Humpty Dumpty the Cannon, Not the Egg…
27 February 2015 by Marketing Team
We all know the ‘Humpty Dumpty’ nursery rhyme, but I bet you didn’t know there is a chance that Colchester is the host of the tale? Rob Phillips investigates.
The story goes that an egg called Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. One fateful day he took a tumble, cracked open and that was that. Not even the Kings men, nor his horses, could “put Humpty together again”. That is all well and good, but why would anyone attempt to fix a broken egg? By nature, a broken egg will remain broken…
In fact, we only refer to Humpty as an egg in the first place because the 1872 novel ‘Through the Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carrol, depicts him as one. Since then, Humpty’s portrayal in popular culture has always been an egg. But before his reincarnation as an egg, where did Humpty Dumpty come from? And if not an egg, then what was he?
The name Humpty Dumpty is now believed to refer to a large cannon used during the English Civil War (1642-1649). In 1648, towards the end of the Civil War, the then Royalist (Cavalier) fortified Town of Colchester was laid siege to by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads) in an attempt to prevent King Charles I followers from supporting his wish to rule the country without a parliament. During said siege a large cannon, known as Humpty Dumpty, was used to bombard the Parliamentary forces from the Town walls.
However, after sustaining the attack for around a month with no significant success, the Parliamentary forces turned their attention to Humpty with cannon fire of their own. A successful shot to the foundations in which Humpty sat upon, ensured the cannon ‘had a big fall’ and came tumbling to the ground. The cannon was irretrievable by the Kings men and the town eventually fell under Parliamentarian control, who won the Civil War in 1649.
Now, with this newfound explanation, let’s put this story into action in the traditional rhyme:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall (Colchester Wall)
Humpty Dumpty had a big fall (The wall was destroyed and Humpty fell to the ground)
All the Kings horses and all the Kings men (The Royalists in support of King Charles I)
Couldn’t put Humpty together again (The cannon was too large to be retrieved from the rubble)
So next time you hear the Humpty Dumpty rhyme, or see an illustration of Humpty Dumpty the egg, just remember, there’s a little bit of Colchester history in there.