I seem to remember reading (
- the old 1-vol. Percy Scholes version?) that Greensleeves was typical example of the Italian tunes imported with the improved viol / ~ modern violin in the 16th century.
I also have seen the suggestion that "greensleeves" was a nickname for a promiscuous girl (grass stains on her sleeves).
I understood that the ascription to Henry VIII was only a much later thing and never found in anything contemporary.
Don Firth: It always puzles me to hear people talk about "the reason the s sometimes looks like an f (minus) the crossbar)". It is well known to any student of English that there have been a number of extra letters, now left out of our 26-character alphabet. One of these was the "long s", used for the soft forms (those always using a modern 's') as against the harder forms that are close to modern usage of 'z'.
This is the common usage in handwriting - at least up to the end of the 18th century ... and I have seen it in many 19th century manuscripts. The only contribution that the printing press made to this usage was to elinate it in order to reduce the size of letter cases in the printery. the handwritten letter was more like an extended 's', but print founders 'cheated' by modifying the existing 'f' mould to approximate the "long s".
BTW: Did Greensleeves become the signature tune of motorised icecream vendors in other parts of the world ... or is this just an Australian oddity?