I’ve liked the song “Cam Ye O’er Frae France” for thirty years, but I never knew what it meant.
This is because much of it sounds like gibberish. It isn’t.
This is the version from the 1973 album Parcel of Rogues by British folk-rockers Steeleye Span.
All I knew was that at least some of the words were Scots Gaelic.
Turns out it’s a famous folk song. It was written by Jacobites to make fun of King George I.
The backstory is that the Tudors ruled England in the 16th century, and Henry VIII created the Anglican Church so he wouldn’t have to put up with Rome. Big social conflicts ensued because many people didn’t feel they should leave the Catholic Church. This got worse in the 17th century when the Tudors died out and were succeeded by their cousins, the more pro-Catholic Stuarts. The fourth in that line, James II, converted to Catholicism was deposed in 1685, in favor of his Protestant daughter, Mary. Later, laws were passed which passed the crown to a distaff line in Germany … because it was firmly Protestant. Their first king was George I. A Jacobite was someone who believed the rightful line lay with James descendants.
Anyway, the song was made by Jacobites speaking a mix of Scottish and pidgin English. It makes fun of George and his courtesans:
When George I imported his seraglio of impoverished gentlewomen from Germany, he provided the Jacobite songwriters with material for some of their most ribald verses. Madame Kilmansegge, Countess of Platen, is referred to exclusively as “The Sow” in the songs, while the King's favourite mistress, the lean and haggard Madame Schulemburg (afterwards named Duchess of Kendall) was given the name of “The Goose”. She is the “goosie” referred to in this song. The “blade” is the Count Koningsmark. “Bobbing John” refers to John, Earl of Mar, who was at the time recruiting Highlanders for the Hanoverian cause. “Geordie Whelps” is, of course, George I himself.
More Trivia: “Bobbing John” refers to John, Earl of Mar, who was at the time recruiting Highlanders for the Hanoverian cause is also the subject of the Genesis song “Eleventh Earl of Mar” from Wind and Wuthering.