Came Ye O'er Frae France
DESCRIPTION: Geordie [George I] is ridiculed. "Jocky's gane to France, And Montgomery's lady" to learn to dance. He'll return with "Sandy Don," "Cockolorum," "Bobbing John, And his Highland quorum" "How they'll skip and dance O'er the bum o' Geordie!"
EARLIEST DATE: 1819 (Hogg1)
KEYWORDS: nonballad political Jacobites royalty
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland)
REFERENCES (3 citations):
Hogg1 53, "Cam Ye O'er Frae France?" (1 text, 1 tune)
GreigDuncan1 120, "Cam Ye O'er From France?" (1 text)
NOTES [1530 words]: Hogg1: "'Montgomery's lady' may have been the lady of Lord James Montgomery, who was engaged in a plot in 1695, and who, it is likely, would be connected with the Jacobites. Neither can I tell who 'Sandy Don' and 'Cockolorum' are; but it is evident that by 'Bobbing John' is meant John. Earl of Mar, who must, at the time this song was made, have been raising the Highlanders."
GreigDuncan1: "From a manuscript book owned by William Walker. "Jacobite Song, from an old chapbook - about 1796-8." - BS
The level of sarcasm in this song is obviously high. "Geordie Whelps" is George I -- a likely target for jokes even from his British supporters, given that he was old, fat, ugly, and spoke no English. As for what the Jacobites thought, well, there are limits to what we can repeat....
"And his bonnie woman": There are wheels within wheels on this one. George I's wife, whom he married when he was still just the heir to the duchy of Hanover, was Sophia Dorothea of Luneburg (Sinclair-Stevenson, p. 31). But George I grew tired of her after she bore him two children, and after being ignored long enough, she had an affair with one Count Philip Konigsmarck. It was discovered, Konigsmark was made to vanish, and George I was officially divorced from Sophia Dorothea. He also had her imprisoned for the rest of her life (Sinclair-Stevenson, pp. 39-44).
That left George I free to carry on with his mistresses, who were widely regarded as extremely ugly -- one of them was about fifty (Balen, p. 39), which obviously is decades older than the average mistress and a cause of genuine astonishment. Thackerey (quoted by Sinclair-Stevenson, p.26), describes them as follows: "The Duchess [Madame Schulenberg, made Duchess of Kendal by George] was tall, and lean of stature, and hence was irreverently nicknamed the Maypole. The Countess [Madame Kielmansegge, George's Countess of Darlington] was a large-sized noblewoman, and this elevated personage was denominated the Elephant." Schulenberg also was nicknamed "the goose," and so George I came to England "riding on a goosie."
Hatton, p. 50, reports that "Melusine was tall and thin enough to be called a malkin (a hop-pole or scarecrow) by George's mother, annoyed at the complications which her son's love affair were bringing into her life, and the 'Maypole' in England after 1714, were she was contrasted to the 'Elephant,' George's half-sister, Sophie Charlotte von Kielmansegg, who by then had become quite matronly in figure. The one known portrait, head and shoulders only, from Melusine's youth shows a most attractive, if shy, face; but compared with the petite and charmingly plump Sophia Dorothea, there may well have been something awkward and gawkish in Melusine's carriage caused by her consciousness of being taller than most women and certainly taller than George."
Hatton adds (p. 51) that she was "intelligent and well-educated, though clearly not as clever as either George's mother or sister." They had three daughters, (Anna) Louise, (Petronella) Melusine, and (Margarethe) Gertrude, who was most unusual among Hannoverians as being esteemed for her beauty. But George refused to acknowledge any of the girls (Hatton, p. 35); they were officially listed as children of Melusine's relatives (Hatton, p. 52).
Robert Walpole eventually declared that Melusine was "as much 'Queen of England as anyone was,'" and there were even reports that George I married her -- but, perhaps because of the complicated English marriage laws, the liaison never had any official status in Britain (Hatton, p. 63). But George I seems to have cared for her children and grandchildren far more than his son and heir George II -- who, after all, was the child of the wife he put away.
Hatton, pp. 50-51, says that Melusine actually proved useful in George's relationships with the English nobility, but of course that wouldn't endear her to the Jacobites!
Madame Kielmansegge -- Sophia Charlotte, Freiin von Keilmansegg (1675-1725) -- was not in fact George I's mistress; she was his half-sister, the daughter of Klara Elizabeth von Meysenbug (Hatton, p. 23). Little surprise, though, that George liked her; being illegitimate, she was no threat to him, but she was like him in a lot of ways. She married Johann Adolf von Kielmansegg in 1701 (Hatton, p. 99); he went on to become the Master of Horse in Hannover, but came to England with George when he became King there (Hatton, p. 129).
The nickname "Bobbing John" for the Earl of Mar was well-earned. The first Jacobite rebellion, such as it was, came in the aftermath of the 1707 passage of the Act of Union between England and Scotland. It wasn't so much a rebellion as a scream of protest, and naturally went nowhere, even though Louis XIV of France supported it. The Earl of Mar enthusiastically supported Queen Anne at this time (Sinclair-Stevenson, p. 50).
When George I showed up, though, Mar changed his tune and gathered many Highland chiefs to rebel (Sinclair-Stevenson, pp. 45-47). Hence the "Highland Quorum."
Ewan MacColl says that the "blade" who would "drive a trade at the loom o' Georgie" is the Count Konigsmark. This seems nearly certain; as mentioned above, Count Philip Christopher von Konigsmarck (the spelling used by Sinclair-Stevenson, p. 27) had an affair with Sophia Dorothea, the wife of George I, in the early 1690s (Sinclair-Stevenson, pp. 36-39).
Both parties were warned about their indiscretions (Hatton, p. 56), but it made little difference. They didn't even manage to find consistently reliable go-betweens. Sophia Dorothea wanted a divorce (Hatton, p. 57) -- after all, George I was so antisocial that he spent much of his time living in just two rooms (Balen, p. 71) -- but that was not easily arranged.
George I was understandably miffed (though you can hardly blame the wife of such a creature for seeking something more nearly resembling a human being; apparently she at first tried to resist Konigsmarck, but his attentions were too flattering and she gradually gave in; Hatton, pp. 54-55).
Eventually it appeared that they were planning a secret meeting in Hanover; it was thought that they would flee together (Hatton, pp. 58-59 -- although how they would have paid for al this is an open question; Konigsmark had little money, and Sophia Dorothea's finances were in the hands of George himself). But they never managed to meet.
Konigsmark was made to disappear (Sinclair-Stevenson, pp. 40-41; Hatton, p. 59, although the exact way in which he was murdered is unknown, and Hatton, p. 66, declares that George cannot have had a role in it). George demanded and got a divorce from his wife, and -- thinking it would make her free to marry Konigsmark -- she agreed (Hatton, p. 60). But her blade was dead, and she had no defenders; at 28, she was locked away (Sinclair-Stevenson, pp. 42-43). She would spend the remaining 32 years of her life under guard. Hatton, p. 61, says that the confinement was not as strict as sometimes supposed -- but it wasn't freedom, not even of the limited sort usually granted noble and royal wives. Hatton blames most of her troubles on politics among the electors of the Holy Roman Empire. Small comfort. Hatton's conclusion on p. 64 is surely correct: "She was essentially lonely, George was not."
George I's dynasty was not actually harmed (though there were a few Jacobite remarks that his children were not his), but it was certainly embarrassed. Fortunately there was already a royal heir, the future George II.
"If George [I] was troubled by guilt at any point throughout [Sophia Dorothea's] long exile, he gave no sign of it. He never commented on his ill-starred marriage, nor its tragic end. He did not marry again, but lived in apparently placid contentment with Melusine von Schulenberg, whom he later ennobled as the Duchess of Kendal.
"Yet there remained in George's carefully preserved, quiet life an unignorable reminder of a partnership he had never wanted, and which had caused him such public humiliation. The two children he had fathered with Sophia Dorothea could not be expunged or denied. His daughter he seems to have regarded benignly, although she played almost no part in his daily life; but his relationship with his son could not be similarly consigned to the margins of his public world. As his heir, the young Prince George represented a dynastic and political fact which George was compelled to acknowledge. But he could not -- and would not -- be brought to love the boy" (Hadlow, p. 26)
The rumors of illegitimacy about George II, the son of George I, were almost certainly false; he was in many ways like George I, though not quite as bear-like. Indeed, he was far more like his father than his mother, since she was said to be quite pretty and gay -- two words that no one has ever applied to *any* Hannoverian that I can recall.
There was a sort of scandalous history of all this, the Historie secrette de la duchesse d'Hannover, published in 1732, supplying a lot of (probably untrue) gossip (Hatton, p. 66). It might have influenced this piece. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that a song about George I, who died in 1727, would have been written so late. - RBW
Last updated in version 3.5
- Balen: Malcolm Balen, The King, the Crook, & the Gambler: The True Story of the South Sea Bubble and the Greatest Financial Scandal in History (original title: A Very English Deceit), 2002 (I use the 2002 4th Estate paperback edition)
- Hadlow: Janice Hadlow, A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of King George III, Henry Holt, 2014 (published in Britain by William Collins as The Strangest Family)
- Hatton: Regnhild Hatton, George I: Elector and King, Thames and Hudson, 1978
- Sinclair-Stevenson: Christopher Sinclair-Stevenson, Blood Royal: The Illustrious House of Hannover, Doubleday, 1979, 1980
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