Oh the Grand Old Duke of York..

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oh the Grand Old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

And when he was up he was up,
And when he was down he was down,
And when he was only half way up,
He was neither up nor down.

I have a lovely song book published by Kingfisher (now part of Pan Macmillan), now out of print sadly, that adds three more verses to add even more action!

They beat their drums to the top of the hill, and they beat them down again.

They played their pipes to the top of the hill..

And…

They banged their guns to the top of the hill..

I’m sure there’ll be some little boys out there  (maybe some little girls too!) who like that!

And, it does refer, if I read the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Ryhmes correctly, to a real Duke of York, who was being mocked for his military indecisiveness. He was also described as ‘brave’ rather than ‘grand’ in many versions of the song. Judging by the picture below, ‘grand’ seems pretty accurate! Isn’t he magnificently dressed?

Frederick Duke of York in Garter Robes

This painting is by Sir Joshua Reynolds and was painted in 1788, and currently resides in the Royal Collection, though I can’t see whether he is on display or not.

There are apparently other candidates for the ‘Duke’ in question, wikepedia has more background as ever.

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