Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins
The imagery of Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. This has given rise to various, but inaccurate, theories surrounding the identity of Humpty Dumpty. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the 'Alice through the looking glass' novel by Lewis Carroll. However, Humpty Dumpty was not a person pilloried in the famous rhyme!
The History and Origins of the Rhyme
Humpty Dumpty was in fact believed to be a large cannon! It was used during the English Civil War (1642 - 1649) in the Siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 - 27 Aug 1648). Colchester was strongly fortified by the Royalists and was laid to siege by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads). In 1648 the town of Colchester was a walled town with a castle and several churches and was protected by the city wall. Standing immediately adjacent the city wall, was St Mary's Church. A huge cannon, colloquially called Humpty Dumpty, was strategically placed on the wall next to St Mary's Church. The historical events detailing the siege of Colchester are well documented - references to the cannon (Humpty Dumpty) are as follows:
- June 15th 1648 - St Mary's Church is fortified and a large cannon is placed on the roof which was fired by ‘One-Eyed Jack Thompson'
- July 14th / July 15th 1648 - The Royalist fort within the walls at St Mary's church is blown to pieces and their main cannon battery ( Humpty Dumpty) is destroyed.
- August 28th 1648 - The Royalists lay down their arms, open the gates of Colchester and surrender to the Parliamentarians
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A shot from a Parliamentary cannon succeeded in damaging the wall beneath Humpty Dumpty which caused the cannon to tumble to the ground. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, 'all the King's men' attempted to raise Humpty Dumpty on to another part of the wall. However, because the cannon , or Humpty Dumpty, was so heavy ' All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again!' This had a drastic consequence for the Royalists as the strategically important town of Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after a siege lasting eleven weeks. Earliest traceable publication 1810.
A Picture of typical Cavalier who would have fought for the Royalists during the English Civil War
A Roundhead (Parliamentarian) was so called from the close-cropped hair of the Puritans
The word Cavalier is derived from the French word Chevalier meaning a military man serving on horseback - a knight.
Humpty Dumpty poem
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King's horses, And all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!
Humpty dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty dumpty had a great fall;
Threescore men and threescore more,
Could not place Humpty as he was before.
Humpty Dumpty poem
Note: A Rhymes lyrics and the perceived origins of some Nursery Rhymes vary according to location