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English / British Historical Doggerel

by Dr. Donald Stevens

These are little rhymes to try to fix historical dates in one’s mind. They make no pretence to poetry. They are purely practical. They are mainly in sequence of date, and are mostly concerned with English/British history. I have occasionally indicated a forced pronunciation to help the rhythm.


-- o0o --


The Celts were first, the Romans next,

The Saxons then by Danes were vexed.

Then Danes not long, then Normans came,

But England kept its Saxon name.

-- o0o --

King Will-i-am of Normandy,

The sons he had were only three,

Robert, Red William, and Henry One,

Came Henry Two when they were done.

Robert, he stayed in Normandy,

And never England’s King was he.

-- o0o --

In the Forest that’s New

Rufus the King, someone slew

(We don’t know who);

In one and one and nought and nought,

And Henry One to the throne was brought.

-- o0o --

(William Rufus, the Red William in the preceding rhyme,

shot by an arrow in the New Forest, in 1100.)

-- o0o --

In ten ninety-nine, Crusaders go,

Godfrey of Bouillon at the head of them,

To attack and vanquish every foe

And take by force Jerusalem.

-- o0o --

Eleven hundred and thirty-five,

Henry One is not alive.

Stephen says that he is King.

Matilda says another thing;

“If nephew Stephen had never been,”

Said she, “Then I would be the Queen.”

As both of them felt rather sore,

They decided to have a Civil War.

-- o0o --

(Stephen was the nephew of Henry I)

-- o0o --

Eleven hundred and fifty-four,

Stephen the King, he was no more,

When he was definitely dead,

Henry the Second was King instead.

-- o0o --

Hen. Two wedded Eleanor of Aquitaine,

By this the half of France to gain.

-- o0o --

(Hen. = Henry, of course)

-- o0o --

Richard, the King with the Lion’s Heart,

Decided quite early to depart

To fight the Muslims and conquer them,

And so retake Jerusalem.

-- o0o --

John, son of Henry and Eleanor,

Was disliked by the Pope and many more;

The Magna Carta in twelve fifteen,

Because the Barons were very keen,

Was signed reluctantly by John

The Island of Runnymede upon.

-- o0o --

Ned One was good, Ned Two was not,

Ned Three found he a war had got

A war with France that lasted near

A hundred year.

-- o0o --

(The three Edwards & The Hundred Years’ War)

-- o0o --

Lancaster’s Rose was red,

The Rose of York was white,

Because they couldn’t agree on the colour,

They both decided to fight.

-- o0o --

In one and four and eight and five

Henry Tudor (whose rose was red)

Won at Bosworth, and stayed alive

When Richard of York was certainly dead.

-- o0o --

Two Henrys, followed by poor little Ned,

The Mary and Liz when Ned was dead.

-- o0o --

(The Tudors: Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI,

Mary, Elizabeth)

-- o0o --

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two,

Columbus sailed the ocean blue,

He sailed to America from Spain

And then, of course, sailed back again,

And Ferdinand and Isabella

Thought he was a splendid fella.

-- o0o --

Philip the Second of Spain

Caused a lot of pain

By the imposition

Of the Inquisition.

-- o0o --

In fifteen hundred and eighty-eight

The Spanish Armada met its fate.

-- o0o --

Great Liz had neither daughter nor won,

So cousin James from Scotland came,

And a new dynasty was begun,

The Stuarts was its name.

-- o0o --

In one and six and one and one,

The Authorised Version at last was done.


-- o0o --

In sixteen hundred and five

All in Parliament alive

Were hoped by rebels soon to die

By being blown into the sky.

(The Gunpowder Plot)

-- o0o --

Jas. and Chas., then Noll and Dick,

Then Chas. and Jas., and Bill came quick.

(James I, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, Richard Cromwell,

Charles II, James II, who lasted only three years, and was

replaced by William of Orange from Holland)

-- o0o --

James the Second was Charlie Two’s brother,

Because, of course, they had the same mother.

(Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I)

-- o0o --

Two years when deaths were rather higher:

Sixty-five Plague and Sixty-Six Fire.

(1665, 1666)

-- o0o --

It begins with W and ends with M,

And England was ruled by both of them.

(WilliaM: W = William; M = Mary)

-- o0o --

When the eighteenth century began,

We had a Queen whose name was Anne

She began her reign with Number Two,

But by Fourteen, her reign was through,

And Cousin George came quickly over

From Hanover.

(Anne: 1702-1714)

-- o0o --

Frederick really should have been King.

But he was killed by a silly thing,

Down he went in a fatal fall

Hit on the head by a cricket ball.

So it was that George number Three

Became the King instead of he.

-- o0o --

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