Handed Down

Willy O' Winsbury - The Princess and Johnny Foreigner

November 03, 2022 Season 3 Episode 4
Handed Down
Willy O' Winsbury - The Princess and Johnny Foreigner
Show Notes

You don't find many traditional songs where the woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock and yet it all turns our wonderfully. But then Willy O' Winsbury is not your run of the mill folk song. King’s daughter Janet knew what she wanted… and it seems that her father wanted it too. Once he’d established that Willy wasn’t too foreign that is. He especially noticed his blond hair and milky white skin… oh dear.

As well as picking up on some of these themes, the episode looks at the twists and turns of this song’s journey over time and the real events that may (or may not) have prompted it. There’s also a review of medieval virginity tests and musings on why a light scorching of the nether regions might actually be a good outcome, all things considered. 



L’Homme Armé (Anon) Medieval popular song

De moi doleros vos chant (Gillebert de Berneville) 13th Century song


Lord Thomas of Winesberrie (Kinloch – Ancient Scottish Ballads – see below)


Instrumental: Fair Margaret and Sweet William (ballad from the Percy/Parsons correspondence) 1770s – though the tune may be more recent


Johnny Barbary (tune from Bertrand Harris Bronson – see below)


Fause Foodrage 


Willie O’Winsbury



Mainly Norfolk have an excellent overview of the song and its recorded versions: https://mainlynorfolk.info/anne.briggs/songs/willieowinsbury.html 


Kinloch, George Richie (1827) Ancient Scottish Ballads: https://archive.org/details/ancientscottishb00kin/page/90/mode/2up 


Karpeles, Maud (1934) Folk Songs From Newfoundland


Fresno State University’s Traditional Ballad Index:  https://www.fresnostate.edu/folklore/ballads/C100.html


Child, Francis James (between 1882-98) The English and Scottish Popular Ballads v2 (Child 100) https://archive.org/details/englishscottishp21chilrich/mode/2up 


Bronson B H (1976) The Singing Tradition of Child’s Popular Ballads https://archive.org/details/singingtradition0000bron/page/n5/mode/2up 


Bronson B H (1959) The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads


http://aalt.law.uh.edu/AALT7/CP25(1)/CP25_1_194_8-10/IMG_0334.htm A legal document relating to the lease of property by Thomas, son of William de Winsbury


Cartwright, Jane (2003) Virginity and Chastity Tests in Medieval Welsh Prose in Bernau A, Evans R and Salih S (2003) Medieval Virginities University of Toronto Press.