Alderman's Lady, The
DESCRIPTION: An elderman promises a girl gifts in exchange for her love. She rejects him because he might reject her and their baby. He promises that he would take her to her mother and smother the baby. She refuses and he marries her.
EARLIEST DATE: 1906 (Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople)
KEYWORDS: marriage sex mother courting nobility rejection clothes marriage servant
FOUND IN: Britain(England(South)) Canada(Newf) Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (5 citations):
Reeves/Sharp-TheIdiomOfThePeople 2, "An Alderman's Lady" (1 text)
Peacock, pp. 783-784, "The Elderman's Lady" (1 text, 2 tunes)
Williams-Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 524, "Alderman and His Servant" (1 text)
Palmer-FolkSongsCollectedBy-Ralph-VaughanWilliams, #103, "The Witty Lass of London" (1 text, 1 tune)
Stewart/Belle-Stewart-QueenAmangTheHeather, pp. 108-109, "The Nobleman" (1 text)
Freeman Bennett, "The Elderman's Lady" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Charlotte Decker, "The Elderman's Lady" (on PeacockCDROM) [one verse only]
Cathie Stewart, "A Nobleman" (on SCStewartsBlair01)
cf. "The Broom of Cowdenknows" [Child 217] (plot) and references there
NOTES [277 words]: Peacock points out that "elderman" may be "alderman" [so, in fact, several British versions - RBW] and that "in former times aldermen had much higher rank than they do nowadays and were often governors of whole districts or members of nobility." - BS
To back this up, "alderman" is derived from Old English "ealdorman," not related to Old English eorl="earl" but often confused with it; an ealdorman was a local governor or viceroy.
The Scottish text is vaguely reminiscent of the story of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. Edward, who couldn't see a pretty girl without trying to get into bed with her, attempted to seduce the blonde widow of Sir John Grey, but she allegedly said that she was not good enough to be his wife, but too good to be his mistress. So he married her -- to the great detriment of England, sine the marriage arguably added two more phases to the Wars of the Roses (by irritating the Earl of Warwick, which caused the unrest of 1470-1471, and because Edward, when he died in 1483, left only a teenage son with impossibly grasping relatives as his heir, leading to the usurpation or Richard III).
Of course, no one really knows if Elizabeth Woodville said that, and even if she did, it's probably too early to have inspired this song, since Edward and Elizabeth married in 1464.
I initially split this from the Stewart Family's song "A Nobleman," because the Stewart version felt so different from the English versions, but having seen the Peacock text, which to a significant extent splits the difference, I now think I was wrong; the Newfoundland text stands between the two -- and may, therefore, be the closest to the original. - RBW
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