The Riddle of Humpty Dumpty

Today we had a talk from Alan Hemsworth entitled “The Riddle of Humpty-Dumpty”. As well as this, consideration was also given to the truth and folk-law behind other nursery rhymes. He pointed out that what appears to be that the innocent “drivel” we are happy to recite to our grandchildren is really about robbery, child-abuse, religious intolerance and racism. But nursery rhymes are simply a view of history as seen by the people and passed down through the ages through word of mouth (ie simple poetry).

As for Humpty-Dumpty. One story had it that it was a large cannon used in the English Civil War. To get a better line of shot it was hoisted up to the top of a Church tower. Unfortunately after the first shot the recoil forced it over the edge to be smashed to the ground. Therefore “All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again”. Another suggestion was that Humpty referred to King Richard III and his deformed back. Unfortunately recent examination of Richard’s skeleton found that although he did have a back problem it wasn’t that pronounced. It was suggested that the exaggeration was down to the writings of William Shakespeare.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary” was next for consideration. Was the Mary, Bloody Mary half sister to Elizabeth I? Was she quite contrary because she followed the Catholic faith when the monarchy had become Protestant? Or was the contrary Mary actually the Virgin Mary, but even within this strand of thought there are differences of opinion as to whether it is lament for the reinstatement of Catholicism or for its persecution.

“Hey diddle, diddle the cat and the fiddle” solicited a very complex explanation regarding a family feud between two rival families associated with Bolton Priory. For a more details click here.

The talk was followed by questions from members and there were several different interpretations for some of the events described by Alan.

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