Eppie Morrie [Child 223]

DESCRIPTION: Willie and his gang steal away Eppie Morrie to make her his bride. The minister refuses to marry them without her consent. Willie forces her to bed and attempts to rape her; she fends off his attempts. In the morning she demands the right to return home
AUTHOR: unknown
KEYWORDS: abduction rape rejection escape sex
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Child 223, "Eppie Morrie" (1 text)
Bronson 223, "Eppie Morrie" (1 version)
Bronson-SingingTraditionOfChildsPopularBallads 223, "Eppie Morrie" (1 versioin)
MacColl-PersonalChoice, pp. 9-11, "Eppie Morrie" (1 text, 1 tune) {Bronson's (#1)}
Grigson-PenguinBookOfBallads 51, "Eppie Morrie" (1 text)
Buchan-ABookOfScottishBallads 37, "Eppie Morrie" (1 text)

Roud #2583
Jimmy McBeath, "Eppie Morrie" [fragment] (on FSBBAL2)
cf. "The Lady of Arngosk [Child 224]" (plot)
cf. "Walter Lesly" [Child 296] (plot)
NOTES [1209 words]: Like Willie Macintosh [Child 183; see comment there], the only known tune for this song is that given by Ewan MacColl. - (AS)
Though we note the fragment collected from Jimmy McBeath, which was not known to Bronson. MacColl, p. 67, claims to have learned the song from his father, who was dead by the time anyone was interested in documenting MacColl's repertoire. In MacColl-PersonalChoice, p. 68, MacColl claimed to have from his father William Miller and from Samuel Wylie.
To give MacColl credit, if he did shape this tune, it's a great one. But he may have speeded it up. MacColl, p. 270, says that this was one of the first four songs he ever recorded, in 1950, for release on 78s. All four songs he wanted to sing were too long for a 78, to the disgust of the recording technicians, and MacColl started singing the songs breathlessly fast.
The idea of rape as a method to secure a marriage is well-documented. Prestwich, pp. 156-157, tells of one Alice de Lacy who may actually have experienced this *twice* in the early fourteenth century:
"In 1317 she was abducted from her husband, the Earl of Lancaster, by one of [Earl] Warenne's knights, Richard de St Martin. He claimed to be her real husband, as he had slept with her before her marriage; a statement which Alice supported. In 1324 she married Eblo Lestrange in an undoubted love match and on his death took vows of chastity. Then in a dramatic scene in Bolingbroke Castle in 1336 she was again abducted, this time by Hugh de Frenes.... When she came down she was placed firmly on horseback. Only then did she realize the gravity of her situation, and she promptly fell off in an attempt to escape. She was put back, with a groom mounted behind her to hold her on, and led off to Somerton Castle. There, according to the record, Hugh raped her in breach of the king's peace. Since she was by then in her mid-fifties, it is likely that Hugh was attracted more by her vast estates than by her physical charms. As frequently happened in medieval cases of rape, the couple soon married."
Prestwich adds that de Lacy chose to be buried by Lestrange. Although this may say less about Lestrange than about the fact that Thomas of Lancaster was a complete and utter jerk (Hicks, pp. 48-49).
(The aftermath of all this, incidentally, was the extinction of the Earldom of Lincoln, which had been the reason everyone sought to marry her: "The last man to bear this title had been Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, who had borne the title by right of his wife, Alice, the last surviving child of Henry, Earl of Lincoln. The Earl of Suffolk had seized the countess and taken her away from Lancaster, to her great delight, and so Henry of Lancaster was unable to inherit the Lincoln title.... She was forty-eight years old, and knew she would not bear an heir herself, although she was married to Sir Ebulo Lestrange, a Shropshire baron. Thus the title was bound to become extinct with her death" -- Mortmer, p. 223)
Abductions not ending in actual rape were doubtless even more frequent (consider, e.g., the ballads close to this one in Child's order, "Bonny Baby Livingston" [Child 222], "The Lady of Arngosk' [Child 224] and "Rob Roy" [Child 225]). One such abduction involved a future Queen of England. Eleanor of Aquitaine, from the moment her father died and she became Duchess, was subject to kidnapping attempts to secure her inheritance (Owen, pp. 14, 31). For background on this, see the notes to "Queen Eleanor's Confession [Child 156]'"
There was also a curious inverse case, in which the a monarch was supposedly willing to rape a woman, but when she fought back, married her instead. Dockray, p. 45, gives Mancini's account of the marriage of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville, which tells of Edward holding a knife to her throat and her refusing to sleep with him even then, with the result that he secretly married her. The incident with the knife probably didn't happen, but it shows the sorts of rumors that surrounded their surprise marriage (which assuredly *did* happen).
There is also a fairly significant case of a woman resisting the advances of her legal husband in order to have the marriage annulled. Frances Howard was married at age 13, clearly against her will, to the Earl of Essex; the year was 1606. Willson, p. 339, has little good to say of her after this time: "The Earl went abroad and Lady Frances grew up at court, where she received but an evil education. She became proud, headstrong and violent, capable of implacable hatred and of shameless immodesty."
Eventually it came time for the Earl to consummate the marriage. She fought him off with various excuses, and by physical means, for most of the three years required to obtain an annulment (Emsley, pp. 76-78).
Thus far we parallel "Eppie Morrie." The case gets stranger after that (read on only if you care about odd politics; the rest of this entry has nothing to do with "Eppie Morrie"), since Howard apparently claimed that her husband was possessed by demons (Kishlansky, p. 94). Eventually King James VI and I convened a church court to decide whether the marriage should be dissolved (Willson, p. 340), with the King himself actively supporting Howard's cause. Unfortunately, the case was intensely political, because Howard wanted to marry a high court official (Ashton, p. 222) -- according to Kishlansky, p. 94, "The love affair between Somerset and Lady Frances Howard was the scandal of the ate. Under the tutelage of her septuagenarian uncle Northampton, Lady Frances thrust her ample charms upon the favorite [i.e. Somerset]."
Although almost everyone seems convinced that the relationship was consummated, we can at least say that Howard did not become pregnant. And that she was examined by a group of midwives, who pronounced her a virgin. But there was much doubt about the validity of the examination (Emsley, pp. 82-83)
Davies declares that "James was so infatuated with Rochester [Somerset] that he must be held responsible for the success of the suit of nullity which the countess brought." When the first commission deadlocked 5-5, James added two more members, enough that the marriage was ended by a vote of 7-5 (Willson, p. 341. Scholars do not agree on whether to call the result a "divorce" or an "annulment.")
This should have been a happy ending, but it wasn't. The Byzantine politics of the age meant that a former co-worker of Somerset's, Thomas Overbury, could perhaps damage Somerset's relationship with the (bisexual) King James. A plot was hatched by Howard and others to kill Overbury with realgar, an arsenic compound (Emsley, p. 81). When those failed, they tried a mercury compound. "After a number of failures, Overbury was successfully poisoned" (Davies, p. 19; Emsley, pp. 81-84, counts four attempts in total). A few years later, the truth came out. A number of the conspirators were hanged. Frances Howard admitted guilt and was sentenced to death; Someset denied involvement but was convicted and sentenced to hang also. King James commuted their death sentences, but they remained in the Tower until 1621 and were under a sort of house arrest for the rest of their lives (Emsley, p. 88); it sounds as if, by this time, Howard had grown tired of Somerset. - RBW
Bibliography Last updated in version 6.1
File: C223

Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List

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

The Ballad Index Copyright 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.