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Archive for the tag “nursery rhymes”

Edward I and nursery rhymes go together….um, no, they don’t….!

 

Edward I, Westminster Abbey

Well, I associate Edward I with many things, but not children’s nursery rhymes. I can imagine him being used to frighten them witless, but not to sing and chant with humour. Anyway, according to this site two of our oldest rhymes are due to old Longshanks. I find it hard to believe the Dr Foster explanation! Would anyone with a least a single grey cell dare to refer to Edward as Dr Foster?Not if they wanted to keep their heads on their necks.

Anyway, here are the two rhymes said to be associated with Edward:-

“….Baa Baa Black Sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

“….Not surprisingly this rhyme is all about sheep, and the importance of sheep to the English economy. Until the late 16th century the final lines of the rhyme read “And none for the little boy who cries down the lane.” It was changed to the current version in order to cheer it up and make it into a song more suitable for children.

“….In medieval England, the wool trade was big business. There was enormous demand for it, mainly to produce cloth and everyone who had land, from peasants to major landowners, raised sheep. The great English landowners including lords, abbots and bishops began to count their wealth in terms of sheep, with some flocks totalling over 8,000 animals, all tended by dozens of full-time shepherds.

“….After returning from the crusades in 1272, Edward I imposed new taxes on the wool trade in order to pay for his military ventures. It is believed that this wool tax forms the background to the rhyme. One-third of the price of each bag, or sack sold, was for the king (the master); one-third to the monasteries, or church (the dame); and none to the poor shepherd (the little boy who lives down the lane) who had tirelessly tended and protected the flock.

“….Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again

“….Although first published in 1844, the origins to this rhyme may date back more than 700 years, to the time of King Edward I. Edward was known by several nicknames, a powerful man, over six feet tall he was often referred to as Longshanks, but he was also recognised as a clever and learned man and hence earned the title Dr Foster; the origins of the Foster part are lost in time. Not a great fan of the Welsh, no doubt Edward was visiting Gloucester due to the town’s strategic position at a major crossing of the River Seven into Wales….”

“….The story goes that the king arrived during a storm and mistaking a shallow puddle for a deep ditch steered his horse in that direction. Both horse and rider became trapped in the mire and had to be hauled out; infuriated and no doubt embarrassed by the humiliation, he vowed never to return to the town….”

Yes, it’s Edward I from “Braveheart”. Say no more – he’d terrify me!

 

More musical connections?

This nursery rhyme, although not mediaeval, is early modern and is supposed to refer to a monarch just a few places after Richard III.

Here (left) we have the Martyrs’ Memorial near Balliol College, Oxford, that commemorates three of Mary I’s most prominent victims: Archbishop Cranmer and Bishops Latimer and Ridley. They were not the only episcopal victims but Hooper (Gloucester) and Ferrar (St. David’s) were executed elsewhere.

It is said that “Three Blind Mice” was about the trio, although there is no evidence that it was published until much later. It was mentioned in this Ian Hislop series on dissent.

See our previous post on nursery rhymes and the memorials to Patrick Hamilton and Rowland Tayler.

Hey diddle diddle, it’s Richard III….!

hey diddle diddle

Sometime ago I read that the words of the old Hey Diddle Diddle nursery rhyme were in fact a reference to the story of Richard III. There are other theories, of course, including this of Elizabeth I:

“The story goes that Elizabeth, was often called a cat for the treatment of her court, the mice. When Elizabeth’s cousin Lady Catherine Grey eloped with Edward Seymour represented by the dish running away with the spoon, Elizabeth was not particularly impressed. The ‘dish’ and ‘spoon’ of the rhyme are sometimes said to be the Queen’s private server and food taster, but this theory too lacks evidence.” (This extract is from https://treasuryislands.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/origins-hey-diddle-diddle/)

The suggestion that the rhyme might be to do with Richard’s so-called usurpation of the throne connects Sir William Catesby with the cat (the fiddle being to kill the boys in the Tower), the Kingmaker with the cow (no idea about the moon!) Francis Lovell with the dog, and Richard himself as the dish running away with the spoon (anointing spoon at his coronation). Why the Kingmaker is in there, I can’t imagine, for he was dead and gone by 1383, which is when the presumed events of the nursery rhyme took place.

Mind you, if you go here, you’ll find Richard’s name cropping up in all sorts of places, including Humpty Dumpty! See also here.

A Google search for Hey Diddle Diddle or Humpty Dumpty with Richard III will bring up numerous sites that repeat/debate/pooh-pooh the likelihood of the rhymes’ origins in Richard’s story.

Humpty Dumpty - RIII

The king in the above illustration is presumably Henry VII?

Anyway, it’s all an interesting theory, but I do not know how much faith to place in it. Take a look, and see what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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