Loyal cat kept prisoner company in the Tower of London for 2 years

Trixie was her name; quite a modern name for cat who kept her owner company in the Tower of London from 1601-1603.

Third Earl of Southampton and his cat Trixie at Tower of London

Third Earl of Southampton and his cat Trixie at Tower of London

Trixie belonged to the Third Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley. Queen Elizabeth I imprisoned him we are told. It’s not clear but he appears to have been imprisoned for fighting due to a quarrel with Lord Grey of Wilton in front of Queen Elizabeth I at court (the royal court). The Queen died in 1603. It seems that the Earl was released because of Queen Elizabeth’s death.

It is also unclear how his cat Trixie came to accompany him at the Tower of London. An historian, Charlotte Stopes writes that the earl’s wife brought the cat to him, ‘that it was her happy thought to take his favourite cat with her to help to comfort him’.

The statement makes it clear that the earl had more than one cat. He appears to have been a early cat lover.

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Legend had it that Trixie travelled across London to be with her owner. She climbed down the chimney leading to his cell and remained with him for the two years of his incarceration.

Whatever version is correct (the former no doubt) Henry Wriothesley was so impressed with Trixie’s loyalty that he had a portrait painting commissioned showing himself and his pet together in his cell. The painting was made after his release from the Tower.

Trixie was a classic tuxedo cat. Tuxedos are black-and-white; the white being predominantly on the cat’s chest like a tuxedo suit for a man. In those days (1600s) even talented artists tended to paint cats with human faces. All wild cats painted at that time are anthropomorphised. That was probably because of the inflated egos of humans at that time towards animals and their dominant interactions with them.


I have an update from a valued visitor who said this:

He was in the Tower 1601 for treason having taken part in the rebellion of the Earl of Essex to replace Queen Elizabeth 1. He was a patron of Shakespeare. The cat came down the chimney to find him. He had this commemorated with the portrait and wore clothes to match the cat.

Sources: Cat World by Dr Desmond Morris, Wikipedia.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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2 Responses

  1. Cat's Meow says:

    Funny how the painter made Trixie and Henry favor each other.

    • Michael Broad says:

      Yes, I like the fact that the cat looks just like a tuxedo from today. I wonder how he related to Trixie. I wonder what words he said to his cat and what food he gave her.

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