The theory behind “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.” An English nursery rhyme that would eventually find itself being read by multitudes of people, was quite interesting and in fact, a very thought provoking theory was founded to be referencing Queen Mary and another interesting Monarch. For example, it is believed that the rhyme is referencing Queen Mary, Queen of Scotland who ruled for approximately 5 years. The way the oldest version goes, goes like this:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.
The theory behind this poem is that, the reference “How does your garden grow” references her rule or authority over Scotland. The 2nd reference is “Silver bells”, In Catholicism, Cathedral bells are often used. Another reference in this poem is the “Cockle shells” which references the unloyalty of her husband, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. This is the same nobleman accused for the murder of Queen Mary’s 2nd husband, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Additionally, he is responsible for tricking the Queen of Scots by first lying to her about an imminent danger awaiting her, and to follow him to his castle located in Dunbar. However, she was taken prisoner by this nobleman and unfortunately raped to secure a marriage. And lastly, the line “And pretty maids all in a row” which would be referring to her ladies in waiting that were even nicknamed “The Four marys”.
Another theory behind this poem is now, the Queen of England, Mary Stuart or to be more precise, Mary I of England. In the Queen of England’s case. When the reference “How does your garden grow” is uttered, it would be in reference to her lack of children that were to take her place as ruler. Next, is another reference which writes “Quite contrary”, which is referring the Queen of England’s vain effort in reversing the ecclesiastical changes effected by Henry The 8th, her father. Another is, “Pretty maids all in a row” is meant to be in reference to the women Lady Jane Grey who also went by the name “9 days Queen”, due to the fact that she was Queen of England and Ireland for exactly 9 days, due to the Privy Council of England having a change of heart and declaring that Mary Tudor as Queen. And last but not least, the line “Rows & Rows” is referencing the executions of those who followed the Protestant faith.