The reign of Charles I was dominated by religious and political conflict including the English Civil War, but legend has it that the all powerful King was convinced one thing could protect him – his black cat!
This royal feline was much more than just a favourite pet. The monarch thought the cat brought him good luck. He was so sure his survival depended on the precious puss, the story goes that he put it under 24 hour guard. When the cat died, his royal highness is said to have lamented: “Alas, my luck is gone!” The very next day he was arrested by Parliamentary troops and charged with High Treason tried, found guilty and beheaded. The only English monarch to die in this way.
Through the centuries some of the most famous royal and political leaders have chosen to share the corridors of power with a feline friend and many of the tales have been woven into our heritage.
The Downing Street resident cat is legendary and UK Prime Minister’s cats can be traced back to the time of Henry VIII in the early 1500s. The current encumbent is Larry, a brown and white tabby, who took up residence as Chief Mouser in 2011. He is one of 100,000 cats employed by the British government to keep down mice!
There are even cats with their own Facebook page including one descended from the days of famous World War II leader Winston Churchill. His country manor was Chartwell and he is claimed to have said the bravest cat he knew was Nelson for chasing a huge dog out of the Admiralty – hence its name after Admiral Nelson. Another favourite was a marmalade coloured tom cat called Jock who was so well loved that Churchill requested there should always be a cat that colour with four white paws and a white bib at Chartwell. The latest Jock, Jock V, took up residence as a 19 week old kitten and has his own Facebook page!
Copyright: Linda Harrison, The Cat Magazine, Spring 2013