5  The Ballad of the CLOAK:/ Or, The Cloaks Knavery [Pepys 2.218]

Author: C., A. and C., P.

Recording: The Ballad of the CLOAK

Bodies - clothing Death - execution Economy - taxation Emotions - anger Morality - political Politics - Civil War/Interregnum Politics - Popish Plot/Exclusion Crisis Politics - Restoration Politics - Royalist Politics - controversy Politics - domestic Politics - parliament Politics - war Recreation - music Religion - Catholic/Protestant Religion - church Religion - clergy Religion - protestant nonconformity Religion: Protestant/Puritan Violence - civil war Violence - political

Song History

The Ballad of the Cloak was first published in 1663, in a white-letter format under the title, The Tyrannical Usurpation of the Independent Cloak over the Episcopal Gown. No evidence has so far come to light as to who produced or might have acquired copies of the first edition, nor who might have known or performed it in the 1660s. To judge from its rarity, the ballad appears to have made little impact on its first outing. The one surviving copy sits among a large collection of broadsides, many of them political, dating from the 1640s to the mid 1700s, but, frustratingly, the identity of the collector or collectors is unknown. That all changed in 1679, however, when the song had a second outing and achieved spectacular success, reaching number five in the top one hundred ballads of the century.


Despite several tantalising clues, the ballad's authorship remains unknown. New licensing regulations, passed in 1662, required publishers to include the names of everyone involved in the production of a commercial ballad, including the author, printer, and bookseller. However, the information supplied on the 1663 edition was singularily unhelpful: it claimed to be written ‘by A. C. and P. C.' (almost certainly satirical: perhaps 'Anglican Cloak' and 'Presbyterian Cloak') and to have been printed at the behest of one ‘Gideon Andrews’ (also unknown).

In 1679 Narcissus Luttrell acquired a copy of one of the ballad's many later editions. Retitled The Ballad of the Cloak, the imprint claimed the song had been ‘Reprinted, Corrected, Revised, and Enlarged, by the Author’. Luttrell annotated his copy twice. His first note described the author as a ‘knave and foole’, and the second, partly obliterated, seems to attribute the ballad’s authorship to a ‘Father Powers’ [Powis?] or possibly ‘Peters’. Without being abe to read the rest of the sentence, it is unclear what Luttrell meant to say, but, in any case, he was probably unaware of the song's longer history and had only guesswork to go on. There is a good chance that both the author and publisher (if not the same person) were clerics – several are known to have been adept songwriters – and later editions of this song were certainly collected by clerics, such as Archbishop Wakeman, whose collection is held at Christ Church in Oxford.

Content and Political Context #1

By 1663, the newly restored king's 'honeymoon period' was already over. Parliamentary 'cavaliers' and newly restored bishops were angry about ongoing Presbyterian influence in church and state and sought to control it by passing harsh new penal laws. The Corporation Act (1661) and Act of Uniformity (1662) aimed to re-establish the Church of England as the one national church with the king at its head and to exclude all nonconformists from public office and livings in the Church of England. Charles II immediately attempted to undermine these acts by promoting religious toleration for both Catholics and Protestant dissenters. He issued a Declaration of Indulgence, permitting freedom of worship, and asked parliament to grant him powers to ‘dispense’ individuals from the new penal laws. The king’s declaration provoked outrage in both houses and in February 1663 his request for powers of dispensation was rejected.

The first white-letter edition of the Ballad of the Cloak emerged from this fraught political situation. If it was sung, it no doubt brought a sense of community to parliamentarians and clerics who were opposed to the king’s policy of toleration. The song blamed covenanting Presbyterians for both the civil war and the regicide, while the final verse warned that ‘the Lofty Long Cloak’ and his ‘twenty thousand times ten’ followers, were continually plotting against the crown. Far from offering a peaceful solution, the song threatened a hangman’s noose for all who refused to accept the authority of crown and church.

Content Political Context #2

After more than a decade out of the spotlight, the song really came into its own during the period of the 'Popish Plot' and 'Exclusion Crisis' (1678-82).

In 1674, it became publicly known that the king’s brother and heir, James, Duke of York, had converted to Catholicism. This ignited fears that, as king, James would introduce 'popery' and impose absolutist tyranny on the three nations. Calls grew for the king to divorce his barren wife and to remarry, so as to produce a Protestant heir. Others proposed that the king should legitimise his Protestant son, the duke of Monmouth. 

Tensions grew worse when, in 1678, Titus Oates sparked panic across the three kingdoms by alleging there was a 'popish' plot to kill the king in favour of his Catholic brother. Oates' accusations rippled out across the political nation and wider society with devastating effect. State trials were held and many were imprisoned and executed. The king’s chief minister, the earl of Danby, was impeached by the Commons for treason, in part for expressing doubt about Oates’s allegations. Meanwhile the 'cavalier' or 'pensioner' parliament (as it was dubbed), which had been sitting since 1661, was mired in accusations of corruption.

By December 1678, not only had Charles II's chief minister been impeached, but also his doctor had been accused of treason for attempting to poison him; several Catholic Lords had been imprisoned in the tower; and the King faced the prospect of a parliamentary bill that would exclude his brother and heir from the throne. In January 1679, Charles dissolved the parliament and called for new elections, hoping for a more compliant house. In this, he was to be disappointed. In fact, two elections followed, one in February, and another in August, but both returned anti-court, ‘exclusionist' majorities, who were determined to prevent the king’s Catholic brother from ever wearing the crown. 

Midway between the two elections, in June 1679, the old 1663 song was updated for these new circumstances. Snappliy re-titled The Ballad of The Cloak, the song's lyrics were appropriated and repurposed for the electoral campaigns. No real party system was in place, and every constituency was different, but candidates did fall into two broad groups. For so-called ‘country’ politicians, who were already anxious about the corrupting power of the court, the Popish Plot allegations made them even more determined to curb any possibility of an absolutist Catholic monarchy being established. For 'court' supporters, who were appalled by proposals to interfere with the succession, memories of how Presbyterian Covenanters had first fought the crown, which sparked the civil wars, came newly to the fore. 

The addition of a final verse to the old song brought together the new anti-Catholicism provoked by the plot with the old anti-Presbyterian arguments of 1663. The new song implicitly encouraged voters to support for royalist candidates who supported the one Anglican church:

Let's pray, That the King,
And His Parliament,
In Sacred and Secular Things may consent;
So Righteously firm,
And Religiously free;
That Papists and Atheists suppressed may be.
And as there's one Deity doth over-reign us,
One Faith, and one Form, and one Church may contain us.
Then Peace, Truth and Plenty, our Kingdom will crown
And all Popish Plots and their Plotters shall down.

In March 1679, the King had attempted to prevent his brother from becoming a distraction while parliament met by ordering him to withdraw abroad. By November, however, James persuaded Charles to give him the governership of Scotland. A new Scottish edition of The Ballad of the Cloak added two new verses to the old song that expressly supported the duke of York’s right to succeed:

Lett's pray that the King,
And his only Brother,
May be glorious, and helpfull one to ane other.
Both firmly united,
And lovingly such,
That, the sacred succession none may dar[e] touch.
As Charles three Crownes enjoyes in possession
James title is just to them all in reversion.
Then let us endeavour to pull the Cloak down
That Offers to Quarrel his right to the Crown.

'Court' and 'country' politicians and their supporters soon began to abuse each other with the derogatory names of 'Tory' and  'Whig': which both sides ultimately adopted. This shift was also reflected in a later English edition of song, which used a printed marginal note to make a 'party' political point, by indicating to any inattentive readers that the machinations of Presbyterians during the civil wars were ‘The practice of the present Whigs’.

Publication history and popularity

An extraordinary ten editions of the Ballad of the Cloak have so far been identified and at least forty-four copies located (see Publication History). Nine of those editions were published after 1679. The song became hugely popular, not just with the political and clerical elites, for whom it was originally intended, but also with the more ordinary purchaser of black-letter ballads. This is because, thanks to the specialist ballad publisher Philip Brooksby, the song ‘crossed over’ from the socially limited world of commissioned white-letter productions - typical of political campaigning songs - into the much broader black-letter retail market (see Ballad Business essay). 

Brooksby's black-letter edition of the song retained the original's antagonism to Presbyterians but, in its final verse, it also threatened ‘popish plotters’ and called upon the king to work in harmony with his new parliament. Brooksby also drove the song’s point home with a set of uniquely arranged illustrations. Brooksby's chosen illustrations for his black-letter 'crossover' version were deliberately reminiscent of woodcuts that had appeared on songs published in the 1640s. Making sure that the significance of the images would not be missed, the visual memories that the images encouraged were amplified with speech bubbles. For example, the puritan who is depicted preaching from a tub declares, 'Remember the good old cause' (see Featured Woodcut History).

The song seems to have sold well in the retail market from 1679 until about 1682, though no edition was printed in James II's reign. In 1688, Brooksby sold the title on to the Ballad Partners. It was included on Thackeray's trade list in 1689 and the Ballad Partners printed new editions in the 1690s. In the 1700s, as new religious issues arose, new white-letter and black-letter versions of the song continued to appear (see Related Texts).

Angela McShane


Angela McShane, The Ballad Trade and its Politics in Seventeenth Century Britain (Woodbridge, forthcoming), chs. 4, 6, & 7.

History of Parliament: 'The 2nd Parliament of Charles II'

Mark Knights, Politics and Opinion in Crisis, 1678–81. (Cambridge, 1994)

Tim Harris, London crowds in the Reign of Charles II. Propaganda and politics from the Restoration until the Exclusion Crisis (Cambridge, 1987)

Tim Harris, Restoration. Charles II and His Kingdoms, 1660-1685 (London, 2005)

Back to contents

Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘Packington’s pound’ (standard name)

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

One of the distinguishing features of ‘Packington’s Pound’ is that, unlike other highly successful tunes, it never seems to have acquired alternative names among the consumers of black-letter ballads (though there are white-letter songs that use different tune titles). The melody was perhaps named after a popular Elizabethan courtier named Sir John Pakington (though a musician named Thomas Paginton has also been proposed). It was certainly very well known, and during the seventeenth century the tune may have suited particularly the tastes of those who considered themselves more refined than the majority (it was named even more frequently in songbooks and on white-letter ballads than it was on black-letter sheets).

For this reason, it was also recorded in musical notation on numerous occasions from the late sixteenth century onwards. Melodic details shift somewhat from version to version, but the surviving tunes are all recognisably variations of one another. This was, like ‘Fortune my foe’, a structurally solid tune that was built to stick around. In Simpson’s words, it was ‘easily singable, memorable without being monotonous’. The tune was frequently written out for the singing of texts in printed song-collections (see ‘Postscript’, below). It occurs several times, for example, in Nathaniel Thompson’s Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685), and this is the version that we have used on our recording.

It also appeared, however, in a number of instrumental versions. In William Barley’s A New Booke of Tabliture (1596) it is set for orpharion, and a keyboard setting can be found in the second Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Notation for ‘Packington’s pound’ also appears on a number of ballads, including A New Song UPON The Council of Six; OR, A Character of the WHIGGISH-PLOT (1689). This ballad was actually set to the melody, but others displayed parts of it despite nominating different tunes (see, for example, The Thankful Country Lass to the tune of ‘I am so sick of Love’). In such cases, it was presumably selected because the printer happened to have a block ready to go, and its primary purpose was to signify music to those – surely the majority of consumers – who could not actually read the notation. The tune remained very well-known in the eighteenth century and was used in several ballad-operas.

Echoes (an overview)

‘Packington’s Pound’ was a very popular tune, though many of its appearances occurred within the comparatively refined world of the white-letter ballad. The black-letter ballads listed below suggest that the tune was considered appropriate for a wide range of textual themes but also that it came to be associated with two topics in particular.

First, it was nominated for numerous songs that concentrated on social morality, usually presenting it as existing in a state of crisis. These songs adopted a variety of different approaches: some drew attention to widespread moral failings (see, for example, Pitties Lamentation for the cruelty of this age); some presented instructive cases of sinners who had come to their senses (Two-penny-worth of Wit For a PENNY); and others told cautionary tales of criminals who faced execution (THE Murtherer Justly Condemned).

Second, ‘Packington’s Pound’ was chosen for ballads that expressed loyal devotion to the Crown and the status quo in general. These appeared particularly during and after the Restoration of 1660, and good examples include Joyfull News to the Nation and The Oxford Health: OR, The Jovial Loyalists. The implication of this tune-selection was presumably that loyalism was not only politically superior but more moral and more worthy than the hideous alternatives. The loyalism in question related particularly to Charles II and James II, and an attempt made in 1689 to transfer it seamlessly to William of Orange (see A Full Description of these Times) does not seem to have been followed up in the ensuing decade.

When black-letter editions of The Ballad of the CLOAK appeared in 1679, the melody may thus have served to remind listeners that those promoting the song, though implicitly critical of royal policy in the final verse, were nevertheless loyal to the crown at a deeper level (see also Song history). And it seems likely that the newly-successful song also tapped into the tune's existing associations with social morality.

‘Packington’s Pound’ was sometimes chosen as the tune for songs about courtship and cuckoldry but these occur in a far lower proportion than is the case for many other tunes. The melody was nominated on songs issued by a range of different publishers, but the name of Philip Brooksby is particularly prominent. Over a third of the titles listed below bear his name, and one wonders if ‘Packington’s Pound’ was a personal favourite (it required a distinctive metrical pattern and it seems possible that he actively commissioned songs set to the tune).

There are several indications that some of these songs were connected with one another not just by their shared tune but by inter-textual referencing, though the links do not appear to have been as frequent as those found among the songs set to ‘Flying fame’, for example. Most strikingly, six of the songs listed below open with the word ‘Come...’. The first to do so appears to have been The Ballad of the CLOAK, and thus it seems that our hit song set a trend. Many of the white-letter ballads, not listed below, also adopted this opening gambit, and the influence of previous songs set to the same tune is clearly evident (ballads sung to the even more popular melodies of ‘Fortune my foe’ and ‘Flying fame’ hardly ever commenced with ‘Come...’).

In Holland turn’d to Tinder, a reference to ‘those Dutch Demigorgons’ may recall the description of the guns at the Tower of London as ‘These fierce Demi-Gorgons’ in The Ballad of the CLOAK. This hit song also includes the line, ‘Which happen’d when Cloak was Commander in Chief’, recalling a statement from The Royall Entertainment: ‘and comfort is now a Commander in chief’. And several songs followed or preceded The Ballad of the CLOAK in rhyming ‘gown’ – a key word in our hit song – with ‘down’ (see, for example, The Brick-makers Lamentation from New-gate, Yea & Nay the Quaker, and the white-letter song, A New Ballad). One ballad, ROME in an Uproar, contained an interesting and unusual verbal reference to the name of the tune. The ballad-makers assure us that the dangerous bulls unleashed by Catholics during the reign of James II are no longer a threat, ‘now we have put them in Packington’s Pound’.

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

Songs and Summaries

The historie of the Prophet Jonas... To the tune of Paggintons round (E. A., 1584-1627?). Pepys 1.28-29; EBBA 20132. Religion – Bible, Christ/God, divine intervention, Judaism, prophecy, sin/repentance; Emotions – anger, fear; Environment – animals, flowers/trees, sea, weather; Places – extra-European, travel/transport; History – ancient/mythological; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Violence - interpersonal. God, aided by a whale and a miraculous vine, teaches Jonas a lesson after he disobeys the command to visit Nineveh and warn the sinful citizens to repent with urgency.

Pitties Lamentation for the cruelty of this age. To the tune of Packentons pound (I. W., 1602-46?).  Pepys 1.162-163; EBBA 20071. Society – criticism; Crime – general; Emotions – sorrow; History – nostalgia; Employment – general; Religion - morality.  A general lament concerning the ills of the age.

A new ballade, shewing the cruell robberies and lewde lyfe of Philip Collins alias Osburne, commenlye called Phillip of the West... TO THE TUNE of Pagginton’s rounde (no printed copies are extant but the ballad was copied out by hand, c. 1603-16). Shirburn Ballads, XXXII. Gender – masculinity; Crime – robbery/theft; Death – execution, result of immorality; Emotions – excitement, horror; Employment – apprenticeship/service; Bodies – looks/physique; News – convicts/crimes; Places – English, travel/transport; Violence – punitive. This recounts the life of a celebrated robber from the West Country, who escaped prison every time he was captured until, finally, he was taken to London and ‘pressed’ to death at Newgate.

Fayre Warning... To the tune of Packingtons pound (Richard Harper, 1633-52). Roxburghe 1.124-25; EBBA 30078. Recreation – alcohol; Bodies – health/sickness; Violence – interpersonal; Crime – general; Morality – general, romantic/sexual, social/economic; Society – criticism; Places – English; Death – suicide. This teaches us the value of learning from the visible vices of others and finding the way to lead a good life.

Come buy a Mouse-Trap, Or, a new way to catch an old Rat... To the tune of, Packingtons Pound (John Hammond, 1642-51). Manchester Central Library, Blackletter Ballads 1.52; EBBA 36043. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, marriage, femininity, masculinity, sex; Humour – bawdry, deceit/disguise, extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Environment – animals; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – longing, suspicion, shame; Employment – crafts/trades; Bodies – injury; Places – European; Violence – interpersonal. A lecherous man makes a pass at an honest married woman, so she informs her husband and together they humiliate and injure the intruder by deploying a mouse-trap.

A Caveat for Cut-purses... To the tune of, Packington’s pound (W. Gilbertson, 1647-65?).  Roxburghe 2.46-7; EBBA 30274.  Crime – robbery; Death – execution; Recreation -  general; Morality – social.  A warning about the danger posed by cutpurses, particularly in London’s most crowded areas.

The High-way Hector... To the Tune of, Hunger and cold, or Packingtons pound (W. Gilbertson, 1647-65). Crawford 538; EBBA 32914. Crime – robbery/theft; Death – execution; Economy – livings; Employment – carfts/trades, female; Gender – masculinity, sex, sexual violence; Morality – social/economic, romantic/sexual; Environment – animals, flowers/trees; Recreation – alcohol, food, hospitality; Violence – interpersonal, sexual. A highway robber describes his lifestyle and argues that it is no more immoral than that practised by many other seemingly respectable people.

Englands Joy in a Lawful Triumph... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound (F. G., 1660). Euing 98; EBBA 31780. Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Recreation – alcohol, fairs/festivals, games/sports, public festivity, hospitality; Economy – hardship/prosperity, livings, prices/wages, taxation; Religion – church, Bible, puritanism; Protestant nonconformity; Emotions – joy, hope, patriotism; Employment – crafts/trades; Places – European. This welcomes the prospect of Charles II’s Restoration and predicts that all confrontation, poverty and misery will cease upon his return.

The High Court of Justice at Westminster... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound (F. Grove, 1660-62). Euing 139; EBBA 31847. Here, a Royalist ballad-maker finds grim satisfaction in the fact that the men who pronounced judgement on Charles I, leading to his execution in 1649, will now stand trial themselves.

The Royal Entertainment... To the Tune of Packingtons pound (Francis Grove, 1660). Manchester Central Library, Blackletter Ballads 1.7; EBBA 36055. Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist, plots/rebellion; Recreation – public festivity, music, alcohol, food; Emotions – joy, love; Employment – soldiers; Places – English, travel/transport; Violence – civil war, political; Bodies – clothing; Society – urban life. A song about the sumptuous festivities and ecstatic welcome that greeted Charles II and his retinue in London on 4 July 1660.

Joyfull News to the Nation: OR, The Crowning of King Charls the II... To the Tune of Packintons pound (Richard Burton, 1661). Euing 147; EBBA 31855. Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Recreation – music, public festivity, alcohol; Emotions – joy, excitement, patriotism; Environmnet – buildings; Places – English, travel/transport; Religion – church, clergy, Protestant nonconformity. A detailed description and unrestrained celebration of the sumptuous festivities that marked the ‘Crownation’ of Charles II.

The Constant Couple, OR, The Glory of True Love...The Tune of, Bonny Currant; or, Digbys farwel, or Packington’s Pound (J. Conyers, 1661-92).  Pepys 3.163; EBBA 21175.  Gender – courtship; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love; Bodies – clothing. The describes an exemplary courtship between a young man and his sweetheart.

The Ballad of the CLOAK: Or, The Cloaks Knavery. To the Tune of, From Hunger and Cold: Or, Packington’s Pound (originally composed 1663; P. Brooksby, 1680-83). Pepys 2.218; EBBA 20830. Religion – church, clergy, Protestant nonconformity, Catholic/Protestant, Bible, atheism, History – recent; Politics – controversy, domestic, Royalist, plots; Royalty – authority, praise; Recreation – music; Bodies – clothing; Emotions – sorrow, anxiety, anger; Family – general. This remembers with sadness the civil wars of the 1640s and 50s, during which the Presbyterian ‘Cloak’ sought to destroy the Anglican ‘Gown’, and it warns England to avoid any repetition of this terrible episode.

The Royal Victory... To the Tune of, Packingtons pound (F. Coles, T. Vere, R. Gilbertson, and J. Wright, 1665). Euing 311; EBBA 31918. Death – warfare; Religion – Christ/God, divine intervention; Violence – at sea; Emotions – excitement, joy, patriotism; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Gender – masculinity; Environment – sea; Places – European, nationalities, travel/transport; Politics – foreign affairs. A song celebrating in considerable detail the recent naval victory over the Dutch in the ‘narrow sea’, a confrontation in which God clearly lined up with the English.

Holland turn’d to Tinder, OR, ENGLANDS Third Great Royal VICTORY... The Tune is, Packingtons pound (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1666). Euing 134; EBBA 31842. Politics – foreign affairs; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Violence – at sea; Gender – masculinity; Environment – sea; News – international; Places – European, English, travel/transport; Death – warfare; Emotions – joy, patriotism. A song in the style of a breathless report, celebrating the English fleet’s recent victory over the Dutch.

The Triumphs of four Nations; Or, A happy Conclusion of Peace... Tune is, Packingtons Pound (W. Thackeray, 1667). Euing 351; EBBA 32048. Politics – celebration, foreign affairs; News – international; Economy – trade, livings; Emotions – joy; Employment – crafts/trades, professions, sailors/soldiers; Recreation – food, music; Gender – courtship;Bodies – nourishment; Places – European; Religion – Christ/God. A song that welcomes the Treaty of Breda (1667) and anticipates the return of prosperity and happiness following the Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-67.

ENGLANDS MERCIES In the Midst of Miserys... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound, OR, Digbys (J. Deacon, 1671-99). Michell-Jolliffe, Beinecke 2000 Folio 6 36; EBBA 35711. Economy – hardship/prosperity; Religion – body/soul, Christ/God; Society – rich/poor; Bodies – nourishment; Death – godly end; Emotions – hope; Family – children/parents. A song designed to reassure the poor that, though times are hard, God will provide in the end.

The Sorrowful Complaint Of Conscience and Plain-Dealing. Against Millers, Userers, Taylors, and Hostises... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound (J. Deacon, 1671-99).  Roxburghe 2.412; EBBA 30854.  Morality – social/economic; Economy – extortion, money, hardship/prosperity; Employment – crafts/trades, female/male, alehouses/inns; Recreation – alcohol, hospitality, food; Emotions – sorrow; Bodies – clothing; Religion – charity; Society – old/young. Conscience and Plain-Dealing tour the country but find that immoral men and women of all sorts refuse to offer them hospitality.

LONDONS WONDER... To the Tune of Packingtons Pound (J. Deacon, 1671-99). Roxburghe 4.23; EBBA 30941. Environment – wonders, weather, landscape; Economy – extortion, hardship/prosperity; Recreation – alcohol, fairs/festivals, food, theatre, games/sports; Employment – crafts/trades; Places – English, travel/transport;  Morality – social/economic, general; Society – criticism; Emotions – anxiety, joy. This draws moral lessons from the recent great frost that froze the Thames, damaging livelihoods and opening up opportunities for the unscrupulous until God, in his mercy, thawed the ice.

Two-penny-worth of Wit For a PENNY. OR, The bad Husband turn'd Thrifty... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound (J. Deacon, 1671-99).  Roxburghe 2.482-83; EBBA 30974.  Family – children/parents; Recreation – alcohol; Gender – marriage, masculinity; Morality – familial; Economy – hardship/prosperity, household, money; Emotions – sorrow, hope; Employment – alehouses/inns; Society – friendship.  A reformed drunkard explains how he drove his family to the brink of destitution through his immoderate spending, and he warns his listeners to apply the lessons in their own lives.

The Dutchmans acknowledgement of his Error. OR A Dutch Ballad translated into English... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound (J. Clarke, 1672?). British Library, General Reference Collection C.20.f.5 (88). Politics – foreign affairs, war; Bodies – injury; Death – warfare; Violence – between states, interpersonal, punitive; Disability – physical; Emotions – anger; Employment – sailors/soldiers; History – ancient/mythological; Environmnet – sea; Places – nationalities, travel/transport. A fictional Dutchman complains that his government is lying about the war against the English, fabricating Dutch sucesses and ignoring completely the fact that the enemy’s navy is formidable.

A caveat for a bad husband Or, The Good Fellows Warning-Piece... To the Tune of Packingtons pound, or the World is grown hard (J. Clarke, 1666-86). 4o Rawl. 566(155). Economy – hardship/prosperity, money; Recreation – alcohol, games/sports; Religion – charity; Gender – marriage, masculinity, sex; Society – rich/poor; Morality – social/economic. This offers moral guidance to men in particular, advising that it is better to save money for one’s old age than to waste it on drink, games and harlots in one’s younger days.

An Amorous Dialogue between John and his Mistris... To the Tune of, Packington’s pound, or, What should a young woman, &c. or, Captain Digby (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Roxburghe 2.12; EBBA 30117. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, marriage, femininity, masculinity, sex; Employment – apprenticeship/service, crafts/trades, prostitution; Emotions – longing, anxiety; joy; Economy – livings; Bodies – looks/physique. A woman, sexually dissatisfied with her husband, persuades their apprentice to fulfil her needs and, after initial reluctance, he quickly develops a taste for the activity.

The Brick-makers Lamentation from New-gate... The Tune is, Packingtons Pound (Phillip Brooksby, 1670-98). Roxburghe 2.40; EBBA 30185. Crime - robbery/theft, treason; Death - execution; Employment - crafts/trades; Gender - masculinity; News - convicts/crimes; Politics - controversy, treason, domestic; Recreation - food, alcohol, games/sports; Violence - political, punitive. This describes a mock-court, set up by a group of carousing brickmakers in order to try one of their number for stealing food and a number of other offences.

The Crafty Maid of the West: OR, The lusty brave Miller of the Western Parts finely trapan'd... Tune of, Packingtons Pound (P. Brooksby, 1670-98).  Pepys 4.17; EBBA 21684.  Gender – courtship, sex, masculinity, femininity; Humour – deceit/disguise, bawdry; Morality – romantic/sexual; Employment – female/male, crafts/trades; Bodies – health/sickness; Recreatopm – hospitality.  A lustful miller is comprehensively out-witted and humiliated by a young woman who puts chopped horse-hair and nettle seeds to good use.

A good wife is a portion every day.  OR, A Dialogue Discovering a Good wife from a Bad... The Tune is, Packington’s Pound (P. Brooksby, 1670-98).  Wood E 25(131). Gender – courtship, marriage, femininity; Economy – household; Employment – female/male; Family – children/parents. This advises men on the immense value of a virtuous wife and the dangers that follow on from a poor choice of partner.

A Groatsworth of Good Counsel for a Penny; Or, The Bad Husbands Repentance... To the Tune of Packingtons Pound; Or, Digby’s farewel (P. Brooksby, 1670-98).  Pepys 4.78; EBBA 21742.  Recreation – alcohol; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage; Morality – familial.  Men are warned to look after their families and save for the future rather than wasting their money, particularly on ale.

Love Crownd with Victory... To the tune, Ile crown thee my dearest &c. Digby’s Farwel, or Packintons Pound (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Douce 1(123a). Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Society – old/young; Bodies – looks/physique, clothes, adornment; Emotions – longing, suspicion; Family – children/parents; Recreation – fashions. A wealthy old bachelor makes numerous promises as he seeks to persuade a young virgin to marry him, and, eventually, she overcomes her suspicions.

The Oxford Health: OR, The Jovial Loyalists... To the Tune of, On the Bank of a River: Or, Packington’s Pound (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Michell-Jolliffe, Beinecke 2000 Folio 6 144; EBBA 35808. Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, Tories/Whigs, Royalist, obedience, plots; Royalty – praise; Gender – masculinity; History – recent; Emotions – joy, suspicion, patriotism. A loyalist drinking song in which toasts are proposed to the Crown, the Church and all things deemed worthy and wonderful.

The World turn’d up-side down OR Money grown Troublesome... Tune of, Packingtons Pound (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Houghton 25242.67; EBBA 35423. Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Gender – masculinity, sex; Morality – general, romantic/sexual; Economy – hardship/prosperity; Emotions – sorrow, shame; Employment – prostitution; Bodies – looks/physique, adornment; Crime – robbery/theft. A man, undone by drinking and whoring, warns others that a dissolute lifestyle is the road to ruin.

Robbery Rewarded, OR, An Account of Five Notorious High-way-men’s Exploits... Tune is, packington’s pound (P. Brooksby, 1674?). Wood E25 (108). Crime – robbery/theft, punishment; Death – execution, result of immorality; Gender – masculinity, sex; Economy – livings; Emotions – guilt, pride, sorrow; Bodies – adornment; Morality – social/economic; Places – English, travel/transport; Recreation – alcohol. A group of highwaymen describe their crimes, seemingly caught between remorse and pride.

The Clothiers Delight: OR, The Rich Mens Joy, and the Poor Mens Sorrow... To the Tune of, Jenny come tye me, &c. Packington’s Pound, Or, Monk hath confounded, &c (F. Cole, T. Vere, I. Wright, and I. Clarke, 1675-80).  Roxburghe 4.35; EBBA 31146.  Economy – livings, prices/wages, extortion; Employment – crafts/trades; History – nostalgia; Morality – social/economic; Society – rich and poor; Emotions – joy.  Clothiers sing happily of their wealth, which is generated by the economic exploitation of their workers.

The Plotter Executed: OR, The Examination, Tryal, Condemnation, and Execution, of Edward Coleman Esquire... To the tune of, Captain Digby, or, Packington’s Pound (P. Brooksby, 1678). Roxburghe 3.32; EBBA 30386.  Crime – treason; Death – execution; Religion – Catholicism/Protestantism, divine intervention, sin/repentance; Politics – plots, domestic, treason; Emotions – hatred; Violence – punitive. News – convicts/crimes, political. A vehemently anti-Catholic ballad about the arrest, trial and execution of Edward Coleman, allegedly a participant in the Popish Plot of 1678.

OXFORD in Mourning, For the Loss of the Parliament. OR, London's loud Laughter at her late flattering her self with Excessive Trading... To the Tune of, Packington’s Pound; Or, Digby’s Farewel (no imprint, 1681).  Roxburghe 2.384; EBBA 30819.  Politics – domestic; Places – English; Economy – hardship/prosperity, prices/wages, money; Employment – crafts/trades, female/male, alehouses/inns; Recreation – alcohol, hospitality, music, coffee; Emotions – joy, sorrow.  Oxford’s fortunes, boosted by the Parliament recently held there, are now cast low by its termination, and London gloats to see all the associated commerce return to the capital.

Sad and Dreadful News from Horsly-Down... To the Tune of Now now the Fights Done; Or, Packingtons Pound (J. Blare, 1684). Pepys 2.152; EBBA 20770. Economy – extortion; Death – diabolical, result of immorality; Violence – diabolical; Religion –angels/devils; Crime – antisocial; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage; Morality – social/economic; Places - English. This tells the sensational story of Dirty Doll – a coarse and covetous woman – who died after coming off second best in an argument with three devils in human form.

Good News for the Nation... Tune of Digbys farwel, or Packintons pound (P. Brooksby, 1685). Pepys 2.235; EBBA 20849. Politics – parliament, elections, celebration, domestic, plots; Recreation – alcohol; Emotions – joy, hope; Employment – crafts/trades; Economy – livings; Religion – Catholic/Protestant. This welcomes the newly-elected Parliament, celebrates the democratic process, and hopes for harmony ahead.

A Looking glass for all Good-fellows; or, The Provident Wives Directions to her Husband... The Tune of Digby, or Packingtons Pound (J. Conyers, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.79; EBBA 21743.  Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship; Family – children/parents; Emotions – anger, sorrow; Economy – hardship, household; Morality - familial; Society – neighbours. In this dialogue-ballad, a wise wife counsels her ale-loving husband and eventually persuades him to reform his behaviour.

Yea & Nay the Quaker, Deceived: OR, The Taylors Cabbidge Discovered...To the Tune of, The Two English Travellers: Or, Packingtons Pound (C. Dennisson, 1685-88). Pepys 4.280; EBBA 21941. Employment – crafts/trades; Religion – Protestant nonconformity, sin/repentance; Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Morality – social/economic; Crime – robbery/theft; Recreation – fashions; Economy – livings; Emotions – anger, guilt, shame; Bodies – clothing. A Quaker who makes his living as a tailor is in the habit of stealing (‘cabbidging’) sections of cloth from his clients, but his wife – more honest than he – plays a trick that forces him into a confession.

THE Princely Triumph: Or, Englands Joy in the BIRTH of the Young Prince of WALES... To the Tune of, Packington’s Pound (P. Brooksby, 1688?). Pepys 2.251; EBBA 20865. Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Emotions – joy, patriotism; Royalty – praise; Recreation – public festivity, alcohol, music; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; News – politica. A celebratory Royalist ballad, welcoming the birth of the new prince and estimating that only one in ten thousand people feels anything other than elation.

BUXOME NAN the Millers Daughter... Tune of Packingtons Pound (P. Brooksby, J. Deacon, J. Blare, and J. Back, 1688-96). Douce Ballads 1(21a). Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Humour – extreme situations/surprises; Society – old/young; Bodies – health/sickness, looks/physique; Economy – money, hardship/prosperity; Employment – crafts/trades, female; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Violence – interpersonal; Places – English. Young Nan is courted by men of various trades, all of whom she rejects, but she agrees to marry the next suitor because of his enticing  combination of extreme old age and substantial wealth.

A Full Description of these Times, Or The Prince of ORANGE's March from EXETER to LONDON... Tune of, Packingtons Pound, Countrey Farmer, Or, Digby’s Farwel (A. B., 1689).  Pepys 2.257; EBBA 20870.  Politics – celebration, domestic, controversy, Royalist; Royalty – praise; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, church, heroism, Bible; Emotions – joy, patriotism; News - political. This celebrates William of Orange’s arrival and the saving of England from popery, but actually says very little about his journey to the capital.

ROME in an Uproar; OR, The Popes Bulls brought to the Baiting-Stake by Old Father Petres. To the Tune of, Packington’s Pound (no publisher named, 1689). Crawford 1293; EBBA 33954. Politics – controversy, domestic, plots, Tories/Whigs; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, clergy; Emotions – anger, relief; Death – execution. This laments the recent efforts made by powerful Catholics to dominate England and expresses relief that the intervention of ‘a Friend’ has brought the danger to an end.

THE Murtherer Justly Condemned... To the Tune of, Packingtons Pound (John Foster, 1697). Euing 223; EBBA 31714. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Violence – interpersonal, domestic; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, execution, godly end; Employment – crafts/trades; Economy – livings; Religion – sin/repentance, ghosts/spirits; Emotions – anger, guilt, shame; Morality – general; News – convicts/crimes; Places - English. The terrible tale of a butcher, condemned to death for murdering his wife when she turned up at Leadenhall Market to warn him of the dangers of his debauched lifestyle.


The ubiquity of the tune is suggested by a scene in William Cavendish’s play, The Variety (1649). Here, one character imagines another as an agricultural labourer, singing Packington’s Pound in order to draw his horse ‘and ravish all the Cowes in the Countrey’. This was also the tune to which the ballad-singer, Nightingale, performed his famous song about pickpockets in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair.

In addition to the titles listed above, the melody was also nominated on numerous white-letter ballads. These were more sophisticated than black-letter songs and often assumed a higher degree of precise political knowledge. Many white-letter songs followed the trend outlined above by tying the melody to loyal texts that backed the Stuarts against opposition from Whigs, dissenters and rebels. See, for example: A BALLAD UPON THE POPISH PLOT Written by a Lady of Quality (1679); The Leacherous ANABAPTIST: OR, The Dipper Dipt (1681); and THE Western Rebel 1685). One of the earliest of these white-letter ballads was The Tyrannical Usurpation (1663), apparently the original version of the song that later became our black-letter hit as The Ballad of the CLOAK. The earlier version named no tune but its distinctive metre and rhyme-scheme can only have been intended for ‘Packington’s Pound’.

The melody was also nominated in many printed song-collections and other books of the period, usually for ballads that dealt with politics or, more rarely, social morality. See, for example: a song sung ‘ridiculously’ in Richard Flecknoe, The Marriage of Oceanus and Brittania (1659); ‘A Ballad’ in Folly in print, or, A book of rymes (1667); and ‘A new Ballad, call’d, the Brawny Bishops Complaint’ in A Collection of Poems relating to state affairs (1705). The tune’s appeal seems to have increased rather than diminished during the eighteenth century, and there can have been few English people who did not know it (twelve songs in the 1719-20 edition of Wit and Mirth named the melody).

'From hunger and cold', the tune named as an alternative for The Ballad of the CLOAK, seems to have begun life in the theatre. It was associated particularly with songs in which beggars and criminals discussed the tricks of their trade and the many alleged perks of the low-life (the characters who featured were usually Royalists too, and sometimes they made clear references to the textual content of our hit song). These associations must have brought an extra helping of dark humour to the famous ballad about the Cloak.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, The Joviall Crew... To the tune of, From hunger and cold (1647-65), EBBA 31858.

William Barley, A New Booke of Tabliture (1596), part 2, C4v (transcript in Simpson).

William Cavendish, The Country Captaine, and the Varietie, Two Comedies (1649), p. 59.

A Collection of Poems relating to state affairs (1705), pp. 532-33.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, ed. J. A. Fuller Maitland and W. Barclay Squire, 2 vols (Leipzig, 1894-99), vol. 2, p. 234.

Richard Flecknoe, The Marriage of Oceanus and Brittania (1659), pp. 39-43.

Folly in print, or, A book of rymes (1667), p. 101.

Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, ed. E. A. Horsman (Manchester, 1960), pp. 84-91.

Claude M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 244-45 and 564-70.

Nathaniel Thompson, A Choice Collection of 180 Loyal Songs (1685), pp. 40, 171, 218, 260.

Wit and Mirth; or Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719-20), vol. 3, p. 4 etc..

Back to contents

Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Crowd, preacher and church

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)

This is a crude but brilliant combination of three separate woodcuts to form a powerful new image. The crowd, the preacher and the church all featured separately on other ballads of the later seventeenth century.  Usually, the crowd was deployed in order to represent the witnessing of some sensational event – an execution here, a drowning there – and the building was selected to illustrate texts that supported the established church under the crown (on occasion, there was no explicit mention of the church in a ballad’s text, but the image called it effectively to mind in association with verses that were patriotic or Royalist). The little ‘tub preacher’ appeared less regularly, but when present he reminded viewers of the dangers of nonconformity.

We cannot know whose decision it was to illustrate The Ballad of the CLOAK with a composite of all three images, but it was a stroke of genius and it probably helps to account for the immense success of this song.  No other song in either of the two largest ballad-collections brought together even two of the component images.

The other significant innovation was to topple the church so that it appeared horizontal, neatly reinforcing the text’s message about the dangerous and destructive tendencies within Presbyterianism. Sideways images were unusual within the ballad genre and the effect must have been powerful.  It is not surprising, therefore, that most of the publishers who put out editions of this ballad adopted the picture scheme that had helped to make it one of the period’s great political hits.

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

Songs and summaries:

The lamentation of a bad Market, OR, The Drownding of three Children on the Thames (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 2.146; EBBA 20764.  Family – children/parents; Death – accident; News – sensational; Places – English; Humour – extreme situations.  This describes a recent fire on London Bridge and a separate episode in which three children fell through the ice on the Thames and drowned (picture scheme: this features only the small crowd, positioned on the right side of the sheet alongside a naked body floating in a river).

A Looking-glass for all true Protestants... To the Tune of, Papists aim not too High (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80).  Pepys 2.68; EBBA 20692.  Politics – plots, controversy, domestic, Royalist, treason; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, Bible; Royalty – general; Emotions – anger, fear, patriotism; Crime – treason.  This offers thanks to God for deliverance from the Popish Plot and calls on all Protestants to be vigilant and repentant (picture placement: this features only the church, alongside a Respectful man with raised foot and two praying men, one of whom is described in a caption as a deceiving Catholic).

The Ballad of the CLOAK: Or, The Cloaks Knavery (P. Brooksby, 1680-83). Pepys 2.218; EBBA 20830. Religion – church, clergy, Protestant nonconformity, Catholic/Protestant, Bible, atheism, History – recent; Politics – controversy, domestic, Royalist, plots; Royalty – authority, praise; Recreation – music; Bodies – clothing; Emotions – sorrow, anxiety, anger; Family – general. This remembers with sadness the civil wars of the 1640s and 50s, during which the Presbyterian ‘Cloak’ sought to destroy the Anglican ‘Gown’, and it warns England to avoid any repetition of this terrible episode (picture placement: the image appears over the opening lines, and there are no other woodcuts).

The Whig Rampant: OR, EXALTATION. Being a Pleasant New Song of 82 (P. Brooksby, 1682).  Roxburghe 2.517; EBBA 31018.  Politics – celebration, controversy, domestic, plots, Royalist, Tories/Whigs, satire; Religion – Catholic/Protestant; Recreation – good fellowship; Humour – satire; Death – execution; Emotions – joy; History – recent.  A satirical Tory song in which a group of Whigs remember the Civil Wars and plan fresh outrages against all good order while anticipating their own executions (picture placement: the preacher appears, without the other elements, on the right side of the sheet, with his back to a listening crowd).

The Royal Character: OR, The Mirrour of Majesty (I. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1682-84).  Pepys 4.227; EBBA 21887.  Royalty – praise; Politics – celebration, domestic, Royalist; Emotions – patriotism, joy, love.  A song in exuberant praise of Charles II (picture placement: this features only the church, set to the right of a Respectful  man with raised foot who walks towards a king).

A Warning to Murtherers: OR,  [?The sa]d and Lamentable Relation of the Condemnation, [?], and Excecution, of John Gower Coach-Maker (J. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Tha[ckeray] and T. Passinger, 1682-84).  Pepys Loose Ballads; EBBA 21374.  Crime – murder; Death – execution, result of immorality, godly end; Gender – marriage; Morality – familial; Religion – sin and repentance; Emotions – sorrow; Places – English.  An account of Gower’s murder of his wife, and of the repentant spirit in which he faced execution (picture placement: the crowd, without the other elements, look towards a hanging man who is also watched by a Crowd looking left).

The Punish'd Atheist: Or, The Miserable End of a North Country Gentleman (J. Blare, 1682-1706).  Pepys 2.51; EBBA 20675.  Death – result of immorality; Gender – incest, sex; Religion – atheism, divine intervention, heaven and hell; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Violence – divine; Nature – wonders.  A gentleman tries to persuade his godly sister to have sex with and denies the existence of God, so God intervenes to destroy him (picture placement: this features only the small crowd, whose members watch a man approaching a woman in the countryside).

The Religious Mans Exhortation to all Persons of what Degree soever, Especially Youth; that they may Fear God and Honour their Parents (P. Brooksby, 1685-88).  Roxburghe 2.400; EBBA 30832).  Morality – general; Religion – Christ/God, moral rules; Society – old/young; Family – children/parents.  A set of moral and religious instructions for all members of society, but particularly the young (picture placement: the crowd appears, without the other elements, on the right side of the sheet, and they look towards two men, one of whom is praying).

The Wonder of this present Age. OR, An Account of a MONSTER Born in the Liberty of Westminster (J. Deacon, 1685-88).  Pepys 4.285; EBBA 21946.  Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Nature – wonders; News – sensational; Bodies – physique; Disability – physical; Emotions – wonder; Places – English.  A graphic account of the birth of conjoined twins in London on 16 September 1687 (picture placement: this features only the crowd, and its members - unlike the other viewers who are depicted - are looking away from the main image of the twins).

STRANGE and DREADFUL News from Holland (J. Blare, 1686).  Pepys 2.136; EBBA 20756.  News – international, sensational; Places – European; Death – tragedy.  A description of a terrible storm in Holland that caused flooding and severe destruction (picture placement: on the left, the church appears alongside some urban scenes and a river; on the right, the crowd faces a man who stuggles in a river while also being watched by a Crowd looking left).

Dunkirk's Lamentation (P. Brooksby, 1692).  Pepys 2.314; EBBA 20932.  Politics – celebration, foreign affairs, Royalist, satire; Places – nationalities; Humour – mockery, satire; Violence – between states.  England’s enemies lament the failure of their plans for an invasion (picture placement: the church, without the other elements, appears in between a man in respectful posture and a Man in Shock, complete with cuckold’s horns).

THE Mournful Murtherer: OR, The last Dying Lamentation of Thomas Randall (J. Blare, 1696).  Pepys 2.161; EBBA 20780.  Crime – murder, robbery; Death – execution, unlawful killing; Emotions – sorrow; Morality – general; Places – English; Religion – sin/repentance; Violence – interpersonal, punitive; News – convicts/crimes.  A murderer confesses his guilt, accepts his imminent exceuction and asks onlookers for their prayers (picture placement: the crowd, without the other elements, look towards a man being hanged).


Tim Somers has recently noticed a satirical image from the early eighteenth century that 'repurposed the illustrations from The Ballad of the Cloak... to impart a high church message during the first age of party'. This combines the three components of the original woodcut into a single picture, skilfully modernising some of the details. As Somers puts it, 'The satirical bite came from shifting between past and present, drawing historical parallels between the radicals of the Civil Wars and the whigs and low churchmen of the day'. See Tim Somers, Ephemeral print culture in early modern England. Sociability, politics and collecting (Woodbridge, 2021), pp. 140-41.

Christopher Marsh

Back to contents

Related Texts

The era of the Popish Plot, which led into the Exclusion Crisis, was rife with combative broadsides and pamphlets covering every genre and point of view. This situation arose following the lapse of the licensing laws, itself caused by the sudden dissolution of parliament in 1679. The explosion of print was such a phenomenon that contemporary catalogues were published so that the growing number of gentlemen who collected political print could check how many of the available songs and satires they had acquired. The Ballad of the Cloak was one of only three political ballads listed in these catalogues. 

Other than the original song published in 1663, there are no direct textual precursors to the text of The Ballad of the Cloak, although pamphlets issued in 1679, from both sides of the anti-court and pro-court divide, perhaps inspired its resurgence: seeThe Cloak in its colours, or, the Presbyterian Unmasked (London, 1679) and The Knave Un-cloaked, or, the Jesuite in his Colours; being an answer to The Cloak in its Colours, or, the Presbyterian Unmasked. 

The song made its own impact upon the pamphlet press. In 1681, an anonymously authored pamphlet, Presbytery truly display'd, or, An impartial character of the Presbyterian being a vindication of that sanctified party from the virulent calumnies of some foul-mouth'd detractors in this modern age … (Printed for the author and sold by W.L., 1681) came complete with its own folded broadside of the Ballad of the Cloak with musical notation included. It is likely that several of the surviving sheets were originally attached to copies of this pamphlet. Similarly, in 1705, a new panic over Presbyterian influence in the church inspired yet another pamphlet entitled Presbyterian loyalty, in two letters: one directed to the moderate church-men; to which is annexed the ballad of the cloak, or ye cloak's knavery. (London: printed by E.P. for R. Wilkin, 1705). A new version of the ballad was included with this publication.

Angela McShane

Back to contents

The Ballad of the CLOAK:/ Or, The Cloaks Knavery.

To the Tune of, From Hunger and Cold: Or, Packington's Pound.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


COme buy my new Ballet,

I have’t in my Wallet,

But ‘twill not I fear please every Pallet:

Then mark what ensu’th,

I swear by my Youth,

That every Line in my Ballad is truth,

A Ballad of Wit, a brave Ballad of worth,

It is newly Printed, and newly come forth:

‘Twas made of a Cloak that fell out with a Gown,

That crampt all the Kingdom, and crippl’d the Crown.


I’le tell you in brief,

A Story of Grief,

Which happen’d when Cloak was Commander in Chief:

It tore Common Prayers,

Imprison’d Lord Mayors,

In one day it voted down Prelates and Players:

It made people [‘perjur’d’ in other editions] in point of Obedience,

And the Covenant did cut off the Oath of Allegiance.

Then let us endeavour to pull the Cloak down,

That crampt all the Kingdom, and crippl’d the Crown.


It was a Black Cloak,

In good time bee’t spoke,

That kill’d many thousands, but never struck stroak,

With Hatchet and Rope,

The Forlorn Hope,

Did joyn with the Devil to pull down the Pope:

It set all the Sects in the City to work,

And rather then fail, ‘twould have brought in the Turk:

Then let us endeavour, &c.


It seiz’d on the Tow'r Guns,

Those fierce Demi=Gorgons,

It brought in the Bag=pipes, and pull’d down the Organs

The Pulpits did smoak,

The Churches did Choak:

And all our Religion was turn’d to a Cloak:

It brought in Lay=Elders could not write nor Read,

It set Publick Faith up, and pull’d down the Creed:

Then let us endeavour, &c.


This Pious Impostor,

Such fury did foster,

It left us no Penny, nor no Pater=Noster;

It threw to the ground,

Ten Commandments down,

And set up twice twenty times ten of its own:

It routed the King, and Villians Elected,

To plunder all those whom they thought disaffected:

Then let us endeavour, &c.


To blind peoples eyes,

This Cloak was so wise,

It took off Ship=money, and set up Excise;

Men brought in their Plate,

For Reasons of State,

And gave it to Tom Trumpeter and his Mate:

In Pamphlets it writ many specious Epistles,

To cozen poor Wenches of Bodkins and Whistles:

Then let us endeavour to pull the Cloak down,

That crampt all the Kingdom, and crippl’d the Crown.


In Pulpits it moved,

And was much approved,

For crying out --- Fight the Lords Battle Beloved;

It bob=tayl’d the Gown,

Put Prelacy down,

It trod on the Myter to reach at the Crown

And into the Field it an Army did bring,

To aim at the Council but shot at the King.

Then let us endeavour, &c.


It raised up States,

Whose Politick Pates,

Do now keep their Quarters on our City Gates:

To Father and Mother,

To Sister and Brother,

It gave a Commission to kill one another:

It took up Mens Horses at very low rates,

And Plunder’d our Goods to secure our Estates:

Then let us endeavour, &c.


This Cloak did proceed

To a Damnable deed,

It made the best Mirror of Majesty bleed:

Though Cloak did not do’t,

He set it on Foot,

By Rallying and calling his Journey=men to’t:

For never had come such a Bloody Disaster,

If Cloak had not first drawn a Sword to his Master:

Then let us endeavour, &c.


Though some of them went hence,

By sorrowful Sentence,

This lofty long Cloak is not mov’d to Repentance:

But he and his Men,

Twenty Thousand times ten,

Are Plotting to do their Tricks over agen:

But let this proud Cloak to Authority stoop,

Or CATCH will provide him a Button and Loope

Then let us endeavour to pull the Cloak down,

That basely did sever the Head from the Crown.


Let’s pray that the king,

And his Parliament,

In Sacred and Secular Things may consent:

So Righteously firm,

And Religiously free;

That Papists and Atheists suppressed may be:

And as there’s one Deity doth over=reign us,

One Faith, and one Form, & one Church may contain us:

Then peace, Truth and plenty, our Kingdom will Crown,

And all popish plots and their plotters shall down.


Printed for P. Brooksby near the Hospital-Gate, in West-smith[field].

Back to contents

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: 10

No. of extant copies: 45

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Thackeray, 1689 (as 'Cloak').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

3-yr periods that produced multiple editions: 1679-81 (6)

New tune titles generated: ‘The Cloak’ (1 ballad)

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: no known pictures but EBBA 37540 includes accurate music with the text of the first verse interlined.

Pre-1640 bonus: no.

POINTS: 20 + 45 + 10 + 0 + 36 + 2 + 5 + 0 = 118


Back to contents

This box will be used to highlight any new information on this song that might come to light after the launch of the website.

Back to contents