You know what time it is….

Caturday! Back despite popular demand, we have yet another feline-focused post. This time, we highlight the role of cats in early modern strategy. From the cat’s mouth.

Leo Belgicus (Visscher 1630)

“The truth is, great Monarchs are justly compar’d to the Lion, who is King of the Beasts, never contented with the produce of their own Country; but living upon the Flesh of their Enemies, I wish I could not say Subjects; conquering and plundering their Neighbours, and burdening their own People with Taxes and Contributions. Yet tho they appropriate to themselves all the Advantages of the Country, they would still be deficient in Strength, if by means of the Fox’s Skin they could not sometimes answer their Enemies, and even their own Subjects, and escape the Snares laid for them by others.

Whereas Republicks governing with more Gentleness, Wisdom, and Moderation, have naturally a more powerful and numberless train of Inhabitants adhering to them than Monarchs, and therefore stand not in need of such Maxims, especially those that subsist by Trade, who ought in this matter to follow the commendable example of a Cat: For she never converses with strange Beasts, but either keeps at home, or accompanys those of her own Species, meddling with none, but in order to defend her own; very vigilant to provide for Food, and preserve her young ones: she neither barks nor snarls at those that [246] provoke or abuse here; so shy and fearful, that being pursued, she immediately takes her flight into some Hole or Place of natural Strength, where she remains quiet till the noise be over. But if it happens that she can by no means avoid the Combat, she is more fierce than a Lion, defends her self with Tooth and Nail, and better than any other Beast, making use of all her well-husbanded Strength, without the least neglect or fainting in her Extremity. So that by these Arts that Species enjoys more quiet every where, live longer, are more acceptable, and in greater number than Lions, Tygers, Wolves, Foxes, Bears or any other Beasts of Prey, which often perish by their own Strength, and are taken where they lie in wait for others.

A Cat indeed is outwardly like a Lion, yet she is, and will remain but a Cat still; and so we who are naturally Merchants, cannot be turned into Souldiers. But because the Cat of Holland hath a great round Head, fiery Eyes, a dreadful Beard, sharp Teeth, fierce Claws, a long Tail, and a thick hairy Coat, by means of our Merchants; our Stadtholder and Captain-General from time to time, and after him some of our Allies or Rulers, who had reaped Profit by War, have made use of all the said Features, and the stout Defence which this Cat made when she was straitned and pinch’d by the Spanish Lion, as so many Reasons to prove that she was become a Lion; and have made her so far to believe it, against most manifest Truth, that they have prevail’d with her for fifty Years successively to fall upon other Beasts, and fight with them. ….”

From Peter (Pieter) de la Court, The true interest and political maxims of the republick of Holland and West-Friesland. In three parts, London: 1702, pp. 245-246. Dutch original published in 1662.

Leo Belgicus (Kaerius 1617)



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