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The Tudors in Nursery Rhymes

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Looking at the life and times of the Tudor Monarchs as depicted in Nursery Rhymes. With thanks to: Iona & Peter Opie's The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book; Albert Jack's Pop Goes the Weasel; The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter...and wikipedia. I'm showing more text on the slides than i'd actually use in practice when presenting this so that you have the detail.

Since uploading the deck i've seen a couple of theories that Sing a Song of Sixpence is about Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York, rather than Henry VIII.

Published in: Education
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The Tudors in Nursery Rhymes

  1. 1. The Tudors in Nursery Rhymes IJBanks
  2. 2. ‘England was economically healthier, more expansive & more optimistic under the Tudors than at any time in a thousand years’ John Guy, Historian
  3. 3. ‘Henry VIII scores highly for emotional detachment and cold-blooded ruthlessness, characteristics of dangerous psychopaths’ Professor Kevin Dutton, Wisdom of Psychopaths
  4. 4. So, lots of material for Nursery Rhymes!
  5. 5. These slides put the history & the rhymes together
  6. 6. WHO WERE THE TUDORS?
  7. 7. WHO WERE THE TUDORS? • Tudor period: 1485-1603 in England & Wales • Tudor monarchs: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I & Elizabeth I • Economic prosperity through woollen exports - but rising population & a widening gap between rich and poor • Henry VII restored fortunes after the War of the Roses • Henry VIII raised large amounts of revenue by dissolution of the monasteries but wars with France & Scotland used up a lot of that cash • The establishment of the Church of England & the break with Rome • Good Queen Bess, Armada, Sir Francis Drake, Shakespeare & Marlowe Henry VII
  8. 8. WHAT ARE NURSERY RHYMES? • Refers to traditional songs & poems • We now think of them as mainly for young children but they weren’t always intended that way • At certain periods people could be prosecuted for overtly talking about political events • Began to be recorded in English plays from mid-16th Century • First printed collections date from 1744 • The term ‘Nursery Rhyme’ has only been used since 19th Century • In North America often called ‘Mother Goose Rhymes’
  9. 9. Let’s look at some Rhymes. First, about the life and times of Henry VIII
  10. 10. JACK & GILL Jack and Gill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Gill came tumbling after
  11. 11. JACK & GILL • Earliest illustration (1765) has 2 boys: Jack & Gill (not Jill!) • One theory is they are Cardinal Wolsey & Louis D’Orleans who negotiated the marriage of Henry’s sister, 18 yr old Mary Tudor & the 52 yr old Louis XII in 1514 as part of a peace treaty between England & France • Louis XII died 3 months later apparently from over exertion in bed… • Louis D’Orleans died a year later • Wolsey, who had immense power, fell into disfavour with Henry VIII when he failed to annul the marriage with Catherine of Aragon Jack and Gill went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Gill came tumbling after
  12. 12. OLD MOTHER HUBBARD Old Mother Hubbard Went to the cupboard, To give the poor dog a bone; When she came there, The cupboard was bare, And so the poor dog had none
  13. 13. OLD MOTHER HUBBARD • First published in 1805, one reading of this has Cardinal Wolsey as Old Mother Hubbard & the cupboard is the church • The dog is Henry VIII and the bone is the annulment he was seeking from Catherine of Aragon • Wolsey was unsuccessful and it was eventually Thomas Cranmer who achieved the desired result Old Mother Hubbard Went to the cupboard, To give the poor dog a bone; When she came there, The cupboard was bare, And so the poor dog had none
  14. 14. SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, The birds began to sing; Wasn't that a dainty dish, To set before the king? The king was in his counting house, Counting out his money; The queen was in the parlour, Eating bread and honey. The maid was in the garden, Hanging out the clothes, When down came a blackbird And pecked off her nose
  15. 15. SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE • One theory has the King as Henry VIII, the Queen as Catherine of Aragon and the maid as Anne Boleyn • Blackbirds were churchmen eager to impress the king for reward and status • The last blackbird was Thomas Cromwell who fabricated the plot which led to Anne’s beheading. Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie. When the pie was opened, The birds began to sing; Wasn't that a dainty dish, To set before the king? The king was in his counting house, Counting out his money; The queen was in the parlour, Eating bread and honey. The maid was in the garden, Hanging out the clothes, When down came a blackbird And pecked off her nose
  16. 16. LITTLE JACK HORNER Little Jack Horner Sat in the corner, Eating a Christmas pie; He put in his thumb, And pulled out a plum, And said 'What a good boy am I!'
  17. 17. LITTLE JACK HORNER Little Jack Horner Sat in the corner, Eating a Christmas pie; He put in his thumb, And pulled out a plum, And said 'What a good boy am I!' • Thomas Horner, Steward to the last abbot of Glastonbury, before the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII • The Abbot sent Horner to London with a huge Christmas pie within which was hidden the deeds to a number of manors – meant to dissuade the king from dissolving Glastonbury • Horner extracted the deeds to Mells Manor in Somerset and took ownership of it! • The King dissolved Glastonbury anyway… had the Abbot hung, drawn & quartered after a trial for treason… and one of the jurors was Horner!
  18. 18. Now Mary 1st, daughter of Henry & Catherine of Aragon
  19. 19. 3 BLIND MICE Three blind mice. Three blind mice. See how they run. See how they run. They all ran after the farmer's wife, Who cut off their tails with a carving knife, Did you ever see such a sight in your life, As three blind mice?
  20. 20. 3 BLIND MICE Three blind mice. Three blind mice. See how they run. See how they run. They all ran after the farmer's wife, Who cut off their tails with a carving knife, Did you ever see such a sight in your life, As three blind mice? • Version 1st published 1609 • Thought to be about Mary 1st who spent much of her time at her estates in Norfolk, Suffolk & Essex rather than at Court, hence ‘the farmer’s wife’ • The 3 mice are protestant bishops that she tortured & executed • Ridley, Latimer & Cranmer – the Oxford Martyrs • They had all supported Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI
  21. 21. MARY MARY Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row
  22. 22. MARY MARY Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, and cockle shells, And pretty maids all in a row • Or, it’s Mary Queen of Scots who sought refuge in England with Elizabeth 1st • She was put under house arrest and constant scrutiny (How does your garden grow) • Silver bells & cockleshells were symbols of Catholic rites, pretty maids were nuns… • Possibly Mary 1st, daughter of Henry VIII & Catherine of Aragon, who set about reversing all that her father & Edward VI had done and re-introduced Catholicism • Silver bells & cockle shells were torture devices, maids were guillotines • The garden reference was a taunt that she had failed to produce an heir
  23. 23. Finally, Elizabeth I, daughter of Henry & Anne Boleyn
  24. 24. RAIN RAIN GO AWAY Rain rain go away, Come again another day. Little Johnny wants to play; Rain, rain, go to Spain, Never show your face again!
  25. 25. RAIN RAIN GO AWAY Rain rain go away, Come again another day. Little Johnny wants to play; Rain, rain, go to Spain, Never show your face again! • Similar versions can be found going back to 1687 • Thought to refer to the Spanish Armada during the reign of Elizabeth I • During this period there was constant rivalry between England & Spain culminating in many Spanish galleons being sent to attack England • This attempt failed, partly due to nimbler English ships but also by the stormy weather, which scattered the Armada fleet
  26. 26. PUSSYCAT PUSSYCAT "Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?" "I've been up to London to visit the Queen." "Pussycat, pussycat, what did you dare?" "I frightened a little mouse under her chair"
  27. 27. PUSSYCAT PUSSYCAT "Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?" "I've been up to London to visit the Queen." "Pussycat, pussycat, what did you dare?" "I frightened a little mouse under her chair" • Allegedly one of Queen Elizabeth’s staff had an old cat which roamed throughout one of the castles • On one occasion the cat went underneath the throne and the cat's tail brushed against the Queen's foot, startling her • But 'Good Queen Bess' had a sense of humour and declared that the cat may wander through the throne room on condition it kept it free of mice! • However, earliest written version is from 1805 & another theory has it that it’s a contemporary account of Caroline of Brunswick, wife of George IV
  28. 28. RIDE A COCK HORSE Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross To see a fine lady upon a white horse With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes She shall have music wherever she goes
  29. 29. RIDE A COCK HORSE Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross To see a fine lady upon a white horse With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes She shall have music wherever she goes • Written versions go back to 1744 • One theory has Elizabeth I as the ‘fine lady’ who travelled to Banbury to see the huge stone cross which had just been erected • 'bells on her toes' refers to a shoe fashion at the time • Banbury is at the top of a steep hill & to help carriages up the steep incline a white cock horse (a large stallion) was made available • When the Queen's carriage attempted to go up the hill apparently a wheel broke and the Queen chose to mount the cock horse to reach the Banbury cross
  30. 30. THANK YOU!

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