73  The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor, who for her Pride/ and wickedness by Gods judgements sunk into the ground at Charing=Cross and rose at/ Queen hive [Euing 184]

Author: Anonymous

Bodies - adornment Bodies - clothing Bodies - looks/physique Bodies - nourishment Crime - murder Death - accident Death - result of immorality Death - unlawful killing Emotions - hatred Emotions - horror Emotions - wonder Environment - animals Environment - landscape Environment - weather Environment - wonders Family - pregnancy/childbirth Gender - femininity History - medieval Morality - general Places - English Places - European Places - nationalities Places - travel/transport Politics - controversy Politics - court Politics - domestic Politics - power Recreation - alcohol Recreation - fashions Recreation - food Recreation - music Religion - divine intervention Royalty - criticism Society - urban life Violence - divine Violence - interpersonal

Song History

The lamentable fall was not registered until 1656 but one of the surviving copies was clearly printed several decades before this and there are very good reasons for supposing that the song was actually composed as early as c.1590 (see Related texts). It was clearly successful throughout the seventeenth century, though by 1700 it was normally issued under the new title, ‘A warning-piece to England’. The song’s success continued in the eighteenth century, when fresh editions were published in Northampton and Newcastle. It was also included in A collection of old ballads (1723).

The song focuses on Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I and queen consort of England between the king’s accession in 1274 and her own death in 1290. The lamentable fall is one of several ballads on this website that demonstrates the immense popularity among early-modern English people of stories with medieval settings. These probably served both as a means of escape into the fabulous past and as a forum in which to think about contemporary issues without identifying those issues too precisely.

The lamentable fall was a significant intervention in discussions about the reputation of Eleanor of Castile, and the song drew its conspicuous currency from England’s place in the international politics of the late sixteenth century. Before this time, Eleanor’s reputation had already travelled an interesting journey. In her own lifetime, she was clearly unpopular in England, despite her well-known devotion to the English king. Sources are sparse but they are sufficient to suggest that many English people were suspicious of Eleanor not only because she was foreign but also because she accumulated a large collection of English estates, worked with usurers, promoted Castilian merchants and merchandise, and seemed to encourage her husband towards an uncompromising style of rule.

After Eleanor’s death in 1290, however, her reputation changed. Edward himself helped to promote the transformation by commissioning the famous stone crosses, twelve in total, that commemorated Eleanor in the towns through which her funeral procession had passed on its long journey from Lincolnshire, where she died, to Westminster. From the early fourteenth century, Eleanor was also mentioned occasionally in English chronicles and was generally treated either positively or neutrally.

Perhaps surprisingly, her reputation actually improved further in England during the 1570s and 1580s when the historians Raphael Holinshed and William Camden both described her in glowing terms. Camden was the first English author to tell a subsequently well-known story about Eleanor’s selfless heroism in sucking poison from a wound that her husband sustained in the holy land, and Holinshed called her ‘a right godly & modest princes[s], ful of pitie, and one that shewed much favour to the English nation, ready to releeve everymans griefe’. In 1574, an admiring epitaph for Eleanor, taken from a late fourteenth-century chronicle, was also printed for the first time by Archbishop Matthew Parker (Parsons).

The ballad’s account of a vain and vicious Spanish queen who despised the people of her adopted country therefore comes as something of a surprise. Positive stories about the wound-sucking incident and the memorial crosses were simply discarded by the song-writers. As Lauren Browne and others have argued, the context for this intervention is provided by the Spanish war and the profound tensions that were experienced in England during the years following the abortive Armada of 1588. The threat from Spain was in no sense over, and ballad-makers, along with many other writers, set about the business of echoing and amplifying the anxieties that filled the air. The authors of The lamentable fall aimed simultaneously to promote patriotism and pull in the pennies by dragging the previously good name of a Spanish queen consort through the English mud.

The 1590s were also marked, of course, by troublesome uncertainties over the succession. Elizabeth I was unmarried, childless and ageing, and one of the claimants to the throne was the daughter of Philip II of Spain. In these circumstances, it seemed politic to re-write history rapidly and aggressively. Although the song was set in the distant past, its first phase of success can probably be attributed to its acute topicality.

It is also worth remarking that the ballad’s highly critical portrayal of Eleanor marks a return to the negative reputation that she had held in her lifetime, though in c. 1590 she was demonised with unprecedented intensity. We cannot be sure that the ballad-makers knew of Eleanor’s original reputation in English eyes, though the presence of elements such as her love of Spanish fashions and her will to influence the king may suggest some level of awareness. If so, it is unclear how the Elizabethan song-writers knew of her unpopularity, given that the chronicles tell such a different story.

Their intervention was well-judged in other respects too. The song reveals a mastery of the kind of language that ballad-consumers clearly loved – ‘a stately Spanish Dame’, ‘drown’d in pride of Spaine’, ‘all sparkling hot to see’, and so on – and its hyperbolic claims about the amputation of breasts and murder by serpents were guaranteed to attract attention. The reference to the queen’s providential disappearance into the ground at Charing Cross was also a nice touch; this was the location of one of the commemorative stone crosses that are not otherwise mentioned in the song. These were details that surely helped consumers to follow the song-writers’ advice to carry the song ‘imprinted in your minds’.

The ballad’s topicality in the 1590s was also transferable, and perhaps it was sung a little more loudly whenever an English prince courted a foreign and Catholic princess during the seventeenth century. The lamentable fall seems to have been available throughout the period, and it may for some consumers have expressed or encouraged critical thoughts about Prince Charles’ unsuccessful courtship of the Spanish Infanta in 1623, his marriage to Henrietta Maria of France in 1625, or the match between his son and Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, in 1662. Of course, we cannot know any of this for certain but the suggestion presents one possible explanation for the song’s durability. The ballad may also have seemed particularly relevant in 1647 when the monument to Eleanor at Charing Cross was pulled down by parliamentary authority in a campaign to eradicate all symbols of the ‘popish’ past.

Despite the success of the ballad, there seems to be no evidence that its negative portrayal of Queen Eleanor influenced new works in the chronicle tradition, most of which aimed at a wealthier and more highly educated readership. Two radically different accounts of the queen therefore survived and thrived in tandem and, remarkably, neither seems to have influenced the other. The ballad called Eleanor ‘proud’, ‘vain’ and ‘wicked’ while describing her sadistic murder of an innocent English woman. At the same time, new chronicles of the seventeenth century, strongly influenced by Holinshed and Camden, described her as ‘a renowned and virtuous lady’, ‘the Honor of Woman-kind’, and ‘the Mirror of wedlock, and Love to the Commons’ (see G. H. and the first two works listed as anonymous). Customers paid their money and made their choice.

The only writer who is known to have reflected explicitly on this curious situation was the editor of A collection of old ballads (1723). He included the song in his book but introduced it to readers in a mood of perplexity: ‘I never was more surprized, than at the Sight of the following Ballad; little expecting to see Pride and Wickedness laid to the Charge of the most Affable and most Virtuous of Women’. He noted the song’s ‘ridiculous’ inaccuracies and assuaged his sense of guilt in publishing it by adding detailed explanatory notes. These were designed to reform the opinions of the many people ‘who know nothing more of the Transactions of former Times, than what they meet with in their Old Songs’. In seeking to understand the incompatible Eleanors of ballad and book, he made the ingenious but questionable suggestion that the ballad was actually composed during the 1550s as a veiled attack upon Queen Mary (who had a Spanish mother and a Spanish husband).

Christopher Marsh


Anon, The history of England (1702), p. 173.

Anon, Poor Robins perambulation from Saffron-Walden to London (1678), p. 18.

Anon, A warning-piece to England (Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1725-69, and Northampton, 1730).

Richard Baker, A chronicle of the kings of England (1643), pp. 127, 131 and 138.

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

Lauren Browne, ‘The Posthumous Representation of Medieval Queens-Consort and Royal Paramours in the Tudor Period’, PhD thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast (2021), especially pp. 48-62.

H. C., The plain Englishman’s historian (1679), p. 37.

William Camden, Britannia sive Florentissimorum regnorum, Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae (1586). Published in translation as Britain, or a chorographicall description of the most flourishing kingdoms, England, Scotland, and Ireland (1637), p. 432.

William Camden, Remaines of a greater worke, concerning Britaine (1605), pp. 207-08.

Edmund Chamberlayne, The present state of England (1683), pp. 159 and 195-96.

English Broadside Ballad Archive: https://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/

English Short Title Catalogue.

Richard Grafton, A chronicle at large and mere history of the affayres of Englande (1569), p. 169.

G. H., Memorabilia mundi (1670), p. 82.

John Guy (ed.), The reign of Elizabeth I. Court and culture in the last decade (Cambridge, 1995).

Raphael Holinshed, The first [laste] volume of the chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Ireland (1577), pp. 799-800.

John Carmi Parsons, ‘Eleanor [Eleanor of Castile] (1241-1290), queen of England, consort of Edward I’, Oxford dictionary of national biography.

Ambrose Phillips, A collection of old ballads (1723), pp. 97-107.

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), nos. 1407 and 1408.

Francis Sandford, A genealogical history of the kings of England (1677), p. 70.

John Stow, A summarie of Englyshe chronicles (1565), p. 102.

Back to contents

Featured Tune History

To the tune of ‘Gentle and courteous’ (standard name: Chevy Chase)

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

We have not made a recording because initially we considered the tune to be lost. It has since become clear, however, that 'Gentle and courteous' was very probably another name for the immensely successful melody, ‘Chevy chase’ (see below). Visitors to the website are encouraged to learn the tune from our recording of A Memorable song made vpon the vnhappy hunting in Chevy Chaseand then sing this one for themselves.

This tune was most commonly known as either ‘Flying fame’ or ‘Chevy Chase’ and more occasionally as ‘Fair Rosamond’, ‘Black and yellow’ or ‘Lord Darley’. Beyond this, it presents a puzzle. ‘Chevy Chase’ was clearly one of the seventeenth century’s best-known pieces of music: many ballads called for it (eight of them appearing on our list of hits) and it was very frequently referred to in passing by a wide variety of literary commentators. It is therefore surprising that it was so rarely written down in musical notation. This may have been primarily because its perceived simplicity and tonal ambiguity rendered it unappealing to musically-sophisticated composers.

Edward Lowe, an Oxford organist, was clearly an exception, and he provides the only written version from the seventeenth century. In Lowe’s transcription, the tune’s four short lines begin as if the key is G minor but they end as if in C major. This gives the tune a curious feel - circular, unending, modal - that seems to reveal an unusually clear dividing line between the tastes of the musically educated and those of the ballad-buying public at large.

It is interesting that the melody was notated much more frequently in the eighteenth century, by which time it had been re-shaped by unknown hands so that it was more clearly and consistently in a single key (usually G). Some of these later versions have six beats in a bar, like the seventeenth-century example, but others smooth the tune out into quadruple time. Compare, for example, the versions in Wit and Mirth (1719-20) and John Kelly’s ballad-opera, The Plot (1735).

Echoes (an overview)

This was a remarkably popular tune, nominated on many ballads. It was associated, above all, with narratives that were set in the distant past. As the decades passed and the melody’s success mounted, it also came to be heard as a tune that was historical in its own right. One edition of [The] BELGICK BOAR was advertised as ‘a New SONG, to the Old Tune of Chevy-Chase’. Of the ballads listed below, well over half have historical settings (The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor is a good example). Put simply, this was a tune that carried listeners back, not only to their own childhoods but to times long before they were born.

Within this potent association, there were several others, forming threads that can be traced through the ballads listed below. A number of the songs described great militaristic confrontations of the past and their often bloody outcomes. These included A Memorable song made vpon the vnhappy hunting in Chevy Chase, and it was not alone in drawing attention to acts of manly heroism. Other songs set confrontation not on the battlefield but within the drama of human relationships, telling stories of ungrateful children, disputed inheritances and cruel employers. In some of these songs, the heroic vibe is carried over from the battle-ballads. In A worthy example of a vertuous wife, for example, the bravery is not manly but womanly, an interesting and thought-provoking transposition.

Occasionally, the tune was deployed for comic effect: The Shepheard and the King managed the trick of appropriating the heavyweight historicism of the melody in order to amuse, and in [The Wanton W]ife of Bath the monumental clash is not between proud earls but between a scolding woman and the Biblical VIPs who refuse to allow her through the gates of heaven. There is a connection here with another group of more serious ballads, in which the larger-than-life element is supplied by divine intervention or angelic visitation (see The Worlds Wonder and THE DEAD MANS SONG).

And in the last song on the list, [The] BELGICK BOAR, many of these associations – historical, heroic and providential – are arguably in play within this passionate and seemingly contemporary attack upon William III, the invading king.

Ballads set to this melody are particularly rich in intertextual references, and one of these provides a clue that helps to identify the tune. The opening lines of The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor run, ‘When Edward was in England King/ the first of all that name,/ Proud Elenor he made his Queen,/ a stately Spanish Dame.’ The similarity to the corresponding lyrics in A Lamentable Ballad of Fair Rosamond, set to the tune of ‘Flying Fame’ (another name for ‘Chevy chase’), is very striking: ‘When as King Henry ruld this Land,/ the Second of that Name,/ Besides the Queen he dearly lovd,/ a fair and comely Dame’.

The fact that this dame was also named Eleanor strengthens the suggestion that the two songs were connected and probably sung to the same melody. In addition, the line, ‘With musick, mirth and melody’, appears both in The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor and The Dead Mans Song, another ballad that was sung to ‘Flying fame’.

Other ballads to the tune reveal similar intertextual connections. In A pleasant History of a Gentleman, for example, the opening lines are very similar to those at the start of A most notable example of an ungracious Son. The line ‘shee must resigne her breath’ appears both in A pleasant History of a Gentleman and, as ‘he must resigne his breath,’ in A worthy example of a vertuous wife. In The Royal Patient Traveller, the opening line, ‘God have preserved our Royal king’, recalls ‘God prosper long our Noble king’ in A Memorable song made vpon the vnhappy hunting in Chevy Chase, and the next line, ‘the second of that name’, is identical to the corresponding line in The Lamentable Ballad of Fair Rosamond. Even more strikingly, [The] Belgick-Boar was clearly written with the famous song about the battle at Chevy Chase in mind, and there are verbal echoes throughout.

Several of the songs listed below open either with references to hunting, probably derived originally from the potent Chevy Chase ballad, or with explicit and unusual references to a source-text for the ballad. An early and influential example, A most notable example of an ungracious Son begins, ‘In searching famous Chronicles,/ it was my chaunce to read’, and several other ballads adopted a similar opening gambit. Overall, it is clear that the songs set to this tune were tied together to a remarkable degree.

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

Songs and Summaries

The Shepheard and the King, and of Gillian the Shepheards Wife, with Her Churlish answers: being full of mirth and merry pastime. To the Tune of flying fame (registered 1578; no imprint, 1624-56?). Pepys 1.76-77; EBBA 20272. Employment – agrarian, female/male, apprenticeship/service; Gender – marriage, masculinity, femininity; History – medieval; Humour – deceit/disguise, domestic/familial, extreme situations/surprises, misunderstanding, mockery; Royalty – praise; Society – rural life, rich/poor; Violence – interpersonal; Bodies – clothing, nourishment; Economy – hardship/prosperity, household, prices/wages; Environment – buildings; Politics – court, obedience, Royalist; Recreation – food, music; Places – travel/transport; Emotions – anger, confusion, anxiety, joy. King Alfred, in disguise, takes up employment and residence with a shepherd, and is roundly criticised by the woman of the house for burning a cake.

A Dolefull Ditty, or sorrowfull Sonet of the Lord Darly, sometime King of Scots... to be song to the tune of blacke and yellowe (registered ?1579 and 1586; Thomas Gosson, late sixteenth century?). Society of Antiquaries, London, Broadsides Cab Lib g, 1.58; EBBA 36304. Politics – court, controversy, domestic, plots; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing; Violence – interpersonal; Emotions – sorrow; Gender – marraiage; Recreation – food, alcohol; Royalty – general. This tells the story of Lord Darnley, the English nobleman who married Mary, Queen of Scots, but was subsequently murdered after becoming embroiled in Scottish court politics.

A most notable example of an ungracious Son… To the Tune of, Lord Darley (registered 1586; no imprint, 1586-1624?). Britwell 18341; EBBA 32521. History – ancient/mythological; Family – children/parents; Economy – credit/debt, hardship/prosperity, money; Employment – professions; Crime – prison; Places – European, travel/transport; Recreation – reading/writing, games/sports, alcohol; Environment – animals, crops, buildings; Religion – sin/repentance, charity; Emotions – sorrow, despair, pride; Bodies – clothes, nourishment.  A dissolute son falls on hard times and is bailed out by his father, but when his father, later in life, comes to him for aid, he proves heartless and is consequently punished by God with a pie full of toads.

A Lamentable Ballad of Fair Rosamond, King Henry the Second's Concubine... The Tune is, flying fame (originally composed in the 1590s; W. Thackeray, and T. Passinger, 1687-88). Pepys 1.498-99; EBBA 20235. Gender – adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity; History – medieval; Politics – court, domestic; Royalty – general; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – love, hatred; Violence – interpersonal, punitive; Crime – murder, punishment; Death – unlawful killing; Places – English, European; Recreation – music, dance. Henry II does all that he can to protect his beloved concubine, Rosamond, from the jealous Queen Eleanor, but in the end there is no escape.

A worthy example of a vertuous wife, who fed her father with her own milk... To the tune of Flying Fame (registered 1596; E. W., 1611-56). Roxburghe 3.48-49; EBBA 30398. Family – children/parents, siblings; Gender – femininity, masculinity; History – ancient/mythological; Morality – familial; Crime – prison; Bodies – nourishment, health/sickness; Emotions – despair, love, joy; Places – European; Politics – court. In ancient Rome, an old man is imprisoned and starved by the angry emperor, but one of his daughters finds an ingenious method of keeping him alive.

A new Ballad of the most wonderfull and strange fall of Christ’s Church pinnacle in Norwitch, the which was shaken downe by a thunder-clap on the 29 April 1601... To THE TUNE of Flyinge fame (no printed copies have survived but the song was copied out by hand, c. 1600-03). Shirburn Ballads, XLVIII. Violence – divine; Emotions – fear, wonder; Environment – buildings, weather, wonders; Religion – divine intervention, sin/repentance, church; News – sensational; Places – English. This tells the dramatic story of a church steeple’s collapse following a lightning strike, and we are all warned to repent our sins with urgency.

The Noble Acts newly found, Of Arthur of the Table Round To the Tune of, Flying fame (registered 1603; F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Roxburghe 3.25; EBBA 30381. Gender – masculinity; History – ancient/mythological,medieval; Violence – chivalric, interpersonal; Politics – domestic, court; Royalty – praise; Bodies – injury; Death – warfare; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Family – siblings. This tells the tale of Lancelot’s fierce fight with Tarquin and of his success in freeing sixty-four fellow knights.

A most excellent ballad of S. George for England and the kings daughter of AEgipt, whom he delivered from death; and how he slew a mighty dragon. The tune is flying fame (printed copies are later, but the song was copied out by hand, 1603-16). Shirburn Ballads, XXIII. History – ancient/mythological, romance, villainy; Death – warfare; Violence – chivalric; Gender – courtship, masculinity, femininity; Emotions – excitement; Nature – animals; Places – extra-European, English; Politics – court, foreign affairs; Religion – heathens/infidels; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Family – children/parents. This opens with a reference to Homer and the sack of Troy before presenting a narrative of St. George’s heroics and his romantic relationship with Sabrine, a princess from Egypt.

A new Song, shewing the crueltie of Gernutus a Jew... To the tune of, Blacke and Yellow (T. P., 1603-25). Pepys 1.144-45; EBBA 20063. Economy – credit/debt, money, trade; Emotions – greed, horror; Religion – Judaism, charity; Employment – professions; Bodies – injury; History – recent; Morality – social/economic, general; Places – European; Society – friends; Violence – interpersonal. This tells the famous story of the Jewish usurer in Venice who demanded a pound of flesh when a merchant failed to repay a loan but was outwitted in the nick of time by a cunning judge.

A new Ballad, intituled, The Battell of Agen-Court, in France, betweene the English-men and Frenchmen. To the tune of, When flying Fame (S. W., 1615-35). Pepys 1.90-91; EBBA 20278. Death – warfare; Politics – foreign affairs; Royalty – praise; Violence – between states; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Gender – masculinity; History – medieval; Emotions – disdain, excitement; Bodies – physique, looks; Places – European, nationalities. This tells the story of the king’s famous victory at Agincourt against numerically superior French opposition.

The Worlds Wonder. Or, A strange and miraculous work of Gods providence… To the Tune of, Chevy Chase ([Francis] Grove, 1623-62). Euing 401; EBBA 32038. Religion – prayer, divine intervention, Bible, Christ/God, faith; Family – children/parents; Gender – femininity; Bodies – nourishment; Society – criticism; Economy – hardship, household; Morality – social/economic; Crime – robbery/theft; Places – English.  A poor widow prays to God and is miraculously enabled to keep her seven children alive for seven weeks on a single loaf of (burnt) bread.

THE DEAD MANS SONG, Who[se] dwelling was near Basing-hall in London. To the Tune of, Flying Fame (registered 1624 and possibly 1561-62; no imprint, 1624-56?). Euing 73; EBBA 31756. Religion – heaven/hell, sin/repentance, body/soul, angels/devils, Christ/God, Death – illness; Bodies – health/sickness; Emotions – wonder; Nature – animals, flowers/trees, wonders; Recreation – music, sight-seeing; Society – neighbours; Violence – diabolical, punitive; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage.  A seriously sick man is shown a vision of heaven and hell before regaining consciousness and telling his family and neighbours of the wonders he has witnessed.  

A Memorable song made vpon the vnhappy hunting in Chevy Chase between the Earle Pea[rcy] of England and the Earle Douglas of Scotland to the tune of Flying fame (registered 1624 but probably  composed much earlier; no imprint, 1624-56?). Manchester Central Library Blackletter Ballads BR f 821.04 B49; EBBA 36060. History – medieval; Politics – domestic, power; Gender – masculinity; Bodies – injury; Violence – between states, chivalric; Death – warfare; Recreation – hunting; Emotions – excitement, pride; Employment – sailors/soldiers; Environment – animals; Places – English, Scottish, travel/transport; Royalty – general. An exceptionally famous song in which two great earls come to savage blows in Chevy Chase, each backed by their entourages.  

An excellent Song, called, The Shooe-makers travell. To the tune of, Flying Fame (registered 1624; Edward Wright, 1624-56?).  Wood 401 (69). Society – criticism, friendship, rich/poor; Places – English, travel/transport; Morality – social/economic, general; Religion – sin/repentance, charity, church, clergy, Christ/God, prayer; Recreation – fashions, general; Emotions – despair, hope; Employment – professions; Crime – general; Bodies – clothing. A shoemaker travels the country, drawing attention to the sins of the English and the urgent need for repentance.

[The Wanton W]ife of Bath. [To the Tune of, Flying Fame (Francis Coles, 1624-80). Euing 374; EBBA 31985. Religion – heaven/hell, sin/repentance, faith, prayer, Bible, body/soul, Christ/God, Humour – extreme situation/surprises; Morality – romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger; Gender – femininity, marriage; Death – old age. The Wife of Bath approaches the gates of heaven and lambasts a series of Biblical superstars until, finally, Christ appears and recognises her repentance as genuine, despite all the scolding.  

The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor, who for her Pride and wickedness by Gods judgements sunk into the ground at Charing-Cross, and rose at Queen hive. To the tune of, Gentle and Courteous (composed before 1625; F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilbertson, 1661-63). Euing 184; EBBA 31939. History – medieval; Royalty – criticism; Death – unlawful killing, result of immorality; Religion – divine intervention; Bodies – clothing, looks/physique, adornment, nourishment; Crime – murder; Violence – interpersonal; Politics – domestic, controversy, power, court; Recreation – fashions, food, alcohol; Emotions – hatred, horror, wonder; Gender – femininity; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Morality – general; Environment – landscape; Places – English, European, nationalities; Society – urban life. This describes the strange demise of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, who suffered at God’s hands after a lifetime spent forcing foreign fashions upon the English and victimising perfectly innocent subjects.

The life and death of M. Geo: Sands... To the tune of Flying Fame (F. Couls, 1626?). Pepys 1.128-29; EBBA 20055. Crime – murder, robbery/theft, rape; Death – execution, unlawful killing, result of immorality; Gender – masculinity, sexual violence; Violence – interpersonal, sexual; Family – children/parents; Bodies – injury; Morality – social/economic, romantic/sexual; News – convicts/crimes; Places – English; Society - old/young; Religion – sin/repentance, Christ/God, prayer. This tells the terrible tale of criminal, executed in 1626 following a life of robbery, murder and rape.

A new ballad, intituled, A warning to Youth, shewing the lewd life of a Marchants Sonne of London… To the tune of Lord Darley (Assignes of Thomas Symcocke, 1628-31). Roxburghe 1.447; EBBA 30301. Family – children/parents, pregnancy/childbirth, inheritance; Gender – masculinity, sex, sexual violence, cross-dressing; Crime – rape; Death – suicide, result of immorality, tragedy, providential; Violence – interpersonal, sexual; Recreation – alcohol, fashions; Bodies – physique/looks, clothing, health/sickness, adornment; Emotions – despair, longing, horror; Religion – angels/devils, Christ/God, divine intervention, sin/repentance; Morality – romantic/sexual, social/economic; Employment – apprenticeship/service, professions; Economy – money; Places – European, travel/transport; History – medieval, villainy; Royalty – general. A wealthy merchant’s son comes into his inheritance and embarks on a life of lechery, during which he rapes a young woman and is punished by God for his many sins.

A pleasant History of a Gentleman in Thracia, which had foure Sonnes, and three of them none of his own… To the tune of, Chevy Chace (registered 1633; H. G., 1633-40?). Roxburghe 1.300-01; EBBA 30209. Family – children/parents, siblings; Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity; History – ancient/mythological; Morality – familial; Bodies – health/sickness; Death – illness, old age; Emotions – sorrow, confusion; Places – European; Religion – divine intervention.  The wife of a wealthy man dies, after confessing to her husband that only one of their four sons is biologically his own, and, after he follows her to the grave, sage counsellors devise a sophisticated test that identifies the true heir.

Strange and true Newes of an Ocean of Flies dropping out of a Cloud, upon the Towne of Bodnam in Cornwall. To the tune of Cheevy Chase (‘Printed in the Yeare of Miracles. 1647’). Thomason Tracts 669.f.11[52]. Emotions – wonder, fear; Environment – animals, wonders, weather, flowers/trees; Politics – domestic, controversy, Royalist, plots, war; Religion – divine intervention, sin/repentance; Royalty – praise; Society – criticism; News – domestic, sensational; Places – English. This describes a strange plague of flies in Cornwall, interpreting the wonder as evidence of God’s anger at the people of England for rebelling against their lawful king.

The Spanish Virgin; Or, The Effects of Jealousie… To the Tune of, Chievy Chase; Or, Aim not too high (W. Thackeray, 1664-92). Pepys 2.143; EBBA 20761. Gender – marriage, femininity, adultery/cuckoldry; Bodies – health/sickness; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing; Violence – interpersonal; Morality – familial, romantic/sexual; Emotions – anger, hatred, sorrow; Employment – apprenticeship/service, female/male; Places – European, nationalities. A jealous mistress, believing wrongly that her waiting woman is having sex with her husband, imprisons the young virgin in a dungeon until the adders and toads that live there have killed her.

Of the faithful Friendship that lasted between two faithful Friends. To the Tune of, Flying Fame (no imprint, mid-seventeenth century?). Roxburghe 1.503; EBBA 30339. Society – friendship; History – ancient/mythological; Bodies – looks/physique; Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing; Violence – interpersonal; Emotions – love; Family – children/parents; Gender – marriage, masculinity; History – ancient/mythological; Places – European, travel/transport. A story from the classical age in which Gancelo allows Alphonso to marry the woman they both love, and Alphonso returns the favour by protecting his dear friend from a murder charge.

The Royal Patient Traveller, OR, The wonderful Escapes of His Sacred Majesty King Charles the Second from Worcester-fight… To the tune of, Chivy Chase, Or, God prosper long our Noble King (‘Printed for the Author’, 1660). Wood  401 (171). Politics – Royalist, domestic, obedience, controversy; Royalty – incognito, praise, authority; Employment – apprenticeship/ service; Bodies – clothing, physique/looks; Emotions – anxiety, excitement, joy; Humour – deceit/disguise, extreme situations/surprises; Places – English, travel/transport. This describes the king’s efforts, aided by trusted individuals, to escape from his enemies following the Battle of Worcester.

Here is a true and perfect Relation from the Faulcon at the Banke-side; of the strange and wonderful aperition of one Mr. Powel a Baker lately deceased… The tune of, Chevy Chase (F. Coles, T. Vere, and William Gilbertson, 1661). Wood 401 (183). Religion – ghosts/spirits, Bible; conjuration; Death – general; Emotions – fear; Employment – crafts/trades, apprenticeship/service; News – sensational. The ghost of a dead man returns to haunt his former house and is only pacified by the intervention of ‘Learned men of Art’ (also called ‘Conjurers’).

Terrible news from BRAINFORD: or, A perfect and true Relation of one Thompson a Waterman… To the Tune of, Chievy Chase (F. Coles, M. Wright, T. Vere, and W. Gilbertson, 1661). Wood 401 (181). Recreation – alcohol, good fellowship, hospitality; Violence – diabolical; Religion – angels/devils, prayer, body/soul; Death – result of immorality;  Gender – masculinity; Morality – general; Emotions – fear, confusion; Employment – alehouses/inns, crafts/trades; News – sensational; Places – English. An inebriated waterman slumps dead on the table after drinking an ill-advised health to the Devil, and the shock experienced by witnesses intensifies further when Satan appears in person.

The KING and the BISHOP. OR, Unlearned Men, hard matters out can find, When Learned Bishops, Princes eyes do blind. To the Tune of, Chevy-Chase (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Roxburghe 3.170-71; EBBA 30471. History – medieval; Politics – court, power, obedience; Religion – clergy, Catholic/Protestant; Royalty – authority; Humour – deceit/disguise, verbal, extreme situations/surprises; Family – siblings; Employment – agrarian, professions; Bodies – clothing; Emotions – fear, joy; Places – travel/transport. A playful king tells a terrified bishop he must answer three riddles to avoid execution, and the bishop gives up hope until his brother, a mere shepherd, comes skilfully to his rescue.

[Saint BERNARD'S Vision. (A brief Discourse Dialogue-wise) between the Soul and body of a Damned Man newly Deceased... To the Tune of, Flying Fame (F. Coles, T. Vere, and J. Wright, 1665-74). Euing 317; EBBA 31966. NB This song was usually set to the tune of ‘Fortune my Foe’, and its metre makes it unsuitable for the ‘Flying Fame’ melody].

The Unfortunate Forrester, Or, Fair Elener's Tragedy… Tune is, Chevy Chase (W. Thackeray, T. Passenger, and W. Whitwood, 1666-79). Pepys 4.48; EBBA 21714. Gender  - courtship; Emotions – love, despair; Family – children/parents; Death – suicide, heartbreak; History – medieval; Violence – self-inflicted; Morality – familial; Recreation – hunting; Environment – animals. Young Lord Thomas loves Lady Eleanor, but when his mother insists that he marry another a tragic ending is guaranteed.  

The Patient Wife betrayed; OR, The Lady Elizabeths Tragedy... To the Tune of, Chevy Chase, or The Lady Izabells Tragedy (J. Clark, 1666-86). Euing 289; EBBA 31903.  Gender – marriage, adultery/cuckoldry, femininity, masculinity; History – ancient/mythological; Morality – romantic/sexual; Crime – murder, punishment; Death – unlawful killing, execution, ghostly abduction; Religion – ghosts/spirits; Violence – interpersonal, domestic, punitive; Emotions – love, hatred; Environment – flowers/trees, landscape; Places – extra-European. A Turkish knight and his harlot plot to kill his loving wife, but she returns as a ghost and, finally, justice is done.

Bloudy news from Germany or The peoples misery by famine… Tune of, Chievy Chase (Philip Brooksby, 1670-96). Roxburghe 2.38-39; EBBA 30183. Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, result of immorality; Economy – hardship/poverty; Morality – social/economic; Religion – divine intervention; Violence – interpersonal, punitive; Bodies – nourishment; Emotions – disdain; Employment – apprenticeship/service; History – recent, medieval; Environment – buildings; Places – European. This tells a historical story about a German nobleman (also an archbishop) who, in time of famine, compared the local poor to rats and burned many of them alive in a barn, but God avenged them all by plaguing the noble’s house with vermin and bringing about his painful end.

The Lady Isabella's Tragedy, or, the Step mothers cruelty… To the Tune of, Fair Rosamond, Or, Chivy Chase (‘Printed for E. A. and are to be sold by F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke, 1675-80). Wood E25 (54). Crime – murder; Death – unlawful killing, execution; Violence – interpersonal; Family – children/parents, inheritance; Gender – femininity, masculinity; Morality – familial; Emotions – hatred, anger, sorrow; Recreation – food; Employment – crafts/trades. A beautiful young lady is cruelly murdered by her jealous step-mother and the household’s master-cook, but an honest scullion boy reveals the truth and both killers are executed – the woman is burnt at the stake and the man is boiled in oil.

[The] BELGICK BOAR, To the TUNE of Chivy-Chase (no publisher named, 1695). Crawford 429; EBBA 32786. Politics – controversy, domestic, foreign affairs, Royalist, obedience; Emotions – anger; Royalty – criticism, praise; Family – children/parents, kin; Economy – hardship/ prosperity, taxation; Employment – crafts/trades; Places – English, European. A fierce critique of William’s invasion of England, declaring loyalty to the true king, James, and castigating all those who contributed to his downfall and the disastrous consequences that have followed.


Regular literary references to the tune demonstrate its ubiquity during the seventeenth century, though it is often clear that the melody’s popularity was being gently mocked rather than merely noted. A letter published in Charles Gildon’s The post-boy rob’d of his mail (1692) argues that the best way to spread news across the nation is to set a ballad to ‘the celebrated Tune of Chevy Chase’. In The Married mens feast (1671), a sumptuous meal for strong husbands is carried in to the sound of ‘six Trumpeters playing the tune of Chevy Chase, a very martial tune’. And a prognostication of 1683 entitled Poor Robin notes that English plough-boys frequently ‘whistle Chevy-chase’ to their working animals.

The melody was also nominated in many published collections of songs, where it was usually connected with one or more of the themes identified above. See, for example: ‘A Princely Song made of the Red Rose and the White’ in Richard Johnson’s Crowne garland (1612); ‘Zeale over-heated: A Relation of a lamentable fire’ in John Taylor’s Three-fold discourse betweene three neighbours (1642); and ‘A Carol for Saint Johns day’ in Good and true, fresh and new Christmas carols (1642).

The melody was used sparingly for white-letter ballads in the seventeenth century, perhaps suggesting again its relative lack of credibility in sophisticated circles (see, for example, ‘Bloody News from CHELMSFORD’, 1663, and ‘The New Catholick Ballad’, 1681). It remained a potent force within balladry, however, and was nominated regularly on song-sheets and in ballad-operas during the eighteenth century.

Christopher Marsh


Charles Gildon, The post-boy rob’d of his mail (1692), p. 142.

Good and true, fresh and new Christmas carols (1642), A5v-6v.

Richard Johnson, Crowne garland (1612), A2r-6r.

John Kelly, The Plot (1735), p. 12.

Edward Lowe, music manuscript, Edinburgh University Library, MS Dc.1.69, fo. 113 (transcription in Simpson, p. 97).

The Married mens feast (1671), p. 4.

Poor Robin, 1683 A Prognostication (1683), C3r.

Claude M. Simpson, The British Broadside Ballad and its Music (New Brunswick, 1966), pp. 96-101.

John Taylor, Three-fold discourse betweene three neighbours (1642), A4r-v.

Wit and Mirth: OR Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719-20), vol. 4, pp 1 and 289.

Back to contents

Featured Woodcut History

Standard woodcut name: Queen Eleanor composite

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 specifically for this song, has not been found on any other ballad in the two largest collections. The only title listed below is therefore our featured edition, taken from the Euing collection. Early editions of The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor carried no pictures, but at some point a special picture was commissioned, probably because the song had already established its status as a best-seller. The artist chose or was instructed to prepare a composite image that included several specific details from the text. Viewers are hereby encouraged to jump between text and picture as they make the various connections.

The woodcut was subsequently displayed on most editions and was probably an important component in the song’s continuing success. All surviving copies appear to have been produced from the same block, and the dedicated work of the period’s woodworm can be detected in the small white circles that appear on later versions.

Songs and summaries

The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor, who for her Pride and wickedness by Gods judgements sunk into the ground at Charing-Cross, and rose at Queen hive (F. Coles, T. Vere, and W. Gilbertson, 1661-63). Euing 184; EBBA 31939. History – medieval; Royalty – criticism; Death – unlawful killing, result of immorality; Religion – divine intervention; Bodies – clothing, looks/physique, adornment, nourishment; Crime – murder; Violence – interpersonal; Politics – domestic, controversy, power, court; Recreation – fashions, food, alcohol; Emotions – hatred, horror, wonder; Gender – femininity; Family – pregnancy/childbirth; Morality – general; Environment – landscape; Places – English, European, nationalities; Soceiety – urban life. This describes the strange demise of Queen Eleanor, wife of Edward I, who allegedly suffered at God’s hands after a lifetime spent forcing foreign fashions upon the English and victimising perfectly innocent subjects (picture placement: the scene appears beneath the title).

Christopher Marsh

Back to contents

Related Texts

The lamentable fall is closely related to a play that was written, partially at least, by George Peele. This was The famous chronicle of king Edward the first, sirnamed Edward Longshankes. The date of composition may have been c. 1591, and the work appeared in print for the first time in 1593. It has long puzzled literary scholars and the notes that follow here are heavily influenced by Lauren Browne’s recent summary of the debate.

The famous chronicle, in its published version, seems to exhibit clear signs of clumsy and hurried revision. Most strikingly, two very different versions of Queen Eleanor are presented and the reader faces a struggle in trying to reconcile them. The first Eleanor is kind, gracious, loving and loved. She is devoted to her ‘sweete Ned’ and generous to everyone. With ample justification, the king remembers her as ‘the choisest Queene’.  The second, in contrast, is vain, proud, vindictive, and dedicated to bringing England under ‘a Spanish yoake’. The most bewildering moment comes at the end when Edward I commissions his celebrated stone crosses to commemorate his late wife, even though she confessed on her deathbed to murdering an innocent woman and having sex with his own brother.

It seems probable that the stark discrepancy is a product of the revision process. It has been plausibly suggested that the original play, now lost, probably followed Holinshed and Camden in representing Eleanor as an exemplary queen (an entirely positive representation of Eleanor was also included in Robert Greene’s play, The honorable historie of frier Bacon, and frier Bongay, written in c. 1589). In the febrile, anti-Spanish atmosphere of the early 1590s, however, Peele’s work was perhaps re-written in a rush to incorporate fresh material about a newly obnoxious queen. At some point, the editorial process proved inadequate to the task and the two Eleanors were left to stand side by side.

Moreover, much of the new material is shared with our hit song, The lamentable fall. In both texts, Eleanor ‘sent for tailors into Spain’, and her targeting and killing of the mayor of London’s wife by attaching serpents to her breasts also recurs. The queen’s plans to cut off the right breasts of all Englishwomen and the hair of all Englishmen – hereby attacking native femininity and masculinity simultaneously - is found in the play and the ballad. And the same is true of her subterranean journey from Charing Cross to Queenhithe (pre-dating the London Underground by six centuries).

It is difficult to establish which of the two sources came first. Scholars have proposed arguments on both sides but the stronger evidence seems to support the ballad. The play’s narrative is contradictory and confusing while the song presents an internally coherent plot. It therefore seems more likely that the reviser of the play hurriedly inserted material drawn from a very recent hit ballad than that the ballad-makers lifted stories from the play, managing to render them more coherent and consistent in the process.

The play’s full title may also suggest that the sensational tale of Eleanor’s journey through the earth had been tacked on at the last minute. After mentioning Edward’s return from the holy land and his battle against the rebellious Llewellyn in Wales, the title concludes with a further promise of exciting material: ‘Lastly, the sinking of Queene Elinor, who sunck at Charingcrosse, and roase again at Pottershith, now named Queenehith’. Indeed, most of the shared material that transforms Eleanor appears towards the end of the play, as if it has been rather thoughtlessly inserted. In all likelihood, therefore, the newly venomous Eleanor, sculpted to suit the needs of anxious English audiences in the Hispanophobic 1590s, was a product of the ballad-makers’ imagination. The playwright’s decision to purloin its material also speaks of the song’s success.

Lauren Browne points out that the authors of The lamentable fall, in their eagerness to assault Eleanor’s reputation, also seem to have drawn on material from earlier stories about other foreign queens of medieval England. The French chronicle of London, a fourteenth-century source, alleged that Eleanor of Provence, the queen consort of Henry III, had killed her husband’s mistress, Rosamund, by placing toads on her breasts. Like the serpents in our ballad, they eagerly sucked their victim’s blood until she died. In actual fact, Rosamund (Clifford) was the mistress of Henry II and aroused the jealousy of his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Clearly, historians of this period, ballad-makers included, adopted a relaxed attitude to their source materials, and it is with good reason that Browne writes of ‘the conflation of the Eleanors’ (see also A Lamentable Ballad of Fair Rosamond).

One of the Eleanors, presumably Eleanor of Aquitaine, was also the villain of another successful broadside, A Lamentable Ballad of Fair Rosamond, King Henry the Second’s Concubine. This concentrates on the queen’s murder of Rosamund – this time by poison - and it is not difficult to imagine how the various European Eleanors may have become confused in the minds of ballad-makers and their followers. This possibility was accentuated by the very similar opening lines in The lamentable fall and A Lamentable Ballad, an intertextual incident that may also indicate a shared melody (see Featured tune history).

Christopher Marsh

Texts (in chronological order)

The French chronicle of London (mid-fourteenth century): https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/london-mayors-sheriffs/1188-1274/pp231-237

Anon, The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor… To the tune of, Gentle and Courteous (probably written c. 1590; edition of 1658-64).

George Peele, The famous chronicle of king Edward the first, sirnamed Edward Longshankes with his returne from the holy land. Also the life of Lleuellen rebell in Wales. Lastly, the sinking of Queene Elinor, who sunck at Charingcrosse, and rose again at Potterhith, now named Queenehith (written c. 1591; published 1593).

Thomas Deloney,  A Lamentable Ballad of Fair Rosamond, King Henry the Second’s Concubine… The Tune is, Flying fame (probably published in the 1590s as ‘A mournefull dittie, on the death of Rosamond, King Henry the second’s concubine’; edition of 1686-88).


Lauren Browne, ‘The Posthumous Representation of Medieval Queens-Consort and Royal Paramours in the Tudor Period’, PhD thesis, Queen’s University, Belfast (2021), especially pp. 48-62.

William Camden, Britannia sive Florentissimorum regnorum, Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae (1586). Published in translation as Britain, or a chorographicall description of the most flourishing kingdoms, England, Scotland, and Ireland (1637), p. 432.

William Camden, Remaines of a greater worke, concerning Britaine (1605), pp. 207-08.

Robert Greene, The honorable historie of frier Bacon, and frier Bongay (1594).

Raphael Holinshed, The first [laste] volume of the chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Ireland (1577), pp. 799-800.

Back to contents

The lamentable fall of Queen Elenor, who for her Pride/ and wickedness by Gods judgements sunk into the ground at Charing=Cross, and rose at/ Queen hive.   To the tune of, Gentle and Courteous

[We have not made a recording because we initially considered the tune lost. We have since realised that 'Gentle and Courteous' is probably another name for the melody, 'Chevy Chase' (often called 'Flying Fame')].


WHen Edward was in England King

the first of all that name,

Proud Elenor he made his Queen,

a stately Spanish Dame.

Whose wicked life and sinful pride,

through England did excel,

To dainty Dames and gallant Maids,

this Queen was known full well.


She was the first that did invent

in Coaches brave to ride,

She was the first that brought this Land

to deadly sin of pride.

No English Taylor here could serve

to make her rich attire,

But sent for Taylors into Spain

to feed her vain desire.


They brought in fashions strange and new

with golden Garments bright,

The Farthingale and mighty Ruffs,

with Gowns of rich delight.

Our London Dames in Spanish pride

did flourish every where,

Our Englishmen like women then,

did wear long locks of hair.


Both man and child, both maid and wife

wery drown’d in pride of Spain,

And thought the Spanish Taylors then

our English men did stain.

Whereat the Queen did much despight

to see our English men,

In vestures clad as brave to see

as any Spaniard then.


She crav’d the King that every man,

that wore long locks of hair,

Might then be cut and polled all

or shaven very near.

Whereat the King did seem content,

and soon thereto agreed,

And first commanded that his own

should then be cut with speed.


And after that to please his Queen

proclaimed through the land,

That every man that wore long hair,

should poll him out of hand

But yet this Spaniard not content,

to women bore a spight,

And then requested of the King

against all Law and right,


That every woman-kind should have

their right brest cut away,

And then with burning Irons sear’d

the blood to stanch and stay.

King Edward then perceiving well

her spight to women=kind,

Devised soon by pollicy,

to turn her bloody mind.


He sent for burning Irons streight,

all sparkling hot to see,

And said O Queen come on thy way

I will begin with thee,

Which words did much displease the Queen,

that penance to begin,

But askt him pardon on her knees,

who gave her grace therein.


BUt afterwards there chanc’d to passe

along brave London streets,

Whereas the Mayor of Londons wife

in stately sort she meets,

With musick, mirth and melody

Unto the Church they went

To give God thanks that to the Lord Mayor,

a noble Son had send.


It grieved much this spightful Queen

to see that any one,

Should so exceed in mirth and joy,

except her self alone.

For which she after did devise,

within her bloody mind.

And practis’d still most secretly,

to kill that Lady kind.


Unto the Mayor of London then

she sent her Letters straight,

To send his Lady to the Court,

upon her grace to wait,

But when the London Lady came

before proud Elenors face,

She stript her from her rich array,

and kept her vile and bose.


She sent her into Wales with speed,

and kept her secret there,

And us’d her still most cruelly,

that ever man did hear

She made her wash, she made her starch,

she made her drudge alway,

She made her nurse up Children small,

and labour night and day.


But this contented not the Queen,

but shew’d her more despight.

She bound this Lady to a Post,

at twelve a clock at night.

And as poor Lady she stood bound,

the Queen in angry mood,

Did set two Snakes unto her brest,

that suckt away her blood.


Thus dy’d the Mayor of Londons wife

most grievous for to hear,

Which made the Spaniard grow more pro[ud]

as after shall appear.

The wheat that daily made her bread,

was bolted twenty times,

The food that fed this stately Dame,

was boyl’d in costly wines.


The water that did spring from gound

she would not touch at all,

But washt her hands with dew of heaven

that on sweet Roses fall.

She bath’d her body many a time,

in Fountains fil’d with milk,

And every day did change attire,

in costly Median silk.


But coming then to London back

within her Coach of gold,

A tempest strange within the Skyes

this Queen did there behold.

Out of which storm she could not go,

but there remain’d a space.

Four horses could not stir the Coach,

a foot out of that place.


A judgement lately sent from heaven

for shedding guiltless blood,

Upon this sinful Queen that slew

the Lond[o]n Lady good.

King Edward then as wisdome wil’d

accus’d her of that deed,

But she deny’d and wisht that God

would send his wrath with speed.


If that upon so vile a thing

her heart did ever think,

She wisht the ground might open wide

and thereto she might sink,

With that at Chairing-Cross she sunk

into the ground alive,

And after rose with life again,

in London at Queen=hive.


When after that she languisht sore,

full twenty dayes in pain,

At last confest the Ladies blood,

her guilty hands had slain,

And likewise how that by a Fryar

she had a base born child,

Whose sinful lusts and wickedness,

her marriage defil’d.


Thus you have heard the fall of pride,

a just reward of sin,

For those that will forswear themselves,

God vengeance daily win.

Beware of pride yee London Dames,

both wives and maidens all,

Bear this imprinted in your minds,

that pride may have a fall.


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

Back to contents

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: Coles, Wright, Vere and Gilberston, 1656; Coles, Vere, Wright and Clarke, 1675; and Thackeray, 1689 (as 'Queen Elinor').

Other registrations with Stationers' Company: none.

No. of known editions c.1560-1711: 11

No. of extant copies: 12

New tune-titles generated: none.

Specially-commissioned woodcuts: Fall of Queen Eleanor composite on featured edition (and other editions).

Vaughan Williams Memorial Library databases: 7 references, with no evidence of later collection as a folk-song (Roud no. V13609).

POINTS: 0 + 20 + 0 + 22 + 12 + 0 + 5 + 0 = 59

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