Princess Royal (1) (The)
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PRINCESS ROYAL , THE ("Bean-Priunsa Riogda" or "Beanphrionsa Rioghamhuil"). AKA and see - Arethusa (The), Bean-Priunsa Riogda, Beanphrionsa Rioghamhuil, Brian the Brave (4), Gaelic League March (The), Miss MacDermott, Inion Nic Diarmada, Nelson's Praise, Port Shean tSeain, Rodney's Glory (1), New Princess Royal.
One of the most celebrated compositions attributed to Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan (1670–1738). The air under the title "Princess Royal" or "Miss MacDermott" is attributed to O'Carolan by collector Edward Bunting (The Ancient Music of Ireland, 1840), with the note “composed by Carolan for the daughter of MacDermott Roe, the representative of the old princes of Coolavin.” O’Carolan is also listed as composer by Donal O'Sullivan (1983), Grattan Flood (1906) and other sources, although apparently earliest in a printed collection by O'Farrell (c. 1810) in his Pocket Companion, book IV, where the tune appears simply as “Air by Carolan.” The attribution was also credited to the bard by Bunting in his MS collection of c. 1800 (now held by the Library of Queen’s University, Belfast), which O'Sullivan notes "has the tradition of the harpers behind it." Flood (who admittedly is known for some dubious, if not outright erroneous, assertions) says the tune was composed by the harper in 1725, and published in 1727, 1730 (in Walsh's Complete Dancing Master where it appears as "The Princess Royal, the new way") and 1731 (by dancing master Daniel Wright), and republished several times between 1735 and 1745, though no words have survived.
English writer Frank Kidson disagrees with the attribution to O’Carolan and Irish provenance (see “New Lights Upon Old Tunes,” Musical Times, October, 1894). He says that the air was commonly known in the early part of the 18th century as an English country dance tune named “The Princess Royal, the new way” and that about 1730–35 it appeared in several London publications (presumably the Walsh and Wright publications cited by Flood). It was published in Wright’s Compleat Collection of Celebrated Country Dances, vol. I, c. 1730–35 as “New Princess Royal.”
No matter what its origins, it was admired by William Shield (1748–1829, who arranged the song with words set by dramatist and painter Prince Hoare, 1755–1834) who re-titled it "The Arethusa," and published it in his 1796 small opera or musical entertainment "Lock and Key" (Arethusa was name of an Engish ship which fought an engagement with a French frigate La Belle Poule in the English Channel in June, 1778). Shield, a violinist and violist who wrote ballad operas for the popular stage, never claimed composition of the melody and only maintained he had added the bass. The piece became tremendously popular, in part because of the zenophobic mood of the times, particularly toward the French. Irish provenance advocates, however, say it was only through publication and subsequent republication that it not only became popular but became erroneously considered an English air. Editor Gordon Ashman states the tune later became one of Hamilton Harty's sea song settings, called "On Board the Arethusa," which is often heard at the Last Night of the Proms.
On deck five hundred men did dance
The stoutest they cold find in France
We with two hundred did advance
On board of the Arthusa.
Our captain hailed the Frenchman, ‘Ho!’
The Frenchman then cried out ‘Hallo!’-
‘Bear down, d’ye see, the our Admiral’s lee.’
‘No, no,’ says the Frenchman, ‘that can’t be.’-
‘Then I must lug you along with me.’
Says the saucy Arethusa.
The 'princess royal' of the title, states Flood, was an honor for Mary MacDermot, daughter of the Princess of Coolavin and Princess Royal of the MacDermot Family, or, as Bunting says, "daughter of MacDermott Roe, the representative of the old princes of Coolavin (County Sligo)." O'Sullivan, however, notes there were two branches of the County Roscommon family; the MacDermotts of Alderford, usually known by the title MacDermott Roe, and the MacDermotts of Coolavin. The head of the latter branch was known in O'Carolan's time as the Prince of Coolavin, and O'Sullivan believes it probable that the Princess Royal was his eldest daughter and not of the MacDermott Roes. O'Carolan may also composed another song for her called "Maire an Cuilfhin" (Fair-Haired Mary), according to Flood. Princess Royal also is the title reserved for the eldest daughter of the British royal family, if the sovereign sees fit to award it. Kidson (Groves) maintains the 'princess royal' references Princess Anne of Hanover, Duchess of Brunswick and Luneburg (1709–1759), daughter of King George II of England, who bestowed the title on her in 1727. She married William, Prince of Orange, in 1734.
Bayard (1981) begs comparison of the tune with James Oswald's "My Love is Lost to Me" and questions whether Oswald's composition was derivative from "The Princess Royal" (it could not be ancestral to, as he also speculates for O'Carolan's composition preceded his, published c. 1780, by some sixty years). Further, he wonders if O'Carolan based his tune on "some form" of the widely known tunes "Bung Your Eye" and "O As I was Kist Yestreen." The Mallinson/Raven/Bacon morris dance version of the tune is from the village of Adderbury, Oxfordshire, in England's Cotwolds (Carlin's similar version is listed as "Scottish" in origin). In Cape Breton a twelve-step solo dance (also called Princess Royal) was performed to the tune, handed down from Donald 'The Tailor' Beaton, an itinerant tailor from South West Margaree. A Cape Breton hornpipe derivative goes by the title “Jenny's Dream,” and it is also played as a major-mode reel on the island. As a vehicle for folk songs the tune has proved popular and can be heard as “Lord Nelson” and “Raggle Taggle Gypsy O,” among others. Another Turlough O'Carolan composition titled "Mrs. MacDermott Roe" has some melodic similarities. The air was adapted for American shape-note singing, and appears as “Mississippi” in the 1820 supplement to the Kentucky Harmony, first published around the year 1815.