Lord Delamere [Child 207]
DESCRIPTION: The king wants a new tax. Delamere asks for charge of all the poor of the land, to hang them; better they hang than starve. A lord says he deserves death, but Devonshire, fighting for Delamere, kills the lord and finds he is wearing the king's armor
EARLIEST DATE: 1827 (Lyle)
KEYWORDS: royalty nobility trick money death accusation
FOUND IN: Britain
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Child 207, "Lord Delamere" (4 texts)
Dixon-Peasantry, Ballad #7, pp. 80-85, "Lord Delaware" (1 text)
Bell-Combined, pp. 284-287, "Lord Delaware" (1 text)
NOTES: This sort of gesture of defiance (compare Swift's "A Modest Proposal") is much more common in story than truth; there is no reason to believe that the events here ever took place. Child gives what background there can be.
The one interesting point I observe is that the lords involved were mostly active at the time of the Glorious Revolution (1688) -- and, what's more, Lord Delamore (1652-1694) and William Cavendish, Earl of Devonshire (1641-1707; Duke of Devonshire from 1694) both gave open support to William of Orange. Delamere, in fact, went on to be one of the Lords of the Treasury.
Perhaps this originated as some sort of Williamite broadside? Or, perhaps, an attempt to save Devonshire from protests? (He is said to have been poor about paying tradesmen.)
Dixon (followed by Bell) had a different theory. The lord in his version was not Lord Delamere but Lord Delaware -- and Dixon conjectured that that should be Lord Delamare. A good conjecture -- but then Dixon suggested that this Lord Delamare was Thomas de la Mare (correctly Peter de la Mare) speaker of the House of Commons in the "Good Parliament" of 1376. This was certainly a memorable Parliament -- it tried to clean up abuses and also regulated the succession after the death of the Prince of Wales, Edward the Black Prince -- but none of the other characters make any sense in that context. The song is a much better fit for the Glorious Revolution. - RBW
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