The Lady Isabella's Tragedy;


The Lady Isabella's Tragedy;


OR, The Step-Mothers Cruelty. Being a Relation of a most Lamentable and Cruel Murder, committed on the body of the Lady Isabella, the only Daughter of a Noble Duke occasioned by the means of a Step-Mother and the Master-Cook, who were both adjudged to suffer a Cruel death, for committing the said Horrid Act.


A fictional ballad, included here to demonstrate how similar they were - in lyric, melody, and appearance - to ballads about genuine events. A wicked stepmother conspires with the cook to kill her stepdaughter. He kills her and bakes her into a pie, but the scullery boy is an eye-witness and warns the duke before he eats his daughter. The murderers are executed and the scullery boy becomes heir to the dukedom.

Digital Object

Image notice

Full size images of all ballad sheets available at the bottom of this page.

Image / Audio Credit

University of Glasgow Library - Euing Ballads 1.182; Pepys 2.149; EBBA 31937. Audio recording by Molly McKew.

Set to tune of...


THere was a Lord of worthy fame and a Hunting he would ride,
Attended by a noble Train, of Gentry by his side,
And whilst he did in chase remain, to see both sport and play,
His Lady went as she did feign, unto the Church to pray.

This Lord he had a Daughter fair whose beauty shin'd so bright:
She was belov'd both far and near of many a Lord and Knight.
Fair Isabella was she call'd, A Creature fair was she,
She was her fathers only joy, as you shall after see.

But yet her Cruel step-Mother, did envy her so much,
That day by day she sought her life her Malice it was such.
She bargain'd with the Master-Cook to take her life away,
And taking of her Daughters Book she thus to her did say.

Go home sweet daughter, I thee pray go hasten presently.
And tell unto the Master-Cook these words that I tell thee.
And bid him dress to dinner straight, that fair and milk white Doe,
That in the Park doth shine so bright, there's none so fair to show.

THis Lady fearing of no harm, obey'd her Mothers will,
And presently she hasted home her mind for to fulfill.
She straight into the Kitchin went, her message for to tell:
And there the Master-Cook she spy'd who did with malice swell.

You Master-Cook it must be so, do that which I thee tell
You needs must dress the milk-white doe, which you do know full well.
Then straight his cruel bloody hands, he on the Lady laid,
Who quivering and shaking stands, whilst thus to her he said.

Thou art the Doe that I must dress, see here behold my Knife,
For it is pointed presently, to rid thee of thy life.
O then cry'd out the Scullen boy as loud as loud might be,
O save her life good Master-Cook, and make your Pies of me.

For pitty sake do not destroy, my Lady with your Knife,
You know she is her fathers joy, for Christs sake save her life.
I will not save her life he said, nor make my Pies of thee,
But if thou do this deed bewray thy Butcher I will be,

But when this Lord he did come home for to sit down and eat,
He called for his Daughter Dear, to come and carve his meat.
Now sit you down this Lady said O sit you down to meat,
Into some Nunnery she is gone, your Daughter dear forget.

Then solemnly he made a vow before the company,
That he would neither eat nor drink, until he did her see.
O then bespake the Scullen boy, with a loud voice so high,
If that you will your Daughter see, my Lord cut up that Pye.

Wherein her flesh is minced small; and parched with the fire:
All caused by her Step-Mother, who did her death desire.
And cursed be the Master-Cook, O cursed may he be,
I proffered him my own hearts blood, from death to set her free.

Then all in black this Lord did mourn, and for his Daughters sake
He judged for her Step-mother, to be burnt at a Stake,
Likewise he judg'd the Master-Cook in boyling Lead to stand,
and made the simple Scullen Boy, the Heir to all his Land.

Method of Punishment

burning at stake (for stepmother), boiling lead (for male cook)





Printing Location

Printed for P. Brooksby at the Golden Ball in Pye-corner.

Tune Data

The Ladies Fall (Simpson 1966, pp, 98, 104, 105, 248, 369-371, 368), is linked with In Peascod Time.


Fictional tale


lady isabella's tragedy.mp3


“The Lady Isabella's Tragedy;,” Execution Ballads, accessed July 13, 2024,

Output Formats