7 January 2019 Susannah

King Henry VIII & ‘Green Groweth the Holly’ Copy

Green Groweth the Holly, King Henry VIII

Everyone knows about King Henry VIII’s six wives and his destruction of the English monasteries, but did you know that the King was also a poet? And quite an accomplished one too. This is his poem, Green Groweth the Holly:

Green groweth the holly,
So doth the ivy.
Though winter blasts blow never so high,
Green groweth the holly.

As the holly groweth green
And never changeth hue,
So I am, ever hath been,
Unto my lady true.

As the holly groweth green
With ivy all alone
When flowers cannot be seen
And greenwood leaves be gone,

Now unto my lady
Promise to her I make,
From all other only
To her I me betake.

Adieu, mine own lady,
Adieu, my special
Who hath my heart truly
Be sure, and ever shall.

The poem was actually written as a carol for Christmas and King Henry composed music to go with it. We do not know the exact date he wrote it, but it was published in The Henry VIII Book of 1522 (compiled by an unknown courtier), which means that the King was married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, at the time. The musical version of the words is more religious, whereas the written version above is more of a love poem.

Holly and ivy are evergreens – they do not change with the seasons, and the poet is arguing that his heart will be the same. The poet’s faith in the lady is compared to the sturdy holly bush which will still be green and flourishing at the end of winter. We all know that Henry’s track record when it came to women was not a good one, but here he is presenting himself as a true and adoring lover. He uses strong words – ever, promise, blasts, betake.

The King had been well educated. Evidently, by the time he was twenty-three, he could play three musical instruments, speak four languages and read music “by the book” – he was an intelligent man and was highly aware of the role of the writer in the Tudor courts. He also composed music throughout his life and there are thirty-four pieces attributed to the King.

Listen to the carol being sung:

 

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.

 

Leave a comment.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until approved.
Facebook
Twitter
INSTAGRAM
Google+
DISPLAY_ULTIMATE_PLUS
Featured image credit- Green Groweth the Holly, King Henry VIII. Manuscript: https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/page/38/; Portrait of Henry VIII of England,Hans Holbein at Google Cultural Institute, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13359000

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)