A Pigeon for the Prisoner, London
Cats are not often the most useful of creatures, but for Henry Wyatt, put in one of the Tower’s vilest cells by Richard III for his allegiance to Henry Tudor , one particular cat proved a lifesaver.
Wyatt was imprisoned in the Tower with the expectation that he would die. He was given meager rations and not allowed food from outside; had to sleep in infested straw; and within a short time was in the filthiest of rags. The story goes that one day a cat made its way through the bars of his window and approached the prisoner. Glad for any company, Wyatt petted the puss, and even slept with it on his chest for extra warmth.
The next day the cat left the cell, but came back shortly afterwards with a pigeon it had killed as an offering to the man who had won its affections. Wyatt persuaded a guard to have the bird dressed and cooked for him, and tasted meat again. The cat repeated its generosity almost every day; and Wyatt survived.
When Richard III was killed at Bosworth and replaced by Henry VII Wyatt was quickly freed; he was granted Allington Castle near Maidstone by the new monarch, and it remained a family home for centuries: in honour of their heritage, it is said that the family kept special pigeons for the table there for generations. And Sir Henry’s descendents still have two portraits of the man in later life, accompanied in both by a cat. It is even rumored that a spectral cat haunts a house on the castle estate – perhaps the original creature brought from London to enjoy its retirement with the man it saved.
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