186:  The King’s Speech

An alert-looking black and white cat
Harry, our narrator

That powder treason plot brought me such trouble, first at Paws’ yard and then in mine own mind, I hoped I’d heard the last of it.

I had not.  Our household buzzed with talk.   

How close our Earl had come to death.  And hundreds more.  No, thousands.  Too many thousands to be reckoned on my claws.  But all had been saved in the nick.

People, I mean.  Men, women and kits of all ages and degree.

There was no thought for us poor cats, high or low.  No, nor the rabbits we eat of.  Not the horses whose stables we keep.  Nor dogs nor foxes, nastie creatures though they be.

Next, parlement met to offer thanks for deliverance.  The King made a speech, and what I learnt of it cheered me.  I shall set down his words with my thoughts on his meanings.

Item:  Kings are God’s vice-regents on earth, adorned with some sparkles of Definitie [Divinity].

King James, adorned with sparkles.  God’s Lieutenant and Vice-Regent on Earth.

 I believe we cats are adorned with sparkles of Felinitie and are subject onlie to the Queen Cat of Heaven.

Item:  It is worser to be killed by unreasonable animals than by reasonable men.  And worstest to be killed by that which is not animal nor man.  By which the King meant fire.

I shall think more on that.  For was not this hellish powder treason the work of reasonable men?  If unreasonable creatures could do such evil, dogs would rule this world.

Item:  The King was the onlie person shrewd enuff to take the meaning of the letter sent to Lord Mount-Eagle.

That were a royal lie.  Royal lies are not wrongful.  Kings and Queens and all us little gods on earth take the praise due to our servants.  And blame them for our ill-doings.

Item:  All know it is not lawful to kill people over quarrels in religion.  Not Turks [Muslims] nor Jews nor Pagans nor the folks of Calicute who worship devils hold it lawful.

I must learn more of this place Calicute.  Be it a fit place for cats?  I would like to see a devil.

Calicut: Kozhikode in Kerala, India c1572.  A major port for international trade.
King James seems to have mistaken Hindu deities for devils, but his inclination was to look for commonalities in religions.

Item:  We must not think all Catlicks wicked, nor blame any that are innocent.  Catlicks may be good and faithful subjects despite their errors in religion.  But they who took part in this powder treason would be caught and punished.

Item:  Parlement would now cease, because the King and his Council were busie with investigations.  And they that had come to parlement must now go home to make investigations too.

The King ended his speech by telling all how to conduct theirselves when next they met.

Item:  He was their head, they were his great Council, and they came to pass his laws and grant him monies. 

(Those last three words proved true.  So joyed were all to be alive they granted him money when next he arrkst.  Such love may not last long.)

But I believe the King and I are very like one to another.  We have been called fool, but we are not.

I arrkst myself, Were I more fit to be a king’s cat than an earl’s cat?

Then I bethought me of the webs spread far and wide to catch wrongdoers.  It was time for me to strike.  I found ink, pen and paper.

I writ with all care:

Noble lords.  In times such as this, none may keep silent.  Look well to the player W.S. who is a King’s man and hath the visage of one who would not say puff to a goose.  I know him to be a trayter, and I know he is making a play with witches wherein he means to slander Scots that all may think it were they who hoped to kill His Majestie.

I folded my letter with much ado, carried it forth and dropped it in the highway.

Then, so far was I from being wearie of the plot, I kept my ears pricked to hear who had been caught.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorKing James’ speech of 9 November 1605, even in Harry’s brief and garbled version, seems typical of him.  He makes clear his belief in the near-divinity of kings, then  demonstrates his relaxed (for his time) interest in religion(s).

James also indulged in a spot of self-dramatisation.  He refers to previous occasions his life was in danger, and announces that if the plot had succeeded, at least he would have died in honourable company.  Very different from if he’d been killed in a vile place like an alehouse or a brothel.

As he’s not likely to have ever been in a vile place, maybe he meant that members of parliament should count their own blessings?

No wonder Harry – a cat given to thought – found the speech inspirational.

I don’t know what the Earl of Southampton made of it, but I doubt his views on kingship and the functions of parliament coincided with those of King James.