“The Grand Old Duke of York” is one of the oldest English nursery rhymes dating back to 16 century.
Its lyrics evoke an historical character which is associated with one of the Grand Dukes of York, but there are no clear evidences about his real origin or identity. Although there is no consensus, most often the character is attributed to the Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.
The oldest known version of this rhyme, recorded as “Old Tarlton’s song” in 1642 belonged to a stage clown from 16 century, named Richard Tarlton. Here are the lyrics:
“The King of France with forty thousand men,
Came up a hill and so came downe againe.”
“The Grand Old Duke of York” Lyrics
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