Origin of Jack and Jill Rhyme
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Such a beautiful nursery rhyme, isn’t it? But every literary work is deeply rooted in a historical ground.
And this easy to sing rhyme is no different! Many theorists believe that the Jack & Jill rhyme was based on the French Revolution.
The last two lines of the poem have been the subject of a lot of assumptions. And if we were to have a closer literary look at the French Revolution (1793), the first image that comes to our mind is King Louis XVI’s head on the guillotine.
Jack fell down… (King Louis XVI’s head was forced on the guillotine by the commoners) and broke his crown (With the head, the crown hit the ground as well, thereby ‘breaking’ into pieces). And Jill came tumbling after…(Remember Queen Mary Antoinette? She was the next to be beheaded. Her head ‘tumbled’ following Louis’ head).
This explanation fits the bill. Until we realize that the French Revolution took place in 1793… while the first printed version of the poem was found in 1765.
So, if the poem wasn’t based on the French Revolution, what was it all about?
King Charles I’s ‘Jack &Gill’- Origin of Jack and Jill rhyme
The story is as follows: King Charles I tried to increase the taxes on liquid products to pile up more wealth in his treasury.
However, the Parliament voted against it. Since the clash between the Crown and the Parliament was already prevalent, King Charles did not feel deterred by the opposition of the Parliament.
To assert his power, the King passed a rule that reduced the value of Jack (1/2 pint), but the taxes were just the same.
That meant that ½ pint of beer does not remain the same in volume, but the cost of the beer would be the same as before. This meant more tax and more wealth to the King’s treasury.
Thus the line: Jack fell down and broke his crown. Crown refers to the image of a crown on the beer glass.
‘Gill’ means ¼ pint. So, when Jack fell down, Jill came tumbling after. .. ‘Gill’ was later modified to ‘Jill’.
Jack & Jill isn’t just a nursery rhyme, it is a rhyming retelling of a dark historical past. How interesting does the nursery rhyme sound now?
What are your views on the origin of Jack and Jill rhyme? Let us know in the comments below.