Bonny Earl Of Murray

Anonymous (16th century) A popular Scottish folk ballad that valorizes the rivalry between James Stewart, earl of Murray (or Moray) and the earl of Huntly. The conflict peaked in 1592, when Huntly murdered Murray, whom he believed to be conspiring with the earl of Bothwell against King James VI (later James I). Murray's castle was torched, and Huntly was caught in Fife and executed. Huntly's actions were widely condemned, though the Crown did not punish him. The ballad diverges from history as it assigns to James a speech explicitly berating Huntly, perhaps in an attempt to keep it from being declared treasonous. It also includes erroneous apocrypha about Murray being the queen's lover and next in line for the throne.

The first stanza of this ballad is the source of the term mondegreen (misheard lyric). In popular culture, lines 3 and 4 ("They have slain the Earl of Murray, / And they layd him on the green") were long thought to be "They have slain the Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen."

See also border ballads, "Lord Randal."

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