The Origins of the Little Boy Blue story - A Connection with Tudor History?
The words and story of Little Boy Blue cannot be positively connected to any historical figure in history but there is, however, a theory that 'Little Boy Blue' refers to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1475-1530) dating back to English Tudor history and the reign of King Henry VIII. Wolsey was an extremely rich and arrogant self-made man with many enemies at court and was unpopular with the people of England. He was called the "Boy Bachelor" after obtaining his degree from Oxford at the unusually early age of fifteen. The expression "Blowing one's own horn" meaning to brag was certainly practised by Cardinal Wolsey. Between 1514 and 1525 he transformed a medieval manor into the magnificent Hampton Court Palace. It was an ostentatious display of his wealth and his power giving rise to the rhyme uttered by his enemies:
"Come ye to court? Which Court?
The King's Court or Hampton Court?"
The anti-Wolsey propaganda worked and in 1529 Henry declared all of Wolsey's lands and possessions forfeit and they became the property of the Crown. At this time England was a prosperous nation largely through the wool trade and the export taxes on wool had augmented both Henry's treasury and Wolsey's assets. The words "where's the boy who looks after the sheep?" could refer to Wolsey's concern with lining his own coffers as opposed to that of the country. The cardinal's robes were scarlet but Wolsey's Blazon of Arms included the blue faces of four leopards - perhaps this was why the title of the rhyme is Little Boy Blue? The Little Boy Blue rhyme may have been a secret message of dissent concerning the greed of the statesman prior to his downfall. Open criticism of the Cardinal would have lead to imprisonment, confiscation of property or even death. Another rhyme reputedly relating to Cardinal Wolsey is Old Mother Hubbard.