Mary Hamilton

Original Text: 
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Francis James Child, 5 vols. (1884-1898: New York: Dover, 1965), III: 367-8 (173A).
5He 's courted her in the kitchen,
6  He 's courted her in the ha,
7He 's courted her in the laigh cellar,
10  And she 's thrown it in the sea;
11Says, Sink ye, swim ye, bonny wee babe!
13Down then cam the auld queen,
14  Goud tassels tying her hair:
15'O Marie, where 's the bonny wee babe
17'There never was a babe intill my room,
18  As little designs to be;
19It was but a touch o my sair side,
20  Came oer my fair bodie.'
21'O Marie, put on your robes o black,
22  Or else your robes o brown,
23For ye maun gang wi me the night,
24  To see fair Edinbro town.'
26  Nor yet my robes o brown;
27But I' ll put on my robes o white,
28  To shine through Edinbro town.'
30  She laughd loud laughters three;
31But when she cam down the Cannogate
32  The tear blinded her ee.
33When she gaed up the Parliament stair,
35And lang or she cam down again
36  She was condemnd to dee.
37When she cam down the Cannogate,
38  The Cannogate sae free,
39Many a ladie lookd oer her window,
40  Weeping for this ladie.
41`Ye need nae weep for me,' she says,
42  `Ye need nae weep for me;
43For had I not slain mine own sweet babe,
45'Bring me a bottle of wine,' she says,
47That I may drink to my weil-wishers,
48  And they may drink to me.
49'Here's a health to the jolly sailors,
50  That sail upon the main;
51Let them never let on to my father nor mother
53'Here 's a health to the jolly sailors,
54  That sail upon the sea;
55Let them never let on to my father nor mother
56  That I cam here to dee.
57'Oh little did my mother think,
58  The day she cradled me,
59What lands I was to travel through,
60  What death I was to dee.
61'Oh little did my father think,
62  The day he held up me,
63What lands I was to travel through,
64  What death I was to dee.
65'Last night I washd the queen's feet,
66  And gently laid her down;
67And a' the thanks I 've gotten the nicht
69'Last nicht there was four Maries,
70  The nicht there 'l be but three;
71There was Marie Seton, and Marie Beton,


1] The ballad tells the tale of Mary Hamilton, Scots maid-of-honour to Catharine, empress of Peter the Great, who had an affair with Ivan Orlof, an aide of the czar, and murdered their illegitimate child secretly. Imprisoned at the Petropaulovsk fortess, charged with the death, and tortured, she confessed and was executed by decapitation on March 14, 1719, as the czar watched. This story appears to have been conflated with one of the four Maries who served Mary Stuart, queen of Scots, as her female servants. One of these four, a French woman, had a child by the queen's apothecary, and having killed it, was hanged for the offence in Edinburgh. Cf. Child, III: 382-83. gane: gone. Back to Line
2] ha: hall. Back to Line
3] gangs: goes. Back to Line
4] Henry Darnley, consort to Mary, queen of Scots. Back to Line
8] a': all. Back to Line
9] it: the illegitimate baby. Back to Line
12] neer: never. Back to Line
16] greet: cry out. sae sair: so sorely. Back to Line
25] winna: will not. o: of. Back to Line
29] gaed: went. Cannogate: the main thoroughfare going up from St. Mary's Street in Edinburgh to the palace of Holyrood. Back to Line
34] shee: shoe. Back to Line
44] wadna: would not. Back to Line
46] eer: ever. hae: have. Back to Line
52] hame: home. Back to Line
68] nicht: night. Back to Line
72] The four woman-servants of Mary, queen of Scots, were "Fleming, Livingston, Seton, and Beaton of Creich" (Child, III, 381). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Child cites the edition in Sharpe's Ballad Book (1824): 18.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: