Lady Diamond [Child 269]
DESCRIPTION: The king's daughter Lady (Daisy) is with child by a kitchen boy. The king has the boy killed and a token (his heart) sent to Lady Daisy. She dies for love (prompting the king's deep regret)
EARLIEST DATE: 1823 (Sharpe)
KEYWORDS: royalty execution pregnancy death bastard
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (10 citations):
Child 269, "Lady Diamond" (5 texts)
Bronson 269, "Lady Diamond" (4 versions)
BronsonSinging 269, "Lady Diamond" (3 versions: #2, #3, #4)
Dixon XIV, pp. 71-72, "Ladye Diamond" (1 text)
GlenbuchatBallads, pp. 35-36, "Lady Dysmond" (1 text)
Greig #162, p. 3, "Lady Dysie" (1 text fragment)
GreigDuncan6 1224, "Lady Dysie" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
Leach, pp. 635-636, "Lady Diamond" (1 text, correctly titled but erroneously numbered as Child 264)
PBB 37, "Lady Diamond" (1 text)
DT 269, LADYDIAM* LADYDIA2
cf. "Willie o Winsbury" [Child 100] (plot)
NOTES [365 words]: [A. L. Lloyd writes,] "Boccaccio re-tells [this story] in his tale of Ghismonda and Guiscardo, and in later years it was made into a play in England and elsewhere. Versified into a ballad, it was widely known throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia." - PJS
The link to Boccaccio was noted long before Lloyd; Child mentions it and many non-English analogies, and the link to the Decameron goes back at least to Dixon.
The tale is the first story of the fourth day, told by Fiammetta. In outline, the Decameron account is precisely "Lady Diamond," but there are also substantial differences. In "Lady Diamond," the girl is pregnant and the father forces the truth out of her; in Boccaccio, she is already a widow and her father discovers the truth accidentally; in "Lady Diamond," she dies for love, whereas in the Decameron, she takes poison, and the Italian tale ends with the king's repentance, something rare in the ballad.
With all that said, it's hard to doubt that the two spring from the same sources -- the image of the man's heart in a cup is hard to forget! And the tale was readily available in English; a translation was printed by Wynken de Worde in 1532, probably edited by Robert Copland (Knight/Ohlgren, p. 116). Much of the difference may be simply due to the fact that the Decameron version had to be fleshed out to a full story, while the ballad version, like most ballads, strips much inessential detail.
What is certain, and needs no Boccaccio to tell it, is that a man who got a nobleman's daughter pregnant could expect no mercy. These daughters were intended to cement marriage alliances, and anyone who got them pregnant reduced their value in the marriage market. The punishments could be savage. For instance, Prestwich, p. 109, notes that the French King Philip IV flayed alive the knights who had had affairs with his daughters. By that standard, the king in this song was arguably merciful.
The delivery of a murdered man's heart is also well-attested. Doherty, p. 187, quotes a letter stating that, after the murder of Edward II, his heart (and head) were delivered to his wife Isabella -- although, in this case, she wanted them as proof of his death. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Doherty: Paul Doherty, Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II, Carroll & Graf, 2003
- Ohlgren/Matheson: Thomas H. Ohlgren, Robin Hood: The Early Poems, 1465-1560, Texts, Contexts, and Ideology, with an Appendix: The Dialects and Languages of Selected Robin Hood Poes by Lister M. Matheson, University of Delaware Press, 2007
- Prestwich: Michael Prestwich, The Three Edwards: War and State in England 1272-1377, Weidenfeld, 1980 (I use the 2001 Routledge paperback edition)
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