102:  Queen Puss Breathes Fire

A detail from an early portrait of Elizabeth Vernon, showing an open jewellery box, a lavish display of pearls, brooches etc, and a pincushion containing the pins grand Elizabethan ladies used to hold their formal attire together. His Harryship and Puss Fur-None were wed in hugger-mugger.

It was the talk of our household.

’Twas sayt that when Queen Puss learnt of it she ran so mad she went not to chapel that day.

I went again to the wall of Essex House, but had no sight of His Harryship or any lady that might be Puss Fur-None.

Even so, Linkin and I were joyed that we’d known of their doings before the master and our mistress did.  Or Queen Puss.

She spake of sending all who were privy to this mischief to the Tower.

Not just our Earl and his Puss, but any who knew of it!

“Well,” sayt I to Linkin, “I always wished to see the Tower.”

He sayt it would not come to that, but the Earl and his new Countess would surely be punished.

We heard the master say that the Daffers [Danvers] brothers were in the citie, and our Earl may have travelled with them.  Even though Sir Rabbit [Robert Cecil] was given a letter from our Earl saying he hoped Sir Harry Daffers would soon come back to France, so they might go into Italy together.

Linkin believed that letter were a trick.  He sayt our Earl wrote it to make Sir Rabbit and all think he was still in Paris, not here.

Oh, his Harryship is suttle.  But how he passed unremarked mazed us both, he being so long and having much hair.

A long-haired young man in a white silk doublet with gold and purple trunkhose, white silk stockings and black shoes. He's also wearing a black and gold gorget, and a plumed helmet and breastplate are nearby.
The Earl of Southampton, or “His Harryship” as the disrespectful Tricks calls him. This is probably his wedding portrait, painted some time after the event.  He wouldn’t have looked like this when he slipped into England.

Then His Harryship returned to France, thinking no harm, and writ again to Sir Rabbit.

This time he arrkst him to tell Queen Puss that he was married.  He hoped Sir Rabbit could do this in such a way as to cause her least offence.

Too late for that.  Queen Puss was alreadie breathing fire.

She sayt he’d brought dishonour upon her Court, and shown hisself most contemptuous in his secret comings and goings.  She commanded him home again.

All here sayt that the longer our Earl tarried in France, the more offended Queen Puss would be.  

Linkin and I agreed that ’twould be no wonder if she sprouted scales and wings, and flew to France to smoke him out herself.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe Earl of Southampton and Elizabeth Vernon were married in mid to late August, 1598.  That coincided with the Danvers brothers return to England. 

Elizabeth Vernon was 6 months pregnant.  If the Earl’s plan was to slip unnoticed into England with the Danvers, he may have intended to arrive a month or more earlier, but their departure was delayed because Sir Harry Danvers was ill.

It’s unlikely the Earl was delighted by the pregnancy.  He’d seen no future for himself at Queen Elizabeth’s court and spoken of serving Henri IV, probably in a military capacity.  Henri’s recent peace with Spain would have left him at a loose end, career-wise.

However, I think Elizabeth Vernon has had a grudging press.  One of the Earl’s biographers, A.L. Rowse, believes that the Earl was “homosexual” and married her at the insistence of her cousin, the Earl of Essex.

G.P.V. Akrigg suggests that the Earl vacillated, balancing his feelings for “the girl” (as Akrigg calls the 25 year old bride-to-be) and his friendship with Essex against his need for a wife with the wealth any Earl could reasonably expect and which the Earl of Southampton needed.

It’s hard to avoid getting the impression that the Earl married Elizabeth Vernon only because she was pregnant.

However, she may have been pregnant because they intended to marry – though probably not until after the Earl, who had Queen Elizabeth’s permission to spend two years overseas, had completed his travels and/or found a niche for himself at a foreign court.

And, despite the Earl’s possible flirtations (and maybe more) in 1597 with Mary Howard and Frances Prannell, he and Elizabeth Vernon had been together for three years.

Perhaps the best comment on their marriage is this unconventional portrait of Elizabeth Vernon.  Is it her wedding portrait?

She’s getting dressed.  Her hair is long and loose, in the style of a virgin bride.  Written on her comb is “Menez moi doucement,” which translates, somewhat inadequately, as “Manage (or Lead) me gently.”

The proportions of her body are odd, so it’s probably accidental that she looks pregnant – even though the position and curve of her left hand draw attention to her stomach.

The little dog on the cushion by her feet may be a favorite pet, but also symbolises fidelity.   

The fur-trimmed red robe lying beside her looks like that of a countess, to be worn on state occasions.  On the table is a fine display of jewellery, and a pin-cushion with all the pins required to hold a grand Elizabethan lady’s formal attire together.

The portrait, though carefully posed, is unusually intimate for its time.  The Earl must have liked it, otherwise it wouldn’t have survived.


98:  I Learn of London

A black, white and orange cat against a background of flames.There is little to tell of my first days, save that my unfriend Linkin friended me again.

There were none to hear him brag, else.

“The scents of my kitlinghood,” cried he, as we rode in.  “Can you not smell the river?”  He oped his mouth a little.  “And taste the cookshop wares?”

My nose had took so many smells my head was like to burst.  I hid my face in my paws, and kept my mouth shut.

But I couldn’t shut my ears.  They were filled with such roarings and rumblings it seemed a great surly beast had me in its belly.

“Who does not love the place where he first oped his eyes?” arrkst Linkin. “Now all comes back to me.  ’Twas among London’s fields that I met with a skoller who put me in his pocket and took me to his chamber so I might help him in his studies.” 

I oped mine eyes, but could see little through our basket.  No fields.  Nowt but the brown boot of the manservant who rode beside us, and the grey belly of his horse. 

Thus came we to our lodging, where the children fell upon us all.

My late uncle, who was reared in the schoolroom with our Earl and his lady sister, loved little children.  I do not.

The master looked in our basket and greeted Linkin.  Then he sayt I was a pretty little thing.  The children begged to see me.

I resolved to be civil.

But the mistress (may the Queen Cat of Heaven reward her) sayt that Linkin and I must rest after our journey.

We were brought to a high room and loosed from our basket.  I whipped to the window, but could see nowt but more windows.

A view through one latticed window at others.

We were served refreshments, and straw was laid in the empty hearth so we might ease ourselves.  Such nicety pleased me.  I’d seen gentlemen make water in a hearth, but – their legs being longer than ours – they care not whether ’tis empty or has fire in it.

That night Linkin was carried downstairs to bear the mistress and the master company while they sat late over their wine.  And what scandal he returned with!

Item:  The widow-mother of the outlaw brothers [the Danvers] that killed a man and fled to France will take a new husband, upon condition that her sons be pardoned.   

Linkin sayt, judicious, “If this be true, it makes mock of the law.  I could accept a killing in their own defence.  I cannot accept a pardon fetched from the marriage of their mother to a kinsman of Queen Puss.”

Item:  The Earl of Essex is so high in the Queen’s favour she agreed to receive his mother Lady Lester [Leicester], whom she hates.

But only once.

A richly dressed red-haired woman.
Lady Leicester, nee Lettice Knollys, (c1543-1634).  After the death of her first husband she married Queen Elizabeth’s long-term favourite Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and was banished from Court. Her son, the Earl of Essex, tried to use his influence to have her allowed back, but Elizabeth was obdurate.

The mistress (in drink) sayt that Lord Lester has been dead nigh on ten years, Lady Lester has another husband, and old Puss should deport herself like a Queen, not a jealous kitchen wench. 

The master (in drink) arrkst, “Or why have a Queen?”

How joyed we were by such wicked words.  I longed to hear more with mine own ears, but it was many days before I was permitted to go about the house.

Then came the day when the window to the leads [roof] was oped so we could step out and take the sun.

“There before us,” sayt Linkin, very grand, “is the river.  The bridge lies eastward.”

He turned hisself about.  “Now see behind us Paws [St Paul’s], where all go to gather newes.  Most convenient.”

The sights Linkin and Tricks can see from the roof indicate that they’re in the fashionable suburb of Blackfriars, or thereabouts. This excerpt from Claes Visscher’s Panorama of London shows the area from the south bank of the Thames.

“Does not our Earl have a fine house in London?” (I hoped to seek a place there.)

Linkin sayt, “It lies many ways from here.  And our Earl’s in Paris.  Rejoycing with those outlaw brothers, most like.”

“And where is Essex’ house?” I arrkst.  (Thinking, one Earl’s house is as good as another’s.)

“He has many houses,” sayt Linkin.  “But I believe one may lie near.  Westward, where other great folks dwell.  Little dog Wattie oft goes abroad with the mistress, and knows the place that bears my name.  So he may also know where Essex dwells.”

I knew I would find a use for Wattie.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorLondon may have roared in Tricks’ sensitive ears, but it would probably seem quiet to us – even allowing for the sounds of church bells, street hawkers, carts and animals.  The population at the end of the 1500s has been estimated at 200,000 – 230,000, taking in not just the city of London itself, but also Westminster, the south bank of the Thames, and other neighbourhoods beyond the city walls.

The place with Linkin’s name is Lincoln’s Inn – probably where the master was studying law when he acquired Linkin.  I think Linkin is now about 14, so that would put the master in his mid-thirties.

Tricks’ late uncle Gib investigated the Danvers’ killing.  He went on to write an account of the Earl of Southampton’s part in helping Sir Charles and Sir Henry Danvers flee the country.

Their formidable mother Elizabeth, Lady Danvers, campaigned for them to be allowed to return without risk of execution.  She married Sir Edmund Carey, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth’s aunt Mary Boleyn, in 1598.