- Family and Parenting
The True Meaning of Jack and Jill
There's more than one true meaning
The true meaning of Jack and Jill is slightly complicated in that there are several suggestions as to the real meaning of the nursery rhyme.
The original rhyme comprised four lines
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.
Another verse was added.
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.
That verse was changed for reasons that you might guess;
Up Jack got and down he trot
As fast as he could caper;
And went to bed and covered his head
In vinegar and brown paper.
Another two verses were added but rarely used.
When Jill came in how she did grin
To see Jack's paper plaster;
Mother vexed, did whip her next,
For causing Jack's disaster.
Now Jack did laugh and Jill did cry
But her tears did soon abate;
Then Jill did say that they should play
At see-saw across the gate.
Lyrics to Jack in Jill
Jack and Jill
Jack & Jill and the French Revolution 1793
The most popular and probably most accurate explanation of the suggested meanings is that Jack was indeed Louis XVI, (16th) King of France and Jill was his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, she was famous for saying about the peasants “If they won't eat bread, let them eat cake”. Fresh bread was only available to the rich and the poor left to eat stale bread, upon news of their protest, the Queen announced that famous quot. The beginning of the end!
The nursery rhyme relates to the execution of the king and queen of France.Jack and Jill went up the hill and the steps to the guillotine represented the hill, Jack (King Louis) was the first to be beheaded, and lost his crown then Jill (Marie Antoinette's head) came tumbling after.
King Charles and his tax
Quite a few nursery rhymes tend to relate to a King or Queen in one form or another, in Jack and Jill, one King Charles I attempted to increase taxes on liquid measures to boost his wealth but Parliament voted against it. Bear in mind that at the time Parliament and the King did not work well together- Oliver Cromwell and all that!
Charles wasn't to be undermined by parliament, he felt himself far too powerful to bow down to mere ministers so he ordered a ruling that the volume of a 'Jack', ( ½ pint) was to be reduced but the tax remained the same. Half a pint of beer would be reduced in volume but the cost of the beer remained the same. This way the King gained more tax because more beer would be sold.
Parliament might have voted against the original tax increase but as far as King Charles was concerned he decided that they didn't say anything about reducing the measure of a Jack.
Thus 'Jack fell down and broke his crown' but not too long after 'Jill came tumbling after'. Even today the volume mark on a beer glass shows a crown.
A 'Gill' is ¼ pint, so when the Jack fell down, the Gill had to follow by virtue that it was half of a Jack.
It was also known that ale was very frequently watered down and the inn keeper would go and "fetch a pail of water" to do this deed.
The ordinary Jack and Jill
We often hear people using the phrase 'Jack and Jill' as a term for 'anybody'. An exclusive club or society for instance, might not desire 'any old Jack & Jill' as part of its membership.
This phrase is not new by any means, in fact William Shakespeare is recorded to having made reference in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Jack shall have Jill; Nought shall go ill (end of act three).
Shakespeare even mentions the couple in Love's Labour's Lost "Our wooing doth not end like an old play; Jack hath not Jill".