37: The Spanish Are Coming

With winter upon us, we cats ceased to meet.  Nero the Sea Cat has yet to conclude his tale of shipwreck on the Spanish Main.  The horses I spake with must believe he is swimming still.

Came spring, a time for joy, but we have not time for fictions.  Linkin the Law Cat gives hot newes or war.  I have learnt much.

Linkin’s master writ from London that the Spanish Admiral was dead, and this gave hope to some.  Another man taken his place, though he does not desire it and knows nowt of war at sea.

Pope Sixtus V, by an anonymous artist.
Pope Sixtus V, by an anonymous artist.

The Pope praises our Queen mightily, even though he calls her an error-tick, and worse.  The Pope does not love the King of Spain.

That did maze me, I confess.

Item:  The King of Spain sends not only his ships against us, but also a great army.  None knows where they may land.  Many ports have been told to make ready their defences, and to provide ships for the Queen’s service.  But some merchants are loathe to send their ships and lose trade.

Nero leapt up and called that Portsmouth was most willing to do all required.  Whereas in Southampton, folk say they spent so much on their fortifications they have not the means to provide a ship.

A black cat looking fierce“What need have they of fortifications?” arrkst Nero.  “At first sight of a Spanish sail the scoundrels will fling wide their gates and cry: Bienvenidos, amigos.  Which way to Mass?”

Another cat had at him then, and our meeting ended in a rawl.  (I guess that cat first oped his eyes in Southampton.)

At our next assembly Linkin told how his master had come from London to take his mother (a prating puritan, my sister says) to a place of safety.  But she is arming her household and would sooner die at her door than be burnt as an error-tick by the Spanish.

Item:  Siffrans Take [Sir Francis Drake] sayt that we should make sail for Spain, and attack them on their coast.

“Better pickings for that wicked pirate!” called a queen cat.  (Certes, she’s from a Catlick household.)

Lord Howard (1536-1624) painted by Daniel Myrtens c1620.
Lord Howard (1536-1624) by Daniel Myrtens c1620. He was in his 80s when this was painted. At the time of the Armada he was 52.

Linkin sayt it was too late for that.  We must meet them off our coast.

Our Admiral, Lord Howit [Howard] and Siffrans are readying our fleet at Plymouth.  They complain of lack of powder, shot, and vittles for the sailors.

If the Spanish make landing, and our soldiers cannot hold them (which is most like), all who dwell near the coast must burn their crops and run, taking their farm beasts with them so the Spanish will find nowt to eat.

Many cats were fearful then.  To hearten them my sister called that we eat vermin, not crops.

Nero sayt the verminous Spanish would eat us.  Which I thought most unneedful, for then all ran home to hide theirselves.

But Linkin, Nero, my sister, the Mad Cat and I lingered for more talk.  Being private, we were less seemlie.

Nero sayt our Queen is too niggardly to pay for supplies.  Yet he’d heard that she had sought to pay the Turks to take their war galleys into the Mediterranean and affright the Spanish into staying home.

Linkin sayt many papists dwell in this land.  All fear they will rise up and slaughter us. By “us” he means they that I call error-ticks, and Linkin calls good Protestants.

The Mad Cat sayt the common people are governed by ignorance, the middling sort (save his good mistress) by avarice, and the nobles by pride.  We should trust none.  The Queen Cat of Heaven told him this.

Linkin did not reprove the Mad Cat for his wild words.  Instead, he gave me the look direct and arrkst, “How stands your young Earl in this matter?”

A pair of dappled cats, Gib and his sister, sitting together and looking self-important“’Tis no great secret,” sayt I, in a manner befitting an Earl’s cat, “that my lord and I were reared in a papistickal household, as was my sister here.  But my lord was taken by Lord Purrlie [Burghley] and is at a good Protestant college in Cambridge.  Were my lord grown to a man’s estate, he would fit out a ship and have at those Spanish villains.”

I did not add that should the villains conquer, I, being suttle, might find it in my heart to turn Catlick again.  And I trust my lord will too.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Spanish Admiral who died (February 1588) was the Marquis of Santa Cruz, said never to have been defeated at sea.  He was replaced by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, probably the most unfortunate naval commander in history.

The great army Gib refers to was that of the Duke of Parma, Governor of the Spanish Netherlands.  There were plans for this army to embark from Flanders and, with the support of the Armada, land at Margate (Kent).  All ports along the south coast of England were on alert. 

Sixtus V (1521-1590), Pope from 1585-1590, was given to expressing his admiration for Elizabeth I, despite renewing her excommunication in 1588 and therefore freeing her Catholic subjects from any duty towards her.  He had little faith in Philip II of Spain, and promised financial support for the Armada only if the Spanish succeeded in landing in England.