Wednesday 19 May 2021

Cats, rats, dogs and hogs

In my talk on the heraldry of the Gunpowder Plotters I mention the distich ‘The Cat, the Rat and Lovell our dog, Rule all England under a Hog.’ which refers to one of the Conspirator's ancestors and I have been asked to explain it. 

In July 1484, a year into Richard III’s short reign, William Collingbourne posted a lampoon on the door of St Paul’s Cathedral. It read: ‘The Cat, the Rat and Lovell our dog, Rule all England under a Hog.’

The verse was a slight on Richard (the hog, whose badge was a white boar) and his leading counsellors William Catesby (the cat), Sir Richard Ratcliffe (the rat) and Francis, Viscount Lovell (the dog – his heraldic crest featured a wolf). Unpopular though he may have been to some, Richard was king and he needed loyal men to run his kingdom. Catesby, Ratcliffe and Lovell were among his most trusted confidants, the men he relied on to assist in governing the realm. Yet they paid for their support: Ratcliffe was probably killed fighting alongside his king at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485; after the battle, Catesby was handed over to the people of Leicester who promptly executed him; and Lovell escaped to fight another day, but then disappeared forever.

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