The Bonny Earl o' Moray
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

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According to the Child, this ballad probably first appeared in print an early edition of Tea-Table Miscellany (1736 or 1740).

This ballad is Child Ballad #181 (The Bonny Earl of Murray).

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site go to Francis J. Child Ballads.

The ballad is based on a historical incident. James Stewart, Earl of Moray (Lord Doune) was the son-in-law of the regent (also James Stewart). James VI of Scotland suspected Moray, had been involved with the Earl of Bothwell (Francis Stewart, nephew of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell who had wed Mary, Queen of Scots) in an attempt on the king's life. James VI issued a warrant for Moray's arrest in 1592, charging George Gorden, 6th Earl of Huntly, with carrying it out. Huntly had a long-standing feud with Moray and rather than arrest him, Huntly killed Moray outside Moray's castle in Fife. Moray's mother took the corpse to Holyrood Palace where it lay uninterred for months.

Other sources attribute the attack on Moray, at least in part, to jealousy, as the ballad suggests.

The Earl of Huntly also figures in the old Scots Ballad Geordie.

Ye Hielands and ye Lowlands,
O, whaur hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o' Moray,
And laid him on the green.
He was a braw gallant,
And he rade at the ring,
And the bonny Earl o' Moray,
He might hae been a king.
O lang will his lady
Lok frae the Castle Doune
Ere she see the Earl o' Moray
Come soundin' through the toun.

Now wae be to ye, Huntly,
And wherefore did ye sea?
I bade ye bring him wi' ye,
And forbade ye him to slay.
He was a braw gallant,
And he played at the glove;
And the bonny Earl o' Moray,
He was the Queen's true love.
O lang will his lady
Lok frae the Castle Doune
Ere she see the Earl o' Moray
Come soundin' through the toun.

Related Links
From A Treasury of Old Scots Songs and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.

Additional Information from Encyclopedia Britannica On-line