Richie Story [Child 232]
DESCRIPTION: An Earl's daughter is courted by one or more noble lords, but loves none but her father's servant, Richie Story. He tries to dissuade her by pointing out his poverty. At last he gives in. She goes with him and is set to work in his household
EARLIEST DATE: 1803 (Skene ms.)
KEYWORDS: nobility love poverty servant courting family elopement
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber)) Canada(Mar)
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Child 232, "Richie Story" (9 texts, but the text in the appendix is "When Will Ye Gang Awa'? (Huntingtower)" [Laws O23])
Bronson 232, "Richie Story" (9 versions, but #9 is "When Will Ye Gang Awa'? (Huntingtower)" [Laws O23], and #7 and #8 may be as well)
BronsonSinging 232, "Richie Story" (2 versions: #3, #7)
Greig #99, p. 2, "Richard's Lady"; Greig #95, p. 1, "Richie's Lady" (2 texts plus 1 fragment)
GreigDuncan5 1051, "Richie Story" (7 texts plus a single verse on p. 633; 4 tunes plus two bars on p. 634)
Leach, pp. 592-593, "Richie Storie" (1 text)
DT 232, RICHILAD*
cf. When Will Ye Gang Awa'? (Huntingtower)" [Laws O23]
cf. "Matt Hyland" (plot)
cf. "The Kitchie-Boy" [Child 252] (plot)
NOTES [3067 words]: Child considers "The Duke of Athol" (="Huntingtower," Laws O23) to be a relative of this song, probably a rewrite. It should be noted, however, that the plots are by no means identical (and it appears that the influence, if any, goes the other way; "Huntingtower" ends with the revelation that the lover is rich, which feature Child considers an addition to "Richie Story"), and there is little lyrical similarity. - RBW
Greig: "In Sharpe's Ballad Book there is the following note on 'Richie Storie,' as he calls the ballad: - John, third Earl of Wigton, had six sons and three daughters. The second, Lady Lillias Fleming, was so indiscreet as to marry a footman, by whom she had issue. She and her husband assigned her position to Lieutenant Colonel John Fleming, who discharged her renunciation, dated in October, 1673."
Child's version F has Richie Storie reveal at the end that "Cumbernauld is mine" and his version G has the couple ride "to Ritchie's yetts." Child mentions, but does not print, a version in which "little she knew that her waiting-man was England's royal king." The royal disguise is in GreigDuncan 1051A and G [also Greig #99], "Richard's Lady." Greig -- in #99 -- says, "This version takes us into England, and gives us a royal hero -- doubtless Richard the Lion-Heart, whose romantic career would give a good opening for the balladist." - BS
Which has the minor problem that Richard was very possibly homosexual. This is a very vexed question, which I am postponing to an addendum. Even if Richard was entirely heterosexual, he wasn't really available as a marriage prospect anyway; he had been betrothed in his youth to Alais/Alice, of the French royal family, but finally blew her off twenty years after the betrothal, as he was setting out on the Crusade (Warren-Henry, p. 611, who thinks he did so just because he was stubborn. According to Gillingham, p. 160, Richard did this because Henry II had taken Alice as his mistress, but while Henry II was a fairly lusty liege, even Henry would surely have been cautious about the political consequences of such an act! Boyd, p. 230, claims it was "common knowledge that Alais had been Henry's mistress for years," and on p. 250 says he had two children by her, but Warren-John, p. 37, goes so far as to suggest that Alice's brother Philip Augustus actually made up the story to make Richard rebel against Henry II. Saul3, p. 137, thinks Richard never explained it and the story was a rumor designed to explain the inexplicable).
Richard did eventually wed Berengeria of Navarre -- without telling Alice's brother Philip Augustus until the last moment (McLynn, p. 129) -- but the marriage may have been just a device to get his subjects off his back; they were bugging him about not having an heir as he went on crusade (McLynn, p. 130). This would fit with Owen's suggestion (p. 82) that Richard in effect just let his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine pick a wife for him; Boyd, p. 256 etc., goes so far as to describe her as tricking him into marriage.. Alternately, Saul3, p. 138, suggests that he wanted a Navarrese alliance to guard his territory from the Count of Toulouse while Richard was on Crusade.
This makes some sense, since Berengeria was in other respects a rather odd choice -- Boyd, p. 254, says that she was already 25 and apparently was not very attractive.
Even Gillingham's extremely laudatory biography, which denies Richard's homosexuality, admits that "The circumstances of their wedding were, to say the least, odd" (p. 139). In Gillingham's view (p. 140), Richard had been negotiating for Berengeria's hand for some time before the marriage -- but that makes him even more unavailable, because he was, in effect, engaged twice in 1189-1190.
We note that, when Richard was in captivity after the third crusade, we have no record of Richard sending any sort of message to Berengeria (Boyd, p. 277). This is not, however, proof that he ignored her, just an absence of evidence.
What is certain is that Richard and Berengeria had no children, meaning that his brother John succeeded him when he died (Berengeria outlived Richard by three decades, but in his entire reign never visited England; Ashley, p. 527. Boyd, p. 258, says that she was the first and only Queen of England never to set foot in the country). Richard himself was in the country for only about six months in his ten year reign; the rest of the time, he was on crusade or fighting in France. What's more, according to OxfordCompanion, p. 803, he was only twice in England even before he became king. There simply was no *time* for him to be chasing girls. Nor did he speak English to enable him to talk to English girls.(OxfordCompanion, p. 803 -- although an Earl's daughter in Richard's time would probably speak Norman French just as Richard did).
Of course, if the Richard involved isn't Richard I, our problem becomes worse, because there were only two other English Kings named Richard. Richard II was married very early in life, and his first marriage with Anne of Bohemia was singularly -- almost unbelievably -- happy (SaulII, p. 456). When Anne died while still in her twenties, Richard almost at once contracted a marriage to six-year-old Isabella of France (SaulII, p. 457). There are no reports of illegitimate children. Richard II is, it seems to me, impossible as a subject of this ballad.
That leaves Richard III. He was, unquestionably, both fertile and heterosexual (since he left three children by two different mothers, and not even his enemies, who blackened his name in every way they could, accused him of homosexuality. Incest, yes, homosexuality, no). As a matter of fact, there is reason to think that his illegitimate daughter Katherine was fathered while he was "in hiding," since his older brother Edward IV had been temporarily deposed. There is also a curious incident in Richard's career in which he had to go dig up his future wife, Anne Neville, who had been hidden by her sister and brother-in-law. (For details on all this, see the notes to "The Babes in the Woods," which are so huge that I'm not going to repeat all the citations.) Both Richard's affair with the mother of Katherine and his search for his wife have points of contact with this story.
Plus, in a most interesting twist, Richard in the last years of the reign of King Edward IV spent most of his time handling affairs in the north of England. Ross -- who is not friendly to Richard -- declares on p. 44 that "Richard III is unique among medieval English kings in the extent of his connectins with the north of England. By 1483 he had come to know the region and its people more thoroughly than any of his predecessors.... His wife and future queen, Anne Nevill, was heiress to the great northern connections of her family, stretching back for more than a century.... Further, Edward IV had made Richard heir to the Nevill affinity through the systematic grants to him of land and office formerly held by [Anne's father Richard Neville, Earl of] Warwick. By 1483 he had become the dominant figure in England north of the Trent."
Kendall, who is pro-Richard, has a more than fifty page section in his biography which he titles "Lord of the North" (pp. 122-180). Specifically (Kendall, p. 125), Richard was in charge of the West Marches toward Scotland; the East and Middle Marches being the charge of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (who was under Richard's authority but maintained his county's internal affairs). In other words, not only was Richard's power base in the north, but of the two northernmost counties, *he was in charge of Cumberland* (which is not Cumbernaud, but close), while the Earl of Northumberland ran Northumberland.
Dockray, pp. 112-113, catalogs grants made to Richard (at that time still Richard Duke of Gloucester) by his brother Edward IV. In 1471, he was given Penrith in Cumberland as well as properties in Yorkshire. In 1472, he was made Keeper of the Forests north of the Trent (giving authority in Cumberland). In 1475 he was made Sheriff of Cumberland for life. In 1478 he was Warden of the West Marches. In 1480, he was King's Lieutenant in all the north, and commissioner of array for Cumberland and other counties.
As Pollard puts it on p. 81, "[Richard's] achievement was recognized and rewarded in February 1483 by the creation for him of a county palatine comprising Cumberland and a large stretch of south-west Scotland which it was his declared intention to conquer." Thus we have a perfect fit of the surviving details: In Child's "F," we have Richie the ruler of "Cumbernaud," easily confused with Cumberland. In the unprinted Child text, he is King of England -- in other words, King Richard. And we know from history that Richard III, ruler of Cumberland, searched among servants to recover his future wife Anne Neville (Kendall, p. 126). If these portions of the ballad are original and integral, then the king almost has to be Richard III (who also has the advantage of being the most recent King Richard, and the one about whom a ballad most easily would survive).
What's more, Anne Neville had earlier been married to Edward, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales (Ross, p. 18), although the marriage pretty definitely was not consummated. And, since she had no brothers, she was half-heir, with her sister Isabel, of the richest property of England (her father, in addition to being Earl of Warwick by marriage, had been Earl of Salisbury by descent, and according to OxfordCompanion, p. 968, held two other earldoms as well). Once Isabel married the Duke of Clarence, Anne became the most eligible heiress in the country -- half the lords in England must have been sniffing after her, which again fits the story perfectly.
Except -- would anyone want to tell such a tale of a king who came to be portrayed as the worst monarch in English history? The villification was unfair, to be sure (even the anti-Richard Ross says on p. 228 that "No one familiar with the careers of King Louis XI of France, in Richard's own time, or Henry VIII of England, in his own country, would wish to cast any special slur on Richard, still less to select him as the exemplar of a tyrant") -- but so what? It's the reputation that matters in ballads.
Or was that why the name of Richard was cut out of most versions of the ballad?
Once again, however, we must add a caution -- and a complicated one. Most versions of the song in Child refer to the Earl of Wigton. Wigton was, for starters, a Scots earldom. But even if we ignore that, it did not exist at a time when there was a King Richard. Poking around on the Internet, it existed briefly from 1341-1372, when Edward III was King of England, after which the property went to the Douglases and the title in effect died. The title was revived by James VI and I, but this is after the death of Richard III. It was given to the Fleming family, who also held the lordships of Biggar and -- notably -- Cumbernault. So this almost has to be the family referred to in the song. And, indeed, Child quotes Hunter referring to an event of 1673 which almost has to be this incident.
Child's conclusion is that the story of the courtier being a King is an accretion, and this is likely true. But, given the excellent fit of the details to the real situation of Richard III, I think we must allow at leat the possibility that a portion of an earlier song about Richard III and Anne Neville came to be grafted on to a more recent song about the Flemings of Wigton.
ADDENDUM: Richard I's sexuality
For much of the Twentieth Century, it was generally accepted that Richard I was homosexual. The evidence is equivocal. There are tales of him wildly chasing women (McLynn, p. 93; Tyerman, p. 258). He reportedly had an illegitimate son, Philip of Cognac (Ashley, p. 526), but that's nothing compared to his father's and brother's records of bastards. We don't even know who was the boy's mother; the evidence of his existence strikes me as inadequate to prove Richard was the father.
Markale, p. 58, says of this that "It was a certainty that Richard was capable of procreating; he had a bastard son from his youth, probably the result of a moment of straying, for he was staunchly homosexual" -- and adds that his mother did not want him to marry the French princess Alice because Eleanor knew the marriage would fail. (But I note that Markale is very much a scandal-monger.)
On the flip side, Richard did not marry until he was in his thirties, and other than the mother of Philip of Cognac, he had no known mistresses. Nor did he have any children by his wife Berengeria. Saul3, p. 161, says that they spent much of their married life apart, seemingly because Richard desired it so. This is one of the props of the claim that he was homosexual. The other, according to Gillingham, p. 161, is that a hermit once told him "Remember the destruction of Sodom and abstain from illicit acts." Richard later did a penance for those "illicit acts" -- according to Boyd, p. 258, he was flogged in his underwear.
Gillingham goes on to vigorously deny that the Old Testament links the destruction of Sodom to homosexuality. He is right in the sense that there are many mentions outside the Pentateuch of the destruction of Sodom, and few of them make reference to that city's sexual practices. In Genesis 18:21, God merely refers to an "outcry" against Sodom and Gomorrah.
But we have only one explicit description of sin in Sodom, and the sin is unquestionably homosexuality (Genesis 19:5). What's more, the men of Sodom want to rape two angels/messengers of God who had been sent to investigate Sodom's crime (Genesis 19:1). This is the only sin the messengers could have witnessed directly. I could build a case that the crime of Sodom was not homosexuality but rather homosexual rape -- but that it involved homosexuality is pretty much beyond doubt. So, e.g., Owen, p. 91, is sure that the hermit charged Richard with homosexuality although he is not sure the charge is true, and Tyerman, p. 258, also seems to think that this is what the hermit meant although Tyerman strongly doubts the charge.
Harvey, p. 65, notes that when he was in Sicily, on his way to the Crusade, Richard was given a penance for vice, which he suggests was also for homosexuality. All we can say about this is that it may be so but we can't prove it either way. Boyd, p. 299, claims that he had not made confession from that time until he was on his deathbed, and suggests that this was because he had not, until then, been willing to try to restrain from homosexual acts, but this isn't in the chronicles either.
We also have a report that at one time he was pushed to go and live with his wife (Lofts, p. 39). But this doesn't automatically mean that he had rejected her, just that he liked to be where heads were being bashed.
I would add two other points, although each is pretty minor: When Richard went on crusade, he appointed as one of his justiciars William Longchamp, described by Gillingham, p. 218 as "small, ape-like and excessively fond of boys." (McLynn, p. 136, also mentions that Longchamp was "pilloried as a simian paedophile," although in his zeal to deny Richard's homosexuality, he also seems to deny Longchamp's.) Obviously a heterosexual king might appoint a homosexual bishop to a high post -- but it's probably more likely that a homosexual king would do so. Especially since Longchamp was anything but a good official; despite having a good income from his bishopric, he had sticky fingers, and was a nepotist, appointing relatives to many posts (McLynn, pp. 132-133). According to William of Newburgh, he was as grasping as if he had two right hands (Boyd, p. 249).
Also, Saul3, p. 168, says that Richard was a strong supporter of monasteries and monasticism. A heterosexual king might of course feel that way -- but a homosexual king might be unusually supportive of organizations devoted to repressing ordinary sexuality.
And it's not absolutely clear, if Richard were homosexual, that we would have heard about it. The strong suggestion is that King William II Rufus was homosexual, but the chronicles don't says so. Edward II was accused of homosexuality, but even in his case, the word was rarely made explicit.
Gillingham, who sounds to me like a bit of a homophobe, loudly denies Richard's homosexuality on p. 162, and claims there were no references to it prior to 1948. OxfordCompanion, p. 804, accepts Gillingham's arguments. Tyerman, p. 258, says that "almost nobody suggested that Richard was a homosexual until the mid-twentieth century." Harvey, p. 66, thinks Richard fell in love with Berengeria at first sight -- but while this obviously makes him heterosexual, it doesn't explain why he spent most of his life separated from her. McLynn, pp. 92-93, admits that there is some evidence for homosexuality, but denies the significance of most of it (certainly most of it is fairly ambiguous) and comes down hard against homosexuality. Ashley, p. 525, is wishy-washy.
Runciman, writing probably in the 1940s when such references could have resulted in censorship, goes out on a limb to say Richard's "own tastes did not lie in the direction of marriage." Warren-John, p. 43, says Eleanor "bullied" Richard into marrying Berengeria, and also says that John until then thought it "inevitable" that Richard would die childless -- implying that he never expected Richard to marry, or have children by his wife. Markale, p. 54, brands Richard homosexual without qualification and without seeing need even to justify the statement (but shows in other areas a tendency to accept scandalous gossip as true). Boyd, p. 230, declares that Richard had "no desire for a wife."
I have to say that none of the evidence, in either direction, is convincing. Most of the statements of Richard's carnal exploits could in fact refer to his men. But the only direct evidence of homosexuality is the hermit's claim, which might be false. So I don't think we can definitively say whether he was heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual -- or asexual. The one thing that seems clear is that he spent very little time actually courting women, which makes it difficult to see him as the hero of this ballad. As McLynn says on p. 52 (quoting Gerald of Wales), Richard "cared for no success that was not reached by a path cut by his own sword and stained with the blood of his adversaries." - RBW
Last updated in version 4.1
- Ashley: Mike Ashley, British Kings and Queens, Barnes & Noble, 2000 (originally published as The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens, 1998)
- Boyd: Douglas Boyd, April Queen: Eleanor of Aquitaine, 2004; I use the 2011 History Press edition
- Dockray: Keith Dockray, Edward IV: A Source Book, Sutton, 1999
- Gillingham: John Gillingham, Richard the Lionheart, Times Books, 1978
- Harvey: John Harvey, The Plantagenets, 1948, 1959 (I use the 1979 Fontana paperback edition)
- Kendall: Paul Murray Kendall, Richard the Third, 1955, 1956 (I use the undated but post-1975 Norton edition)
- Lofts: Norah Lofts, Queens of England, Doubleday, 1977
- Markale: Jean Markale (translated by Jon E. Graham), Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen of the Troubadours (French title: La vie, la legende, l'influence d'Alienor), 1979, 2000; English edition, Inner Traditions, 2007
- McLynn: Frank McLynn, Richard & John: Kings at War, Da Capo, 2007
- Owen: D. D. R. Owen, Eleanor of Aquitaine: Queen & Legend, Blackwell, 1993
- OxfordCompanion: John Cannon, editor, The Oxford Companion to British History, Oxford, 1997
- Pollard: A. J. Pollard, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, 1991 (I use the 1997 Bramley Books edition)
- Ross: Charles Ross, Richard III, University of California Press, 1981
- Runciman: Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, Volume III: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades, 1951 (I use the 1999 Cambridge paperback reprint)
- SaulII: Nigel Saul, Richard II (a volume in the Yale English Monarchs series), Yale, 1997
- Saul3: Nigel Saul, The Three Richards: Richard I, Richard II and Richard III, Hambledon & London, 2005
- Tyerman: Christopher Tyerman, Who's Who in Early Medieval England (1066-1272), (being the second volume in the Who's Who in British History series), Shepheard-Walwyn, 1996
- Warren-Henry: W. L. Warren, Henry II, 1973 (I use the 1977 University of California Press paperback edition)
- Warren-John: W. L. Warren, King John, 1961 (I use the 1978 University of California paperback edition)
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