Percy's Reliques - The King of Scots and Andrew Browne.

The King of Scots and Andrew Browne.

            This ballad is a proof of the little intercourse that subsisted between the Scots and English, before the accession of James I. to the crown of England. The tale which is here so circumstantially related does not appear to have had the least foundation in history, but was probably built upon some confused hearsay report of the tumults of Scotland during the minority of that prince, and of the conspiracies formed by different factions to get possession of his person. It should seem, from ver. 97, to have been written during the regency, or at least before the death, of the Earl of Morton, who was condemned and executed June 2, 1581; when James was in his fifteenth year.

            The original copy (preserved in the archives of the Antiquarian Society, London) is intitled, "A new Ballad, declaring the great treason conspired against the young King of Scots, and how one Andrew Browne, an Englishman, which was the king's chamberlaine, prevented the same. To the tune of Milfield, or els to Green Sleeves." At the end is subjoined the name of the author, W. Elderton. "Imprinted at London for Yarathe James, dwelling in Newgate Market, over against Ch. Church," in black-letter, folio.

            This Elderton, who had been originally an attorney in the sheriff's courts of London, and afterwards (if we may believe Oldys) a comedian, was a facetious fuddling companion, whose tippling and rhymes rendered him famous among his contemporaries. He was author of many popular songs and ballads; and probably other pieces in these volumes, besides the following, are of his composing. He is believed to have fallen a victim to his bottle before the year 1592. His epitaph has been recorded by Camden, and translated by Oldys:--


Dead drunk here Elderton doth lie;
Dead as he is, he still is dry;
So of him it may well be said,
Here he, but not his thirst, is laid.

See Stow's Lond. [Guild-hall.]-- Biogr. Brit. [Drayton, by Oldys, Note B.-- Camden's Remains.-- The Exale-tation of Ale, among Beaumont's Poems, 8vo. 1653.


OUT, alas! what a griefe is this
That princes subjects cannot be true,
But still the devill hath some of his,
Will play their parts whatsoever ensue;
Forgetting what a grievous thing
It is to offend the anointed king!
Alas for woe, why should it be so,
This makes a sorrowful heigh-ho.

In Scotland is a bonnie kinge,
As proper a youth as neede to be,
Well given to every happy thing
That can be in a kinge to see:
Yet that unluckie country still
Hath people given to craftie will.
Alas for woe, &c.

On Whitsun eve it so befell,
A posset was made to give the king,
Whereof his ladie nurse hard tell,
And that it was a poysoned thing:
She cryed, and called piteouslie;
"Now help, or els the king shall die!"
Alas for woe, &c.

One Browne, that was an English man,
And hard the ladies piteous crye,
Out with his sword, and bestir'd him than,
Out of the doores in haste to flie;
But all the doores were made so fast,
Out of a window he got at last.
Alas for woe, &c.

He met the bishop coming fast,
Having the posset in his hande:
The sight of Browne made him aghast,
Who bad him stoutly stale and stand.
With him were two that ranne awa,
For feare that Browne would make a fray.
Alas for woe, &c.

"Bishop," quoth Browne, "what hast thou there?"
"Nothing at all, my friend," sayde he;
"But a posset to make the king good cheere."
"Is it so?" sayd Browne, "that will I see.
First I will have thyself begin,
Before thou go any further in;
Be it weale or woe, it shall be so,
This makes a sorrowful heigh-ho."

The Bishop sayde, "Browne I doo know,
Thou art a young man poore and bare;
Livings on thee I will bestowe:
Let me go on, take thou no care."
"No, no," quoth Browne, "I will not be
A traitour for all Christiantie;
Happe well or woe, it shall be so,
Drink now with a sorrowful, &c."

The bishop dranke, and by and by
His belly burst and he fell downe:
A just rewarde for his traitery.
"This was a posset indeed!" quoth Brown.
He serched the bishop, and found the keyes,
 To come to the kinge when he did please.
Alas for woe, &c.

As soon as the king got word of this,
He humbly fell uppon his knee,
And praysed God that he did misse
To tast of that extremity:
For that he did perceive and know,
His clergie would betray him so:
Alas for woe, &c.

"Alas," he said, "unhappie realme,
My father, and grandfather slaine:[ 1]
My mother banished, O extreame!
Unhappy fate, and bitter bayne!
And now like treason wrought for me,
What more unhappie realme can be!"
Alas for woe, &c.

The king did call his nurse to his grace,
And gave her twenty poundes a yeere;
And trustie Browne too in like case,
He knighted him with gallant geere:
And gave him lands and livings great,
For dooing such a manly feat,
As he did showe, to the bishop's woe,
Which made, &c.

When all this treason done and past,
Tooke not effect of traytery;
Another treason at the last,
They sought against his majestie:
How they might make their kinge away,
By a privie banket on a daye.
Alas for woe, &c.

Another time to sell the king
Beyonde the seas they had decreede:
Three noble Earles heard of this thing,
And did prevent the same with speede.
For a letter came, with such a charme,
That they should doo their king no harme:
For further woe, if they did soe,
Would make a sorrowful heigh-hoe.

The Earle Mourton told the Douglas then,
"Take heed you do not offend the king;
But shew yourselves like honest men
Obediently in every thing:
For his godmother[ 2] will not see
Her noble childe misus'd to be
With any woe; for if it be so,
She will make," &c.

God graunt all subjects may be true,
In England, Scotland, every where:
That no such daunger may ensue,
To put the prince or state in feare:
That God the highest king may see
Obedience as it ought to be,
In wealth or woe, God graunt it be so
To avoide the sorrowful heigh-ho.


1. His father was Henry Lord Darnley. His grandfather, the old Earl of Lenox, regent of Scotland, and father of Lord Darnley, was murdered at Stirling, Sept. 5, 1571.

2. Queen Elizabeth.


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