36  A Courtly new ballad of the Princely wooing of the/ fair Maid of London by King Edward [Euing 51]

Author: Anonymous

Recording: A Courtly new ballad of the Princely wooing of the fair Maid of London

Bodies - looks/physique Emotions - longing Family - children/parents Gender - femininity Gender - masculinity Gender - sex History - medieval History - romance Morality - romantic/sexual Politics - court Royalty - authority Royalty - criticism

Song History

A Courtly new ballad was published on numerous occasions in the seventeenth century and can also be found in the song-collection entitled The golden garland (1620). Editions were also issued during the next century but it does not appear to have survived as a folk-song. Scholars have not taken much note of the broadside, and even William Chappell – who reprinted it in the nineteenth century – described it as ‘rather below than above the average of ballad writing’. People of the early-modern era clearly disagreed.

The ballad’s evident success in its own day must have had something to do with its distinctive perspective on the common theme of courtship. It stands out from other romantic ballads in two regards. First, it represents a woman who resists with vigour and virtue the advances of a suitor and who does not either relent at the end of the song or suffer negative consequences as a result of her initial ‘disdain’ (for examples of these alternatives, see Ile never Love thee more, part 2, and A most excellent Song of the love of young Palmus, and faire Sheldra). Second, the ‘fair maid of London’, apparently a commoner, is courted not by some local acquaintance but by a reigning monarch. Clearly, the ballad’s second distinctive feature serves to magnify the significance of the first. For reasons that invite discussion, the combination was clearly a winner in the marketplace.

The king in question is named Edward but no regnal number is assigned. Edward IV was a favourite among ballad-consumers, and he was famous for his interest in women, but the reference to two previous wives in the song may suggest instead that the suitor-singer is in fact Edward I. If so, then the woman in the song is clearly not Jane Shore, Edward IV’s mistress, as has sometimes been argued (see Related texts for additional evidence on this point). Ballad-makers and their fans were notoriously loose about such details, so perhaps it does not really matter. The main point was that the two protagonists were a mighty male monarch and a humble woman from a time long ago.

King Edward bases his appeal to the fair maid on his own power and on the huge gains in status and material wealth that she will enjoy if she abandons her ‘scornful disdain’. All women are presumed to crave the splendour of palace life, and this one is told in no uncertain terms that she cannot and must not reject the king (‘I grant faire Ladies may poor men resist/ But princes will conquer and love where they list’).

In response, the maiden employs an intelligent range of answers as she seeks to deflect the king’s lustful and acquisitive attentions. Most importantly, she refuses to compromise her virginal virtue, no matter how wealthy and powerful her suitor is. She intends to die unmarried and is painfully aware that ‘If women and modesty once but sever/ Then farewell good name and credit for ever’. She demonstrates her modesty by adding that her looks have now faded and she does not deserve to be a princess. There is nothing deferential about her opening line, however: ‘O Wanton King Edward thy labour is vain’.

Thus the ballad presents a particularly compelling instance of what for many men must have been an uncomfortable truth: despite all the advantages of patriarchy, marriage was only officially permissible by mutual agreement. As the fair maid reminds her monarch, men are free to approach potential wives at their will but ‘They win not a woman unless she consent’.

The ballad’s most obvious appeal was to women, though various early-modern sources also reveal that powerful men sometimes felt aroused by virtuous sexual resistance. Samuel Pepys’ diaries for 1667 and 1668 are a case study in such arousal and, at a later date, he also obtained a copy of the Courtly new ballad for his collection. And for common folk of both sexes and all sorts, there must have been something invigorating about the story of the London maid who spurned a king. The ballad may therefore have struck chords in all corners of the marketplace, and the combination of a medieval setting and a lovely, lilting tune only added to its appeal.

We might also wonder about the recurring topicality of the ballad. In representing a woman who deflected a royal advance, A Courtly new ballad had the capacity to speak to current circumstances at numerous points in the political history of the period. It may be no coincidence, for example, that the title was re-registered in the mid-1620s, shortly after Prince Charles’ failure to woo the Spanish Infanta on a highly controversial trip to Madrid. Forty years later, in the 1660s, Charles II – famous for his multiple mistresses – was deeply frustrated at the refusal of the very beautiful Frances Stuart to respond positively to his advances. In 1667, Samuel Pepys, was deeply impressed by reports of Mistress Stuart’s resolute virtue, noting in his diary that she ‘could no longer continue at court without prostituting herself to the king, whom she had long held off’. There were rumours that Charles hoped to marry the woman known as ‘la belle Stuart’ and it is perhaps significant that new editions of the old song were published at this time.

Of course, we cannot be certain because the parallels are only partial, ballads are difficult to date, and contemporary interpretation usually defies investigation. It does seem possible, however, that this song served a purpose in allowing ballad-makers and their customers to raise questions about royal conduct without articulating their misgivings too clearly.

Christopher Marsh


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

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

English short title catalogue.

Stuart Handley, ‘Stuart [Stewart], Frances Teresa, duchess of Lennox and Richmond’, Oxford dictionary of national biography.

Richard Johnson, The golden garland of princely pleasures and delicate delights (1620), D8v-E3v.

Nicholas Jonathan Moon, ‘“A people’s history of England’: Print, authority and the past in early modern English ballads’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of York, 2013, pp. 172-77.

Samuel Pepys, The diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. R. C. Latham and W. Matthews, 11 vols. (1995), vols. 8 (the reference to Frances Stuart is on pp. 183-84) and 9.

R. E. Pritchard, Scandalous liaisons: Charles II and his court (Stroud, 2015).

The Roxburghe ballads, ed. William Chappell and Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, 9 vols. (Hertford, 1869-1901), vol. 1 (1869), ed. William Chappell, p. 181.

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Featured Tune History

To the tune of 'Bonny sweet Robin' (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 variation

‘Bonny sweet Robin’ was a very well-known tune and was written down in dozens of sources, both printed and manuscript. It drew the attention of many composers, particularly during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and there are versions for virginals, lute, viol and mixed ensembles. Examples can be found in the following sources, though there are many others (a fuller list is provided by Simpson): William Ballet’s lute book (c. 1590); Anthony Holborne, The Cittharn Schoole (1597); and Thomas Robinson, The Schoole of Musicke (1603). Our recording is based on one of the two arrangements that appear in the Fitzwilliam virginal book.

In these instrumental sources, the tune is generally called either ‘Bonny Sweet Robin’ or ‘Robin is to the greenwood gone’ (with variants in both cases). The contours and details of the melody are remarkably stable in most of the known versions, though considerable variety is of course introduced through the composition of variations. Numerous recordings have been made of these instrumental compositions but there are hardly any of our hit song.

Ballads of the period called for the tune by a remarkable variety of titles, in addition to the two already mentioned: ‘Fair Angel of England’ (from the first line of the ballad under discussion here); ‘[Now] The tyrant [hath stolen my dearest away]’; ‘Farewell fair Armeda’; ‘[Captain] Digby’s farewell’;  ‘Farewell my Calista’; ‘The poor man’s comfort’; ‘The poor man’s counsellor’; ‘Dick and Nan’; ‘Laugh and lie down’; and ‘My life and my death’.

Echoes (an overview)

This tune originated in the Elizabethan period when it was perhaps associated with a lost ballad about Robin Hood. In the ballad world, it remained popular until the late seventeenth century and came to be strongly associated with courtship. The success of the Courtly new Ballad clearly played a significant part in this, and many other songs followed it in representing women who were either resistant to male advances or unsympathetic to tortured sweethearts (see, for example, The Constant Maidens Resolution and Love and Honour: Or, The Lovers Farewel to Calista). In several of these, romantic problems are related to the fact that the man is old and the woman young. The Constant Maidens Resolution is a notable example, partly because it anticipates the Beatles hit with its subtitle, Silver and Gold cant buy true Love (the figure of the maiden who is impervious to promises of material wealth is prominent in these songs).

Other ballads depict courtship in a much more positive light, featuring men and women whose love is strong and lasting (examples include Joy and HONOUR and Love and Constancy). The melody may therefore be thought of as representing the fine line that existed between successful and unsuccessful relationships.

Three further ballads carry the romantic theme through into marriage, and each of these presents a wise wife who offers firm and constructive advice to a husband whose lifestyle is irresponsible (see, for example, The Poore Mans Comfort). These strong and morally upright wives have something in common with the resolute single women portrayed in A Courtly new Ballad and other similar songs. Their sound advice also connects with yet another group of ballads in which moral and/or religious guidelines are directed primarily at male listeners (examples include A Looking-Glass for a Bad Husband and The poor Mans Counsellor, OR, The marryed mans Guide).

The list therefore includes numerous songs in which men are instructed, sometimes by women and sometimes by anonymous narrators. There are moral overtones, too, in a couple of mid-century ballads that feature astrological prognostications for the twelve months ahead (the first is Englands Monthly Predictions for this present yeare 1649).  

Overall, it is apparent that this tune was chosen for a variety of interconnected themes, led by gender relations but extending into other areas as well. The opportunities for listeners to forge their own melodic meanings in relation to the specific associations that the melody carried for them were clearly numerous.

The songs are connected not only by their shared melody but by a number of direct verbal echoes, only a few of which can be presented here. Compare, for example, the following couplets, all sung to the final two lines of the tune:

‘A King may command her to lye by his side,/ Whose feature deserveth to be a Kings Bride’ (A Courtly new Ballad).

‘She made me a promise she would be my Bride,/ But I have lost her and my Mony beside’ (The Cloath-worker caught in a Trap).

‘He furnisht his pockets,/ his back and his side,/ and gained him a Damosel/ to make him a Bride’ (The Couragious Plow-man).

Similarly, ‘wife’ and ‘life’ are rhymed in at least six of the listed ballads, including The Poore Mans Comfort and The Sea-mans Compass. The phrases ‘my joy and delight’ and ‘be ruled by me’ occur more than once, and the first lines of Love and Honour (‘Farewel my Calista my joy and my grief’) are echoed at the opening of Love and Gallantry (‘Farewel my Clarinda my life and my soul’).

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

Songs and Summaries

[Doleful adewe to the last Erle of Darby. to the tune of Bonny sweete Robin (John Danter, registered 1594). A lost ballad, clearly a eulogy, that named the tune].

A Courtly new Ballad of the Princely wooing of the faire Maid of London, by King Edward. To the tune of, Bonny sweet Robbin (Henry Gosson, 1601-40). Roxburghe 1.58; EBBA 30042. Emotions – longing; Gender – sex, masculinity, femininity; History – medieval, romance; Morality – romantic/sexual; Politics – court; Royalty – authority, criticism; Family – children/parents. The king attempts to persuade a beautiful London maiden to become his concubine, promising her all measure of pleasure and treasure, but she utterly refuses to compromise her virtue.

Loves fierce desire, and hopes of Recovery... To an excellent new Tune; Or, Fair Angel of England (‘Printed for T. V. and are to be sold by F. Coles’, 1624-62) Roxburghe 3.130-1; EBBA 30440. Gender – courtship; Emotions – love, longing, sorrow. Two sweethearts, forcibly separated, declare their mutual love and longing.

The Sea-mans Compass... To the Tune of, The Tyrant hath stoln (F. G., 1624-62). Euing 325; EBBA 31990. Employment – sailors/soldiers, crafts/trades; Gender – courtship; Economy – livings, trade, hardship/prosperity; Environment – sea; Society – rich/poor; Religion – prayer. A maiden is overheard singing in praise of sailors and declaring repeatedly ‘There’s none but a Sea-man/ shall marry with me’.

The Young-womans Complaint... The Tune is, What should a young woman do with an old man. Or the Tyran[t] (William Gilbertson, 1647-65). Bodleian Wood E 25(37). Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Bodies – looks/physique; Disability – physical; Emotions – frustration, longing; Humour – domestic/familial, extreme situations/surprises, mockery, bawdry; Family – pregnancy/childbirth. A young woman, forced to marry an old man, lists his mental and physical failings (‘and short is his Thing’) before resolving to cuckold him with a lusty and youthful replacement.

The two Jeering Lovers:, Or, A pleasant New Dialogue between Dick Down-Right of the Country, and pretty witty Nancy of the Citie... To a dainty new tune, called, Now the tyrant hath stolen, &c (William Gilbertson, 1647-65). British Library, Book of Fortune, C.20.f.14.2; EBBA 36423. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Humour – mockery; Bodies  - looks/physique, clothing, adornment; Emotions – disdain, contentment; Recreation – weddings. Nancy initially rejects Dick’s advances in very forthright terms but then changes her mind abruptly as he prepares to depart.

Englands Monthly Predictions for this present yeare 1649... To the Tune of Faire Angell of England. Or, Bonny sweet Robin (no imprint, 1649). Manchester Central Library Blackletter Ballads 2.44; EBBA 36091. Politics – domestic, foreign affairs; Religion – astrology, Christ/God, sin/repentance, prayer; Death – execution, warfare; Violence – civil war, between states, punitive, political; Emotions – fear; Morality – general; Environment – weather; Society – rich/poor. This summarises the predictions of ‘the prime Astrologian of our Nation’ and urges England to prepare for a year of warfare, wild weather and misery.

Englands Monethly Observations and Predictions, for the Yeare of our Blessed Saviour, 1653... The Tune is. Faire Angel of England (W. Gilbertson, c.1652). Roxburghe 3.237; EBBA 30880. Politics – domestic, foreign affairs, obedience; Economy – taxation, trade; Emotions – anxiety, hope; Employment – agrarian, sailors/soldiers, professions; Religion – astrology, prayer; Society – rich/poor. This summarises the predictions of astrologers, Lilly and Culpepper, and promises a year of very mixed fortunes for the English.

The Cloath-worker caught in a Trap: Or, A Fool and his Mony soon parted... The Tune is, How now Jocky whither away. Or the Tyrant (imprint missing, 1660-80?). Roxburghe 2.62; EBBA 30551. Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Crime – robbery; Emotions – anger, sorrow; Humour – deceit/disguise, mockery; Employment – crafts/trades Bodies – clothing; Society – neighbours. An innocent man, keen to marry, is tricked out of his money by a maiden and an old woman, apparently working in cahoots.

A dainty new Dialogue between HENRY and ELIZABETH. Being the good Wives Vindication, and the bad Husbands Reformation... The Tune is, The Tyrant (imprint missing, 1660-80?). Roxburghe 2.100; EBBA 30566. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; Recreation – good fellowship, alcohol, games/sports; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Economy – hardship/prosperity, household, money; Emotions – anxiety, contentment; Employment – alehouses/inns, prostitution; Crime – prison; Family – children/parents; Bodies – clothing, adornment. Bess warns Harry that his revelling ways are hurting the household, and Harry, after initial attempts at self-justification, assures Bess that he will reform his conduct.

The Lovers final Farwel. To his Faithless false Mistress... The Tune Love and honour or Digbys farwell (Eliz. Andrews, 1662-68). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(147). Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love, anger. A man blames an inconstant woman for the failure of their relationship, and she responds by arguing that the fault lies with him.

CUPID'S POWER... To the Tune of Dick and Nan: Or, The Tyrant (Charles Tyus, 1664). Crawford 1186; EBBA 34037. Gender – Cupid, courtship; Environment – birds, flowers/trees, wonders, landscape; Recreation – music; Religion – ancient Gods; Violence – interpersonal; Bodies – looks/physique; Employment – crafts/trades, female, apprenticeship/service. A man witnesses the arrival of Cupid and his love-sick entourage, and then overhears him boasting of his power over people of all sorts.

The Poore Mans Comfort... Tune is, Fair Angel of England (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(39). Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity; Economy – livings, hardship, household, prices/wages, trade; Employment –general, female; Family – children and parents; Emotions – anxiety; Religion – faith; Society – rich/poor; Bodies - nourishment. A poor man in despair is counselled and comforted by his wise wife (who urges him to ‘be ruled by me’).

Good Admonitions, or Wholesome Counsel... To the Tune of,  Bonny sweet Robin, Or, Fair Angel of England (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1666-79). Bodleian Douce 1(89a). Religion – moral rules, church, Bible, Christ/God, divine intervention, atheism, charity; Morality – general; Family – children/parents; Gender – sex; Recreation – alcohol; Society – neighbours. A set of moral and religious instructions, urging all listeners to worship God, turn from sin and treat one another with love.

A Looking-Glass for a Bad Husband: Or, / A Caveat for a Spend-thrift. To the Tune of, The Poor Man's Comfort: Or, Digby (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1666-79). Crawford 1422; EBBA 34086. Morality – familial, social/economic, general; Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, games/sports; Economy – hardship/prosperity, money, livings; Employment – general; Gender – marriage; Family – general; Bodies – clothing. Male listeners are advised to avoid drunkenness and whoredom, concentrating instead on hard work, family duty and saving money for hard times ahead.

A Looking-glass for a covetous Miser: OR, Comfort to a Contented minde... to the tune of, the Fair Angel of England; or, the Tyrant (W. Thackeray, T. Passinger and W. Whitwood, 1666-79). Crawford 259; EBBA 33461. Economy – hardship/poverty, prices/wages, money; Employment – agrarian; Morality – social/economic; Environment – crops, seasons; Religion – Bible, Christ/God; News – domestic. A tense conversation between an honest husbandman and a greedy miser about the price of grain and the ethics of hoarding (by a beautiful irony, the miser’s house is burgled while he is chatting).

Joy and HONOUR, the Seamans delight... To a pleasant new Tune: Or, The Tyrant have stolen my dearest away (John Williamson, 1670-78). Bodleian 4o Rawl. 566(138). Gender – courtship; Emotions – love, joy; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Politics – foreign affairs; Family – children/parents; Recreation – music, weddings. A seaman returns from the wars and is joyously reunited with a sweetheart who had abandoned all hope of seeing him again.

The Faithful Shepherdess... To a very new Tune: or, Farewel fair Armeda: or, Captain Digby’s Farewel (Phillip Brooksby, 1670-98). Bodleian Douce 1(75a). Gender – courtship, femininity, masculinity; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotion – love, sorrow, shame, joy. Amintas has broken his vow to a lovely shepherdess but, on overhearing an expression of her sorrow, mends his ways and returns to her for good.

The poor Mans Counsellor, OR, The marryed mans Guide... Tune of, The Poor Man's Comfort (P. Brooksby, 1670-98). Crawford 241; EBBA 33306. Gender – marriage; Religion – moral rules; Morality – general; Recreation – alcohol, games, good fellowship; Employment – general; Society - friendship.  A friendly narrator instructs a poor man on how to live thriftily, honestly and contentedly.

Love and Constancy OR The true Lovers welcome home from France... Tune of, Digby's farewell, or the Tyrant, etc (John Hose, 1672-90). Roxburghe 4.19; EBBA 30920. Gender – courtship; Emotions – love, joy; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Bodies – clothing; Recreation – weddings, alcohol, music, dance. A woman is overjoyed that her sweetheart is home from the wars in France, and together they resolve to be married.

The Couragious Plow-man, or, The Citizens Misfortune... To the Tune of, Dick and Nan, Or, The Tyrant (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clark, 1675-80). Roxburghe 2.83; EBBA 30557. Gender – courtship, masculinity; Violence – interpersonal; Humour – extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Employment – agrarian; Emotions – anger, fear; Family – children/parents; Places – English, travel/transport; Recreation – games/sports. A citizen of London travels to Nottingham in search of a wife, but the woman whom he chooses is already engaged to a ploughman, and the ploughman beats him in a fight.

The Shepherds Delight. Both by Day and by Night. To a delightful tune, Sung at the Dukes Play-house to the King, and all the Nobility: Or, Now the Tyrant has stoln my dearest away, &c (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80). Pepys 3.55; EBBA 21052. Gender – courtship, marriage, sex; Employment – agrarian; Recreation – games/sports, dance, music, food, fairs/festivals, hunting; Bodies – clothing; Economy – livings; Emotions – contentment; Environment – landscape, animals, buildings, weather; Family – children/parents; Politics – obedience. Merry shepherds sing of their carefree country lives, filled with mirth, music and good, honest sex.

Love and Honour: Or, The Lovers Farewel to Calista... To a New sad Air much in request; Or, Tune of, Now the Tyrant hath stolen (P. Brooksby, 1677-84). Roxburghe 2.306; EBBA 30758. Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Death – warfare, heartbreak; Emotions – love, disdain, sorrow; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Violence – between states; Bodies – health/sickness; Royalty – authority; Politics – foreign affairs, Royalist. A dying soldier accuses his sweetheart of inflicting wounds more severe than those obtained in battle, and she delivers a not entirely sympathetic response.

Love and Gallantry: OR, A Noble Seaman's last adieu to his Mistris... To the Tune of, Farewel my Calista (Phillip Brooksby, 1677-98). Roxburghe 3.236; EBBA 30877. Gender – courtship; Death – warfare, heartbreak; Emotions – sorrow; Nature – sea; Politics – foreign affairs, Royalist; Royalty – praise, authority; Violence – at sea. A seaman bids farewell to his mistress when he is drowned in combat, and she responds with tears and a desire to join him beyond the grave.

The True Lovers Glory: Or, An amorus meeting betwixt Thomas and Mary... To a West-country Tune, or, The Tyrant, &c (P. Brooksby, 1685). Bodleian Douce 2(223a). Gender – courtship, sex; Emotions – longing, love; Bodies – clothing, adornment; Recreation – music, walking; Environment – flowers/trees, animals. A young man declares his love for a woman, promising her her wealth and happiness; she, after initial caution, agrees to be his sweetheart.

The bad Husbands Reformation, OR, The Ale-Wives daily Deceit... To the Tune of, My Life and my Death; Or, The poor mans Counsellour (P. Brooksby, 1685-88). Crawford 618; EBBA 33179. Gender – marriage; Morality – social/economic, familial; Recreation – alcohol, games/sports; Bodies – health/sickness; Economy – money; Emotions – anxiety, sorrow; Employment – general. A man explains how he let himself down by spending his money ‘In Gaming and Drinking’ while ignoring the advice of his wife, and he now resolves to mend his ways.

The wonderful Praise of a Good Husband Or, The Kind and Careful Mothers Counsel to her Daughter... To the Tune of, My Life and my Death; Or, The Poor Man's Counsellor (no imprint, 1685-88). Roxburghe 2.532; EBBA 31035. Family – children/parents; Gender – courtship, masculinity; Recreation – good fellowship; Bodies - clothing.  A mother advises her daughter on choosing between the two main varieties of man.

The Young mans Rambles, Or The Batchellors shifts... To a new Tune, or Laugh and Lye down (imprint missing, no date). 4o Rawl. 566(153). Gender – sex, singles, courtship; Bodies – clothing; Economy – money; Family – inheritance, pregnancy/childbirth. A boastful young man explains how he tricks women into believing he is wealthy, then cavorts with them at their own expense until they become pregnant, at which point he moves on.

The Constant Maidens Resolution: Or Silver and Gold cant buy true Love... To the Tune of, laugh and lye down (imprint missing, no date). Bodleian Douce 1(32a). Gender – courtship; Humour – mockery; Society – old/young, friendship; Bodies – clothing, adornment; Emotions – longing, disdain, love; Economy – money, hardship/prosperity; Family – children/parents, kin; Environment – animals. A dialogue between an old man and a young woman in which she refuses to marry him and resolutely rejects his promises of gold, silver and fine clothing.


This tune was also nominated in various in song-books of the period. In The Royal Garland of Love and Delight (1674), for example, ‘The delicate wooing between two Royal Lovers’ is set to the ‘Tune of Robin Hood is to the Greenwood gone’. Here, the courtship theme dominates and there are several echoes of the original ballad, though in this case the initially reluctant woman agrees to marry the man at the end. The tune’s supplementary moral and religious overtones can also be detected in William Slatyer’s controversial Psalmes, or songs of Sion (1631), several of which called for it, and also in a celebratory Christmas carol published in the chapbook, Good and True, Fresh and New (1642). Perhaps the melody conveyed a serious sort of love that felt appropriate for such songs.

Christopher Marsh


William Ballet’s lute book (c. 1590), Trinity College Dublin, MS 408, pp. 27, 113.

The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, ed. J. A. Fuller Maitland and W. Barclay Squire, 2 vols (Leipzig, 1894-99), vol. 1, p. 66 (see also vol. 2, p. 77).

Good and True, Fresh and New (1642), A5r-v.

Anthony Holborne, The Cittharn Schoole (1597), D2r.

Richard Johnson, Golden Garland of Princely Pleasures (1620), D8v-E2v.

Thomas Robinson, The Schoole of Musicke (1603), I4v.

The Royal Garland of Love and Delight (1674), B4r-v.

Claude Simpson, The British broadside ballad and its music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 59-64.

John M. Ward, ‘Apropos The British broadside ballad and its music’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 20.1 (Spring 1967), p. 31.

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Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Couple with fan and grassy tufts

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 was used on a number of surviving ballads, mainly from the second half of the seventeenth century. Many of the examples seem to have been produced from the same woodblock, and it steadily deteriorated in condition. The fact that it was still used when damaged may indicate the popularity and familiarity of this little couple (they also appeared separately as a Declaiming man and a Woman with fan). Ballads carrying the woodcut were issued by numerous publishers, with the name of Francis Coles being particularly prominent.

The couple appeared mainly on ballads about courtship, marriage and sex, with some examples emphasising the positive potential of gender relations and others stressing trickery, unreliability and failure. On A Courtly new ballad, the designer seems to play with our somewhat uncertain expectations: the picture scheme, with two single figures on the left, followed by this united couple on the right, implies successful courtship (as on The Maidens Nay), but the textual narrative tells a very different story. The scheme did not stick, however, and the woodcut was not used on editions of this hit ballad issued in the latter part of the seventeenth century.

Songs and summaries

Loves Victory Obtanied [sic] (F. Coles, 1624-80). Pepys 3.32; EBBA 21027. Gender – courtship, sex;  Humour – bawdry.  A man woos a woman, who is initially reluctant but ultimately enthusiastic (picture placement: they appear beneath the title on the left side of the sheet).

Ill-gotten Goods seldome thrive, Or, The English Antick (W. Gilbertson, 1647-65). Roxburghe 3.237; EBBA 30882. Gender – sex, courtship, masculinity, femininity; Bodies – clothing, adornment; Recreation – fashions, alcohol; Crime – robbery/theft; Employment – crafts/trades, prostitution, alehouses/inns; Humour – bawdry, deceit/disguise, extreme situations/surprises, mockery; Family – children/parents; Morality – romantic/sexual; Violence – interpersonal. Dick, the miller’s son, buys fancy clothes in order to impress women, but the maiden with whom he has sex turns out to be disreputable and steals all his finery in the night (picture placement: they appear beneath the title).

A Courtly new ballad of the Princely wooing of the fair Maid of London by King Edward (F. Coles, T. Vere, and William Gilbertson, 1661-63). Euing 51; EBBA 31712. Emotions – longing; Gender – sex, masculinity, femininity; History – medieval, romance; Morality – romantic/sexual; Politics – court; Royalty – authority, criticism; Family – children/parents. The king attempts to persuade a beautiful London maiden to become his concubine, promising her all measure of pleasure and treasure, but she utterly refuses to compromise her virtue (picture placement: they appear on the right, above the robust response of the fair maid, but the female figure -  a Woman with fan – can also be seen on the left, where she stands apart from a man who gestures towards her).

A new Ballad of the Souldier and Peggy (F. Coles, T. Vere and W. Gilbertson, 1661-63). Euing 243; EBBA 31792. Gender – marriage, courtship, femininity, masculinity; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Family – children/parents; Emotions – longing, sorrow, contentment; Employment – sailors/soldiers, crafts/trades; Nature – sea; Places – travel.  Peggy, a married women, runs off with a soldier, but returns home within three months and seeks forgiveness of her husband (picture placement: they stand on the right of the sheet, their togetherness contrasting with the separated depiction of the same individuals – a Declaiming man  and a Woman with fan – on the left).

The Maidens Nay, Or, I love not you (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Roxburghe 2.336-37; EBBA 30783. Gender – courtship; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love.  A man courts a woman, who turns him down initially before reversing her position in the second half of the song (picture placement: they stand on the right of the sheet, their togetherness contrasting with the separated depiction of the same individuals – a Declaiming man  and a Woman with fan – on the left).

A Pleasant Song made by a Souldier + The Souldiers Farewel to his love (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Pepys 4.42; EBBA 21708. Gender – courtship; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Emotions – love. The picture appears over the 2nd song in which a soldier attempts to bid farewell to his pining sweetheart but is ultimately persuaded to stay home instead (picture placement: they stand beneath the title of the second song).

A Posie of Rare Flowers (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Pepys 4.39; EBBA 21705. Gender – courtship; Emotions – love; Nature – flowers and trees.  A wholesome romantic ballad in which a man lists the flowers he has collected for his sweetheart (picture placement: they appear beneath the title on the left side of the sheet, but the two component images – a Declaiming man and a Woman with fan – are also presented separately over to the right).

A Match at a Venture: OR, Time and Opportunity won the day (J. Deacon, 1671-99). Roxburghe 4.4; ESTC 30878.  Gender – courtship, singles, femininity; Emotions – longing, love, suspicion, contentment; Bodies – adornment; Recreation – weddings; Society – friendship. A young man showers the woman he loves with gifts, compliments and reassurances until, eventually, she abandons her determination to remain single and agrees to marry him (picture placement: they appear over the third and fourth columns of text).

A New-Fashioned Marigold (F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80). Pepys 4.98; EBBA 21762. Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity, sex; Humour – bawdry, domestic/family, disguise/deceit; Employment – trades and crafts; Morality - sexual. A naive just-married man unwisely seeks sexual advice from a tailor and is cuckolded for his pains (picture placement: they appear beneath the title on the left of the sheet).

The Prodigals Resolution (F. Coles, T, Vere, J. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1680-81). Pepys 4.240; EBBA 21900. Family – children and parents, kin;  Humour – domestic/familial; Recreation - general; Employment - general. A man is grateful for the wealth inherited from his industrious father but vows to spend it unwisely (picture placement: they appear over the third and fourth columns of text, alongside a third figure).

The Valiant Commander, with his Resolute Lady (F.Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright,  J. Clarke, W. Thackeray and T. Passinger, 1680-81). Pepys 2.208; EBBA 20819. Gender – marriage, femininity, masculinity; Politics – controversy; Violence – civil war; Emotions – love; Bodies – clothing; Places - English. A besieged Royalist commander and his beloved wife, disguised as a man, fight fiercely against their foes (picture placement: the couple appear beneath the title on the left side of the sheet).

The Seamans leave taken of his sweetest Margery (I. Wright, I. Clarke, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1682-84). Pepys 4.158; EBBA 21820. Gender – courtship; Emotions – love; Employment – soldiers or sailors. A dialogue ballad in which a seaman and his sweetheart bid one another a fond farewell (picture placement: they appear beneath the title).

A Lamentable Ballad of Little Musgrove, and the Lady Barnet (J. Clark, W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1684-86). Pepys 3.314; EBBA 21328. Gender – marriage, adultery, sex, masculinity; Death – tragedy; Emotions – anger; Society – service and apprenticeship. A man commits adultery with the wife of an aristocrat and all three parties face the consequences (picture placement: they appear beneath the title).

Christopher Marsh

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Related Texts

There is a different song telling the same story in the anonymous Cupids garland set round with gilded roses (1674), A2r-3v. It is entitled ‘A courtly new song shewing how King Edward wooed the fair maid of London’. It was published by Francis Coles, Thomas Vere and John Wright, a trio that had also issued a recent edition of our hit ballad. The new song also shares with the original its two-part structure, its key arguments from male and female perspectives, and some of the same language. The title, for example, is notably similar, and the new refrain, ‘And come sweet Virgin unto me’, echoes a line in the earlier song: ‘Then may I say welcome sweet virgin to me’.

A significant discrepancy is the fact that the new song was set to ‘Dulcina’, a different tune. This melody already had strong associations with courtship (see the Featured tune history for A pleasant new Song, betwixt The Saylor and his Love) and its introduction perhaps served to freshen up the story as it approached its seventy-fifth year in circulation.

Christopher Marsh

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A Courtly new ballad of the Princely wooing of the/ fair Maid of London by King Edward. The tune is Bonny sweet Robin.

[Play each verse by clicking anywhere within its text]


FAir Angel of England thy beauty most bright,

Is all my hearts treasure my joy and delight,

Then grant me sweet Lady thy true Love to be

That I may say welcome good fortune to me.


The Turtle so chast and true in hir love

By gentle perswasions her fancy will move

Then be not intreated sweet Lady in vain,

For nature requireth what I would obtain.


The Phenix so famous that lived alone,

Is vowed to chastity being but one,

But be not my darling so chast in desire,

Least thou like the Phenix do penance in the fire.


But alas gentle Lady I pitty thy state,

In being resolved to live without mate,

For if of our Courting the pleasures you know,

You would have a liking the same to ensue.


Long time have I sued these me [‘the same’ in other editions] to obtain,

Yet I am requited with scornful disdain,

But if you will grant your good will to me,

You shall be advanced to Princely degree.


Promotions and honours may often intice,

The chastest that liveth though never so nice,

What woman so worthy but would be content,

To live in a Palace wher Princes frequent.


Two brides young & princely to church I have led,

Two Ladies now lately have decked my bed,

Yet hath thy love taken more root in my heart

Then all their contentments whereof I have part,


Your gentle heart cannot mens tears much abide,

And women lest angry when most they do chide

Then yield to me kindly and say that at length,

Men do want mercy, and poor women strength.


I grant fair Ladies may poor men resist,

But princes will conquer and love where they list,

A King may command her to lye by his side,

Whose feature deserveth to be a Kings Bride,


In granting your love you shall purchase renown

Your head shall be decked with Engl. fair Crown

Thy garments with gold most gallantly wrought,

If true love for treasure of thee may be bought.


Great Ladies of honour shall wait on thy train,

Most richly attired in Scarlet to grain [‘in grain’ in other editions],

My Chamber most princely thy person shall keep,

Where virgins with musick shall rock thee asleep.


If any pleasure thy heart can invent,

Command them sweet Lady thy mind to content

For Kings gallant Courts where Ladies do dwel

Affords such sweet pastimes as Ladies love wel.


Then be not resolved to dye a true maid,

But print in thy bosome the words I have said

And grant a King favour thy true love to be,

That I may say welcome sweet Virgin to me.


The fair maid of Londons answer to King Edwards/ wanton Love.  To same tune.


O Wanton King Eward thy labour is vaine:

To follow thy pleasure thou canst not obtain

Which getting thou losest and having dost wast it

The which if thou purchase is spoild if thou hast it


But if thou obtainest it thou nothing has won,

And I losing nothing yet am quite undone,

But if of that jewel a King doth deceive me,

No Kin. can restare though a kingdom he give me.


My colour is changed since you saw me last,

My favour is banisht, my beauty is past,

The rosie red blushes which sote [‘sate’ in other editions] on my cheeks

To paleness is turned which all men dislikes,


I pass not what Princes for love do protest

The name of a Virgin contenteth me best.

I have not deserved to ly by thy side,

Nor to be accounted for King Ewards Bride.


The name of a Princess I never did crave,

No such type of honour thy hand-maid will have,

My brest shall not harbor so lofty a thought,

No be with rich profers to wantonness brought,


If wild wanton Rosamond one of your sort,

Had never frequented King Henries brave Court

Such heaps of deep sorrow she never did crave [‘had seen’ in other editions],

Nor tasted the rage of so jealous a Queen.


All men have their freedome to shew their intent,

They win not a woman unless she consent.

Who then can impute to a man any fault,

Who still go uprightly whil’st women do halt,


‘Tis counted [‘a’ appears in other editions] kindness in men for to try,

And vertue in women the same to deny;

Nor women unconstant can never be provd

Until by their betters therein they be mov’d.


If women and modesty once but sever,

Then farewell good name and credit for ever,

And Royal King Edward let me be exil’d,

Ere any man knows my bodies defil’d.


No no my old Fathers reverned ['reverend' in other editions] tears,

Too great an impression upon my soul bears.

Nor shall his bright honour that blot by me have,

To bring his gray hairs with grief to the grave.


The heavens forbid that when I [‘should’ appears in other editions] dye,

That any such sin upon my soul lye,

If he that hath kept me from doing that sin

My heart shall not yield with a Prince to begin,


Come rather with pitty and weep ore my Tomb,

Then for my birth curse my dear Mothers woomb

That brought a blossom that stained the Tree

With wanton desires to stain her and me.


Leave me most noble King, tempt not in vain

My milkwhite affections with lewdness to stain.

Though England will yield me no comfort at all,

Yet England will yield me a sad burial.

Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere, and William 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 'Faire Angell of England' from first line); Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 ('Fair Angel of England').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: 1600.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 10

No. of extant copies: 8

New tune-titles generated: 'Fair angel of England' (4 ballads).

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: none known.

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 14 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V1493).

POINTS: 0 + 30 + 5 + 20 + 8 + 8 + 0 + 1 = 72

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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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