Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Next time we hear "Mary, Mary" perhaps we should pause and reconsider?

A very good friend of mine calls me "Mary, Mary" and some kind fellow members of the Vestry sent me this informative article about the origins of the well-known nursery rhyme:

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

Here's the scoop on the origin of Mary Mary Quite Contrary.

Nursery Rhyme Origins & History

BB Note: Time to dust off the English history book!

The Mary alluded to in this traditional English nursery rhyme is reputed to be Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, who was the daughter of King Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and the garden referred to is an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in size with those who dared to continue to adhere to the Protestant faith - Protestant martyrs.

BB Note: Bells and shells - no day at the beach!

The silver bells and cockle shells referred to in the Nursery Rhyme were colloquialisms for instruments of torture. The 'silver bells' were thumbscrews which crushed of the thumb between two hard surfaces by the tightening a screw. The 'cockleshells' were believed to be instruments of torture which were attached to the genitals!

BB Note: The " Maids" or Maiden probably gave the French revolutionaries some ideas when they repeated the nursery rhyme centuries later!

The 'maids' were a device to behead people called the Maiden. Beheading a victim was fraught with problems. It could take up to 11 blows to actually sever the head, the victim often resisted and had to be chased around the scaffold. Margaret Pole (1473 - 1541), Countess of Salisbury did not go willingly to her death and had to be chased and hacked at by the Executioner. These problems led to the invention of a mechanical instrument (now known as the guillotine) called the Maiden - shortened to Maids in the Mary Mary Nursery Rhyme. The Maiden had long been in use in England before Lord Morton, regent of Scotland during the minority of James VI, had a copy constructed from the Maiden which had been used in Halifax in Yorkshire. Ironically, Lord Morton fell from favour and was the first to experience the Maiden in Scotland!

So perhaps one should pause before calling me "Mary, Mary." Or, perhaps not.


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