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Lady Diamond

[ Roud 112 ; Child 269 ; G/D 6:1224 ; Ballad Index C269 ; trad.]

Winnie Campbell sang Lady Eliza in 1965 on the Campbell family's Topic album The Singing Campbells. This track was also included in 2009 on Topic's 70th anniversary anthology, Three Score and Ten. Peter A. Hall and Arthur Argo commented in the original album's liner notes:

Many famous ballads survived most successfully in the North-east and this, called Lady Diamond in Child’s compilation, is a fine example. The early music collector, Dean Christie, published a tune to the ballad in his Traditional Ballad Airs (Vol.II-1881) and Gavin Greig collected two, one of which is sung here by Winnie Campbell. The story, which comes from the Decameron, was translated into English in 1556 and probably found its way into popular circulation via a chapbook copy.

Pete and Chris Coe sang Lady Diamond in 1972 on their Trailer album Open the Door and Let Us In.

Frankie Armstrong sang Lady Diamond in 1975 on her Topic album Songs and Ballads and in 1997 on her Fellside CD Till the Grass O'ergrew the Corn. A.L. Lloyd commented in the Topic album's sleeve notes:

The brutal story of the king who kills his daughter’s low-born lover and sends her his heart in a golden cup, was on the go in the Middle Ages. Boccaccio re-tells it in his tale of Ghismonda and Guiscardo, and in later years it was several times made into a play in England and elsewhere. Versified into a ballad, it was widely known throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia. The version here is mainly that sung by Mary Johnston, ‘dairymaid at Hoddam Castle,’ and printed in C. K. Sharpe’s Ballad Book (1823). The song is savage, but as Frankie Armstrong remarks, such savagery is hardly a thing of the past. “As often with old ballads, the moral is not drawn; we experience through the action the consequences of possessiveness and jealousy. How better can we learn?”

And Brian Pearson commented in the Fellside album's notes:

The story of Lady Diamond descends from Guiscardo and Ghismonda's tale in Boccaccio's renaissance best-seller The Decameron. The tragedy of those ill-matched lovers was translated into English in 1566, giving rise to several poems and plays, and there is still a kind of Elizabethan quality to the quick and vivid emotions of the actors here. In typical ballad fashion, no one stops for a moment to consider their course of action, and this headlong rush to disaster somehow mobilises our compassion, not only for the unfortunate lovers, but also for the murderous king. Frankie has been singing this song for 25 years or so and still finds its power to move her undimmed. The words she sings are mostly those of Child's C text, collected from Mary Johnson, a dairy maid at Hoddan Castle. Not having a tune, Frankie made this one up while flying the Atlantic at 35,000 feet, so it can probably claim the world altitude record for a ballad melody.

Steeleye Span recorded Lady Diamond for their 1986 album Back in Line. It was also included in their 2 CD anthology Spanning the Years.

Bryony Griffith sang Lady Diamond in 2011 as the title track of her and Will Hampson's CD Lady Diamond. They got their version from Bronson's The Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads, Volume IV, and finished it with the English session tune Iron Legs.

Rachel Newton sang Lady Diamond in 2012 on her CD The Shadow Side. She used Child's C text like Frankie Armstrong did.

Paul Downey sang Lady Diamond on Mick Ryan's and his 2016 WildGoose CD The Passing Hour. He commented in the album's liner notes:

I learned this, about thirty five years ago, from Annie Fentiman. It sounds Scottish to me. In the long time I have been singing it, I will have changed, and Anglicised, the words.

Cath and Phil Tyler took the words of Lady Dysie from Martin Carthy's John Peel radio session recorded on April 18 and broadcast on 25 April 1983. They sang it in 2018 on their CD The Ox ad the Ax.

Helen Diamond sang Lady Diamond on her 2018 eponymous first album Helen Diamond. She noted:

I initially researched this song out of curiosity at the name—it seemed that any song called Lady Diamond was just asking to be learned and sung by a Diamond. Luckily it turned out to be a good one! The words come from Child’s English and Scottish Popular Ballads (no. 269). The melody I’ve used is from Bertrand Harris Bronson’s Traditional Tunes of the Child Ballads.

Alasdair Roberts sang Lady Eliza on the Furrow Collective's 2018 album Fathoms. They noted:

Alasdair learnt this ballad, which features in Child's collection under the title Lady Diamond, from the singing of Winnie Campbell, as featured on the 1965 Topic Records LP The Singing Campbells: Traditions of an Aberdeen Family. The tune used is one of two collected by the Aberdeenshire folklorist Gavin Greig. Apparently the story recounted in the song has mediaeval roots; it forms the basis of the tale of Ghismonda and Guiscardo in Boccaccio's Decameron.

The Outside Track sang Lady Diamond on their 2018 CD Rise Up. They noted:

This heart-wrenching story is from The Decameron, by Boccaccio (a writer in 14th century Florence) and became very popular in Scotland and England. There was a king with one daughter, in love with someone below her station. In a rage, the king has her lover killed, and in turn, she takes her own life, leaving her father full of regret and loss.


Steeleye Span sing Lady Diamond

There was a lord, a lord lived in the north country
Who was a man of wealth and fame.
He only had one child, a child but only one,
And Lady Diamond was her name.

She did not love a lord, she did not love a king,
She loved a kitchen boy and William was his name.
And though he brought her joy, he also brought her shame,
And he gave his heart to Lady Diamond.

“And his hair shines like gold,” says Lady Diamond,
“And his eyes like crystal balls,” says Lady Diamond,
“Bright as the silver moon,” she says, bright as the sun that shines,
“Bright as the silver moon,” she says, bright as the sun that shines
On Lady Diamond.

It was a winter night, the lord he got no rest,
To Lady Diamond's room he came.
And sat down on the bed just like a wandering ghost,
“Now Lady Diamond tell me plain,”

“Do you love a lord,” he said, “or do you love a king?”
“I love a kitchen boy and William is his name.
And better I love that boy than all your well-bred men,
I have his heart,” says Lady Diamond.

“Where are all my men,” he said, “that I pay meat and fee?”
Go fetch the kitchen boy and bring him here to me.”
They dragged him from the house and hung him on a tree
And they gave his heart to Lady Diamond.


Bryony Griffith sings Lady Diamond

There lived a king, and a very great king,
A king of great renown;
And he had a lovely daughter fair,
Lady Diamond was her name, her name,
Lady Diamond was her name.

Now news goes up and news goes down
And news came to the king
That Lady Diamond's round about,
But to her maid do not care, not care,
But to her maid do not care.

As bells were rung and mess was sung
And all were bound for bed
The King's come to his daughter's bower
But he was not welcome there, not there,
But he was not welcome there.

“Rise up, rise up out of your bed,
Rise up, put on your gown,
Come tell to me, my Diamond dear
To whom you go so round, so round,
To whom you go so round.

“Is it a baron or a lord
Or a man of high degree?
Come tell to me, my Diamond dear
And I pray don't lie to me, to me,
And I pray don't lie to me.”

“Well it's not a baron nor a lord
Nor a man of high degree.
But it's my darling kitchen boy
Where but I lie to thee, to thee,
Where but I lie to thee.”

So the king called up his merry, merry men
By one and by two and by three,
And at last came Robin the kitchen boy
And he dashed him to a tree, a tree,
And he dashed him to a tree.

Then he's taken out his bonny, bonny heart
Placed in a cup of gold,
And they've taken it to Lady Diamond's bower
All because she was so bold, so bold,
All because she was so bold.

“Adieu, adieu my father dear
And to this world adieu,
My darling Robin's died for me
I will do the same also, also,
I will do the same also.”

So she's taken up his bonny, bonny heart
And placed it by her heart
And she's washed it with her falling tears
And by morning she was dead, was dead,
And by morning she was dead.

Rachel Newton sings Lady Diamond

There was a king, a glorious king, a king of noble fame,
And he had daughters only one, Lady Diamond was her name.

He had a boy, a kitchen boy, a boy of muckle scorn.
She loved him long, she loved him aye, til the grass o'ergrew the corn.

It fell upon a winter's night, the king could get no rest.
He came onto his daughter dear, just like a wandering ghost.

He came unto his daughter dear, pulled back the curtains long.
“What aileth thee, my Diamond dear, I fear you've gotten wrong.”

“Oh, if I have, despise me not, for he is all my joy.
I will forsake both dukes and earls and marry your kitchen boy.”

“Oh, bring to me my merry men all, by thirty and by three.
And bring to me my kitchen boy, we'll murder him secretly.”

Not a sound into the hall and ne'er a word was said
Until they had him safe and sure between two feather beds.

“Now cut the heart from out of his breast, put it in a cup of gold,
And present it to my Diamond dear, for she was both stout and bold.”

“Oh, come to me, my hinny, my heart, oh, come to me my joy.
Oh, come to me, my hinny, my heart, my father's kitchen boy.”

She took the cup from out of their hands, set it at her bed head,
Washed it with tears that fell from her eyes; next morning she was dead.

“Oh, where were you, my merry men all, when I gave meat and wage,
That you didn't stay my cruel hand when I was in a rage?

“For gone is all my heart's delight, oh, gone is all my joy,
For my dear Diamond, she is dead, likewise my kitchen boy.”


Thanks to Martin Underwood for lyrics corrections.