KNOW THY KINGS AND QUEENS
Words by Anonymous
For medium voice and piano
As a half-Croat Brit currently living in Beijing, the NMC remit to write a song redolent of Britain proved a tough one. No royalist I, for some perverse reason I found myself half-remembering a history mnemonic from my mother that ordered our kings and queens into doggerel. Many versions abound, so I gingered this one up. The music is a stately passacaglia that gradually quickens and speeds up, redolent of the increasing rate of human endeavour and the switchback of history. Our own national anthem lurks in there too, subject to polite and not-quite-treasonable variation.
Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two,
Harrys four five six, ....then who?
Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
Harrys (twain), Ned (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James the vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four, then Will, Victoria;
Then came Edward, late in life,
Stiff George and Eddie with THAT wife
Gentle George and Lillibet,
Good old Charlie, but not just yet.
Commissioned by the NMC Songbook.
First performed 15 April 2009 by Susan Bickley and Iain Burnside, Kings Place, London WC1