127:  Of Prisons High and Low

The next to bring newes were Picker and Stealer.  They came to summon us to a parlement. 

A grey cat seated before a stone wall with a wooden door set into it.
Paws, the matriarch of St Pauls, who presides over a parlement of local cats.

They sayt that Paws sought informations on the Earl of Essex and his offences.

Linkin, who loves a parlement above all things save his supper, was joyed to hear of it.

“Now,” sayt Picker, “let us talk as friends.”

I readied myself for malice.

Stealer sayt, “Know you owt of the Lord Grey who saw Essex by the river, and carried word of his coming to Mr Secretary [Sir Robert Cecil] at None-Such Palace?”

“Lord Grey?” sayt I.  “That waps who whined because he could not have my Earl’s place as General of the Horse?  Belike he now hopes to be made Lord Deputie of Ireland.  Well, all hornets think theirselves heroick.”

I was troubled, all the same.

“And know you Essex is kept close-confined?” arrkst Picker.

“I do,” sayt I.  “And would visit him, but he’s many ways from here.”

(I thought he was at None-Such.)

“Not so many ways,” sayt Stealer.  “The house where he lies is along the river, no great distance from his own.  But none may see him there.”

“True,” sayt Onix, who’d joined us.  “And Her Majestie will not permit him to send a letter to his lady, who’s new-delivered of a she-kit.  Should a wife be punished for her husband’s doings?  I think not.”

Picker and Stealer gave him blasterous looks, as they always do.

Onix bristled up, but I had need of those sly sisters.

I sayt, most civil, that I could not go to parlement.  I had other business.

They eyed me then, thinking I meant to seek out Essex.

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex – from a sketch by the minaturist Isaac Oliver.

“I’m in search of Snakes-Purr,” sayt I.  “A player that apes his betters on the stage.  And not content with that, he’s turned felon and aped my uncle’s verses.  I seek revenge.”

“Aping another’s verses,” sayt Linkin, judicious, “is not felony.”

Picker and Stealer paid him no heed.  Linkin knew the law, but they knew many felons.

“This Snakes-Purr may be dead,” sayt Stealer.  “A player was slain by a poet not long since.  We learnt of it when we last slipped into Newgate jail.”

“Then justice has been served,” sayt I.

“We can’t swear to it,” sayt Picker.  “We’ll make enquiries when we go on progress.”

“But that’s not before winter ends,” I sayt.  “It’s not begun.”

“Then find him yourself,” sayt Stealer.  And to Linkin, “Forget not our parlement.”

Head and shoulders portrait of a ginger and white cat.

Linkin answered, “Forget not Snakes-Purr.”

And I?

I went to Essex House and found my Earl.

He was in the garden, conversing with some gentlemen.

I knew him by his voice, and ran to greet him with my tail held high.  I rubbed myself against his boots.  But he had much on his mind, and did no more than glance at me.

There was a lady seated nigh, one I’d seen before.  I took her scents.  They were mixt with my Earl’s.

Puss Fur-None.

She was most joyed to have her husband nigh.  Her little dog seemed joyful too, and did nowt to vex me.

I sat a while with them, toying with a sere leaf in the grass.  And when a chill wind came from the river and Puss Fur-None rose to go indoors I followed her.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorTricks was right to be suspicious of Thomas, Lord Grey (1575-1614).  He’d been with Essex on the Islands Voyage in 1597, and went to Ireland in 1599 as captain of a troop of horse.  

However, after he was disciplined (mildly) for ignoring an order from his General, the Earl of Southampton, he turned against him and Essex.

It’s not clear how Lord Grey came to be on his way to Nonsuch at the same time as Essex, but he raced on ahead after rejecting a request from one of Essex’ friends to let Essex be the first to tell the Queen of his return.

Lord Grey went straight to Sir Robert Cecil.  According to Rowland Whyte, Essex arrived about 15 minutes later, before “any tidings was brought upstairs”.  That might explain why Essex took the rash step of entering the Queen’s bedchamber.

A couple of days later, Essex had to account for his offences to his fellow members of the Privy Council.  

The offences included his “contemptuous disobedience of Her Majestie’s letters and will”, and his “presumptuous letters”.  Plus not proceeding in Ireland as originally agreed, rashly returning and making an overbold entry to the bedchamber.  He’d also bestowed too many knighthoods in Ireland.

Apparently Essex acquitted himself well, and the Council referred the matter to the Queen.  She wasn’t satisfied, and Essex was sent to York House – up river from his own house – to remain in the custody of Sir Thomas Egerton who held the office of Lord Keeper (i.e. Keeper of the Great Seal – the seal used on state documents).

Rowland Whyte continued to hope for the best, but his letters to Sir Robert Sidney over the next few days become increasingly uneasy.