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Broadside ballad entitled 'King James's Letter to the French King'


This ballad begins: 'KInd Lewis, my friend, / Since Things goes no better, / Here is a kind Letter, / Which to you I send, / to lay down your Arms: / For my conquering Son, / Will quite over-run / your Kingdoms I fear.' A note below the title states that this ballad should be sung to the tune of 'Let Mary live long'.

This ballad takes the form of a letter written by James II, King of England (1633-1701) to Louis XIV, King of France (1638-1715), who had the reputation of being a warmonger. As King James was only on the throne from 1685-1688, it seems likely that the ballad was written during this period. With its reference to the battleground of Flanders, the ballad states that the countries of Europe are tired of war and asks Louis - the 'Sun King' - to lay down his arms. As James and Louis shared the same Catholic religion, the lines regarding James's children holding out the 'olive branch' to Louis, seems to be a confident prediction that James's children will successfully accede to the English throne following their father's death, thus continuing the Stewart dynasty.

Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.

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Probable date of publication: 1692   shelfmark: Ry.III.a.10(024)
Broadside ballad entitled 'King James's Letter to the French King'
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