128:  I Go Among the Great Folks

As winter drew nigh, I passed many happy hours in Essex House.

A fluffy white, black, and orange cat reclining on an elaborate four-poster bed.But I oft returned to my house in Black-Fryes [Blackfriars] lest our mistress should think I’d met with some mischance and offer my place to another.

Great folks have more than one house.  Why should not we cats?

So many ladies and gentlemen called at Essex House it were easy to slip in and out among the legs and petticoats.

There were cats and dogs there, too.  All ears were pricked for what Her Majestie might command for the Earl of Essex.

I told them I was in the honourable service of my lord of Southampton.

They warned me to take heed of what I sayt and to whom, for our enemies were everywhere.

My lord and Puss Fur-None had their own chambers in that house.  I marvelled that my lord should have so many houses, yet needs must lodge there.

Sure, Puss Fur-None brought little to him but her self when they was wed.

My lord had forgot I’d dwelt in Titchfield once and rose to be the keeper of his book-room.  He arrkst me where I’d sprung from, and scratched my neck most civil.

He sayt I had a fine white ruff, and that I was well-fed.  Which I was, and ever more will be.

What things I heared in that house!  Viz:

Essex was ill, troubled by the Irish flux [dysentery].  Troubled by the Queen Puss flux, more like.

Old Lady Walsing-Em had begged the Queen that Essex might write to her daughter the Lady Essex, new delivered of a she-brat.  Queen Puss was in no haste to grant that favour.

Onlie one lady at Court stood firm for Essex, and she endured much from Queen Puss. May her name be praised!  But I, having no tablet [notebook] on which to set her name down, straightway forgot it.  This lady had served the Queen for many years and durst say more than most.  And that others might know her thoughts, she dressed all in black.

Black is a colour of grief for men and women.  (Their ways are strange.)

A dark-eyed woman with loosely arranged reddish gold hair.
The Pretty Penny, better known as Penelope, Lady Rich (nee Devereux).

There was much politick talk in Essex House, which the Pretty Penny loved as much as our mistress did.  Though some say that’s not seemly in a woman.  

But, as all know, the Pretty Penny has two husbands alive.  That’s not seemly, neither.  In a woman.  

Many a queen cat would think shame to have onelie two.  And we may be as politick as we choose.

Soldier-friends came to visit.  They’d returned from Ireland, unwilling to remain without Essex.  I learnt little from them that I did not know.

Then word of all the comings and goings at Essex House reached the Court at Richmond, where Queen Puss now sat a-seething.

Queen Elizabeth’s Palace at Richmond c1562 – Anton van den Wyngaerde

To quiet things, Pretty Penny sayt she would go into the country for a few days.  Puss Fur-None sayt she would go with her.

My Earl and I wished to stay in the citie.  I returned to my own house, and I think he went to his mother’s.

Scabface, who kept the river wall, told me that the old Countess dwelt a small way up the river, nigh to the house where Lord Essex was confined. 

Scabface sayt he’d heard my lord of Southampton was doing nowt but go to plays.

I knew my lord had been whispering with Sir Harry Daffers [Danvers] about what they might do if Essex were not soon freed.  They would free him theirselves and help him flee the country!

Wine talk.  I sayt nowt of it to Scabface.

Instead, I sayt I was joyed to hear my lord was going to plays.  He’d learnt what a thief that player Snakes-Purr was, and meant to find the knave.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorA few quick points:

In the 1590s the impecunious Earl of Southampton’s properties all seem to have been leased out.  According to the letter-writer Rowland Whyte, the Earl and his wife Bess Vernon had a “house” (apartment?)  in Essex House for themselves and their “family” – which would include their servants.

The Old Lady Walsing-Em Tricks refers to is Ursula St-Barbe, the widow of Sir Francis Walsingham, who’d been one of Queen Elizabeth’s hardest-working and most capable administrators.

In October 1599, Rowland Whyte observed that the Earl of Southampton was going to see plays every day with the Earl of Rutland.

Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland, had also been a ward in Lord Burghley’s household.  He and Southampton shared a birth date: on 6 October 1599 Southampton turned 26 and Rutland 23.

Earlier in the year, Rutland had married Elizabeth Sidney, the Earl of Essex’ stepdaughter.  He then followed Essex to Ireland without Queen Elizabeth’s permission.  He was ordered home, and narrowly escaped imprisonment.  With Essex in disgrace, both Earls were at a loose end.