Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nursery Rhymes for Little G

The many visitors to Chatsworth every year will be lucky to see an amazing art collection, which includes esteemed portrait by Reynolds celebrating the birth of Georgiana's first child, Little G.  At first glance both eighteenth-century viewers and modern have had one of two reactions; the first being that the beautiful duchess is about to happily smack her long-awaited child (this was actually included in a contemporary review!) or the intended one, that a mother and child are in the throes of a fun game.  The game that the two Georgianas are supposed to be playing is, Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross, which is now sung as follows:
Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes
Perhaps more familiar to British readers than Americans, this nursery rhyme is still sung to little tykes today.  In fact there is a gorgeous statue commemorating it in, you guessed it, Bunbury Cross. The rhyme has gone through some changes throughout the years and it may have been sung a little differently to Little G.  The recorded 1744 version had a different ending:
Ride a cock-horse
To Banbury Cross,
To see what Tommy can buy;
A penny white loaf,
A penny white cake,
And a two-penny apple-pie
In 1884 when Randolph Caldecott illustrated the rhyme, he picked the perfect setting to illustrate his "fine lady." the 1780-90s.  The lovely result has the essence of familiar ladies (and their awesome fashion); methinks the sailor-mouthed, Lady Lade is on the cover!  Thanks to Project Gutenburg you can read the book here.


  1. My cousin also thought she was about to slap Little G. LoL, at least she wasn`t the only one.
    Very cute rythms by the way. Must have been charming to see Georgiana sing them to Little G!

  2. I've always wondered what they were doing, now I know! What a lovely moment to capture in a painting. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Little G is so adorable and cute and so are the nursery rhymes. I am sure they had a lot of fun together.

  4. I think they're playing 'How big is the baby'

  5. Lovely statue, by cock-horse is meant stallion, surely a daring display of horsewomanship?Ahd I wonder what she was sprinkling from her upraised hand? Flower petals, pennies? I am more familiar with the original poem. Thanks.

  6. Interesting. I admit I always wondered about what she was about to do!

    BTW, it is "throes" not "throws." Just so you will know next time.

  7. @Retro, I am not entirely sure, actually!

    @Dorothy, Thank you for the catch!