2cornucopias

Sing a Song of Six-pence

In 13 History on 2011/04/19 at 5:48 PM

Many nursery rhymes have secret or hidden meanings that allude to people and events in history.  Since Tudor Henry VIII developed a habit of executing those who opposed him, it is not surprising that in the e-mail of their times, messages got sent in rhyming code.

  • Sing a song of sixpence,
  • A pocket full of rye;
  • four and twenty blackbirds Baked in a pie.
  • When the pie was opened,
  • They all began to sing.
  • Now, wasn’t that a dainty dish
  • To set before the King?

We owe: “Sing a Song of Sixpence” to the rhythmic comment on his confiscation of the monasteries and his marital woes.  Sixpence refers to monetary coin. Henry needed money, and so he began confiscating the property of the Catholic Church.   The Church was often given land and goods by generous nobles who wished to see the poor and indigent cared for.  It was to the monasteries that the needy went for help.  The monastery roofs were made of lead and Henry needed the lead for ammunition. The twenty Blackbirds refers to the bishops and abbots of monasteries he had executed.  The song of the blackbirds were the martyr’s affirmation of their trust in God and hymn of praise to God.  With the burning of the monasteries, the poor were left to shift for themselves, and often ended in prisons until deported to Australia.  The State did not replace the monasteries in the proper care for the poor.

  • Sing a song of sixpence,
  • A pocket full of rye;
  • four and twenty blackbirds Baked in a pie.
  • When the pie was opened,
  • They all began to sing.
  • Now, wasn’t that a dainty dish
  • To set before the King?

Henry VIII was in his treasury counting the financial gains from his confiscations.  The Queen, his wife, was Catherine of Aragon, whose dowry was the greatest in history because her parents were Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, whose galleons came filled with gold from the New World.  Bread and honey symbolized her wealth.

  • The King was in his countinghouse,
  • Counting out his money;
  • The Queen was in the parlor
  • Eating bread and honey.
  • The maid was in the garden,
  • Hanging out the clothes.
  • Along there came a big black bird
  • And snipped off her nose!

The maid in the garden was Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting, whose beauty had caught the king’s lustful eye.  However, when he divorced Catherine and married Anne, she bore him Elizabeth rather than the male child he wanted,  so he had Anne beheaded.  The big black bird was the name for the royal executioner.

  •  The King was in his countinghouse,
  • Counting out his money;
  • The Queen was in the parlor
  • Eating bread and honey.
  • The maid was in the garden,
  • Hanging out the clothes.
  • Along there came a big black bird
  • And snipped off her nose!

Some interesting sidelines:

Henry’s father, Henry Tudor, was a commoner, who had no claim to the throne except that he married a woman who was 28th in line for the throne.  After the chaos of the War of the Roses and the Hundred Years ‘ War, England wanted peace, and Henry Tudor assumed power and promised not only peace but also, no taxes.

Henry Tudor had three children: The oldest, Arthur (named for the legendary King Arthur), was betrothed as a child to Catherine of Aragon who was a few years older.  The second, Henry, was sent to a monastery, where he received a thorough education and was an outstanding scholar.  If Lorenzo de magnificent of Florence could have a son a pope (Pope Leo X), Henry Tudor decided his Henry would be a pope also.  The third child was a beautiful girl, Margaret, whom he married off to James of Scotland in order to make an ally of the King of Scotland and not the powerful nuisance the Scots had been to England.

The fly in the ointment was that little Arthur upped and died.  Henry Tudor removed his son, Henry, from the monastery and sought the Pope’s permission to have little Henry marry his brother’s widow, since the marriage had not been consummated.  The Pope said there was no problem because it was not a matter of consanguinity.

When Henry came out of the monastery, he discovered the female world and immediately fathered the first of many out-of-wedlock sons.  His first was the famous Duke of Monmouth.  By the time Henry married Catherine, he had already contracted syphilis.  He was the first famous syphilitic in history.  Syphilis was a “gift of the new world” in exchange for the “old world’s” smallpox.  Neither world had the necessary immunity and both diseases were catastrophic.  Catherine bore him numerous children who were either still-born or died shortly after birth.  The one exception was Mary Tudor.

When Henry wanted to marry Anne Boleyn and the Pope could not grant him a divorce because the 17 year marriage with Catherine was valid, Henry objected on the grounds that it was not lawful to marry his brother’s widow and that he had no living children as a punishment by God.  As to the consanguinity matter, this hypocrisy was known to all since he had a real issue of consanguinity with Anne Boleyn having seduced her sister and left her with child.  That is why Anne Boleyn would not consent to be his mistress but demanded marriage.

Henry begged Catherine of Aragon on her deathbed to forgive him, telling her he had always loved her.  She had already forgiven him and had loved him despite his tragic flaw.

Anne Boleyn was hated by the common people of England, due to her haughty manner and the common folk’s strong allegiance to Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Open criticism of Anne was approved and encouraged by Henry after he had Anne beheaded.

Later, after the reign of  Edward VI and Mary Tudor, when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne all such approval and criticism stopped because the new Queen was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Another ditty: Six wives did Henry have: 2 divorced, 2 beheaded, 1 died & 1 survived.…

Elizabeth had been presented to all her father’s new wives.  To the last one she said: ”Oh, my lady, I do hope you will last longer than the last one!” That Queen did survive by bending over to kiss the dying king and removing from his hand the order for her execution, which she tucked into her voluminous sleeve. She strutted out of the royal chamber whistling a saucy tune, taking the courtiers’ attention away from Henry and focusing it on her scandalous behavior.

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