The roots of the story, or poem, of Jack and Jill are in France. The Jack and Jill referred to are said to be King Louis XVI -- Jack -- who was beheaded (lost his crown), and followed by his Queen Marie Antoinette -- Jill -- (who came tumbling after). The words and lyrics to the Jack and Jill poem were made more acceptable as a story for children by providing a happy ending! The actual beheadings occurred during the Reign of Terror in 1793. The first publication date for the lyrics of the Jack and Jill rhyme is 1795, which ties in with the history and origins. The Jack and Jill poem is also known as Jack and Gill -- the misspelling of Gill is not uncommon in nursery rhymes as they are usually passed from generation to generation by word of mouth.
On the gruesome subject of beheading: it was the custom that
following execution the severed head was held up by the hair by the
executioner. This was not, as many people think, to show the crowd
the head, but in fact to show the head the crowd and it's own body!
Consciousness remains for at least eight seconds after beheading
until lack of oxygen causes unconsciousness and eventually death.
The guillotine is associated with the French but the English were
the first to use this device as described in our section containing
Mary Mary Quite Contrary Rhyme.
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