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The Widow at Windsor

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy; notes on The Widow at Windsor at the Kipling Society]

The Widow at Windsor is a poem from Rudyard Kipling’s book Barrack-Room Ballads. Peter Bellamy sang it on his third album of songs set to Kipling’s poems, Peter Bellamy Sings the Barrack-Room Ballads of Rudyard Kipling. This track was also included on his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. Peter Bellamy noted:

A Tommy’s attitude to Empire was perhaps not quite that of the stay-at-home Englishman; there is pride in this song, but it is by no means the complacent ‘Right to Rule’ imperialism which was prevalent at the time and which is so often mistakenly attributed to Kipling by his modern critics. The tune is a blend of elements of several traditional songs. The oft-repeated legend that Kipling never became Poet Laureate because of Queen Victoria’s objection to the references to her as ‘The Widder’ is unfortunately without foundation.

Peter Bellamy re-recorded the song in 1990 for his privately issued cassette Soldiers Three.

Brian Peters sang The Widow at Windsor on the 1995 album of Barrack Room Ballads and other soldier’s poems of Rudyard Kipling as set to traditional tunes by Peter Bellamy, The Widow’s Uniform. Dave Webber noted:

Queen Victoria wore a black dress and white cap throughout her 40 years of widowhood (Prince Albert died in 1861) but in Kipling the ‘widow’s clothes’ are her soldiers’ uniforms. This poem records an ambivalence of attitude on the part of the ‘beggars in red’ towards their Queen Empress, though rumours that the Queen was offended by the poem are probably untrue. She was well capable of being flattered by the subjects’ apparent devotion—morituri te salutant!.


The Widow at Windsor

’Ave you ’eard o’ the Widow at Windsor
  With a hairy gold crown on ’er ’ead?
She ’as ships on the foam—she ’as millions at ’ome,
  An’ she pays us poor beggars in red.
    (Ow, poor beggars in red!)
There’s ’er nick on the cavalry ’orses,
  There’s ’er mark on the medical stores—
An’ ’er troopers you’ll find with a fair wind be’ind
  That takes us to various wars.
    (Poor beggars!—barbarious wars!)
Then ’ere’s to the Widow at Windsor,
  An’ ’ere’s to the stores an’ the guns,
The men an’ the ’orses what makes up the forces
  O’ Missis Victorier’s sons.
    (Poor beggars! Victorier’s sons!)

Walk wide o’ the Widow at Windsor,
  For ’alf o’ Creation she owns:
We ’ave bought ’er the same with the sword an’ the flame,
  An’ we’ve salted it down with our bones.
    (Poor beggars!—it’s blue with our bones!)
Hands off o’ the sons o’ the Widow,
  Hands off o’ the goods in ’er shop,
For the Kings must come down an’ the Emperors frown
  When the Widow at Windsor says “Stop”!
    (Poor beggars!—we’re sent to say “Stop”!)
Then ’ere’s to the Lodge o’ the Widow,
  From the Pole to the Tropics it runs—
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an’ the file,
  An’ open in form with the guns.
    (Poor beggars!—it’s always they guns!)

We ’ave ’eard o’ the Widow at Windsor,
  It’s safest to let ’er alone:
For ’er sentries we stand by the sea an’ the land
  Wherever the bugles are blown.
    (Poor beggars!—an’ don’t we get blown!)
Take ’old o’ the Wings o’ the Mornin’,
  An’ flop round the earth till you’re dead;
But you won’t get away from the tune that they play
  To the bloomin’ old rag over’ead.
    (Poor beggars!—it’s ’ot over’ead!)
Then ’ere’s to the sons o’ the Widow,
  Wherever, ’owever they roam.
’Ere’s all they desire, an’ if they require
  A speedy return to their ’ome.
    (Poor beggars!—they’ll never see ’ome!)