The illustrations I"ve seen of mary in she garden in the renowned nursery rhyme, Mary, mary (or Mistress Mary) quite Contrary space usually those that a young maiden or a cherubic boy tending a whimsical garden complete of bell-shaped flowers and lined through seashells. I was surprised to find that the interpretation of the verse"s content has actually turned out to be quite dark.

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ost latter-day interpretations concur that the rhyme"s mar was actually Mary Tudor that 16th Century England(Queen mar I, 1516-1558). Certainly she was, on occasion, rather contrary; so lot so, in fact, that she earn the moniker "Bloody Mary." In she zeal come catholicize England, countless Protestants met their end at she hand.

Was "silver bells" yes, really the surname of a flower?Some interpretations suggest that "silver bells" describes Catholic cathedral bells. Rather assert both silver- bells and cockle shells (more on cockle shells below) describe the decoration on Queen Mary"s costumes. Yet another interpretation calls lock names for tools of torture that Mary provided in her religious persecution.


What about "cockle shells?"In addition to instruments of torture, some see cockle shells as a symbol for pilgrimages to the Catholic Shrine that St. James in Spain. Pilgrims frequently wore shells approximately their necks to recognize themselves as pilgrims.

And "pretty maids?"Continuing the Catholic theme, the "pretty maids" are viewed as Catholic nuns. Alternatively, lock are understood as a recommendation to the Queen"s ladies-in-waiting. An ext darkly, part say the recommendation is to the guillotine, which was recognized colloquially in the England that the period as "The Maiden," or come "maids," which to be spiked structures used as a tool for torture.

Queen mar I

Others check out the rhyme together a scornful, an ext personal attack on Queen Mary. "How does your garden grow?" is taken as a snide remark concerning her inability to develop an heir. This is adhered to by an even nastier translate of "pretty maids" together a reference to the many miscarriages she suffered. The "garden" is said to allude to English graveyards, which had actually to boost their dimension to accommodate all those that dared come profess a religion various other than the Queen"s own.Or was it mar Stuart?Finally, some think that the rhyme refers to Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen that Scots, 1542-1567). Although several of the same interpretations apply to mar Stuart"s reign, the luck was well-known to exist in England before her ascension to the throne. Since Queen mar I that England predated Mary, Queen the Scots, the concept that the reference was to mar Stuart is not offered as much credence.

These various beliefs about Mary, anyone she was, progressive the larger worry of literature interpretation. That was the author and also why need to we ascribe to the happiness any much more than its surface meaning? that were these folks who offered it this somber interpretation? Nowhere are they identified, their names probably shed through the ages.

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Kay Ross, one American tourist, defines her 2001 visit come Hampton Court palace in London (pictured in ~ left), the residence of Queen mary I: "...We were shown Queen Mary"s rooms (contrary Mary...). Her rooms overlooked her garden with ancient and splendid clipped yew trees. The silver- bells to be the forms of the doorknobs, the cockle shells the decorations approximately the door plates. Together for the quite maids every in a heat - there they were, hanging on the wall surface - beautiful portraits of her maids. Appeared to have actually it all in one! ns think that"s the real background."

At this point, I"m skinny to expropriate the interpretation that Ms. Ross reported. It"s absolutely a many brighter 보다 the others. However like them, the requires belief rather 보다 certainty. How do we understand that what Ms. Ross observed wasn"t installed sometime after ~ Queen Mary"s demise, perhaps also in an answer to the nursery rhyme? I suspect that to find out, i would have to spend part time in London and do part sleuthing. Not a bad prospect, an especially if mine sleuthing occurred to coincide v the Chelsea Flower Show!

Credits: Thumbnail image, cherub image, Queen mar image, and also Hampton Court royal residence photo courtesy the Wikipedia; adult mary in she garden, public domain via byGosh.com; Akebia quinata photograph by DG member RDT; Ornithogalum nutans picture by DG member PanamonCreel
A cherubic victorian Mary
one adullt victorian Mary(England ca. 1900)

There are three different versions the this nursery rhyme not counting the interchangability of "Mary" and also "Mistress Mary." The version differ just in the surname of the flower that is substituted because that "pretty maids" in the last line: "marigolds"* and also "daisies."• The happiness has also been collection to music. You have the right to hear that here.• You can see Katey Segal together Mary, Mary quite Contrary in this video clip native the 1990 movie, "Mother Goose rock N Rhyme."

Silver Bells in the Garden(Click on common name for an ext information)


Silver BellsAkebia quinata
Silver Bells Ornithogalum nutans

* because that an exciting use of the "marigold" version, view DG author, Carrie Lamont"s article, "The an enig Garden . . . What did it yes, really look like?"

© Larry Rettig 2009

Questions? Comments? you re welcome scroll under to the type below. I reap hearing from mine readers!


around Larry Rettig

An enthusiasm gardener because that over 50 years, my first plant to be a potted Ponderosa Lemon tree ordered native a comic book advertisement at period 15. Ns still have it, and also it’s quiet bearing lemons! my wife and also I garden ~ above 3/4 of one acre, both flowers and also vegetables. Although our garden is private, it"s detailed with the Smithsonian college in that is Archives the American Gardens and also is ~ above the nationwide Register of historical Places. We garden organically and also no-till. Our vegetables garden contains a seed bank of vegetables lugged to this country from Germany in the mid-1800s. For more info: http://betterworld2016.org/community/blogs/m/LarryR/. Image that show up in my articles without credit space my own.

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