King William was King James's Son

DESCRIPTION: "King William was King James's Son, Upon the royal race he run, Upon his breast he wore a star, (That points the way to the ocean far)." "Now this couple are married together... You must be kind, you must be good, And help your wife in kindling wood."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1865 (Opie/Opie-TheSingingGame)
KEYWORDS: nonballad playparty royalty
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber)) US(Ap,MA,MW,NE,SE,So) Canada(Newf)
REFERENCES (29 citations):
Greig/Duncan8 1571, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Randolph 543, "King William was King James's Son" (15 texts, mostly short, 2 tunes; the "C" and "D" texts might be "Oats and Beans and Barley Grow")
Randolph/Cohen-OzarkFolksongs-Abridged, pp. 402-403, "King William Was King James's Son" (1 text, 1 tune -- Randolph's 543A)
Spurgeon-WaltzTheHall-AmericanPlayParty, pp. 126-127, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Arnold-FolkSongsofAlabama, p. 133, "King William Was King James's Son" (1 text, 1 tune)
Brown/Schinhan-FrankCBrownCollectionNCFolklore5, pp. 522-524, "King William Was King Jame's Son," "King William Was King George's Son" (2 short texts, 2 tunes)
Hudson-FolksongsOfMississippi 142, pp. 289-290, "King William" (1 text plus mention of at least five others)
Hudson-FolkTunesFromMississippi 27, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune); 28, "King William" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida, #134, "King William Was King David's Son" (1 text, 1 tune)
Abernethy-SinginTexas, p. 91, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax/Lomax-OurSingingCountry, pp. 65-66, "King William Was King George's Son" (1 text, 1 tune)
Sulzer-TwentyFiveKentuckyFolkBallads, p. 9, "King William (game song)" (1 text, 1 tune)
Bush-FSofCentralWestVirginiaVol2, pp. 8-9, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Boette-SingaHipsyDoodle, p. 101, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Flanders/Brown-VermontFolkSongsAndBallads, pp. ,188-189 "King William Was King George's Son" (1 text)
Neely/Spargo-TalesAndSongsOfSouthernIllinois, pp. 199-200, "King William Was King James's Son" (2 short texts)
Wolford-ThePlayPartyInIndiana, pp. 62-63, "King William Was King Jamie's Son" (2 texts, 2 tunes)=Wolford/Richmond/Tillson-PlayPartyInIndiana, pp. 218-219, "King William Was King Jamie's Son" (1 text, 1 tune)
Newell-GamesAndSongsOfAmericanChildren, #17, "King Arthur was King William's Son" (1 text, 1 tune); #177, "King William Was King George's Son" (3 texts)
Welsch-NebraskaPioneerLore, pp. 291-292, "King Arthur Was King William's Son" (1 text, 1 tune)
Korson-PennsylvaniaSongsAndLegends, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Carey-MarylandFolkLegendsAndFolkSongs, p. 100, "King William" (1 text, 1 tune)
Opie/Opie-TheSingingGame 18, "King William" (3 texts, 1 tune)
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal, Charles W. Joyner, "The Repertory of Nancy Jones as a Mirror of Culture in Scotland County," Vol. XXI, No. 3 (Sep 1973), p. 92, "King Richard was King George's son" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: James P. Leary, Compiler and Annotator, _Wisconsin Folklore_ University of Wisconsin Press, 2009, article "Kentucky Folksong in Northern Wisconsin" by Asher E. Treat, p. 246, "King William Was King James's Son (1 text, 1 tune, sung by Mrs. M. G. Jabobs)
MacEdward Leach and Henry Glassie, _A Guide for Collectiors of Oral Traditions and Folk Cultural Material in Pennsylvania_, Pennsylvania historical and Museum Commission, 1973, p. 40, "King WIlliam" (1 text)
Kathleen Hoagland, editor, One Thousand Years of Irish Poetry (New York, 1947), pp. 181-182, "The White Cockade" (1 text, translated from the Gaelic with some lines surely inspired by this; the rest is not the usual "White Cockade." I rather suspect two-way translation)
Ron Young, _Dictionary of Newfoundland and Labrador_, Downhome Publishing Inc., 2006, p. 233, "(King William Was King George's Son)" (1 text, a kisssing game)
Aubrey M. Tizzard, _On Sloping Ground Reminiscences of Outport Life In Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland_ (edited by J. D. A. Widdowson), Breakwater Books, 1984, p. 127, "(King William Was King George's Son)" (1 text, described as a ring game)
Patrick Pickett, project editor, _A History: Town of Fogo, Newfoundland_, Seaside Retired Citizens Club, 1992, p. 108, "(King William was King George's son" (1 text, seemingly a kissing game)

ST R543 (Full)
Roud #4203
cf. "Oats and Beans and Barley Grow" (floating lyrics)
cf. "The White Cockade"
cf. "Silly Old Man" (some lines)
cf. "See This Pretty Little Girl of Mine" (theme)
NOTES [443 words]: Norm Cohen says succinctly of the Randolph version, "The title of the song is not true."
To clarify: There are no specific references in this song to which king is meant, but there has never been an actual case, in England or Scotland (or any other country, to my knowledge) of a King William who was the son of a King James. The closest thing to a parallel would be William III and Mary II; William III was the nephew, son-in-law, and deposer of James II.
Paul Stamler recalls a song "King William was King George's Son," and of course this is the title in Flanders/Brown-VermontFolkSongsAndBallads; Newell-GamesAndSongsOfAmericanChildren also lists this as a variant reading. This is more possible (King William IV, reigned 1830-1837, was the son of George the III and the younger brother of George IV) -- but William IV was a dissolute, childless king who would hardly inspire a song of praise.
Another known combination of father and son in the song is King Charles son of James (possible for James I and Charles I).
Gomme has two texts with William son of David, the same combination is found in Morris-FolksongsOfFlorida; England never had a King David. Scotland did, but neither was succeeded by a William. David II Bruce died without legitimate offspring. David I was succeeded by his grandson Malcolm IV "the Maiden." When Malcolm died, he was succeeded by his brother William the Lion. This is therefore the closest example of a William-and-David in British history.
NorthCarolinaFolkloreJournal has "King Richard was King George's son." Again, that never happened; Richard I was the son of Henry II; Richard II was not the son of any king (Richard succeeded his grandfather), but his father was Edward the Black Prince and the Black Prince was the son of Edward III; Richard III's father was Richard Duke of York, who also never became king. And it is now a tradition that Britain will never have a King Richard -- and George I did not become king until more than 200 years after the death of Richard III, when the tradition was created. So that's perhaps the most untrue of all the versions.
It has been claimed that this is a war recruiting song, but of Randolph's fifteen versions, only one (H, "This old slouch hat you must put on To follow the man with the fife and drum") supports this conclusion, and while Newell's text #177 gives hints of a soldier's life, it's directed to a young woman! The Flanders/Brown-VermontFolkSongsAndBallads version appears to be just a singing game, as do many of the others.
Newell tied his first text (#27) to the Swedish tale of Folke Algotson, but if so, there has been a lot of evolution along the way. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.1
File: R543

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.