Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up Jack got, and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper,
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.
Since the origin of the majority of nursery rhymes have been passed down to generations verbally it is often hard to trace the exact origin. Often the lyrics are modified or changed to address differences in language, culture and meaning. Since nursery rhymes are often translated and passed throughout different countries, a variety of meanings and theories were developed.
The most common theory addresses a part of French history regarding King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.
“Jack and Jill went up the hill, To fetch a pail of water”: Many contend that this line represents King Louis XVI (Jack) and Queen Marie Antoinette’s (Jill) rise to power in 1774.
“Jack fell down and broke his crown, And Jill came tumbling after”: In 1793, King Louis XVI lost his status as king (“fell down”) after the attempt to establish a limited monarchy failed following the Revolution. Both King Louis XVI (Jack) and Queen Marie Antoinette (Jill) were arrested and charged with treason. King Louis XVI (Jack) was the first to be guillotined (“broke his crown”) with Queen Marie Antoinette (Jill) following shortly after, or at least her head (“tumbling after”).
“Up Jack got, and home did trot, As fast as he could caper, To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob with vinegar and brown paper”: The last 4 verses were added to give a happier ending to this short child’s nursery rhyme. Certain words and lyrics were modified to create softer imagery for this seemingly ‘harmless’ nursery rhyme.
Various interpretations and theories developed over the years as a result from cross culture translations:
This rhyme continues to be passed throughout generations creating rich and interesting history in its path, which is often neglected.