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Broadside ballad entitled 'The Royal Robe'


This ballad begins: 'Come all ye knight templars that blest round the globe, / That wear the badge of honour, I mean the royal robe; / For Noah he wire it in the ark where he stood, / When the world was destroyed by a deluge flood.' The sheet was published by James Kay of Glasgow, and cost one penny.

Illustrated with a spectacular and intriguing woodcut, this broadside appears to be celebrating the secret history and existence of freemasonry. The key, hammer, sword and evil eye all appear to be symbols of freemasonry, though because such organisations are cloaked in secrecy, it is difficult to decode the meaning of this woodcut. However, with its altar and candles, the woodcut most likely represents some sort of traditional, quasi-religious ceremony. The ballad itself makes many references to biblical stories, while the Bible that appears in the woodcut is mysteriously opened at the Old Testament chapter called 'Kings'.

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 published: 1844-   shelfmark: RB.m.143(020)
Broadside ballad entitled 'The Royal Robe'
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