Popular Ballads of the Olden Time

The following is from Popular Ballads of the Olden Time: Third Series - Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance Selected and Edited by Frank Sidgwick:

Earl Bothwell

Earl Bothwell

The Text is from the Percy Folio, the spelling being modernised. Percy printed it (with alterations) in the Reliques.

The Story of the ballad represents that Darnley was murdered by way of revenge for his participation in the murder of Riccio; that Mary sent for Darnley to come to Scotland, and that she was finally banished by the Regent. All of these statements, and several minor ones, contain as much truth as may be expected in a ballad of this kind.

Mary escaped from Lochleven Castle on May 2, 1568, and found refuge in England on the 16th. The ballad was doubtless written shortly afterwards. On March 24, 1579, a 'ballad concerninge the murder of the late Kinge of Scottes' was licensed to Thomas Gosson, a well-known printer of broadsides.

Woe worth thee, woe worth thee, false Scotland!
  For thou hast ever wrought by a sleight;      ['sleight,' trick]
For the worthiest prince that ever was born
  You hanged under a cloud by night.

The Queen of France a letter wrote,
  And sealed it with heart and ring,
And bade him come Scotland within,
  And she would marry him and crown him king.

To be a king, it is a pleasant thing,
  To be a prince unto a peer;
But you have heard, and so have I too,
  A man may well buy gold too dear.

[A popular proverb; see The Lord of Learne, 39.3,4 (Second Series, p. 190)]

There was an Italian in that place
  Was as well beloved as ever was he;
Lord David was his name,
  Chamberlain unto the queen was he.

For if the king had risen forth of his place,
  He would have sit him down in the chair,
And tho' it beseemed him not so well,
  Altho' the king had been present there.

Some lords in Scotland waxed wonderous worth,
  And quarrell'd with him for the nonce;
I shall you tell how it befell;
  Twelve daggers were in him all at once.

When this queen see the chamberlain was slain,
  For him her cheeks she did weet,
And made a vow for a twelvemonth and a day
  The king and she would not come in one sheet.

Then some of the lords of Scotland waxed wroth,
  And made their vow vehemently;
'For death of the queen's chamberlain
  The king himself he shall die.'

They strowed his chamber over with gun powder,
  And laid green rushes in his way;
For the traitors thought that night
  The worthy king for to betray.

To bed the worthy king made him boun;        ['made him boun,' prepared himself]
  To take his rest, that was his desire;
He was no sooner cast on sleep
  But his chamber was on a blazing fire.

Up he lope, and a glass window broke,
  He had thirty foot for to fall;
Lord Bodwell kept a privy watch
  Underneath his castle wall.
'Who have we here?' said Lord Bodwell;
  'Answer me, now I do call.'

'King Henry the Eighth my uncle was;
  Some pity show for his sweet sake!
Ah, Lord Bodwell, I know thee well;
  Some pity on me I pray thee take!'

'I'll pity thee as much,' he said,
  'And as much favour I'll show to thee,
As thou had on the queen's chamberlain
  That day thou deemedst him to die.'

Through halls and towers this king they led,
  Through castles and towers that were high,
Through an arbour into an orchard,
  And there hanged him in a pear tree.

When the governor of Scotland he heard tell
  That the worthy king he was slain,
He hath banished the queen so bitterly
  That in Scotland she dare not remain.

But she is fled into merry England,
  And Scotland too aside hath lain,
And through the Queen of England's good grace
  Now in England she doth remain.

Durham Field

Copyright Scotland from the Roadside 2016