Walter Ralegh].  He has his old place as captain of her guard again.  She chased him from it after he offended her by marrying another Puss.

A thin-faced, dark-haired woman in formal Elizabethan attire.
Elizabeth Ralegh (nee Throckmorton) who lost her position as a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber after she and Sir Walter secretly married. From a full-length painting by Robert Peake the Elder, c. 1600

I do not believe the Puss he wed will ever win back her place in the Queen’s household.

My lord was never so high in the Queen’s favour as to be offered employment, but he hopes his service against the Spanish might give her a better conceit [opinion] of him.

We shall see.

But oh, how troubles come!

My lady Moll’s husband Thoms (he of the Imperial Dog Collar, but no employment) has brought fresh scandal on us all.

Some say that Thoms has harboured cheese-wits [Jesuits], and sent Catlick spy newes to the Emperor whose dog he is.

The portrait show a solidly-built bearded nan with the long Habsburg chin.
Rudolf II (1552-1612) – by Joseph Heintz the Elder. He created Thomas Arundell a Count of the Holy Roman Empire in reward for his military service.  Arundell’s acceptance of the honour (his “dog collar”) infuriated Queen Elizabeth.

Thoms and one of his friends were taken up for examination.  Another of Thom’s friends, a small man, has hid hisself, for fear he might be stretched [on the rack].

I arrkst Linkin our Law Cat what he’d heard of this.

Linkin sayt, “Nowt has yet been proven.  Thoms is in the keeping of a gentleman who has read him a lecture or three on his folly.”

“By folly, mean you his dog collar or his religion?” arrkst my niece.

“Both,” sayt Linkin.  “But now Thoms’ keeper says he can no longer afford to feed him.  He also writ that Thoms fears for the health of your Lady Moll.  She being a sick and weak woman.”

“Not sick,” sayt I.  “Suttle.”  For I do not believe my lady Moll is weak.  I think she feigns it, in hopes of seeing her husband freed.

Linkin had more to tell.

The Fleet River, from a 1572 map of London. The river runs from north to south, coming into the Thames at Blackfriars.  The prison is on the east side above Fleet Street.
The River Fleet, from a 1572 map of London. The prison (I think) was on the east side above Fleet Street. Possibly the building in the upper half of the picture which sits beside the river and curves around the crescent?

Thoms’ friend that was taken is confined in the Fleet prison.  There is a stinking privy not two feet from his door.  He must light a candle if he wants to write after three of the clock.

He sayt that if Her Majestie could see him there, she would pity him.

But Queen Puss don’t grace her prisons with her presence.

So this fellow writes to Mr Secretary [Sir Robert Cecil] telling of all he did to find the small man and perswayde him to offer hisself for questioning.  Which the small man would not do, but demanded money of my lady Moll.

She gave him none, saying it was against her will that Thoms ever entertained him.

“I believe you’ve made our unfortunate prisoner’s akwayntance,” sayt Linkin.  “His name is Drool [Drewell/Druell].  He was in your household with Thoms when the murderers were hid there.  You keep wicked company, my friend.”

“I do,” sayt I.  Talk of Thoms always makes us merry.

Linkin then told how Thoms had writ to Sir Rabbit Cecil, saying the small man was nowt but a private soldier whose akwayntance he’d made in Hungrie [Hungary].

And Thoms learnt that the small man meant to travel to Prague to collect pay he was owed.  Thoms arrkst him to carry proof of his own pedigree to the Emperor, so that he should know he had not conferred an honour on a base person.

“Who is not wearie of this geck Thoms?” arrkst Linkin.  “Other than your Lady Moll?  And even she, at times.”

“But,” sayt he, “Essicks and Sir Rabbit may bring an end to this.  They’ve writ to Thoms’ old father to tell him ’tis the Queen’s pleasure that he should house and feed son, daughter-in-law and all, till Thoms mends his ways.”

Thoms’ old father does not like his son, and he hates my lady Moll.

Sayt I, “That letter will make all hearts glad.”

Prague Castle, where Rudolf II had his court, by 1595. Via Wikimedia (by Sokoljan own-work CC By SA 3.0)
Prague Castle, where Rudolf II had his court, by Joris Hoefnagel, 1595. Via Wikimedia (Sokoljan, own work, CC By SA 3.0)

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorHow Linkin’s mistress must have enjoyed her lawyer son’s visits and news.  He seems to have had a reliable source in the Cecil household.

Linkin doesn’t always get the details right.

The elusive “small man” was named Smallman.  Being of inferior social status to Thomas Arundell and Sir Humphrey Drewell/Druell, he may well have been at risk of torture if he were thought to be part of a pro-Spanish Catholic spy ring.

While I feel for Sir Humphrey in the Fleet prison, I can see why Gib and Linkin find the Arundell saga so entertaining.

The letters from this latest episode, through May and June 1597, are in the Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury (“the Cecil papers”) Vol VII, available on line.

Humphrey Drewell was indeed at Titchfield during the escape of the Danvers brothers in 1594.  He was with John Florio, the young Earl’s tutor, in the Itchen-Southampton ferry when Florio threatened to throw the sheriff of Southampton overboard.  In 1596 he took part in the Cadiz expedition, and was knighted there by Essex.