141:  Actions in the Citie!

I ran across the rooves of Gracious [Gracechurch] Street until I saw a multitude of people.  And horses too.

I guessed some were the Lord Mayor’s servants.  I did not know if they’d come to aid Essex or tell him to quit their citie.

There came another gentleman on horseback.  I later learnt he was Lord Purrlie [Lord Burghley].  Not the old Lord Purrlie I heard tell of as a kitling, but his son who was brother to Sir Rabbit.

Thomas Cecil, 2nd Lord Burghley (1542-1623). William Cecil’s elder son, and Sir Robert’s brother.

A man with Lord Purrlie made readie to speak.

Essex’s friends sprang at him.  Even so, this man cried that Essex and all were traitors, but they who went home now would be forgiven.

Or something like.  It were hard to take his meaning with so many trying to stop his mouth.

Then I saw Essex.  He called, “That fellow will say anything for two shillings.” 

And, “This is the work of mine enemies.  I act for the good of the Queen, the citie, and the Crown of England.” 

Too late.  The word “traitors” had struck terror in many hearts.

Yet none durst touch Essex.  He and his friends came safe away.

I guessed they hoped to leave the citie by the Lud-Gate as they’d entered.  I turned, set my eyes upon Paws tower and ran straight across the rooves.

Paws, better known as St Paul’s.

All the while I saw men slipping into the lanes below me, and heard cats making mock of them. 

“See the faint-hearts flee,” they called.  “And no fights to speak of.”

Near Paws I came upon Picker and Stealer.

“How is it,” I arrkst, “that men can be proclaimed traitors when they’ve done nowt against Queen Puss?”

They did not know.

We watched Essex and my Earl coming through Paws yard.  Picker sayt, “Lord Bedford has bolted and Rutland will run, if he hasn’t already.  When shall Southampton skip?”

I sayt, “It’s not in my Earl’s nature to abandon his friends.”

“A pitie so few remain with him,” sayt Stealer.

True.  We three could almost have numbered them on our claws.

There were chains across the ways that led to the Gate, and armed men to guard them.  Essex arrkst to pass, but the fellow that commanded there would not allow it.

Others arrkst too, saying that the Lord Mayor and Sheriffs of the citie had parted with Essex on good terms and given him liberty to go to his own house.

The fellow that kept the Gate sayt, No.

Then one told the fellow he would cause much bloodshed, and it would be the blood of earls, barons, and knights.

To which the fellow answered that if their blood were shed, it would be their fault.

Our man sayt, “My lord Essex will and must pass, as a true subject to her Majesty and a friend to the State.  He seeks onlie to suppress the tyranny of those who have betrayed the State to Spain.”

The saucie fellow replied, “It’s above my capacity to understand the designs of his lordship.”

That made us cats merrie.  I glimpsed a knot of Essex’s men draw their swords and rush forward.  Then a cry of, “Shoot! shoot!” and horrid noises sent us flying.

I found shelter and looked back to see two men stretched upon the ground.

Essex and all had departed, and were seeking a way to the river.  There were chains across those ways too, but one was oped for them.  They ran to the stairs where watermen wait.

In their haste to leap into the boats, one gentleman fell in the river.  Others had much ado to pull him out.

Then Picker and Stealer went flying past me.  I called, “They’re not fleeing down river.  They’ll be rowed to Essex House.”

A grey tabby cat leaping across a gap between two stone walls to join its companion.
Picker and Stealer in search of excitement.

“We’re going to the Tower,” they called back.  “We never saw an Earl have his head cut off, and soon we’ll see two.”

I troubled not to answer.  I turned for Essex House.

Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorTo my modern eye, the Earl of Essex’s rebellion reads more like a demonstration gone wrong.   He seems to have expected the city’s authorities to provide him with an armed escort to take a petition to the Queen.

Sir Robert Cecil pre-empted him by telling them to prepare for trouble, and ordering guards at all the city gates.

 The “saucie fellow” who stood firm at the Ludgate, resisting all pleas and blandishments, was former soldier Sir John Leveson (1555-1615).  He sent in a detailed report.[1]

 In brief: on his way home that Sunday afternoon he’d encountered the Earl of Cumberland and the Bishop of London with an armed “company” – most of whom were the Bishop’s servants.  Sir John was asked to organize the defence of the gate.

George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1603) dressed for jousting.  By Nicholas Hilliard.

 At first Sir John demurred, saying he was loathe to give orders to men he didn’t know.  (Did he also wonder why the Earl of Cumberland – an even more experienced veteran – wasn’t doing it himself?)

The Bishop gave the order to “free the street of idle gazers.”  Essex and friends arrived not long after.  In the subsequent skirmish, one of the men guarding the gate was fatally wounded.  Essex’s stepfather Sir Christopher Blount was seriously injured, and Essex’s page “young Mr Tracy” was shot dead.

[1] Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury (the Cecil Papers) Vol. XI, ed. R A Roberts (London, 1906) pp. 59-61