2018 Anne Boleyn Files Advent Calendar

December 17

Thank you so much to author Sandra Vasoli for sharing this Tudor Christmas carol with us today, it is a beautiful version of it.

Its author is unknown but Robert Croo wrote down its lyrics in 1534 and it was used in the Coventry Mystery Plays in the 16th century. Mystery plays represented Bible stories and were performed by town guilds. In Coventry, the Shearmen and Tailors were responsible for representing the part of the New Testament from the Annunciation to the Massacre of the Innocents (when King Herod ordered the massacre of all boys aged two or under in Bethlehem) and this carol was performed as part of that pageant. As you can see from its lyrics below (I’ve given the modernised spelling), it was written as a lullaby sung by the grieving mothers:

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.
Thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing,
"Bye bye, lully, lullay"?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Chargèd he hath this day
His men of might in his own sight
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor child, for thee
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
"Bye bye, lully, lullay."

So, it’s not exactly a cheery festive carol! One to listen to on Holy Innocents’ Day (Childermas) on 28th December when the massacred boys are remembered. It really is beautiful though.

Sandra Vasoli is the author of the Je Anne Boleyn historical novels and also Anne Boleyn's Letter from the Tower - A New Assessment.