OH no...this is another one with a reportedly grisly history.
According to the Rhymes website:
Jack and Jill referred to are said to be King Louis XVI - Jack -who was beheaded (lost his crown) followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette - Jill - (who came tumbling after.)
The words and lyrics to the Jack and Jill poem were made more acceptable as a story for children by providing a happy ending! The actual beheadings occurred in during the Reign of Terror in 1793.
But says, Wikipedia, there are several other possible explanations. These include:
- In Norse mythology, Hjúki and Bil, a brother and sister (respectively) who, according to the 13th-century Prose Edda book Gylfaginning written by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, were taken up from the earth by the moon (personified as the god Máni) as they were fetching water from the well called Byrgir.
- Jack is Cardinal Wolsey and Gill is Bishop Tarbes who attempted to arrange the marriage of Mary Tudor to the French king. Their failure to negotiate this peace with France led to tax raises and thus a Jack and Jill protest song.
- In the 17th century, King Charles I tried to reform the taxes on liquid measures. He was blocked by Parliament, so subsequently ordered that the volume of a Jack (1/2 pint) be reduced, but the tax remained the same. This meant that he still received more tax, despite Parliament's veto. Hence "Jack fell down and broke his crown" (many pint glasses in the UK still have a line marking the 1/2 pint level with a crown above it) "and Jill came tumbling after". The reference to "Jill", (actually a "gill", or 1/4 pint) is an indication that the gill dropped in volume.
- Jack and Jill were forms of currency referring to dollars and cents, respectively. The rising value of Jacks and Jill caused them to "go up a hill" until a plague caused a lack of water, causing a drop in the values of this currency (falling down and breaking his crown).
Phew - those are some very complicated stories for such a simple ditty. I wonder which one's true.
Previous posts: Where do nursery rhymes come from?
Five little monekys jumping on the bed - it's a mystery