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Popular propaganda: John Heywood's wedding ballad and Mary I’s Spanish match

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)73-91
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date17/03/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The text of John Heywood's wedding ballad for Mary I and Philip of Spain, A Balade specifienge partly the maner, has been underestimated for many years. It is criticised for the poor quality of its poetry and lambasted for its tortured imagery. Instead, this article re-evaluates the ballad as a highly effective popular song intended to spread propaganda defending the queen's Spanish match. It argues that the song performed an excellent job of addressing complex constitutional issues through a quintessentially popular genre, while at the same time successfully overcoming the problem of fitting new words to a pre-existing tune. Furthermore, it is proposed that the song was deliberately set to the melody from Henry VIII's ballad 'Pastyme with good companye' and, by drawing on the latest research into cultures of creativity and examining what resonances the tune would have had for its listeners, it suggests that the potential multivalency of the melody was crucially important for understanding the song and its reception.