Willie o Winsbury [Child 100]

DESCRIPTION: The king has been a prisoner; he returns to find his daughter looking ill. She proves to be pregnant; her lover was (Willie o Winsbury). The king orders Winsbury hanged, but upon seeing him, understands his daughter's action and allows the two to wed
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1776 (Percy MS.)
KEYWORDS: pregnancy punishment pardon royalty
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber,Bord),England(West,South)) US(Ap,NE) Canada(Newf) Ireland
REFERENCES (24 citations):
Child 100, "Willie o Winsbury" (9 texts, 1 tune) {Bronson's #22}
Bronson 100, "Willie o Winsbury" (22 versions+1 in addenda, of which #2 is a Manx fragment which may not be related)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 100, "Willie o Winsbury" (5 versions: #1, #3, #4, #10, #22)
Greig/Duncan5 999, "Lord Thomas of Winchbury" (10 texts [including one fragment on pp. 610-611; see NOTES], 7 tunes)
Lyle-Andrew-CrawfurdsCollectionVolume1 11, "The King's Dochter Jean" (1 text)
Barry/Eckstorm/Smyth-BritishBalladsFromMaine pp. 224-225, "Willie o Winsbury" (notes only, claiming a verse in one of their versions of "Johnny Scot" is actually a "Willie" fragment)
Flanders/Olney-BalladsMigrantInNewEngland, pp. 233-235, "Johnny Barbour" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #21}
Flanders-AncientBalladsTraditionallySungInNewEngland3, pp. 57-66, "Willie o Winsbury" (3 texts plus a fragment, 3 tunes) {A=Bronson's #21, B=#20}
Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland 13, "Young Barbour" (3 texts, 3 tunes) {Bronson's #16, #13, #12}
Peacock, pp. 534-536, "John Barbour" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Karpeles-FolkSongsFromNewfoundland 14, "Willie o' Winsbury" (2 texts, 4 tunes) {Bronson's #17}
Leach-TheBalladBook, pp. 308-309, "Willie o Winsbury" (1 text)
Leach-HeritageBookOfBallads, pp. 57-58, "Willie o Winsbury" (1 text)
Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast 7, "Willie O Winsbury" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Lehr/Best-ComeAndIWillSingYou 62, "John Barbour" (1 text, 1 tune)
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 45, "Willie o Winsbury" (1 text)
Sharp-OneHundredEnglishFolksongs 15, "Lord Thomas of Winesberry" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #11}
Karpeles-TheCrystalSpring 8, "Willie o' WInsbury" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's #11}
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 59, "Lord Thomas of Winesberry" (1 text)
Reeves-TheEverlastingCircle 139, "Willie O' Winsbury" (1 text)
Combs/Wilgus-FolkSongsOfTheSouthernUnitedStates 29, pp. 123-124, "Willie o Winsbury" (1 text)
Darling-NewAmericanSongster, pp. 71-73, "Willie O Winsbury" (1 text)
Henry/Huntingdon/Herrmann-SamHenrysSongsOfThePeople H221, pp. 490-491, "The Rich Ship Owner's Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)

Roud #64
Everett Bennett, "John Barbour" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Anita Best and Pamela Morgan, "Johnny Barbour" (on NFABestPMorgan01)
Robert Cinnamond, "There Was a Lady Lived in the West" (on Voice17); "John Barlow" (on IRRCinnamond03)

cf. "Lady Diamond" [Child 269] (plot)
The Seven Sailor Boys
The Rich Shipowner's Daughter
The Prood King of France
What Aileth Thee?
NOTES [730 words]: Only one king of England since the Norman Conquest has been taken captive by a foreign power: Richard I ("the Lion-Hearted"; "Richard Yes-and-No") was imprisoned by the Duke of Austria. All told, Richard spent only six months of his ten year reign (1189-1199) in England. Unfortunately for the truth of this song, Richard (who may have been homosexual) had no children (at least, none that were legitimate; there was supposedly an illegitimate son. But he was a boy anyway, so he couldn't have been the girl in this song anyway). Few other English kings have been absent from England long enough for the events here to take place.
If we transfer the story to Scotland, we find that David Bruce (reigned 1329-1370) spent much of his life in English captivity, but again had no children. The earlier William the Lion (reigned 1165-1214) also spent time in English hands, and *did* have children (including two daughters, Margaret and Isabella) -- but also had no feelings, and would never have been guilty of such a crime as forgiving someone. King James I spent eighteen years in English custody, starting in 1406 (meaning that he was in prison for half the reign of Henry IV, all the reign of Henry V, and a little of the reign of Henry VI), but he didn't marry (Joan Beaufort) until about the time he was freed; he had no children at the time. And although one of his daughters was named Joan, which isn't too far from Janet, James was assassinated in 1437, which surely means his children were all too young to get pregnant!
This leaves king John of France (reigned 1350-1364), who was taken prisoner by the Black Prince at Poitiers (1355), as the closest thing we have to an equivalent to the king in this ballad.
In some versions of the song, the hero Willie is himself a king in disguise; there is no evidence of this ever having happened in truth, though it is common in folktale (associated especially with James V of Scotland).
There was once a Winsbury in Somerset; the name, according to Ekwall, p. 524, is a shortening of "Wineces burug" or "Winuc's Burg"; the name is twice attested from the 960s. Google Maps does not allow its existence, but it seems to have been near Bath.
"Winsbury" is also an attested medieval surname; there were two knights named Thomas Wynnesbury, father and son, who were active in the west country starting in the 1320s -- the elder served as deputy justice of North Wales. They were associated with the FitzAlan Earls of Arundel (Fein, pp. 89-90). They weren't particularly noteworthy, but what is interesting is that the height of the younger Wynnesbury's career was about the time King John of France was captured at Poitiers. If Thomas Junior had had a son, the ages would likely have been about right. The flip side is, they can't have been as rich as implied in this song.
The idea of giving someone as much land as he can traverse in a day is by no means unique to this ballad, although all the land one could ride in a day is an incredibly large property. A version one could walk in a day is more reasonable, or even what one could hop. Kellett, p. 79, mentions the case of one Haverah, a "legendary one legged man to whom John of Gaunt... is supposed to have granted as much land as he could hop round on the longest day -- the result of which was Haverah Park, near Harrowgate, in which are the ruins of a hunting lodge called John of Gaunt's Castle."
In both of the Leach-FolkBalladsSongsOfLowerLabradorCoast texts, as well as the Greenleaf/Mansfield-BalladsAndSeaSongsOfNewfoundland Newfoundland texts, the suitor is "Young Barbour," and he "ploughs the raging sea." This is a fascinating and intriguing change, because the Barbour family produced many famous Newfoundland captains -- people with no high political office but much respect in the community, and often rather well-to-do by Newfoundland standards. Several of them are mentioned in Newfoundland songs; for Alpheus Barbour, see "Sealer's Song (II)"; for Baxter, "The Nimrod's Song"; for George, "The Greenland Disaster (I)"; and for Wilf Barbour, "A Noble Fleet of Sealers." - RBW
A fragment, Bodleian, 2806 c.11(90), "Lord Thomas of Winsborough" ("It happen'd on a time when the proud king of France"), unknown, n.d. may be this ballad but I could not download it to verify that.
Greig/Duncan5 text count includes one fragment on pp. 610-611 corrected by 999J. - BS
BibliographyLast updated in version 5.1
File: C100

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