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Did Henry VIII Really Write Greensleeves?

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: that’s what you get for rolling around in the grass in your Oxford!

Have you heard the rumor about Greensleeves? You know, the one where it was supposedly written by Henry VIII.

The myth would have us believe that Henry wrote the song for his second wife, Anne Boleyn. Well let’s just get that out of the way now and say that it’s highly unlikely that story is true.

Many now believe the story is from the Elizabethan era and based on a style from Italy that didn’t find it’s way to England until after Henry’s death.

What we do know is that it is one catchy tune.

The ditty has been set by numerous composers since it first reached listeners’s ears. Among them this version by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Curiously, the music was also used in Federico Bussoni’s opera Turandot which opens with the tune because the composer thought it sounded Chinese!

Music Heard On This Episode

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on "Greensleeves"
Boston Pops Orchestra; Arthur Fielder, cond. — Pops in Love (Philips, 1990)
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album cover
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on "Greensleeves"
Boston Pops Orchestra; Arthur Fielder, cond. — Pops in Love (Philips, 1990)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

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