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 counted to ten

Humpty Dumpty waited and then

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Glued poor Humpty together again.

 

In 1698 the name ‘Humpy Dumpty’ was given to a drink of boiled ale and brandy. It then took on the meaning of an ‘intoxicated’ person, especially one who was round, short, and plump.

It was thought this rhyme started as a ‘riddle’‘Who am I’, and this is probably why he is portrayed as an ‘egg’. Something that falls off a wall, ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…. and he had a great fall’. and certainly, an object that would be smashed beyond all help, ‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again’. This would draw people’s conclusion to that of an ‘egg’.

To make the rhyme less severe for children, who tend to like everything to work out well, another verse was added to right the situation, ‘ Glued Humpty together again’.

However, fifty years prior in 1648, during the English Civil War, the siege of Colchester was taking place. Royalist force’s fleeing Parliament and the Government of Oliver Cromwell were on their way to give support to the king. Lord-General Thomas Fairfax intercepted them and they were forced to seek shelter in the walled town of Colchester. The inhabitants were not happy as the town itself leaned towards Cromwell and now they had the king’s men to whom they had to share their food.

The Royalists placed their huge cannon, known as ‘Humpty Dumpty’ on a wall by the side of St. Mary’s Church, ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’ and fought off the Roundheads for several weeks. During this time the town was cut off and food became scarce. After many attacks by Cromwell’s men the walls surrounding Colchester were severely damaged and the huge Royalist cannon fell to the ground, ‘Humpty Dumpty had a great fall’. It broke into pieces and try as they could the king’s supporters could not get it working, ‘All the king’s horses and all the king’s men, couldn’t put Humpty back together again.’

When the Royalists heard of further Cromwell victories in the north of England they realized they would not get the relief they were hoping for. After two months they surrendered. Lords Norwich, Capel and Loughborough were taken away to be tried by Parliament. Four commanders were arrested in Colchester and accused of treason. Farre managed to escape, Gascoigne pleaded Italian citizenship.

Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle were executed by a firing squad. Before long they were redeemed as martyrs. A memorial to these two men still stands, on the site of their deaths, in the grounds of Colchester Castle.

1 Comment
  1. Zoe Williams 3 years ago

    Crazy how these nursery rhymes are all symbols and metaphors for historical events! Lovely post 🙂

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