“Rosamund Clifford”


King Henry II loves Rosamund Clifford, and constructs a bower at Woodstock to guard her from Queen Eleanor's jealousy. The King and Rosamund talk at length. He departs for the wars. Queen Eleanor poisons Rosamund


Romantic pieces based on the tale of Rosamund Clifford seem to have been fairly common, but I have lumped them all here, excerpt for "Fair Rosamund," on the grounds that few can be demonstrated to be traditional.

The versions listed above seem to fall into two families; the Percy text goes with the broadside "When as King Henry Ruled this Land"; Chappell's version is a "Sweet Youthful Charming Ladies Fair" type of text.

There are traditional elements to the songs, however, as the folk accounts do not match the actual facts. This possibly justifies their inclusion here.

The facts are these: Henry II truly did marry Eleanor of Aquitaine, and he truly did have an affair with Rosamund Clifford. Rosamund seems to have been the true love of Henry's life.

Beyond this, all is conjecture. We do not have dates of Rosamund's romance with Henry, and the evidence conflicts. Geoffrey, Bishop of Lincoln, is said to have been their (second) son, born in 1159. But this conflicts with other evidence about Henry's amours. Also, Henry was still busily having children by Eleanor at that time. The last child of Henry and Eleanor was the future King John, born 1166/67. Henry was still a relatively young man of about 34, while Eleanor was about 45 and probably incapable of bearing further children.

Rosamund was the daughter of Walter FitzPonce, who took the surname Clifford upon gaining the title of Clifford Castle (by marriage) some time before 1138. The date of Rosamund's birth is uncertain. She died around 1176, but the death was the result of natural causes. Indeed, by the 1170s, Henry had Eleanor under virtual house arrest; even had she wanted to, she probably could not have arranged Rosamund's death. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1154-1189 - Reign of Henry II
  • c. 1176 - Death of Rosamund Clifford

Same tune

  • When Anne, a Princess of renown/The Glorius Warriour (BBI ZN2817)

Cross references


  1. Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 154-164, "Fair Rosamund" (1 text)
  2. BBI, ZN2820, "When as King Henry rul'd this Land/"; cf. BBI, ZN2442, "Sweet youthful charming ladies fair"
  3. cf. Chappell/Wooldridge I, pp. 163-164, "Rosamund" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. BI, Perc2154


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1765 (Percy) (Broadside registered 1656)