Monday, 20 August 2012


Lillibullero is a march that sets the words of a satirical ballad generally said to be by Lord Thomas Wharton to music attributed to Henry Purcell. Although Purcell published Lillibullero in his compilation Music's Handmaid of 1689 as "a new Irish tune", it is probable that Purcell appropriated the tune as his own, a common practice in the musical world of the time. It is the BBC World Service's signature tune. According to the BBC, it "started life as a jig with Irish roots, whose first appearance seems to be in a collection published in London in 1661 entitled 'An Antidote Against Melancholy', where it is set to the words 'There was an old man of Waltham Cross'."  A French version of the tune is known as the Marche du Prince d'Orange, and is attributed to Louis XIV's court composers Philidor the Elder and Jean-Baptiste Lull
The lyrics refer to the Williamite war in Ireland 1689-91, which arose out of the Glorious Revolution. In this episode the Catholic King James II, unsure of the loyalty of his army, fled England after an invasion by Dutch forces under the Protestant William III. William was invited by Parliament to the throne. James II then tried to reclaim the crown with the assistance of France and his Catholic supporters in Ireland led by Richard Talbot, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell. His hopes of using Ireland to reconquer England were thwarted at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. The song Lillibullero puts words into the mouths of Irish Catholic Jacobites and satirizes their sentiments, pillorying the supporters of the Catholic King James. It was said to have ‘sung James II out of three kingdoms’. The tune seems to have been known at the time of the English Civil War

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