Four Marys

Last night there were four Marys
Tonight there'll be but three
There was Mary Seaton and Mary Beaton
And Mary Carmichael and me.

Oh, often have I dressed my Queen
And put on her braw silk gown
But all the thanks I've got tonight
Is to be hanged in Edinborough Town.

Full often have I dressed my Queen
Put gold upon her hair
But I have got for my reward
The gallows to be my share.

Oh, little did my mother know
The day she cradled me
The land I was to travel in
The death I was to dee.

Oh, happy, happy is the maid
That's born of beauty free
Oh, it was my rosy, dimpled cheeks
That's been the devil to me.

They'll tie a kerchief around my eyes
That I may not see to dee
And they'll never tell my father or mother
But that I'm across the sea.



The four Marys were Mary, Queen of Scots' ladies-in-waiting, but these were Mary Seton, Mary Beaton, Mary Fleming and Mary Livingston. There was no Mary Carmichael but this popular song was believed to be relating to Mary, Queen of Scots until it was traced back to the court of the Tsar. The ballad dates between 1719 and 1764 and narrates the story of Mary Hamilton, a Scottish maid of Peter the Great's wife Catherine, who was executed for the murder of her illegitimate child, product of an affair with the Tsar Peter.

The two stories of Mary Hamilton and Mary, Queen of Scots were grafted onto each other.