Who was Mother Goose
Undoubtedly she was from France. Perhaps it was Queen Bertha who died in 783, the wife of Pepin and the mother of the great King Charlemange. She was known as La Reine Pedouque, or Bertha au grand pied, and is portrayed sitting at her spinning wheel with several children at her side listening to her tales.
Lady Bird, Lady Bird
Lady Bird, Lady Bird,
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire,
And your children all gone,
All but the youngest,
And her name is Anne,
And she has crept under the dripping pan.
Since pagan times it is considered unlucky to harm a ladybird (ladybug). When it lights on your hand or arm, say the verse so it will leave you unharmed. This rhyme can be found in several European languages.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
Mary, Queen of Scots, (1542-87), cousin to Elizabeth 1, was considered contrary because when she lived in France she acquired a taste for music, dancing and fine dining. Imagine preferring fine dining to oatmeal porridge.
The cockleshells were the decorations on a gown given to her by the Dauphin. The pretty maids all in a row were four of her ladies-in-waiting, all named Mary.
Three blind mice
Three blind mice,
Three blind mice,
See how they run,
See how they run,
They all run 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.
Queen Mary 1 was the farmer’s wife. Sister to Henry VIII, she tried unsuccessfully to restore Catholicism to England. She reinstated the monasteries Henry had dissolved, including their farmlands.
The three blind mice were the Bishop of London, the Bishop of Worcester, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They were among 100 Protestant martyrs that were burned at the stake. She reigned from 1553-58.
Jack be Nimble
Jack be nimble,
Jack be quick,
Jack jump over a candlestick.
Jumping over a candlestick is a method of fortune telling. It has been used in England for centuries.
Place a lighted candle in the middle of the room, jump over it without putting out the flame. You’ll have good luck for the following year.
Ring a-round a-rosy
Ring around a rosy
A pocket full of posy
We all fall down.
Children sang Ring around a Rosy during the Great Plague of London (1664). Rosy refers to a symptom of the plague - a red, rosy rash. The posies are the herbs and spices one carried for protection (Old Bailey judges still ritually carry them at the opening of each session), and the atchoo, the final sneeze before falling down dead.
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn't keep her,
He put her in a pumpkin shell
And there he kept her very well.
Pumpkins are fun, i.e., jack-o-lanterns and Cinderella’s coach.
Little Boy Blue
Little Boy Blue
Come blow your horn,
The sheep's in the meadow,
The cow's in the corn;
But where is the little boy
Who looks after the sheep?
He's under the haystack,
Will you wake him?
No, not I,
For if I do,
He's sure to cry.
If Cardinal Wolsely was Little Boy Blue (his nickname was The Boy Bachelor because he got his baccalaureate at age 15), the haystack was Hampton Court. Hampton Court was where he reigned as Lord Chancellor to HenryVIII, and where he gave lavish parties- 100 guests served on golden plates, etc. He was fast asleep because he was unaware that his future held a trial for treason.
Three men in a tub;
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker,
They all jumped out of a rotten potato,
Turn 'em out, Knaves all three!
An early peep show. The original verse went Rub-a-dub-dub
Three maids in a tub
The maids, presumably unclothed, were in a large deep tub at the country fair. Tradesman- the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, peeped at them through a hole in the tub.
The fine lady may have been Elizabeth 1 who loved to wear many rings on her fingers. Her royal procession at times could include 1000 men playing drums, flutes, and trumpets.
Banbury Cross was destroyed in 1601.
Or the fine lady might be Lady Godiva.
Hey diddle, diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.
Hey diddle, diddle, a dance accompanied by a tune on a fiddle, was written in 1561. The cat was Elizabeth 1 – she played cat and mouse games with her ministers.
The spoon was the royal taster, always a beautiful young woman. The dish was the courtier that carried the special golden dishes. They secretly married. When Elizabeth found out she had them sent to the Tower where they had two children in the seven years left to them.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
A jingle used with stones, buttons, or daisy petals to determine what the child shall be when he/she grows up.
Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water;
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up Jack got and home did trot
As fast as he could caper;
Went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper.
When Jill came in how she did grin
To see Jack's paper plaster;
Mother vexed, did whip her next
For causing Jack's disaster.
It could be that Jack and Jill refer to Cardinal Wolsely (1475-1530) and Bishop Tarbes who went (up the hill) to France to arrange the marriage of Mary Tudor to the French Monarch.
At this time Henry VIII wanted to divorce Katherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Cardinal Wolsely was opposed to this on religious grounds. Henry subsequently broke with the Church of Rome and the Cardinal not only fell from favour but also was tried for treason. Thus, the breaking of the crown.
Or Jack and Jill may just be terms for lad and lass.