King Henry Was King James’ Son


Jon says, “Fay recorded this on Looking Glass. She found it in the Huddleston collection.”

It doesn’t seem to have much of a life beyond Jon and Fay as far as I can tell, so please advise if you know differently, but there seems to be nowt on Mudcat and only Fay’s version at Mainly Norfolk. It’s a simple if somewhat oblique little song that seems to demand actions to go with it, like some sort of children’s game, although not one I can recall. Any additional information will be appreciated.

You can buy the February digital album now from all good download stores.


29 Responses to “King Henry Was King James’ Son”

  1. Adam says:

    The Yorkshire Garland Group website features this (as “King William Was King George’s Son”) among their collection of Yorkshire children’s songs, including a recording by Nona Cromack: The tune is the same.

    The Roud index lists it as number 4203, and, while King William is the most common name used, it is also found under King George, King Richard, King Charles…

    My copy of Newell, Games and Songs of American Children (1903), lists it as King Arthur was King William’s Son, and describes a children’s marching and singing game. He goes on to say that the “rhyme is exceedingly familiar, throughout the Middle and Southern States, as a kissing-round.”

    So lots of kings, and lots of kissing.

  2. otter says:

    Thank you for bringing this lovely song to light.

    And thanks for the info, Adam. It saves me wondering if my memory is faulty, because I cannot recall that a Henry ever succeeded a James on the throne of England or Scotland – the only obvious candidate, James I’s son Henry, having died fatefully young.

  3. Adam says:

    Perhaps King William is the original, and the others are Remnant Kings…

  4. Jane Ramsden says:


  5. Joe Offer says:

    We have a bit of a thread at Mudcat on this song:

    We have the song indexed as “King William Was King George’s Son” – but, of course, the song has many titles.

    Interesting song.

    -Joe Offer, The Mudcat Cafe-

  6. muzza(s.E.England) says:

    Blimey…the pre-dawn chorus boys and girls are up early again!.Great little song…I can almost hear an 8ft long skipping rope pounding away. This was a kissing song..I wonder what modern youngsters would expect if it came back into fashion.

  7. Shelley says:

    Best not to encourage kissing in the playground I think!

    Fabulous song and a real earworm too!

  8. SRD says:

    Willy, Willy, Harry, Steve
    Harry, Dick, John Harry III.
    One, two, three Ned, Richard II
    Henry IV,V,VI then who?
    Edward, Edward, Dick the bad,
    Henrys two then Ned the Lad,
    Mary, Lizzie, James the vain,
    Charlies two then James again,
    William & Mary, Anna Gloria,
    Four Georges, William and Victoria.
    Edward, George, Edward, George.

    James II was William III’s uncle and William the IV was George II’s son-in-law so neither are strictly accurate, but hey, this is folk music, when did the truth ever get in the way of a good song?

    Oh dear Shelley, I remember my first ‘proper’ kiss, that was in the playground (actually the playing field) and I couldn’t sleep that night for murmuring her name (not that, mucky minds).

  9. Simon says:

    Welcome back Jane – a flurry of comments for me to pick through.

    Thanks, for the Mudcat link Joe, although the reason I couldn’t find it is a lack of insider knowledge and novice status. I only have Fay’s version as a reference point.

    Thanks also to Adam for that link giving some nice provenance.

    Thanks SRD for the rhyme, I guess that needs to be repeated until it sticks.

  10. Jane Ramsden says:

    Thank you, Skyman! No need to bother too much about my back comments, but I am deternined to go through the back catalogue almost as though I had been here all along. Not quite the same experience, so I promise not to back-anorak you to death!

    I did not know this song, despite the Yorkshire connection. Thanks, Adam, for the link to the The Yorkshire Garland Group site. I have visited it before, as I recognised the home page.

    I have an old-fashioned school ruler with kings & queens in date order and a dinky Collins’ miniature book. I like small containers of big knowledge… especially as the memory fades… don’t remember the first kiss either… how sad is that! Hahahaha!

  11. John Burton says:

    Sorry to be picky Jane BUT I was always told (quite severely) the Queen is a ruler, 12 inches is a “Rule”.
    I have one of those 12″ rule thingy’s with the Kings and Queens on the back too.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Well, I have never been told that, John, so yet again AFSAD teaches me sthg new! I do take the point, but suspect it was a rule – hahaha! – devised out of strict respect for the monarchy. You realise I am gonna have to anorak it now in the dickshunary! I’ll be back!

  13. muzza(s.e.England) says:

    @John @Jane@SRD….I never comment on this sort of thing as a rule (see what I did there!)…….I had that ‘Queen/ruler ..12″/rule’ imparted on me as a child and thanks to SRD for the rhyme….I will treasure….. this in case some whippersnapper ever asks!
    Don’t forget you can see Folk Award re-run on BBC for a week.

  14. LadyD says:

    @SRD….what about some extra verses to bring it up to date? 😉

  15. Eric says:

    I remember this as a song at parties in early 1950’s in the West Riding. We sang ” Price William was King Georges son” and ” wore a star pointing to the Russian war”

  16. muzza (s.e.England) says:

    @LadyD.. ref SRD post…add verse..perhaps:-

    William & Mary, Anna Gloria
    Four Georges, William & Victoria

    Edward, George then Edward eight
    Who chose , for love, to abdicate
    George stepped in then daughter Lizzie
    Keeping speculators busy

  17. Jane Ramsden says:

    Anorak contribution from Chamber’s Dictionary:

    Rule = a straight-edged strip used as a guide in drawing straight lines or as a measuring rod etc. etc.

    Ruler = a strip or roller for ruling lines; a person who rules.

    You will note which is the primary definition! Schools were just rulering – yes, that is a word! – childer with the respect for the monarchy line! Nothing wrong with respect, but no need to bend the language to fit a form of political correctness.

    Of course, common parlance could have bent the rule, so the dictionary changed as time past. I don’t rule that possibility out!

  18. Paul Peters says:

    In the Catholic succession after James II was overthrown, “King Henry IX” was indeed “King James III”‘s son, James being the Old Pretender and Henry’s elder brother Charles the Young Pretender. The titles were used by some European governments, and presumably by some Jacobite supporters in this country. The direct line died out with Henry, who was after all a Cardinal, so with him “the royal race was run”. Just a thought. Apologies to Scottish readers who can change the regnal numbers as they see fit.

  19. Daina says:

    Like this one. Has anyone watched “Horrible Histories”? The cast do the Kings and Queens in order, in song and in appropriate costume. Only as far as Victoria though so Muzza’s little ode finishes it off nicely.

  20. John Bryson says:

    I came across this at Jon’s concert at Cecil Sharp House June 2011 to mark the completion of the AFSAD project, Fay sang it with her trio of Rob Harbron and Sam Sweeney. I thought Fay’s version, like Jon’s here, is super. I find the song very catchy and sing-along, trying to learn it for our next folk club Singers night

  21. throw pilows for your couch…

    […]King Henry Was King James’ Son « A Folk Song A Day[…]…

  22. Diana says:

    Such a jolly song this one, and I do like Fay’s version as well.

  23. Marie says:

    … new commenter here, so please bear with me.

    I’d support what Paul Peters said; Henry Stuart was indeed referred to as King Henry by some (although I’d have to look into my literature on Jacobite Songs to come up with a reference).

    Also, Horrible Histories are awesome indeed. 😉

  24. Diana says:

    You are right about Horrible Histories – one could learn a lot of facts from watching it.

  25. Little old Muzza(N.W surrey.UK) says:

    And Elvis’s name didn’t come up once with all these Kings!..
    Hey fellow AFSADers….Next wednesday and 10pm (I think on BBC2 Radio)…
    David Attenborough revives an old programme..’History of English Folk song’…but you all knew that didn’t you.

  26. Diana says:

    Of course Muzza, should be worth ;istening too.

    Love this song, Jon sings it well and so too does Fay. A nice jolly singalong sone.

  27. This song is mentioned in the Newberry Award winning book “Strawberry Girl” by Lois Lenski (pg 86). It is a square dance song that was fiddled and played in the Florida frontier in the early 1900’s.

  28. Jane (Maryland, US) says:

    Thanks for the explanation, Muzza.
    I just watched your video of Cold Blow and the Rainy Night. Glad you finally posted it!

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/ on line 121