> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter
> The Young Tradition > Songs > Knight William
> Cyril Tawney > Songs > The Shepherd's Daughter
> Steeleye Span > Songs > The Royal Forester

Knight William and the Shepherd's Daughter /
Knight William / The Royal Forester / The Shepherd's Daughter

[ Roud 67 ; Child 110 ; G/D 7:1465 ; Ballad Index C110 ; Bodleian Roud 67 ; Wiltshire 214 ; trad.]

The songs shown here are all variants of Child 110, Knight William and the Shepherd's Daughter.

John Strachan of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire, sang The Royal Forester in July 1951 to Alan Lomax and Hamish Henderson. This recording was later released on the anthology The Child Ballads 2 (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 5; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1968) and in 2002 on his Rounder anthology Songs from Aberdeenshire.

A.L. Lloyd sang The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter in 1956 on his and Ewan MacColl's Riverside album of Child ballads, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads Volume II. Editor Kenneth G. Goldstein wrote in the album's booklet:

Aside from a broadside copy in the Roxburghe Collection and a fragmentary text from Kidson's Traditional Tunes (1891), all of the 16 texts of this ballad printed by Child were Scottish.

Parts of this ballad will be recognised as having great similarity to lines in Child Waters (63); no question of one's borrowing from the other exists, however, for the lines appear to suit both ballads equally well. The ballad tale is almost identical to that of Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale as well as to various other tales including The Marriage of Sir Gawain.

The ballad has been rather frequently reported from tradition in England in this century, and would appear to be better known there than in Scotland at the present time. It has been reported rarely in America.

A.L. Lloyd's version was noted by Percy Grainger from William Roberts of Burringham-on-Trent, Lincolnshire, in 1906, with additional stanzas from Shepherd Banting of Quenington, Oxfordshire.

See Child (110), Volume II, p. 457ff; Coffin, pp.102-103; Dean-Smith, p.3; Greig & Keith, pp. 87-90.

Emily Sparkes sang this song as Sweet William in Rattlesden, Suffolk in 1958/59 and Charlie Carver sang it in the Gardeners' Arms in Tostock in 1960. Both versions were included on the Veteran anthology of traditional music making from Mid-Suffolk Many a Good Horseman (2 cassettes 1993, 2 CDs 2009). John Howson commented in the album booklet:

This is a rare ballad usually known as The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter. It has been noted down in most corners of England and all over Scotland where it sometimes called The Forester or Lord or Earl Richard, Lithgow or Richmond. The story line is usually that a knight persuades a shepherd's daughter to give up her maidenhead. She chases after him to the King's court, she on foot and he on horseback, and demands marriage. He attempts to bribe her but is threatened with execution if he doesn't marry her. Often the story then reveals that she is herself of higher status. Although both Emily Sparkes and Charlie Carver's versions have slightly muddled story lines it is remarkable that these are the only traces of the song to have been collected in Suffolk. Furthermore there seems to be only one other actual recording of it from England; that made by Peter Kennedy of Louise Holmes from Herefordshire (Folktrax 90-502 The Baffled Knight - now deleted).

The Young Tradition sang Knight William in 1967 on their second album, So Cheerfully Round. They also sang it on 17 November 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. Peter Bellamy commented in the original album's liner notes:

This is our first attempt to apply group singing techniques to one of the “big songs”, and to do so we have had to employ various combinations of voices from verse to verse. Since learning this and working it out we have come across even longer versions of the same story, but this fifteen-verse account did not seem to us in need of further expansion.

Norman Kennedy sang I'm a Forester in the Wood in 1968 on his Folk-Legacy album Ballads & Songs of Scotland (also issued in the UK as the Topic album Scots Songs and Ballads). This track was also included in 1996 on the CD re-issue of English & Scottish Folk Ballads.

Cyril Tawney sang The Shepherd's Daughter in 1969 on his album of traditional ballads from Devon and Cornwall, The Outlandish Knight. He commented in his sleeve notes:

Collected by Baring-Gould from James Parsons, Lewdown, Devon, 13 November 1888. Another version was obtained from James Olver, Launceston, Cornwall in 1891. There is evidence that this ballad was well-known in the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, although English versions of it are rare. In the West Country the story appears to end prematurely. Most other versions, chiefly Scottish, go on to reveal the shepherdess as a rich, noble lady in disguise. Thus the question posed by The Ragged Beggarman on Side One [of this album] looms again.

Dave Burland sang Earl Richard, “a version of the older and longer ballad The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter, collected in Somerset by Cecil Sharp”, in 1972 on his eponymous Trailer album Dave Burland.

Steeleye Span recorded The Royal Forester in 1972 for their fourth LP Below the Salt, which was the first album of their longest-living “classic” line-up with Tim Hart, Bob Johnson, Rick Kemp, Peter Knight, and Maddy Prior. The sleeve notes commented:

Subtitled “The Aboriculturist Meets Superwoman”.

From the singing of John Strachan. The first English text appeared in Anchovy Ram's elementary drum tutor Half Way to Para-diddle, published in 1293. Although a faithful translation of the original Latin, there is still scholarly dispute as to the spelling of the name ‘Erwilian’ and over the use of the word ‘leylan’.

A live recording of The Royal Forester—probably from a BBC Radio Concert Session in early 1973—was published on the compilation The Harvest of Gold. Another live recording from the Royal Opera Theatre in Adelaide during Steeleye Span's Australia tour of 1982 was intended for inclusion on the On Tour Australian-only LP release but was subsequently deleted due to time limitations of vinyl pressings. It appeared later on the Steeleye Span / Maddy Prior anthology A Rare Collection 1972-1996.

Johnny Collins sang The Shepherd's Daughter in 1975 on his Traditional Sound album Johnny's Private Army.

Lizzie Higgins sang The Forester at home in Aberdeen in January 1975. This recording made by Tony Engle was published in the same year on her Topic album Up and Awa' Wi' the Laverock, and was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology Tonight I'll Make You My Bride (The Voice of the People Volume 6).

This robust ballad turns on the social transformation of the heroine from peasant to noblewoman and, as Motherwell suggest, it is a modernisation of the hag into beauteous maiden that occurs in such pieces as The Marriage of Sir Gawain and in tales in English and Gaelic, both Scots and Irish. Greig collected a number of sets most of which are close to ours but the one printed in Last Leaves is longer and more elaborate than the others and ends even closer to Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale than is usual. In some versions the girl indicates her elevated status by translating his name from the Latin. The melody is the same as that which is in common use in the North East for The Battle of Harlaw and related to others for the present song in both Scotland and Ulster.

Roy Harris sang The Knight and the Shepherd's Daughter in 1977 on his Topic album By Sandbank Fields. He commented in his sleeve notes:

Percy Grainger collected this on his 1906 phonograph expedition into Lincolnshire. His singer was William Roberts of Burringham on Trent. I got it from A.L. (Bert) Lloyd, a champion song giver.

Arthur Knevett sang The Shepherd's Daughter on his 1988 cassette Mostly Ballads. Vic Gammon commented in the album's notes:

An old song in print in the seventeenth century. A plucky girl attains social elevation by telling of her knightly seducer and forcing him into marriage. He tries to buy his way out of trouble but she insists on having his ‘fair body that the King has granted me’. He ends up wishing he had not acted so rashly. Modern listeners might doubt that the girl did the right thing but given economic opportunities available to females in pre-industrial rural society, not to mention the harsh treatment of women who bore bastard children, I think she acted bravely and rationally. Romantic ideas of marriage are a fairly late phenomenon. Arthur learnt this ballad from a recording of Louise Holmes of Herefordshire.

Former Witch of Elswick, Fay Hield sang this ballad under the title The Shepherd's Daughter in 2010 on her first solo CD, Looking Glass. Her source is Arthur Knevett's cassette Mostly Ballads. She commented on her then website:

One of my favourite singers of all time, this tape was given to me by a friend 10 years ago and I have cherished it since. Hard to get a copy of, but well worth it if you can.

Alistair Ogilvy sang The Forester in 2012 on his Greentrax CD Leaves Sae Green.

Andy Turner learned The Royal Forester from from Steeleye Span's album. He sang it as the 4 June 2016 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week. It is the first traditional song he learned and his 250th blog entry.

Nick Hart sang Sweet William in 2017 on his CD Nick Hart Sings Eight English Folk Songs. He noted:

Learned from the Veteran CD Many a Good Horseman, and a singer called Emily Sparkes. I always felt that this song doesn't have a very satisfying end to it, and for ages was trying to write another verse to wrap the whole thing up. In the end I decided to leave it as it is. I'm going to say that this is because it reflects the ambiguity in the melody, but I may well just be making excuses.

Joshua Burnell sang The Knight and the Shepherdess on his 2019 album The Road to Horn Fair. He noted:

Child Ballad 110 and apparently popular during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Will it come soaring back into fashion during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II? We can but hope.

This is the segment of the album where I continue the long tradition of adding an original tune to a traditional song. I always think the best songs are those that come quickest. As I was tinkering around with the lyrics, the melody seemed to spring into my head from nowhere along with the tune and this is possibly my favourite of this collection.

At first I was a bit horrified that she ended up marrying the dastardly knight, but actually it's a real testament to her character that she insisted on the marriage and had the guts to face the king about it. In historical context, the consequences of not being married would have been fairly grim.

Malinky sang The Forester in 2019 on their 20th anniversary album Handsel. They noted:

A version of The Knight and the Shepherd’s Daughter, primarily from the singing of Maggie Stewart of Banchory (1954) and Lizzie Higgins of Aberdeen (1970), both Scottish Traveller tradition bearers. It’s a fairly well-known ballad but one in which the story has not always been clear owing to the mix of voices in the narrative. To make the ballad work for two singers, Steve [Byrne] incorporated additional stanzas from the singing of John Strachan, Willie Mathieson, Bell Robertson (and others in the Greig-Duncan Folksong Collection), plus Kinloch’s Ancient Scottish Ballads (1827), and Prof Child’s version G from the James Gibb of Joppa manuscript of 1860. If the tune sounds familiar, it is also that used for the ballad of The Battle of Harlaw, Child 163. In 2017, Steve taught a shortened version of The Forester to the main cast and soldiers while working as folk singing coach on the Netflix Robert the Bruce epic Outlaw King.


The Young Tradition sing Knight William Steeleye Span sing The Royal Forester

It's of a shepherd's daughter dear
Keeping sheep all on the plain;
Who should ride by but Knight William
And he'd got drunk by wine.
    With me right fal-lal-al diddle-al-day

I am a forester of this land
As you may plainly see,
It's the mantle of your maidenhead
That I would have from thee.

Well, he has mounted off his horse
And quickly laid her down,
And when he's had his will of her
He rose her up again.
    With me right … (chorus after each verse)

He's taken her by the milk-white hand
And by the leylan sleeve,
He's lain her down upon her back
And asked no man's leave.

“Since you have had your will of me,
Pray tell to me your name,
So when our dear little babe is born,
I might call him the same.”

“Now since you've lain me down young man,
You must take me up again,
And since you've had your wills of me,
Come tell to me your name.”

“Sometimes they call me Jack,” he said,
“Sometimes they call me John;
But when I am at the King's high court
They call me Knight William.”

“Some call me Jim, some call me John,
Begad it's all the same;
But when I'm in the King's high court
Erwilian is my name.”

She being a good scholar,
She's spelt it o'er again,
“Erwilian, that's a Latin word,
But Willy is your name.”

He's put his foot all in the stirrup,
And away he then did ride.
She's tied a handkerchief around her waist,
And followed at the horse's side.

Now when he heard his name pronounced,
He mounted his high horse.
She's belted up her petticoat
And followed with all her force.

She's run till she come to the river brink,
She's fell on her belly and swam.
And when she came to the other side
She took to her heels and she ran.

He rode and she ran
A long summer day,
Until they came by the river
That's commonly called the Tay.

“The water, it's too deep, my love,
I'm afraid you cannot wade.”
But afore he'd ridden his horse well in
She was on the other side.

She run till she come to the King's high court,
She's knock-ed and she's ring;
There's none so ready as the King himself
To let this fair maid in.

She went up to the king's high door,
She knocked and she went in,
Said, “One of your chancellor's robbed me
And he's robbed me right and clean.”

“Good morn to you, fair maid,” he said,
“Good morn, kind Sir,” said she,
“Have you a knight all in your court
This day have robb-ed me?”

“Well, have he robbed you of your gold?
Or any of your store?
Or have he robbed you of your gold ring
You wear on your little finger?”

“Has he robbed you of your mantle?
Has he robbed you of your ring?”
“No, he's robbed me of my maidenhead
And another I can't find.”

“Well, he ain't robbed me of me gold
Or any of me store;
But he's robbed me of my maidenhead
Which grieves my heart full sore.”

“Well, if he be a married man
Then hang-ed he shall be;
But if he be a single man
Then his body I will give to thee.”

“If he be a married man
Then hang-ed he shall be,
And if he be a single man
He shall marry thee.”

The King has call-ed all his men,
By one, by two, by three;
Knight William used to be the foremost man
But now all behind comes he.

“Oh curs-ed be the very hour
That I got drunk by wine
For to have a shepherd's daughter dear
To be a true lover of mine.”

“Well, if you think me a shepherd's daughter
Leave to me alone.
If you make me lady of a thousand men
I'll make you lord of ten.”

So then these two to church they went
And then small things was done.
She appeared like some Duke's daughter
And him like a squire's son.

This couple they got married,
They live in Huntley town.
She's the Earl of Airlie's daughter,
And he's the blacksmith's son.

Fay Hield sings The Shepherd's Daughter

It’s of a shepherd’s daughter tending sheep on yonder hill,
A roving blade came a-riding by and swore he’d have his will.
“If you should have your will of me, pray tell to me your name,
So when my baby it is born I might call him the same.”

“Oh some they call me Jack,” he said, “and some they call me John,
But when I’m in the King’s own court, my name is Sweet William.”
He mounted on his milk white stead and away from her did ride;
She’s lifted up her petticoats and run close by his side.

She ran till she came to the riverside, she fell on her belly and swam;
She swam till she came to the other side, took to her heels and ran.
She ran till she came to the King’s own court and boldly pulled the ring,
And none were so ready but the King himself to let this fair maid in.

“What brings you here, my pretty fair maid, what brings you here?”, says he,
“It's of a knight in your own court this day has robbed me.”
“What has he robbed you of, fair maid, has he stolen all your fee?”
“No he’s robbed me of my maidenhead that my mother has give to me.”

“Well if he be a married man then it's hanged he shall be,
But if he be a single man, his body I’ll give to thee.”
And he called down his merry men all by one, by two, by three,
Sweet William he came last of all when first he used to be.

And he pulled out a handful of gold, he put it all in a glove.
“Take this, take this, my pretty fair miss, go seek for another true love.”
“Oh I’ll not have any of your gold nor any of your fee,
But I will take your sweet body that the King has granted me.”

He mounted on a milk white stead and she upon another;
They rode along the King’s highway like sister and like brother.
They rode till they came to the first fair town, he bought her a gay gold ring,
And when they got to the next fair town, he gave her a gay wedding.

“Well I wish I were drinking a bath of water instead of drinking wine
Before an old shepherd’s daughter would have been a bride of mine.
I wish I were drinking white wine instead of drinking red
Before an old shepherd’s daughter would bring me to my wedding bed.”


Thanks to Patrick Montague for correcting the Steeleye Span lyrics.