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Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings

DigiTrad:
FOUR MARY'S
MARY HAMILTON
MARY HAMILTON (2)
MARY MILD
THE FOUR MARIES


Related threads:
(origins) The Four Marys - who were they really? (93)
Tune Req: Jeannie Robertson's Mary Hamilton tune (2)
Four Maries - 2 missing lines in DT (7)
Lyr Req: Four Marys (from Jean Ritchie) (8)
Four Mary's Good Version on CD (17)
Lyr Add: Mary Hamilton (Hally Wood) (23)
Mary Mild (Mary Hamilton) (6)
Lyr/Chords Req: Four Marys (12)


GUEST,Mags 20 Mar 08 - 01:34 AM
TRUBRIT 20 Mar 08 - 01:52 AM
Malcolm Douglas 20 Mar 08 - 03:06 AM
Wyrd Sister 20 Mar 08 - 06:22 AM
goatfell 20 Mar 08 - 08:07 AM
kendall 20 Mar 08 - 08:14 AM
GUEST,PMB 20 Mar 08 - 08:41 AM
Dave Sutherland 20 Mar 08 - 09:41 AM
kendall 20 Mar 08 - 09:58 AM
GUEST,TJ in San Diego 20 Mar 08 - 11:51 AM
GUEST,leeneia 20 Mar 08 - 12:08 PM
GUEST,The Mole catcher's unplugged Apprentice 20 Mar 08 - 12:15 PM
kendall 20 Mar 08 - 12:41 PM
Doc John 20 Mar 08 - 05:41 PM
Reiver 2 20 Mar 08 - 09:57 PM
GUEST 02 Nov 11 - 08:16 PM
Susan of DT 02 Nov 11 - 09:05 PM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Nov 11 - 09:33 PM
EBarnacle 03 Nov 11 - 10:14 AM
goatfell 03 Nov 11 - 10:48 AM
Joe_F 03 Nov 11 - 03:41 PM
GUEST 04 Nov 11 - 12:50 PM
Joe Offer 29 Apr 16 - 09:42 PM
Jim Brown 30 Apr 16 - 04:03 AM
Keith A of Hertford 30 Apr 16 - 04:28 AM
toadfrog 30 Oct 16 - 08:35 PM
GUEST,Mike Yates 31 Oct 16 - 02:28 AM
John MacKenzie 31 Oct 16 - 02:42 PM
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Subject: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,Mags
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 01:34 AM

Can any folks enlighten me on meanings of this verse from Child 173? Thanks -

The King is tae the abbey gane
Tae pu' the abbey tree
And scale the babe fae Mary's heart
But the thing it wouldnae be


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: TRUBRIT
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 01:52 AM

Don't know but will be interested in the response......


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 03:06 AM

This verse is quoted from Child 173.I, 'Scott's Minstrelsy, 1833, III, 294, made up from various copies'. Scott makes no comment on the verse in question, but Child notes in his summary of the various versions 'She goes to the garden to pull the leaf off the tree, in a vain hope to be free of the babe, C3; it is the savin-tree, D4, the deceivin-tree, N3, the Abbey-tree (and pulled by the king), I6' and adds in a footnote 'Deceivin, Abbey, are of course savin misunderstood. One of the reciters of D (42) gave "saving".' (ESPB, III, 380).

The savin or savine tree is a species of juniper 'with very small imbricated leaves: its tops yielding an irritant volatile oil, anthelmintic and abortifacient' (Chambers Dictionary).

The verse, then, tells of an unsuccessful attempt to procure an abortion.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Wyrd Sister
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 06:22 AM

Malcolm, you are a marvel! Fascinating.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: goatfell
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 08:07 AM

I just that I was realted to Mary Hamilton, because my name is Tom Hamilton, so I could have a really famous realtion


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: kendall
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 08:14 AM

As I understand history, there never was a Mary Hamilton.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,PMB
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 08:41 AM

Never? The Oxford Dictionary of Biography lists THREE, between 1719 and 1966, one of whom was a Sexual Imposter!


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Dave Sutherland
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 09:41 AM

There is a similar instance in "Tam Lin" where on her second visit to Caterhaugh Tam asks Janet:-
"Why do you pull the bushes down Janet,
The little bush so green,
Is it all to twine yon pretty babe,
That we gat us between?"

The notes in Mc Edward Leach's Ballad Book cite that it was for the same reason.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: kendall
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 09:58 AM

There may well be 1000 Mary Hamiltons, but was there ever one who was involved with King James?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,TJ in San Diego
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 11:51 AM

I don't know if your Mary Hamilton has any connection to this, but I put it forth for others to follow up. Many years ago, I met a young singer who was a student at the University of Washington, Nancy Quense. I understand she still performs on occasion. One of the songs I recall from her repertoire was, I believe, "The Four Marys," or something very like it. I know that, for Joan Baez and a number of others in that period, drawing from the Child ballad collection and other historical sources was very much in vogue. I can still remember the tune, but the particular line that springs to mind is something like:

"Last night there were four Mary's,
Tonight, there'll be but three,
It was Mary Beaton, and Mary Seaton,
And Mary Carmichael and me."

I had always assumed it was based on historical events, possibly connected to Henry VIII. I would bet that Deckman or Don Firth could fill in the blanks on this one.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 12:08 PM

There was never any historical basis to this grim story. This ballad is just an example of what people did before soap opera.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,The Mole catcher's unplugged Apprentice
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 12:15 PM

'The verse, then, tells of an unsuccessful attempt to procure an abortion.'

'There was never any historical basis to this grim story. This ballad is just an example of what people did before soap opera.'

tune in next week when we'll hear Janet say..."I'll come by Carterhaugh and ask no leave nor be."

Charlotte (the view from Ma and Pa's piano stool)


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: kendall
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 12:41 PM

I read a book many years ago in which the author said there were three Marys, but no Hamilton.
According to her, this was supposed to have happened around the time of King James the 1st.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Doc John
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 05:41 PM

Mary Queen of Scots did indeed have the 'Four Marys' as attendants. However, although Marys Beaton and Seaton were real, Carmichael and Hamilton are inventions. The others were called Fleming and Livingstone. The story of the infanticide has continental origins. I heard the story of Mary Hamilton was promoted by John Knox to discredit Queen Mary.

Doc John


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Reiver 2
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 09:57 PM

For what they're worth:

The Joan Baez songbook, crediting Child Ballad #173, for the song "Mary Hamilton," says: "The ballad tale told here bears resemblance to two distinct historical occurrences: one relating to a 16th century incident in the court of Mary Queen of Scots, and the other to an affair in the court of Russia's Czar Peter in the 18th century. At this late date, however, oral tradition has altered the story too greatly to pinpoint the exact incident on which the ballad might have been based. The long circumstantial version given here does not have much currency today among traditionak singers; all that usually remains is a lyric lament in which Mary Hamilton makes a farewell swpeech without any explanation of why she is being punished." The verses, however, DO indicate that the "crime" was that of killing her "own wee babe.")

In "The Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English-Speaking World" (Ed. by Albert B. Friedman, 1956)contains two Mary Hmilton ballads. The intro for #173, "Mary Hamilton" (p.183) says: "The search for the historical Mary Hamilton has proved tantlizing but elusive. There was a circle of ladies-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, popularly called 'the four Maries,' but a Mary Hamilton was not among them. Her crime and punishment, however, parallel a scandal of Mary's reign involving a French attendant who was executed for murdering her newborn child. Not Darnley, 'the highest Stewart of a',' but the Queen's apothecary, the highest steward, was the French woman's accomplice in love and crime. This was in 1563.
In 1719 a beautiful Scottish maid-of-honor at Peter The Great's court
named Mary Hamilton was beheaded for infanticide. Other circumstances in the Russian case beside the name tally with the ballad: the girl, for one thing, refused to wear sober clothes to the scaffold. Also, her lover was a high-born courtier. One would be tempted to consider the ballad an outgrowth of the Russian tragedy of 1719 if it were not for the troublesome fact that some form of the ballad seems to heve been circulated in Scotland before 1719. This older form was probably a ballad in which the Frenchwoman's crime was foisted upon one of the four Maries. Perhaps such a connection arose because of the common use of 'mary' in Scotland for servant maid. In fact there is a version of 'Mary Hamilton' (see Child, IV 509) in which the girl is simply 'Marie' and her lover is a 'pottinger,' the court apothecary of the criminal records. Apparently the news from St. Petersburg and the real Mary Hamilton's jaunty demeanor caught the Scottish imagination and the old ballad was revamped to suit a new 'heroine.'"

On page 219 in a section titled Criminals' Goodnights is a ballad called "Mary Hamilton's Last Goodnight." The note says, " The old Scottish ballad of 'Mary Hamilton' tells the pathetic story of an unwed lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots, who murdered the child she had borne as the result of an amorous intrigue with a courtier -- in somw versions the seducer is Lord Darnley, the Queen's husband. She is sentenced to hang for her crime. Several American versions of 'Mary Hamilton' hardly even allude to the seduction or murder, probably out of prudery, but perhaps simply to gain sympathy for the 'heroine, and reduce the ballad to the touching lament which the condemned woman makes on the scaffold. This form of 'Mary Hamilton' furnishes us with a folk parallel for the broadside goodnight."

Finally, in the collection of Francis James Child of "English and Scottish Popular Ballads, (edited by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge), 1904, is this notation for Ballad # 173, "Mary Hamilton." "When Mary Stuart was sent to France in 1548, being then between 5 and 6 (years old), ashe had four companions, 'sundry gentlewomen and noblemen's sons and daughters , almost of her own age, of which there were four in special of whom every one of them bore the same name of Mary, being of four sundry honorable houses, to wit, Fleming, Livingston, Seton, and Beaton of Creich; who remained all four with the queen in France during her residence there, and returned again in Scotland with her Majesty in the year of our Lord 1561.'

"This ballad purports to relate the tragic history of one of queen's Maries. In some of the versions her lover is said to be the king (Darnley). The ballad seems to have taken its rise in an incident which occurred at Mary's court in 1563, which involved the queen's apothecary and 'a French woman that served in the Queen's chamber.' There is also a striking coincidence between the ballad and the fate of a Miss Hamiloton who, in the reign of Peter the Great, was one of the attendants of the Russian Empress." There are two versions of the ballad "Mary Hamilton" that follow.

I think it's safe to say that there are no simple answers as to the origin and/or subjects of the ballad or ballads. The answer to the original question is clearly explained by Malcolm Douglas in the 3rd post on this thread and, perhaps, should have stopped there. My post here probably involves far more information and speculation than anyone reading this really wanted to know, but I had some time on my hands so there you are. One thing I think, is clear and that is that there ARE historical roots (more than one root, it seems) for the ballad.

Reiver 2


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 08:16 PM

In the song titled Mary Hamilton
is she really going to a wedding?


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Susan of DT
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 09:05 PM

guest - that is the excuse they gave her to get her out to take her to (judicial) court.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Nov 11 - 09:33 PM

"to scale the babe fae Mary's heart'

probably should be frae, not fae. "to scale the babe from Mary's heart"


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: EBarnacle
Date: 03 Nov 11 - 10:14 AM

The St. Petersburg Mary was executed for more than just the murder. Peter th Great had been making an effort to reduce the level of licentiousness leading to unwed motherhood and to build up the population. Mary had repeatedly murdered her infants and, after she had been warned, did it again. Despite her involvement at court, Peter had no choice but to execute her to demonstrate that his laws applied to all, both high and low.

There was a book about Peter a couple of years ago which mentioned this. In an earlier thread on this topic, I gave the exact citation.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: goatfell
Date: 03 Nov 11 - 10:48 AM

good try though


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Joe_F
Date: 03 Nov 11 - 03:41 PM

I no longer have my copy of Child's collection, but my recollection is that initially he concluded that the ballad must have originated in the Russian story, in view of a number of remarkable resemblances in detail, but he was dubious in that that implied an implausibly late origin. In one of his appended remarks he stated that he had discovered some Scottish antecedents, and so had changed his mind.


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Subject: RE: Lyr Req: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST
Date: 04 Nov 11 - 12:50 PM

Would highly recommend Mrs Texas Gladden's singing of this ballad - especially the recording that includes her talking about how she visualises it while she sings it (to Lomax??)
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Joe Offer
Date: 29 Apr 16 - 09:42 PM

Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song:

Mary Hamilton [Child 173]

DESCRIPTION: Mary Hamilton, servant to the queen, is pregnant (by the queen's husband). She tries to hide her guilt by casting the boy out to sea, but is seen and convicted. She is condemned to die
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1790
KEYWORDS: pregnancy homicide abandonment punishment execution
HISTORICAL REFERENCES:
1542 - Accession of Mary Stewart
1548 - Mary Stewart sent to France (later married to King Francis II)
1561 - Mary Stewart returns to Scotland
1567 - Death of Lord Darnley. Mary Stewart deposed
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber,Bord)) US(Ap,MW,NE,SE,So,SW) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (35 citations):
Child 173, "Mary Hamilton" (27 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's#5}
Bronson 173, "Mary Hamilton" (12 versions+1 in addenda)
BarryEckstormSmyth pp. 258-264, "Mary Hamilton" (2 texts plus some variants and a verse of "Peter Amberley" they claim floated in from this song, 1 tune plus some cited extracts) {Bronson's #7; the first short excerpt is from Bronson's #6}
Randolph 26, "The Four Maries" (1 fragment)
Moore-Southwest 35, "The Four Marys" (1 text, 1 tune)
Owens-1ed, pp. 63-65, "The Four Marys" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #9}
Owens-2ed, pp. 27-28, "The Four Marys" (1 text, 1 tune)
Flanders/Olney, pp. 79-80, "The Four Marys" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #7}
Flanders-Ancient3, pp. 163-169, "Mary Hamilton" (2 texts plus a fragment, with the fragment containing parts of "MacPherson's Lament"; 3 tunes) {B=Bronson's #7}
Davis-Ballads 36, "Mary Hamilton" (2 fragments from the same informant, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Davis-More 32, pp. 245-252, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text plus 2 fragments, 1 tune) {Bronson's #8}
Leach, pp. 481-483, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
Leach-Heritage, pp. 86-88, "Mary Hamilton (The Four Maries)" (1 text)
Friedman, p. 184, "Mary Hamilton"; p. 219, "Mary Hamilton's Last Goodnight" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Creighton-Maritime, pp. 22-23, "Mary Hamilton" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Creighton-SNewBrunswick 3, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text, 1 tune)
OBB 83, "The Queen's Marie" (1 text)
PBB 61, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
Niles 51, "Mary Hamilton" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Gummere, pp. 159-161+334-335, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
Combs/Wilgus 32, pp. 124-126, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
Hodgart, p. 138, "Marie Hamilton" (1 text)
DBuchan 33, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
GreigDuncan2 195, "The Four Maries" (4 texts, 3 tunes) {B=#6, C=#11}
GlenbuchatBallads, pp. 27-29, "The Queen's Mary" (1 text)
Lyle-Crawfurd2 123, "Marie Hamilton" (1 text)
Ord, p. 457, "The Queen's Maries" (1 text)
TBB 23, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
HarvClass-EP1, pp. 117-119, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text)
Abrahams/Foss, pp. 49-52, "Mary Hamilton" (2 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #6}
Wells, pp. 48-49, "Mary Hamilton" (1 text, 1 tune)
Whitelaw-Ballads, pp. 261-263, "The Queen's Marie"; pp. 263-264, "Mary Hamilton" (2 texts)
Silber-FSWB, p. 211, "The Four Maries" (1 text)
DT 173, MARYHAM1* MARYHAM2 MARYHAM3* MARYHAM4*
ADDITIONAL: Andrew Lang, "The Mystery of 'The Queen's Marie,'" article published 1895 in _Blackwoods Magazine_; republished on pp. 19-28 of Norm Cohen, editor, _All This for a Song_, Southern Folklife Collection, 2009

Roud #79
RECORDINGS:
Jeannie Robertson, "Mary Hamilton (The Four Marys)" (on FSB5 [as "The Four Maries"], FSBBAL2)
ALTERNATE TITLES:
The Purple Dress
Mary Mild
The Duke o' York's Dother
NOTES: Mary Stewart (the French used the spelling "Stuart") became Queen of Scotland when she was eight days old (1542).
Scotland being the chaotic place that it was, she was only a child when she was sent abroad to marry into and be brought up at the court of France (1548). To keep her good company, four well-bred Scots girls were sent with her to keep her company (it should be noted, though, that none of them was named Hamilton). Her husband Francis II died in 1560, however, and Mary Stewart went home.
There she married her cousin, Henry, Lord Darnley. It does not seem to have been an overly happy match, so Darnley might well have engaged in extracurricular activities. In any case, Darnley was murdered in 1567. Soon after, Mary was (forcibly?) married by the Earl of Bothwell; in that same year she was deposed in favor of her son.
Nowhere in her troubled reign do we find reference to a serving girl's pregnancy; one theory has it that the story arose with the troubles of a Mary Hamilton at the Russian court. Another theory, first advanced by Scott, connects it with members of Mary Stuart's court *other than* the four Maries and Lord Darnley.
It also occurs to me that there is the case of the son of George III, who in due time would become George IV. According to Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, Blood Royal: The Illustrious House of Hanover (Doubleday, 1980), p. 118, Prince George at one time "had fallen in love with Mary Hamilton, one of his sisters' governesses." Whether this is relevant depends of course on the earliest date of the song. There are a number of mentions in the early nineteenth century. If we can push it before about 1780, then of course this Mary Hamilton is out of the question. Of course George IV's Mary Hamilton didn't kill her baby, but her affair with the Prince of Wales might have influenced the character in this song.
For extensive discussion of the matter (which is, however, rather more theoretical than practical) see Davis-More, pp. 246-248. - RBW
Also collected and sung by Ellen Mitchell, "Mary Mild" (on Kevin and Ellen Mitchell, "Have a Drop Mair," Musical Tradition Records MTCD315-6 CD (2001)) - BS
Last updated in version 3.5
File: C173

Go to the Ballad Search form
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Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography

The Ballad Index Copyright 2015 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Jim Brown
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 04:03 AM

> Nowhere in her troubled reign do we find reference to a serving girl's pregnancy

Not quite. There's the incident (mentioned by Child) that John Knox reports in his History of the Reformation in Scotland as having happened in 1563:

In the verie tyme of the Generall Assemblie, thair cumis to publyct knawlege ane heinous murdour committed in the Courte, yea, not far from the Quenis awin lap; for ane Frenche woman, that servit in the Quenis chalmer had playit the hure with the Quenis awin hipoticary. The woman conceveit and bare ane child, quhome with commoune consent the father and the mother murthered. Yit wer the cryis of ane new borne barne hard; searche wes maid, the chylde and mother wes baith deprehendit; and so wer baith the man and the woman dampned to be hangit upoun the publict streit of Edinburgh. The punischment wes notable, becaus the cryme wes heinous. Bot yit wes not the Courte purged of hureis and huredome, quhilk wes the fontane of sik enormiteis; for it wes weill knawn, that schame haistit mariage betwix Johne Sempill, callit the Danser, and Marie Levingstoune, surnameit the Lustie. What bruit the Maries and the rest of the dansaris of the Courte had, the ballattis of that aige did witnes, quhilk we for modesteis sake omit. (Ed. David Laing, 1848: Vol. 2, pp. 415-416 - https://archive.org/details/worksofjohnkn02knox)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: Keith A of Hertford
Date: 30 Apr 16 - 04:28 AM

There was another mary Hamilton.
This from another thread.

The Four Mary's - who were they really?
From: Keith A of Hertford - PM
Date: 18 Jul 01 - 12:33 PM

As mentioned above, the famous 4 Marys at Mary Stuart's court did not include a Mary Hamilton, but they did inspire popular ballads at the time. John Knox writing about them said,"The ballads of the age did witness which we for modesty's sake omit." Also we have the other lady in waiting hanged for infanticide. This would have greatly excited the scandal mongers of the day
It is likely that an early version of our ballad emerged at this time.
Mary Hamilton was a maid of honour at the court of Catherine the Great. She was executed for killing her baby. The father was widely believed to have been the Tsar Peter. So many parallels to the song can hardly be coincidence.

Clearly some long forgotten balladeer wove all these threads together and produced the hauntingly lovely song that has come down to us.
So you see Guest, it did happen, and it does matter. Poor Mary dying friendless and far from home deserves to have her story sung and the cruel injustice remembered.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: toadfrog
Date: 30 Oct 16 - 08:35 PM

No one seems quite clear whether the story is originally from the court of Mary Queen of Scots (because there were courtiers named Mary Seton and Beton, but no Mary Hamilton, in her court) or the court of Peter the Great. Robert Masse's biography of Peter the Great identifies a MARIE Hamilton in that court as having been executed, after bearing and killing three children sequentially. He does not suggest that Peter was the father, although sometimes that is said in.

Certainly not in the court of Catherine the Great (Catherine II) who came along a few decades later. Peter's wife was crowned Catherine I when he died. Different person. Professor Child believed the Ballad must have come from Mary Queen of Scots' court, believing it was too well seasoned to have arisen as recently as Peter the Great. But I don't believe there is any record of a Mary Hamilton in Mary Stuart's service.
I think all this proves that ballads are not a good historical source. Folk singers performing on stage may be even less reliable.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 31 Oct 16 - 02:28 AM


In 2004 I printed an article "Two Problematical Scottish Ballads" in the on-line magazine Musical Traditions. Part of the article concerned a text of "Mary Hamilton" that I had gathered from the Scottish storyteller George Macpherson of Skye. George had learnt it in 1946 from his great-aunt, Annie Gibb, of Crumnock, Ayreshire. There were three verses that were new to me:

I took a message frae ma Queen,
Lord Bothwell for tae see;
But when he cast his een o'er it,
Richt weel he beddit me.

Tae Edinboro I then returned,
His answer for tae gie;
But when she kent that I was bairn't,
Richt black she glowered on me.

'Ye bear the fruit o my ain love,
This treason is tae me;
And for the blot o shame ye bring,
On the gallows ye shall dee.'

I didn't know if any other version of the ballad had suggested that Lord Bothwell, lover to Mary Queen of Scots, was the father of Mary's child. So I printed the "new" text.

I also mentioned that, according to Gavin Greig,there were "modern" additions to the ballad, although he did not give examples. So, did George's text contain three "modern" verses or not? I look forward to any comments that readers may have.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Mary Hamilton - meanings
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 31 Oct 16 - 02:42 PM

Scale is a Scots dialect word which means spill, or rinse. (Mind ye dinnae scale that watter hen = Mind you don't spill that water lass.) It appears to be Scandinavian in origin, related to the Norwegian word skyll. meaning rinse.
Scots shares many words with Scandinavian languages, like kirk, and bairn (barn)
I read somewhere that this song was based on a Russian story.
"She continues: "However, the ballad is not known before 1790 and could have had its starting point in a later incident that took place in Russia at the court of Peter the Great in 1719, when Mary Hamilton, a beautiful young woman who was maid-of-honour to the Empress Catherine, was beheaded for infanticide in the Czar's presence. It is not improbable that there are reminiscences of both these historical events in the ballad narrative."

From here http://sangstories.webs.com/fourmaries.htm


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