“What's the Rhyme to Porringer?”


"O what's the rhyme to porringer? Ken ye the rhyme to porringer? King James the seventh had ae dochter, And he gave her to an Oranger." "The lad has into England come And taken the crown." "James shall have his own again."


I'm indexing this item with some qualms. The Montgomeries do not cite a source, and the handful of other references I've found aren't "folk."

But the context is clear: James (II of England and VII of Scotland; 1633-1701) was Catholic, but his heirs when he succeeded to the throne were his Protestant daughters Mary (1662-1694) and Anne (1665-1714). Mary was married to William of Orange (1650-1702), Stadtholder of Holland.

William, after a chaotic period in Dutch politics, seemed early in life to be almost disinherited, but gradually gained power in the 1670s. Charles II of England, meanwhile, was getting himself in a foreign policy mess, taking French money to avoid answering to Parliament for his anti-Dutch policy. William was able to take advantage in 1677 to marry the young princess Mary -- his first cousin; William was the son of James's sister.

Who just happened to be third in line for the throne. Charles II had no legitimate children, and his brother James had no sons (and neither of his daughters would leave an heir).

James II succeeded Charles II in 1685. The British were already worried -- James had been openly Catholic for 15 years. Early in his reign, he gave indications of favoring Catholics.

And then his second, Catholic, wife had a son. The "Old Pretender," potentially James III. James III was not a pretender; he was the proper heir in male descent. But he was Catholic.

Meanwhile, the French, who had been attacking the Dutch, instead sent an army into Germany. William of Orange saw the opening, and invaded England in 1688. In England, the Stuart regime collapsed like a house of cards; James "abdicated" by force in 1689. William and Mary were crowned jointly, the English succession was made officially Protestant, and a series of liberal reforms were agreed to that gave the coup the name "The Glorious Revolution."

Scotland didn't entirely agree. There was only one real battle against the invaders in 1689 (Killiekrankie), and it resulted in the death of Dundee, the leader of the anti-Orange faction. That largely calmed the revolt until 1714, when Anne, the last Stuart, died and was succeeded by the Hannoverian George I. But there were always rumbles below the surface, which would eventually result in the 1715, 1719, and 1745 Jacobite rebellions.

Obviously this item is about that. The question is, is it traditional? If the Montgomeries really found a copy in Scotland in the twentieth century, then it just about has to be, and deserves to be indexed. But mightn't they have just lifted it from Hogg? I suspect so, but there is enough doubt that I index the item.

Incidentally, this had a very small part in inspiring one of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century. According to Christopher Tolkien's notes in his father's _The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings, Part 3_, Houghton Mifflin, 1990, p. xi, J. R. R. Tolkien admitted that this fragment inspired his poem "Errantry." Which in turn seems to hve been "upgraded" to produce Bilbo's poem in Rivendell. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1688/1689 - Glorious Revolution deposes King James (II and VII) and replaces him with his nephew William III and his daugher Mary II


  1. Montgomerie-ScottishNR 100, "(O what's the rhyme to porringer?)" (1 text)
  3. BI, MSNR100


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1819 (Hogg)
Found in: Britain(Scotland)