“The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bednall Green”


Pretty Betsy, the blind beggar's daughter, seeks a husband. Many court her for her looks, but when she reveals that her father is a beggar, all but one change their minds. This one is surprised when her father proves able to give a large dowry


This is "The Child Ballad that Wasn't." Printed in Child's preliminary edition, he later withdrew the piece on the grounds that it was not popular (even though it has been found regularly in tradition).

Most traditional versions are short, but the earliest text, from Percy, is extremely long (67 four-line stanzas!). In the second part of this version it appears that the blind beggar is none other than Simon de Montfort, who nearly overthrew England's King Henry III (reigned 1216-1272).

When King John died in 1216, his son Henry was only seven years old. Henry, naturally, never amounted to much. By 1254, Parliament was rebelling against him. In 1258 the nobles drafted the "Provisions of Oxford," which put the king under the control of a group of barons. Even stronger measures were passed in 1259, leaving Henry in a position he considered intolerable.

Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester and Henry's brother-in-law, was a leader of the rebels. Forced into exile in 1261, he returned to England in 1263 to start an organized rebellion. In 1264 his armies met those of the king. De Montfort won a smashing victory, despite inferior numbers, at the battle of Lewes. (The latter, incidentally, commemorated in _The Song of Lewes_, one of the "Harley Lyrics" found in British Museum Harley 2253; it's a bit surprising that Child did not include this in his canon, since it looks as popular as several of his other political pieces.)

Simon was now in control of England, and tried to strengthen his grip by a series of liberal reforms. But Henry's party had one great asset: the crown prince Edward (later

Edward I). Edward gathered another army, and defeated and killed Simon at Evesham in 1265.

The author of this ballad apparently believed that, instead of being killed, de Montfort went into hiding as a beggar (but also reports that Simon lost his eyes fighting in France). - RBW

Same tune

  • Mary Ambree (File: OBB165)
  • Of a stout Cripple that kept the high way/..Stout Cripple of Cornwall (BBI ZN2079)
  • The devil has left his puritanical dress/..Licentiousness of the Times (BBI ZN777)

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 3(62), "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bethnal Green," W. and C. Dicey (London), 1736-1763; also Harding B 3(61), Harding B 3(63), Harding B 28(269), "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bethnal-Green"; Harding B 11(322), Firth c.21(11), Harding B 11(1438), Johnson Ballads 1393, Firth c.21(13), Harding B 11(323), Harding B 11(321), Harding B 25(214)[parts illegible], "[The] Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bethnal Green"; Harding B 25(212), "The Blind Beggar"; Douce Ballads 3(4b), "The Blind Beggar of Bednal Green"; Vet. A3 b.43(3)[parts faded to illegibility], Harding B 5(18), "The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green"; Firth c.21(12), "Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bethnall Green"


  • Paddy Reilly, "The Blind Beggar" (on IRTravellers01)


  1. Laws N27, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bednall Green"
  2. Percy/Wheatley II, pp. 171-185, "The Beggar's Daughter of Bednall-Green" (1 text plus variant stanzas from the folio manuscript)
  3. Eddy 26, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bednall Green" (1 text)
  4. Flanders/Olney, pp. 107-109, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Greenleaf/Mansfield 32, "The Blind Beggar" (1 text)
  6. Karpeles-Newfoundland 57, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bethnal Green" (1 text, 4 tunes)
  7. SharpAp 46, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)
  8. Leach, pp. 694-695, "The Blind Beggar of Bednall (Bethnal) Green" (1 text)
  9. OBB 163, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bednall-Green" (1 text)
  10. FSCatskills 32, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bethnell Green" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  11. Chappell/Wooldridge II, pp. 16-17, "The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green" (1 tune, partial text)
  12. McBride 11, "The Blind Beggar's Daughter" (1 text, 1 tune)
  13. BBI, ZN1515, "It was a blind begger that long lost his sight"
  15. Roud #132
  16. BI, LN27


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1624
Found in: US(MA,MW,NE,SE) Canada(Newf) Ireland