47. Mary Mary

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.

The Mary referred to in this rhyme is Mary Tudor, popularly known as Bloody Mary. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII. She was a staunch Catholic who could not stand the sight of Protestants.

“The Garden” in the rhyme refers to the rows of graveyards of the Protestant martyrs of that time! This “garden” graveyard was ever increasing it is size, with the graves of the people who dared to continue to adhere to Protestant faith.

The Silver Bells and Cockleshells were instruments used to torture the martyrs before they were put to death.

The Silver Bell was a thumb screw, by tightening which the thumb of a person could be crushed between two hard surfaces. The Cockleshells are believed to be instruments of torture, which were attached to the genital of the person!

Guillotines were the instruments invented exclusively for mass beheading. They were nicknamed as Maidens and in this rhyme the nick name is further shortened to Maids.

The “pretty maids” were far from pretty, as they were the instruments of mass murder.

Yet who could guess that the gruesome story of Bloody Mary lies concealed in song which talks about garden, silver bells and pretty maids!

Visalakshi Ramani


2 Responses to 47. Mary Mary

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