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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: Minstrels

The battle started with a song. In 1066, the first fatal blow struck in William the Conqueror's take-over of England was by a minstrel.

"At the Battle of Hastings, Taillefer sang the Chanson de Roland at the English troops while juggling with his sword. An English soldier ran out to challenge him and was killed by Taillefer, who then charged the English lines and was engulfed." Wikipedia

He's mostly lost to history, but the song he sang that day formed British society. It was number one in England for centuries. And it was the fuel that sent the Ballad of Little Musgrave to the Blackfriar's Theater in 1607. The vehicle? Minstrels, all the way down.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: Story

Barnard Castle, Durham, England
The Ballad of Little Musgrave:

"...is a Border ballad probably originating in Northern England that describes an adulterous tryst between a man and a woman that is ended when the woman's husband discovers and kills them." Wikipedia

An 'educated guess', from Simon Fury on the Traditional Ballad Index website.

"Little Musgrave and Great Musgrave both still exist in Cumbria, in what used to be Westmorland... and are about 20 miles from Barnard Castle in County Durham. So what we have in the song IMHO is a simple bit of hanky-panky between the wife of the lord of Barnard Castle (the ancient seat of the de Balliol family) and a landowner in Little Musgrave."

We think he's almost right. We'll explore the historic characters and setting of this story in this post.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: Author


The Musgraves were,
"A powerful family of Cumberland who had a long record of service to the English Crown, both as soldiers and March officers. ...One of the two 'greatest names' of the West Wardenry (the other was Salkfield), the Musgraves were constantly at feud on the Scottish side, and had a three century vendetta with their fellow Cumbrians, the Dacres."
Steel Bonnets page 63 Kindle Unlimited 

That's not their only feud with fellow Englishmen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: Origin


Holy Day Gathering
We're blogging on the border Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard. It's a song about a love triangle between a Lord, his Lady and Little Musgrave. It ends violently.

The background for this post is the historical setting of and the earliest text for this ballad we've previously established.

Short version: The text is 81A of James Childs ballads. The dates are after 1543 but before 1607. (This time frame is dominated by the Reformation from Catholic to Protestant England under Henry VIII.)  The setting is a church in the English/Scottish borderlands. The origin of the story is the subject of this post.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: Text


Our family surname is derived from Musgrave. We've posted on the Ballad of Little Musgrave. We  believe some event is the basis for this ballad.

Our last post, on the historical setting, dated the events to the reign of King Henry VIII and his Reformation; the move from a Catholic to a Protestant England. In this post, we'll attempt to uncover the original story.

Out of the fourteen collected variations of this ballad (at this link), we think the oldest is 81A.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: History

                       
1930s AAA road sign preserved
on display in the village
The Ballad of Little Musgrave, known in the USA as Matty Groves:

...is a Border ballad probably originating in Northern England that describes an adulterous tryst between a man and a woman that is ended when the woman's husband discovers and kills them. Wikipedia

Our Musgrove surname derives from Musgrave, a family from Great and Little Musgrave in Westmoreland - now incorporated by Cumbria -  on the English/Scottish border. More than just a great old ballad, this is part of our family's oral history. In this series of posts, we attempt to bring that perspective to the Ballad of Little Musgrave.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Ballad of Little Musgrave: Versions

Our Musgrove surname derives from the Musgraves of Cumbria, England. We've blogged about the 'Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnet'; a tale of infidelity, passion and murder.
'The Roud Folk Song Index contains over 300 instances of this ballad, and shows that the ballad has been collected mostly in North America: 113 versions listed in Roud were found in the USA, with the bulk in North Carolina (24), the Virginias (24), Kentucky (23), New England (16) and Tennessee (9). In Canada, 18 versions were found, the majority in Nova Scotia. Scotland produced 9 versions, and England; only 2.'  Wikipedia
In this post we share a variety of musical versions of this song.