11  THE/ Rare Vertue of an Orange;/ Or, Popery purged and expelled out of the Nation [Pepys 2.259]

Author: Anonymous, Prior, Matthew (attrib.)

Recording: The Rare Vertue of an Orange

Bodies - health/sickness Bodies - nourishment Emotions - joy Emotions - suspicion Environment - flowers/trees Humour - satire Humour - verbal Politics - Glorious Revolution Politics - Royalist Politics - celebration Politics - controversy Politics - domestic Politics - foreign affairs Politics - obedience Politics - satire Recreation - food Religion - Catholic/Protestant Royalty - praise

Song History

THE Rare Vertue of an Orange; Or, Popery purged and expelled out of the Nation was anonymously published (the intials 'A. B.' were probably pseudonymous), probably in December 1688 or January 1689. 

Historical Context

THE Rare Vertue of an Orange was a 'cross-over' ballad (see The Ballad Business essay), appearing both in black-letter and white-letter formats. The earliest editions of the song were published in white-letter and entitled A New Song of an Orange, as the 'Glorious Revolution' began to unfold. On 30 June 1688, a group of seven noblemen, later known by supporters of the Revolution as the ‘immortal seven’, wrote to William, Prince of Orange, Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, and husband of Princess Mary, James II's Protestant daughter, begging for his help:

We have great satisfaction to find … that your Highness is so ready and willing to give us … assistances … We have great reason to believe that we shall be every day in a worse condition than we are and less able to defend ourselves, and therefore we do earnestly wish we might be so happy as to find a remedy before it be too late for us to contribute to our own deliverance; … the best advice we can give is to inform your Highness truly both of the state of things here at this time and of the difficulties which appear to us. As to the first, the people are so generally dissatisfied with the present conduct of the Government in relation to their religion, liberties, and properties (all which have been greatly invaded), and they are in such expectation of their prospects being daily worse that your Highness may be assured there are nineteen parts of twenty of the people throughout the Kingdom who are desirous of a change

There were several reasons behind the widespread concern described in the letter. First, in 1687, James II had issued a 'Declaration of Indulgence' that overturned the Test Acts (which excluded Catholics and Dissenters from public life). He then imprisoned seven Church of England Bishops who refused the king's orders to have the Declaration read in their diocesan churches. 

Second, since the time of his accession in 1685, and much to the consternation of the English parliament, James had steadily been replacing the Anglican holders of key government posts with Roman Catholics. He also recruited Catholics as officers, and Irish Catholics as infantry, in what looked increasingly like a standing army.

Third, James' actions brought pressure to call new elections. However, before doing so, he sent government agents to threaten and cajole members of the political nation in a bid to ensure any new parliament would be entirely loyal to him and his policies. 

All this was bad enough, but the last straw came in June 1688. Until then, James II’s heir was Princess Mary Stuart, the eldest child of his first wife, Ann Hyde, and the Protestant wife of Prince William of Orange. But, on 10 June, the certainty of a Protestant succession melted away. James II’s young Catholic Queen, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a healthy son (see also A New Song of Lulla By,/ OR, Father Peter's Policy Discovered). The political nation now faced the likelihood of a long succession of Catholic Stuart kings who (many believed) would use the political and military power that James II was in the process of building to undermine the Church of England and return Britain’s three kingdoms to the Roman Church. 

Though the religious and political fears of the ‘immortal seven’ convinced them to abandon the solemn pledges of allegiance they had made to James II, they planned to remain loyal to the Stuart dynasty, in the person of William’s Protestant wife, Mary.

A long period of preparation followed, so it was not until 5 November 1688 that William and his Dutch army landed in England. After this, however, events moved very quickly. By the end of November, most of James II’s 30,000 strong English army had changed sides; only 4000 men (many of them Irish) and a handful of officers remained loyal to him. In mid-December, with the secret compliance of William III, James II and his family fled the country.

On 22 January, a new ‘convention parliament’ met in London, and by 12 February the ‘Bill of Rights’ was drawn up. This included inalienable constitutional rights for the Anglican electorate, including regular Parliaments, free elections, and freedom of speech for MPs in Parliament. It also placed constitutional and confessional restrictions on monarchs, who could not suspend or 'dispense' with parliamentary laws, nor levy taxation without parliamentary consent, nor could they or their spouses be adherents of the Roman Catholic faith. A Toleration Act also gave freedom of worship to most dissenters, but not to Catholics, while only Anglicans could hold public office. 

In April 1689, William III and Mary II were crowned as joint monarchs. The epithet ‘bloodless Revolution’ was not, however, accurate. Many died fighting for and against James II’s rights in Ireland and in Scotland over the years that followed, as many songs attest.

Authorship and Content

THE Rare Vertue of an Orange, and all the white-letter songs that preceded it, played upon Prince William’s dynastic name and the strong smell and taste of oranges, which were still a colourful novelty to many at this time. The song described the dramatic purgative effect of the Protestant Prince's coming had on the political regime that James II had built up.

Although the song has been attributed to Matthew Prior, the texts of the five white-letter editions vary slightly from each other so it seems likely that other hands were also involved. Despite these variations, each of the white-letter editions unambigiously supported the Prince. They all directed jibes at James II’s army, which had collapsed so ignominiously, and included verses about drinking healths in claret, while likening James and his Queen to Adam and Eve, expelled from paradise for their sins.  

As the song 'crossed over' into the black-letter retail market, the retail publisher made some careful amendments to the text and added a woodcut of a well-dressed couple picking oranges from a tree (see Featured woodcut history). The anonymous publisher of the black-letter version featured here (of which only one copy is extant) removed the biblical satire included in the white-letter songs and the references to expensive claret, while a hack drew up several new verses that included some typical targets for popular anti-Catholic prejudice: they attacked friars and priests in general, hoping that they would all be jailed, but particularly singled out James II's hated advisor and Jesuit confessor, Father Petre, who had already ‘scowr’d away’ [i.e. he had fled England]. They also attacked Irish Catholics in the army, who had remained loyal to James II, claiming that they had easily been defeated in skirmishes with William’s army at Wincanton and Reading. In common with all the other editions, however, the black-letter version of the song included a verse referring to ‘Old Stories … In Prose and in Verse’ that told ‘How a Welsh child was found by loving of cheese’. This obliquely alluded to the widespread rumour that Petre had smuggled a Welsh tiler’s baby into the Queen’s bedroom, to masquerade as the newborn Prince of Wales.

Publication History

The undoubtedly seditious content of THE Rare Vertue of an Orange and all its white-letter counterparts meant that every known version was printed anonymously. Both the black-letter and one of the white-letter editions carried the imprint ‘Printed for A. B’. This same imprint had appeared on The New Song, set to the tune of Lilli-bur-lero, which, it was said, had 'sung James II out of three kingdoms'. These initials cannot be relied upon as a clue to the publisher, however. Another white-letter edition of THE Rare Vertue (perhaps the first edition of the song as several of the lines differed from later versions) claimed it was printed for ‘R. G.’, which was equally intended to mislead the censors.

A real clue to the identity of the black-letter publisher comes, perhaps, from the striking image used for THE Rare Vertue. This appeared on other anonymous ballads (see, e.g. Englands Happiness Reviv'd / OR, / A Farwell to Popery, EBBA 20893) and a short time after THE Rare Vertue was published, it appeared on a similar song, THE / FAMOUS ORANGE: / Or, an Excellent Antidote against Romish Poison (EBBA 20873). This was published for Alexander Milbourn, a printer/bookseller, who had specialised in ballad publishing independently before becoming a Ballad Partner alongside the printer John Millet and the bookseller William Thackeray late in 1689. Indeeed, the verso of Pepys' copy of THE Rare Vertue  was over-printed in the 1690s with another song, published by John Millet.

One of the most interesting of the white-letter editions of The Rare Vertue (entitled A New Song of an Orange) was engraved using metal plates. This was the best method for producing accurate and easy to read musical notation and was far superior to that obtainable with movable type. Song sheets like these were relatively expensive to produce, however, and were sold by specialist music shops, selling for between two and six pennies a sheet. Five copies of this engraved edition survive (one was bought by merchant John Verney, a music lover), which provides a clear indication that the song was being peformed by privileged and capable musicians.

Angela McShane


For transcription of the letter,  see https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/significant-events/glorious-revolution-1688/

Tim Harris, Revolution. The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685-1725 (London: Allen Lane, 2006).

King, A. Hyatt Four Hundred Years of Music Printing. London: Trustees of the British Museum. (1968).

For a video of modern music engraving see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_engraving

Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth Century England: A Critical Bibliography (2011), No. 894X

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Featured Tune History

To the Tune of ‘The Pudding’ (standard name: With a fading)

The purpose of this section is to provide brief notes on the melody followed by detailed evidence relating to  its career, paying particular attention to the ‘echoes’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was nominated for the singing of more than one ballad. In the list presented in the ‘Songs and Summaries’ section below, we have endeavoured to include as many of the black-letter ballads that used the tune as possible, under any of its variant names. Titles from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type (these are also in colour when there is a link to the relevant ballad page on the website). It should be noted that it is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).  In most cases, we list the earliest surviving edition of a ballad, though in many instances there may have been earlier versions, now lost.

Versions and variations

This tune was known variously as ‘With a fading/fadding’, ‘[The vertue of] the pudding’ and ‘The/An Orange’. Notation can be found on an engraved song-sheet entitled A New Song of an Orange, probably published in c. 1700 (EBBA 34873). The text is closely related to that of THE Rare Vertue of an Orange, our current focus, and we have therefore used this version for our recording. Other versions of the tune are in eighteenth-century editions of Wit and Mirth. These are similar but not identical to the tune from the song-sheet.

Echoes (an overview)

This lively tune was connected by ballad-makers and hence by audiences to two principal themes, and the relationships between them are interesting. From the 1630s, and perhaps before, the melody was known as either ‘With a fading’ or ‘With a pudding’ (and there were variations in both cases). At this stage, it was attached primarily to songs about romance and/or sex (see, for example,The Passionate Damsel). Both tune-titles had bawdy connotations; puddings and penises were clearly conflated, for example, in the song that generated the second name (see ‘Postscript’, below). Ballads of this sort continued to appear throughout the century, and the tune’s sexual overtones also made it suitable for several songs that featured gender-jests of one sort or another (maidens dressing up as men and ‘pressing’ cowardly tailors into the navy; auctions of unmarried women; and fights between fish-selling women who lust after the same man).

This was all unsurprising, but the tune took a sudden and sharp turn when, in 1688-89, several ballads appeared that nominated it for songs welcoming William of Orange as the saviour of Protestant England. The decision to use this particular melody, with its bawdy associations, must have been deliberate, and it seems possible that the bold move was part of an effort to render the somewhat cold Dutch invader hot and sexy. The choice of tune may also have enabled those who regarded William with suspicion to hum along with a knowing smirk. Of course, we cannot be sure, but something significant was clearly going on, and the songs were very successful. This is suggested particularly by the fact that a new title for the tune, ‘The Orange’, rapidly replaced the older names almost completely. 

In contemplating all these songs from a perspective in the twenty-first century, we perhaps sense the existence of some big joke that we do not quite get. It may even be relevant that the musical phrase with which this tune begins is almost identical to the corresponding line in another melody, ‘Eighty-eight’ (or ‘88’), which was itself strongly associated with memories of the Spanish Armada exactly one hundred years before.

Most of the ballads that named the tune were in one or other of the two main categories - titilating or Williamite - though it was also used on several late-seventeenth ballads that either criticised or defended the exponents of various trades (colliers, brewers and so on). The texts of these songs were more serious than most of those listed below, and it seems possible that the ballad-makers were primarily attempting to cash in on the suddenly enhanced popularity of the tune.

Ballads to this tune are rich in intertextual echoes, and there is space to mention only a few of these here. In musical terms, the most distinctive feature of the tune is its open-ended final phrase, and this was used for a whole series of short textual refrains, each with the potential to spark automatic memories of others: ‘with kisses’, ‘For a husband’, ‘by an orange’, ‘of a Jesuit’, ‘ye bold Strumpet’, and so on.

Some songs were essentially re-workings of earlier productions, and the young women who longed desperately ‘For a husband’ made two appearances: The Passionate Damsel and THE Handsome Maid of Milkstreet share not only their refrain, but they both kick off with ‘I am a young maid’ and they both rhyme ‘Dick’ with ‘sick’. An ANSWER to the MAIDENS Frollick is so clearly related to the second part of The Maidens Frolicksome Undertaking that there can be no doubt that one writer drew heavily on the efforts of another, merely moving the phrases around in order to deflect suspicion (the two ballads were issued by rival groups of publishers).

Other echoes were more modest. In the first verse of The Country-Mans Kalendar, for example, the line, ‘Which I'de have ye buy, good People, for why,’ seems to recall the opening of THE Rare Vertue of an Orange, our hit song: ‘Good People come buy/ The fruit that I cry’. As ever, it is difficult to draw the lines between copying, cross-referencing and coincidence.

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on the melody].

Songs and Summaries

The merry Forrester... It goes unto the tune of: With a fadding (H. Gosson, 1635?).  Pepys 1.224-25; EBBA 20101.  Gender – femininity, masculinity, sex; History – romance, ancient/mythological; Humour – bawdry; Society – rich/poor. This song celebrates the value of kissing in all epochs and on all social levels.

The Passionate Damsel: OR, THE True Miss of a MAN... To the Tune of, The Vertue of the Pudding (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Crawford 561; EBBA 32995. Gender – courtship, femininity, sex, singles; Emotions – longing, frustration, anxiety, sorrow; Bodies – looks/physique; Recreation – food; Employment – female; Family – pregnancy/childbirth. A young woman desperately craves a husband, observing the happiness of other young couples and regretting that her relationships so far have broken down.

THE Rare Vertue of an Orange; OR, Popery purged and expelled out of the Nation... To the Tune of, The Pudding (A. B., 1688). Pepys 2.259; EBBA 20872. Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, Royalist, satire,obedience, foreign affairs; Humour – satire, verbal; Royalty – praise; Religion – Catholic/Protestant; Recreation - food; Bodies – health/sickness, nourishment; Environment – flowers/trees; Emotions – joy, suspicion. An anti-Catholic ballad that praises William III by advertising the health-benefits associated with oranges, in the style of a fruit-seller.

THE FAMOUS ORANGE: Or, an Excellent Antidote against Romish Poison... Tune of the Pudding (A. Milbourn, 1689).  Pepys 2.260; EBBA 20873.  Politics – celebration, domestic, foreign affairs, Royalist; Royalty – criticism, praise; Religion – Catholicism/Protestantism; Emotions – joy; Humour – mockery.  This rejoices at the arrival of William of Orange and presents him as a glorious saviour of all that is good.

The Protestant Court of England: OR, THE Joyful Coronation of K. William III. and Q. Mary II... The Tune of, The Pudding (A. Milbourn, 1689). Pepys 2.275; EBBA 20889. Politics – celebration, domestic, foreign affairs, Royalist, plots; Royalty – praise; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, clergy; Humour – mockery, verbal; Places – nationalities, European; Emotions – scorn, joy, patriotism. This blames the Jesuits for leading King James astray and celebrates the defeat of all their schemes by the new Anglo-Dutch alliance led by William and Mary.

The Maidens Frolicksome Undertaking To Press Fourteen Taylors... To the Tune of, An Orange (W. Thackeray, J. Millet, and A. Milbourn, 1689-92). Pepys 4.277; EBBA 21938. Gender – femininity, cross-dressing, masculinity; Violence – interpersonal; Employment – crafts/trades, sailors/soldiers; Humour – deceit/disguise, extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Politics – domestic, foreign affairs; Crime – robbery/theft; Morality – social/economic, romantic/sexual; Emotions – excitement, fear; Bodies – clothing; Places – English, nationalities; Recreation – alcohol; News – sensational. In the first part, a group of young women dress as sailors and round up London’s tailors for the navy; in the second, the feeble tailors plot their revenge, but all they can think of is to steal even more cloth from their female customers.

A New-Years-GIFT FOR Covetous COLLIERS. To the Tune of, The Orange (J. Millet, 1689-92?). Pepys 4.323; EBBA 21986. Employment – crafts/trades; Morality – social/economic; Economy – prices/wages, hardship/prosperity; Politics – parliament, controversy, domestic; Society – rich/poor; Emotions – anger, greed; Recreation – music, public festivity. A fierce critique of colliers for jacking up their prices, and of Parliament for passing legislation that has made this possible.

THE Bloody Battle at Billingsgate, Beginning with a Scolding between two young Fish-women, Doll and Kate. To the Tune of, The ORANGE (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1689-96?). Pepys 4.289; EBBA 21951.  Emotions – anger, suspicion, jealousy; Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, sex, marriage, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Violence – interpersonal. Places – English; Bodies – clothing; Recreation – alcohol; Society – neighbours. Dolly accuses Kate of sleeping with her husband and a fierce altercation ensues before onlookers effect an improbable reconciliation in the last verse.

The Distressed Damsels: OR, A dolefull Ditty of a sorrowfull Assembly of young Maidens that were met together near Thames-street... To the Tune of an Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1689-96?).  Pepys 4.64; EBBA 21730.  Gender – courtship; Emotion – anxiety, sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Politics – foreign affairs. The maidens of London lament the pressing of many young men into military service, and they complain that the marriage market has been severely compromised by a sudden shift in the gender balance.

THE Handsome Maid of Milkstreet... To the Tune of an Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1689-96?).  Pepys 3.289; EBBA 21304.  Gender – courtship, femininity; Emotions – longing, anxiety, frustration; Bodies – clothing, physique/looks; Recreation – fashions; Employment – apprenticeship/service. A young woman is desperate for a husband and advertises her charms and her wealth in an effort to find one.

The Jolly PORTERS: OR, The Merry Lads of LONDON... To the Tune of an Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1689-96?).  Pepys 4.292; EBBA 21954.  Employment – crafts/trades; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Gender – masculinity; Economy – prices/wages; Emotions – joy; Politics – general. One porter advises the rest that their vocation properly involves drinking strong beer, spending their money freely, socialising and ignoring all thoughts of tomorrow.

The Maidens Frollick: OR, / A brief Relation how Six Lusty Lasses has Prest full Fourteen Taylors on the backside of St. Clements, and the other adjacent Places... To the Tune of an Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1689-96).  Roxburghe 2.331; EBBA 30779. Employment – crafts/trades, sailors/soldiers; Gender – cross-dressing, femininity, masculinity; Humour – deceit/disguise, extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Violence – interpersonal; Politics – foreign affairs, domestic, Royalism; Emotions –fear, patriotism; Bodies – clothing; Places – English, nationalities; Society – urban life. Just for fun, a group of young women dress up as sailors and wander around London, ‘pressing’ all the cowardly tailors they can find into military service.

An ANSWER to the MAIDENS Frollick: OR, THE Taylors Resolution to be Reveng’d of these Petticoat Press-Masters... To the Tune of, An Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Black [Back], 1689-96). Pepys 4.66; EBBA 21732. Gender – masculinity, femininity, cross-dressing; Humour – deceit/disguise, mockery, extreme situations/surprises; Employment – crafts/trades, sailors/soldiers; Emotions – anger, shame; Politics – domestic, foreign affairs; Bodies – clothing; Crime – robbery/theft; Recreation – alcohol; Places – English, nationalities Violence – interpersonal. In this song, the London tailors – humiliated in The Maidens Frollic ­– plan their revenge, but the best that they can come up with is to be even more dishonest in their business practices.

The Brewers Benefit, Who to pay the New Excise, pinches the poor of their Measure; making others pay for what was laid upon themselves... To the Tune of, An Orange (J. Millet, 1690).  Pepys 4.338; EBBA 22001.  Employment – crafts/trades, female/male; Economy – hardship/ prosperity, money; Emotions – anger; Morality – social/economic; Recreation – alcohol.  An attack upon brewers for cutting their measures in order to transfer the costs of the excise onto their poor customers.

The Bountifull Brewers: Who pay the King’s Taxes out of the Poor Mens Purses... To the Tune of An Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1690). Pepys 4.335; EBBA 21998. Employment – crafts/trades, female/male; Economy – hardship/ prosperity, money; Emotions – anger; Morality – social/economic; Politics – parliament, foreign affairs; Recreation – alcohol. This criticises London’s brewers for transferring the costs of Parliament’s well-intentioned taxation – necessary to finance war – from themselves to the poor.

The Brewers Answer; Or, Their Vindication, against those Aspersions that hath been put upon them concerning the Double Excise...To the Tune of, The Orange (J. Millet, 1690?).  Pepys 4.337; EBBA 22000.  Employment – crafts/trades; Economy – taxation, hardship, prices/wages; Morality – social/economic; Politics – controversy, foreign affairs; Recreation – alcohol; Emotions – anxiety. The brewers explain why they are not to blame for the price of ale, appealing to people to bear in mind the costs that attend their business.

Poor TEAGUE in Distress: OR, The French and Irish Army Routed... To the Tune of, The ORANGE (Charles Bates, 1690). Pepys 2.304; EBBA 20921. Politics – celebration, foreign affairs; Emotions – anger, fear; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Gender – masculinity; Humour – verbal, mockery; Places – Irish, nationalities; Violence – between states. An Irishman blames the French and his own leaders for the recent military humiliation at the hands of the English, and he decides that submitting to King William is the best policy.

The Country-Mans Kalendar, Or, His Astrological-Predictions for the ensuing Year 1692... the Tune of An Orange (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1691-92). Pepys 4.357; EBBA 22021. Bodies – clothing; Gender – courtship, marriage, sex; Humour – satire; Environment –birds, seasons,weather, animals; Recreation – food, fairs/festivals. A spoof almanac that predicts a range of happenings that are all entirely predictable (‘And Christmas will be in December this Year’).

A Market for young Men: OR, A Publick Sale in sundry Places in and about London... To the Tune of, An Orange, &c (E. Tracy, 1695-1703?). Pepys 4.234; EBBA 21894. Bodies – looks/physique; Humour – bawdry, satire; Economy – trade, money, prices; Gender – femininity, masculinity, courtship; Places – English. This advertises a forthcoming sale of single women of various shapes, ages and types, and the ballad urges young men to gather their ‘Clip’d money’ (coins that have been trimmed by criminals).


This melody was also called for repeatedly on white-letter ballads of the period, most of which follow one or other of the main thematic trends sketched above. See, for example, THE COMPLAINT OF All She-Traders (1689-1700?) and ENGLANDS Scorne; OR The Sham INVASION (1692).

The melody was also called for in song-books of the period. Notation for the tune is provided with the ‘Ballad of the Courtier and the Country Clown’ in Wit and Mirth (1719-20), for example, and this song had appeared much earlier in Sportive Wit (1656), though without a nominated tune. In both cases, the refrain ‘With a fadding’ establishes a strong link with the melody. And tune titles involving the term ‘pudding’ seem to derive from a bawdy song about youthful teenage lust that appears in the 1682 edition of Wit and mirth (1682) and then later, with the music, in the edition of 1719-20. Interestingly, a precedent for the attachment of the tune to ballads expressing political loyalism had been set in 1671 when Thomas Jordan’s pageant for the Lord Mayor of London included a dinner-time song, set to ‘With a Fadding’. This reviewed the horrors of the Civil War and celebrated the return of the House of Stuart. According to Jordan’s published version, the song was well-received by the diners, having been performed by ‘a person with a good Voice, in good Humour, and audible utterance (the better to provoke digestion)’.

Christopher Marsh


Thomas Jordan, London Triumphant (1672), pp. 13-15.

Claude M. Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 792-95.

Sportive Wit (1656), pp. 58-59.

Wit and mirth (1682), pp. 18-20.

Wit and mirth (1719-20), vol. 3, p. 72-74, and vol. 4, pp. 99-100.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Couple with tree (William and Mary)

The purpose of this section is to provide evidence relating to  the career of the image under discussion, paying particular attention to the ‘reflections’ (inter-song associations and connections) that may have been set up if it was chosen to illustrate more than one ballad. The list given below includes all ballads from the Pepys and Roxburghe collections that feature this woodcut or a close variant (these are the two largest collections, including approximately 3300 sheets, in total). References to ballads from other collections occur only when the featured edition of the song under consideration here (or the featured edition of another song from our list) comes from such a source. Ballads from our chart of best-sellers are presented in bold type, and they also appear in colour where there is a link to another song in the database. Please note, however, that the editions of hit songs listed below are not necessarily those for which digital images are presented on this website. Cross-references to other examples of our featured woodcuts are also presented in bold. It is extremely difficult to date many ballads precisely and the chronological order in which the songs are listed is therefore very approximate (we have drawn on previous attempts to date the ballads, making adjustments when additional evidence can be brought into play).

Reflections (an overview)

There was clearly a vogue for this image in 1688-89, following William of Orange’s arrival in England and the departure of James II. The couple represented William and Mary, their identity firmly established by the orange tree that stands between them. They appeared almost exclusively on ballads that welcomed the new monarchs with varying degrees of invention and wit, and the image was perhaps specially commissioned for one of these. Clearly, its presence on THE Rare Vertue, where it conveys a hint that William himself is playing the role of a fruit-seller on the streets, helped to establish the ballad as a runaway hit. There were also several white-letter editions of this song, but these did not include pictures. All surviving versions of the picture seem to have come from the same woodblock, and it is notable that the popularity of the image seems to have faded quite swiftly (it was rarely used after 1689).

[See 'Postscript', below, for additional notes on the woodcut].

Songs and summaries:

THE Rare Vertue of an Orange; OR, Popery purged and expelled out of the Nation (A. B., 1688-89). Pepys 2.259; EBBA 20872. Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, Royalist, satire,obedience, foreign affairs; Humour – satire, verbal; Royalty – praise; Religion – Catholic/Protestant; Recreation - food; Bodies – health/sickness, nourishment; Environment – flowers/trees; Emotions – joy, suspicion. An anti-Catholic ballad that praises William III by advertising the health-benefits of oranges, in the style of a fruit-seller (picture placement: the woodcut appears beneath the title and is the only image).

Englands Happiness Reviv'd, OR, A Farwell to Popery (no publisher named, 1689).  Pepys 2.279; EBBA 20893.  Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, foreign affiars, Royalist; Religion –Catholicism/Protestantism; Royalty – praise. This celebrates the arrival of William of Orange, the scourge of Catholicism (picture placement: the couple appear on the right side of the sheet, alongside the Horseman slaying Catholics on the left).

THE FAMOUS ORANGE: Or, an Excellent Antidote against Romish Poison (A. Milbourn, 1689).  Pepys 2.260; EBBA 20873.  Politics – celebration, domestic, foreign affairs, Royalist; Royalty – criticism, praise; Religion – Catholicism/Protestantism; Emotions – joy; Humour – mockery. This rejoices at the arrival of William of Orange and presents him as a glorious saviour of all that is good (picture placement: the woodcut appears beneath the title and is the only image).


This image also appeared on a later white-letter ballad entitled The Protestant Queen: OR, The Glorious Proclaiming her Royal Highness Princiss Ann of Denmark, Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland (John Alkin, 1702).  Pepys 5.149, EBBA 22416.

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

The Pepys edition 5:109r EBBA 22371 is 'Printed for R.G.' It has a white-letter version ofThe Shepherd’s Petition TO The Goddess of Beauty (c. 1690s) printed on the verso. This latter song was printed by John Millet, who also became a Ballad Partner in 1689. He and Milbourn could have produced The Rare Vertue together. 

Ballads with a similar title and opening verse but with more explicitly seditious content were published in the same period: see, for example, McShane, Political broadside ballads, no. 915 (The Orange).

Angela McShane

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THE/ Rare Vertue of an Orange;/ OR, Popery purged and expelled out of the Nation./ To the Tune of, The Pudding.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


GOod People come buy

The Fruit that I cry,

That now is in season, tho' Winter is nigh;

'Twill do you all good,

And sweeten your Blood;

I'm sure it will please when you've once understood

'tis an Orange.


Its Cordial Juice,

Does much Vigour produce:

I may well recommend it to every Mans use,

Tho' some it quite chills,

And with fear almost kills,

Yet certain each healthy Man benefit feels

by an Orange.


Perhaps you may think

That the Jesuits stink,

Because that they can't get away with their Chink;

For Hemp is their Doom,

If they dare to presume,

To tarry so long as to smell the Perfume

of an Orange,


Dear Teague and his Fellow's

Come over the Main,

And thought in Great=Brittain like Landlords to Reign;

They play'd for our Houses,

And lost them again,

Some of those deer=Joys now has met with their bane,

by an Orange.


The Fryars and Jesuits

Thought to excell,

By singing, and Ringing their Tantany-Bell;

But there is nothing

That can e'er do so well,

The Poyson of P===y quite to expell,

 as an Orange.


There's Old Father P===s,

Religious and Chaste,

Has left all his lasses that once he embrac'd

And now he is scowr'd

Away in all haste,

Because that he cannot endure the sharp taste

of an Orange.


Old Stories rehearse,

In Prose and in Verse,

How a Welsh child was found by loving of cheese

Then the smelling sence,

Now may prove the true Prince,

And all the whole Nation of folly convince

by an Orange.


If they Cure the ayls

Of England and Wales,

And with the Old Jesuits fill all the Goals,

Who strove the whole Nation,

Alas! to deceive,

And now at old Tyburn let them take their leave

of an Orange.


Tho' the Mobile bawl,

Like the Devil and all,

For Religion, Property, Just[ice] and Laws,

Yet in very good sooth,

I'll tell you the truth,

There nothing is better to stop a man's mouth

then an Orange.

Printed for A. B.

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This ballad is included according to the criteria for List B (see Methodology). The evidence presented here is accurate, to the best of our knowledge, as of 1st January 2024.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 6

No. of extant copies: 11

Appearances on publishers' lists: none.

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

3-yr periods that produced multiple editions: 1688-90 (6)

New tune titles generated: 'An orange' (18 ballads)

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: no known pictures but EBBA 34873 includes accurate music with the text of the first verse interlined.

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 12 + 11 + 0 + 0 + 36 + 30 + 5 + 0 = 94

[On this ballad, see also Angela McShane, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England, no. 894X]


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