As spring drew nigh, all were fightsome. Mine own humours were not the best.
I’d hoped for newes that Mr Secretary had commanded Snakes-Purr’s paw be cut off for writing scandalous verses, but none came.
Instead, the scandal was a picture of the Earl of Essex that called him Virtue’s honour, God’s elected, Truth’s beloved, Heaven’s affected, and other strange names. Printed by some idle fool with more ink than brain. It did nowt but cause trouble.
Linkin made another report to our parlement. Not onlie was he chief of the Irish Committy, he was now the Essex Committy. He gave out my newes from Essex House to the admirations of all.
Item: Lord Mountjoy (he that’s husband in all but name to Pretty Penny) was chosen to go to Ireland as the new Lord Deputie.
He sayt, No. Her Majestie sayt, Yes.
Item: None knew when Essex would be set free. Or when his friends could visit him.
The Lady Rich (she whom I call Pretty Penny) wearied of offering gifts to Her Majestie and getting nowt in return. She bristled up and writ to her most fierce.
She sayt what pitie it were that her brother’s enemies should tell lies and triumph over him. And much more besides.
(Applauds for the fightsome Pretty Penny.)
Then Linkin told how Lord Grey had bristled up and writ to our Earl offering to fight him. Grey sayt he wished to redress the wrong he’d received when they was last in Ireland.
Our Earl sayt he were under no obligation to fight because the matter arose from a command he’d given to one lower in the army than hisself. But he was willing.
Many cats screeched, joyed by talk of fights.
Paws called for order, and bade Linkin end his report.
Linkin sayt in haste that they’d not fought yet. Our Earl could choose the place, and he’d sayt it must be out of England. In Ireland, or in France.
Paws offered thanks to Linkin. (No word to me, a mere spectator at this show.)
As we came away Picker and Stealer crept after us.
One whispered, “Has your Earl turned coward?”
“What mean you?” I arrkst. “He hopes for the Queen’s permission to return to Ireland. A graveyard for our men.”
“We hear tell that this time ’twill be a graveyard for the Irishes,” sayt Picker. “But why won’t your Earl fight Lord Grey here?”
“It’s contrarie to the law,” sayt Linkin.
“And perchance he fears Puss Fur-None will learn of it and put a flea in his ear,” sayt I.
“That lady should have a care how she spreads her fleas,” sayt Stealer, scratching at her own.
“True,” sayt Picker. “What of the other lady in this town who hopes to hoist her tail for your Earl? If she hasn’t yet.”
“She’s arrkst the learned doctor which is like to die first, Puss Fur-None or your Earl,” sayt Stealer.
Linkin cut in smooth, “Our Earl will not fight that fool Grey in this country because he don’t wish to offend Queen Puss more than he has alreadie.”
“Is that possible?” sayt Stealer.
“He’s arrkst if he may kiss her hand,” sayt I.
“And Queen Puss answered, Kiss mine arse,” sayt Picker.
I was sick of those saucie sisters. I sayt, “Have you not a prison to visit? There’s a poysoner in the Fleet. Best you friend him.”
That made them merrie. “We hear he’s kin to Puss Fur-None,” they cried as they ran off. “Have a care she don’t poyson you.”
Then one called back, “We near forgot. We enquired of your friend Snakes-Purr, and know where he may be found.”
And away they flew, right pleased with theirselves.
Lord Mountjoy, one of Essex’s strongest supporters, had been unwilling to replace him. However, he left for Ireland in February 1600.
Queen Elizabeth might have been prepared to overlook Penelope Rich’s letter, particularly after Penelope was summoned to explain herself to Council members and wrote to the Queen in a conciliatory vein. Then a copy was leaked, printed, and circulated along with other inflammatory letters.
Penelope denied responsibility, took ill, and fled to her country house accompanied by Bess Vernon.
Lord Grey still resented being disciplined in Ireland the previous year for disobeying an order from the Earl of Southampton. He issued a challenge and the pair exchanged letters, Grey’s becoming increasingly angry, Southampton’s increasingly snakey. This feud was to have disastrous consequences a year later.
The cats have noted Frances Prannell before, here and here. She’d been asking astrologer Simon Forman about the Earl of Southampton for over two years. Now considering remarriage, she wondered if it was worth waiting for her old love.
Unsurprisingly, Southampton didn’t get to kiss the Queen’s hand but he was permitted to return to Ireland, and left England in April. The Queen unbent enough to wish him a safe going and returning.
I’ll leave Tricks figuring out how to lure Picker and Stealer back so she can hear about Shakespeare. I’m taking a break, so won’t post again till late May.