22  The Spanish Ladies Love [Euing 340]

Author: Deloney, Thomas (d. in or before 1600)

Recording: The Spanish Ladies Love

Bodies - adornment Bodies - clothing Bodies - looks/physique Emotions - despair Emotions - longing Emotions - love Emotions - shame Emotions - suspicion Employment - sailors/soldiers Gender - courtship Gender - femininity Gender - marriage Gender - masculinity Morality - romantic/sexual Places - European Politics - foreign affairs Religion - Catholic/Protestant Religion - sin/repentance

Song History

Thomas Deloney's Spanish Ladies Love was reprinted on numerous occasions during the seventeenth century and also appeared in the many editions of his Garland of good-will. References to the song can also be found in other forms of literature. On the stage, characters sang the opening lines of the ballad in Cupids whirligig by Edward Sharpham (1607), William Cavendish’s The triumphant widow (1677) and Aphra Behn’s The second part of The rover (1681).  A little more cryptically, Jonson’s Bartholomew Fair (1614) includes a reference to ‘fine high shoes, like the Spanish Lady!’ and the eponymous character in Richard Brome’s The northern lasse (1632) declares at one point that she would not swap her current situation, even ‘for the Spanish Ladies Joincture’ (perhaps an ironic reference to the riches sent by the ballad heroine to the Englishman’s wife).

The appeal of the ballad to seventeenth-century consumers was probably complex and varied. The possibility of a romance that connected England and Spain, the great Elizabethan enemies, presumably felt somewhat transgressive. The Spanish Lady was exotic and desirable but also untouchable. The hierarchical contradictions of the scene were no less stimulating: the soldier is in charge because he is male and also the Lady’s gaoler but she is his social superior by some distance and is therefore licensed to ‘woo’ (line 2).

Further tension is generated by the listener’s uncertainty over the Englishman’s response to his current situation. He is far away from home and a beautiful, wealthy Spanish aristocrat is declaring her love for him. The fact that he waits so long before mentioning his wife at home suggests that his eventual decision to do the right thing was never quite a foregone conclusion. Interestingly, a line in the second verse – ‘Cupids bands did tye her faster’ was changed in later editions to ‘Cupids bands did tye them faster’ (italics added), thus heightening the impression that this was a two-way attraction. By implication, the soldier is not quite flawless, though he eventually proves himself not only ‘kind’ but virtuous too. He is thus a model Englishman, and the song’s nationalistic lessons are drawn out, perhaps to our surprise, by the Spanish Lady herself. There is patriotic humour at work as she begs her captor, ‘Leave me not unto a Spaniard’.

In seeking to understand the song’s success, we might also mention the high drama of the Lady’s final, dramatic withdrawal from the world and the implication that there was an international and cross-denominational code of honour among morally upright women that barred them from falling in love with one another’s husbands. The ballad is built to appeal to men and women alike, and an extra frisson must have been generated for everyone by the editions of the mid-1620s, which hit the streets around the time of Prince Charles’ ill-fated and unpopular journey to Madrid in 1623 to seek a marriage contract with the infanta, daughter of Philip III. In the same year, Edmund Garrard confronted popular opinion by defending the proposed match in print, and he referred to the infanta as ‘the Spanish Lady’. Was this merely coincidental? During this tense period, we should also note that the ballad was capable of appealing both to enemies and supporters of the match: the former could emphasise the failure of the song’s love affair and the latter could draw attention to its highly romantic qualities.

Unlike some of our hit songs, The Spanish Ladies Love clearly maintained its popularity into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (though it does not seem to have survived strongly as a folk song). As a broadside, it continued to be published regularly, and the ballad also appeared in various song collections (see, for example, Percy and Waller). In the mid-1760s, the Theatre-Royal in Covent Garden staged performances of The Spanish Lady, a musical entertainment in two acts; founded on the plan of the old ballad. The writer, Thomas Hull, drew extensively on the vocabulary of the original, though his instinct for topicality was also aroused by a recent British victory over the Spanish (see Related texts).

Around the same date, William Shenstone’s poem, ‘Love and honour’, was inspired by the ballad, and, in 1830-35, Wordsworth’s ‘The Armenian Lady’s love’ opened with the lines, ‘You have heard “a Spanish Lady/ How she wooed an English man’. In 1846, Lady Dalmeny (Wilhelmina Powlett) revealed her taste for history and romance by providing sentimental illustrations for an elaborate eight-page edition of the ballad with its text in gothic lettering. A flurry of sycophantic press coverage greeted this publication, revealing in passing the satisfaction that Victorians found in a ballad that revealed the quintessential components of ‘the English national character’ (see Anon, ‘The Spanish lady’s love’). One contributor to The quarterly review, presumably male, noted the appeal of the song to women but explained it in terms of the qualities possessed by its leading man: ‘The whole interest of this ballad to a woman turns on the actual spotlessness of the knight’s fidelity’ (by 1846, the soldier of the original song had been re-imagined as a knight).

The nineteenth century also saw several attempts to root the original ballad in actual historical events. The original song avoids all specific details of time and place but the Victorians decided that the story was all about the English raid on Cadiz, led by the Earl of Essex, in 1596. In fact, the song may have been published rather earlier than this: in August 1586, the Stationers’ Company had registered a ballad ‘betwene a Spanish gent and an English gentlewoman’ and there is a strong suspicion that, despite the accidental sex-switch, this was a reference to our song (and Deloney’s Garland of good will was first registered 1593, though surviving copies are all later).

Nineteenth-century commentators settled, however, upon Cadiz, and worked hard to establish which of Essex’s men was the faithful soldier of the song. Suggestions included Sir Richard Leveson, Sir Urias Legh and Sir John Popham, but the most elaborate speculation centred on Sir John Bolle of Thorpe Hall in Lincolnshire (see Anon, ‘The Spanish ladye’s love’). In 1810, Cayley Illingworth published an account that presented as factual the story of Bolle’s entanglement with the Spanish Lady, remarking in passing that the story had become the subject of a ballad.

In fact, it was almost certainly the other way round, with the Lincolnshire legend evolving as an attempt to claim and explain the song’s narrative. Illingworth went further than the ballad, however, noting that the goods sent by the Spanish Lady to Bolle’s wife included a portrait of herself in a green dress. This had led to ‘a traditionary superstition among the vulgar’ that the woman in a green dress who had been sighted repeatedly over the ensuing centuries, often seating herself in a tree that grew outside Thorpe Hall, was the Spanish Lady herself, driven by love to haunt the home of her sweetheart. The story of this ghostly ‘green lady’ is still told today and now serves to attract tourists to Lincolnshire.

Christopher Marsh


Anon, A complete collection of old and new English and Scotch songs (1736), pp. 132-35.

Anon, ‘The Spanish lady’s love’, The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, no. 167 (January 1846), pp. 179-85.

Anon, ‘The Spanish ladye’s love’, The quarterly review, vol. 78 (1846), pp. 323-46.

Aphra Behn, The second part of The rover (1681), p. 21.

Broadside ballads online from the Bodleian Libraries: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/

Richard Brome, The northern lasse (1632), D3v.

William Cavendish, The triumphant widow (1677), p. 52.

Thomas Cogswell, ‘The politics of propaganda: Charles I and the people in the 1620s’, Journal of British Studies 29.3 (1990), pp. 187-215.

Thomas Deloney, The garland of good will (registered 1593; the English Short Title Catalogue lists extant editions in 1628, 1630-50, 1631, 1659, 1678, 1685-93, 1685, 1688 and 1690).

English broadside ballad archive: https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

Edmund Garrard, The countrie gentleman moderator. Collections of such intermarriages, as have been betweene the two royall lines of England and Spaine (1624), pp. 62-66.

Thomas Hull, The Spanish Lady, a musical entertainment in two acts; founded on the plan of the old ballad (c. 1765).

Cayley Illingworth, A topographical account of the parish of Scampton (1810), pp. 54-60.

Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair (written c. 1614; published 1631), B1r.

Louth Museum: https://www.louthmuseum.org.uk/

Madden Collection, Garlands, vol. 3, nos. 715-17, Cambridge University Library.

Thomas Percy, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry  3 vols. (1765), vol. 2, pp. 227-31.

Wilhelmina Powlett [Lady Dalmeny], The Spanish Ladyes Love. Illustrated by Lady Dalmeny (1846).

Hyder E. Rollins, An analytical index to the ballad-entries (1557-1709) in the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London (1924; Hatboro, Pennsylvania, 1967), no. 188.

Edward Sharpham, Cupids whirligig (1607), H2v.

William Shenstone, The works in verse and prose, 2 vols. (1764), vol. 1, pp. 321-32.

Edmund Waller, Ballads and songs chiefly taken from Dr. Percy’s Reliques of ancient poetry (1794), pp. 213-18.

William Wordsworth, The poetical works of William Wordsworth, 6 vols. (1836), vol. 1, pp. 240-48.

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Featured Tune History

‘To a pleasant new tune’ (standard name: The Spanish lady)

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 appears to have had only one name, ‘The Spanish Lady’, from its association with The Spanish Ladies Love. There are very few surviving versions of the melody from the seventeenth century but the one preserved in the Scottish Skene manuscript fits the words perfectly. We have therefore used this highly appealing version in quadruple time for our recording.

Eighteenth-century renditions of the tune suggest that it had made a transition into triple time by this date, and also that the melody had changed in many of its details. The similar versions that were printed in the two ballad operas, The Quaker’s Opera (1728) and The Jovial Crew (1731), are recognisably related to the earlier melody, though Simpson is probably right to speak of ‘distant cousinship’ rather than a close affinity. We may be observing the interesting process by which individual melodies, hidden from us for most of their lives, steadily evolved to the point at which we can barely detect the similarities. The first stage in this process can be noted in the contrast between the two versions of the melody provided in Simpson’s immensely useful reference work.

Echoes (an overview)

This melody was not nominated on other surviving black-letter ballads. The primary reason for this was probably its distinctive metre, though this may have combined with a perception that the tune’s firm attachment to The Spanish Ladies Love rendered recycling somehow inappropriate (but see ‘Postscript’, below, for a white-letter ballad that parodied the original during the Restoration period).

Songs and Summaries

The Spanish Ladies Love, To a pleasant new tune  (registered 1603; F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilbertson, 1661-63) Euing 340; EBBA 32028. Gender – courtship, femininity,masculinity; Emotions – love, suspicion, longing, despair, shame; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Bodies – adornment, clothing, physique/looks; Morality – romantic/sexual; Politics – foreign affairs; Religion – Catholic/Protestant, sin/repentance. An aristocratic Spanish lady falls hopelessly in love with the English sea captain who has been appointed to hold her in custody, only ceasing her courtship of him when he reveals, suspiciously late in the day, that he is already married.


The tune was named on a white-letter ballad about a woman who pretended to be a German princess in order to contract a bigamous marriage. See The Westminster Wedding OR, Carltons Epithalamium To the Tune of, The Spanish Lady (S. B., 1663). The connection with the original song is established not only by the tune but by the parodic opening lines: ‘Will you hear a German Princesse,/ How she chous’d an English Lord’ (compare with ‘Will you hear a Spanish Lady,/ How she woo’d an English man’).

Christopher Marsh


The Jovial Crew (1731), p. 44.

The Quaker’s Opera (1728), p. 42.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 677-79.

The Skene manuscript (for mandore), National Library of Scotland, Adv. MS 5.2.15. The tune is transcribed in Simpson, p. 677.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Couple with necklace

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 image, clearly designed very specifically for this particular song, has not been found on any other seventeenth-century ballad in the two largest collections (the only sheet listed below is therefore our featured edition, taken from the Euing Ballads). The degree of detail – an aristocratic woman handing a gold chain to a soldier – presumably rendered transfers difficult, or perhaps consumers, associating this picture with this song, did not wish to see it appearing on other sheets. Most surviving copies and editions of the song from the seventeenth century carry the picture, and our featured edition is one of the earliest known examples. It seems that most versions were produced from the same woodblock, though it is often difficult to be absolutely certain.

Songs and summaries

The Spanish Ladies Love (F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilbertson, 1661-63) Euing 340; EBBA 32028. Gender – courtship, femininity,masculinity; Emotions – love, suspicion, longing, despair, shame; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Bodies – adornment, clothing, physique/looks; Morality – romantic/sexual; Politics – foreign affairs; Religioin – Catholic/Protestant, sin/repentance. An aristocratic Spanish lady falls hopelessly in love with the English sea captain who has been appointed to hold her in custody, only ceasing her courtship of him when he reveals, suspiciously late in the day, that he’s already married (picture placement: the image appears beneath the title, and there are no other woodcuts).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

We have not found other seventeenth century texts that share significant material with the ballad, apart from the various plays mentioned in the Song history. The titles set out in chronological order below therefore date from the eighteenth century. William Shenstone’s poem, ‘Love and honour’, was clearly based squarely on the ballad narrative, though there are few echoes of the original’s language. Thomas Hull’s The Spanish Lady (c. 1765) is a different matter, for it was not only ‘Founded on the Plan of the Old Ballad’ but full of verbal references to the source that inspired it. In Hull’s preface, he explains that ‘Wherever I could, I have used the very Words of the Ballad’ (and he printed the original song at the end of the printed edition of his play). This was clearly an attempt to use the popularity of the ballad in order to boost the success of his play, and audience members will have been struck by the familiarity of many expressions, including ‘by the liking alone of an Eye’ and ‘Right gentle have you been’.

Christopher Marsh

Texts (in chronological order)

William Shenstone, The works in verse and prose, 2 vols. (1764), vol. 1, pp. 321-32.

Thomas Hull, The Spanish Lady, a musical entertainment in two acts; founded on the plan of the old ballad (c. 1765).

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The Spanish Ladies Love,

To a pleasant new tune.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


WIll you hear a Spanish Lady,

how she woo’d an English man

Garments gay as rich as may be,

deckt with Jewels had she on,

Of a fair and comely countenance,

and grace was she,

And by birth and parentage,

of high degree.


As his prisoner there he kept her,

in his hands her life did lye,

Cupids bands did tye her faster,

by the liking of an eye,

In his courteous company,

was all her joy,

To favour him in any thing,

she was not coy.


But at last there came commandment

for to set all Ladyes free,

With their Jewels still adorned,

none to do them injury,

O then said this Lady gay,

full wo is me,

O let me still sustain this kind



Gallant Captain take some pitty,

on a woman in distresse,

Leave me not within this City,

for to dye in heavinesse.

Thou has set this present day

my body free,

But my heart in prison still,

remains with thee.


How shouldst thou fair Lady love me

whom thou knowst thy Countryes fo,

Thy fair words make me suspect thee,

Serpents lye where flowers grow,

All the harm I think on thee,

most courteous knight,

God grant upon my life the same

may fully light.


Blessed be the time and Season,

that you came on Spanish ground,

If you may our foes be termed,

gentle foes we have you found,

With our City you have wone,

our hearts each one,

Then to your Country bear away,

that is your own,


The second part, To the same tune,


REst you still most gallant Lady,

rest you still and weep no more,

Of fair flowers there are plenty,

Spain doth yeeld you wondrous store.

Spaniards frought with jealousie,

we oft do find,

But English men throughout the world

are counted kind,


Leave me not unto a Spaniard

thou alone enjoest my heart,

I am lovely young and tender

love is likewise my desert.

Still to serve thee day and night,

my mind is prest,

The wife of every English man

is counted blest.


It would be a shame fair Lady

for to bear a woman hence,

English Souldiers never carry

any such without offence.

I will quickly change my self,

if it be so,

And like a page will follow thee,

where ere thou go,


I have neither gold nor silver,

to maintain thee in this case,

And to travell tis great charges,

as you know in every place,

My chains and Jewels every one,

shall be thine own,

And eke a hundred pound in gold,

which lyes unknown.


On the Seas are many dangers,

many storms do there arise,

Which will be to Ladyes dreadfull

and force tears from watry eyes,

Well in worth shall I endure,


For I could find in heart to loose,

my life for thee,


Courteoes Lady leave this fancy,

here come all that breeds the strife,

I in England have already

a sweet woman to my wife.

I will not falsifie my vow

For gold nor gain,

Nor yet for all the fairest Dames,

that lives in Spain.


O how happy is that woman

that enjoys so true a friend,

Many happy dayes God send hend her

of my Suit Ile make an end,

On my knees I pardon crave,

for my offence,

Which love and true affection,

did first commence,


Commend me to that gallant Lady

bear to her this chain of gold,

With these bracelets for a token,

grieving that I was so bold

All my Jewels in like sort,

take thou with thee,

For these are fitting for thy wife,

and not for me.


I will spend my dayes in prayer

love and and all her laws defie

In a Nunnery will I shrowd me

far from any company

But ere my prayer have an end

be sure of this

To pray for thee and for thy love

I will not misse,


Thus farewell most gallant Captain:

and farewell my hearts content

Count not Spanish Ladyes wanton,

though to thee my mind  was bent

Joy and true prosperity

remain with thee,

The like fall to thy share,

most fair Lady

Printed for F. Coles, T, Vere and W, Gilbertson.

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

Shirburn ballads: not included.

Appearances on Ballad Partners' lists: Pavier and partners, 1624 (as 'Spanish lady'); Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; Thackeray, 1689 ('Spanish Lady').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1603.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 12

No. of extant copies: 10

New tune-titles generated: 'The Spanish Lady' (1 ballad).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: Couple with necklace on featured edition (and other editions).

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 62 references, with only very occasional evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. 9735).

POINTS: 0 + 30 + 5 + 24 + 10 + 2 + 5 + 6 = 82

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

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