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The Grand Old Duke Of York

Nursery Rhyme Collection 1 Nursery Rhyme Collection 2

Historical Nursery Rhymes

There is a truly historical dimension behind the songs in this category going back many centuries. Here you will find lyrics, sound samples and historical articles about the origin of all songs included in the category. For more information about the history of traditional nursery rhymes please see the category Rock The Kings dealing with nursery rhymes which are related to English Kings and Queens.




The Grand Old Duke Of York

Audio Sample:
Google Play      |    iTunes      |      Amazon

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of
The hill and he marched
Them down again.

And when they were up they were up.
And when they were down they were down.
And when they were
only half way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Oh, The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of
The hill and he marched
them down again.

And when they were up they were up.
And when they were down they were down.
And when they were
only half way up,
They were neither up nor down.





















Words & Music: Traditional
Arrangement: Ian J Watts/Mike Wilbury
Orchestral Arrangement: Rick Benbow

History, origin and meaning of The Grand Old Duke Of York

Huh! This nursery rhyme is an easy one to interpret, because the truth has nothing to do with a historical context, for the very simple reason that this story is ALWAYS true! Instead of the Grand Old Duke of York, you can put the name of any general or military officer - Napoleon, Rommel, Caesar, Alexander the Great, Dschingis(Ghengis) Khan – any you wish really, and it is always true. Armies run up and down hills, cross deserts, sail over oceans – all kinds of travel and tactics! The result of all this movement, from an economic point of view, is nothing, because actually only scientific research and better training in all aspects changes the world. Nevertheless, armies don’t care about that. The question of when this kind of strange behaviour will stop has been asked many times already, but the answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. Therefore we agree completely to what is said in the wikipedia article about this song.

As a result the argument has been made that it may have been a common satirical verse that was adapted as appropriate, and because it was recorded in roughly the modern form, has become fixed on the Duke of York.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Grand_Old_Duke_of_York

Have a look at these videos, they are amazing - all these people running around, going nowhere.

German army: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VarayMJDDTE
Spanish army: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJRFUJzaOgY
Army of the US: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TA1l4R5Dv_A&feature=fvwrel
French army: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GBIKP7RX-0&feature=related

One day I guess they will do these strange kind of manoeuvres with the music of “The grand old Duke of York“. That would be fun!

If we try to find out who is this specific Duke of York, we have a reversed situation in comparison to the other songs. Until now, we have looked for a specific situation that best fits with the song. Here, we have a song that fits with thousands, if not millions of situations. So actually we don’t really care to which Duke of York the song refers to. However, he is most probably Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763 – 1827), the second son of King George III of Great Britain and Ireland (1760 – 1801). He took part in the Flanders Campaign of 1793 – 1794, in the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. After the defeat of the British army in the Battle of Tourcoing on 18 May 1794 he was recalled to England. As already said we don' t really care about the historical facts in this case, because the song is eternally true, but there is one little problem with this assignment. First of all there were many more soldiers involved in the battle, about 90 000 on the French side and 80 000 on the allied side (Austria, Britain, Prussia) . Secondly, there is only one hill in Flanders, and that is only 176 m high!





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