Constance of Cleveland.


Constance of Cleveland.


A very excellent Sonnet of the most faire Lady Constance of Cleveland and her disloyall Knight. To the tune of Crimson Velvet.

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Magdalene College - Pepys Library, Shelfmark: Pepys Ballads 1.138-139 (EEBO has 3 other editions: BL 1660, BL 1675, Beinecke 1655-80); EBBA 20060

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Crimson Velvet


IT was a youthfull Knight, lov'd a gallant Lady,
Faire she was and bright, and of vertues rare:
Her selfe she did behave so courteously as may be,
Wedded were they brave, joy without compare.
Here began the griefe,
Paine without reliefe, her husband soone her love forsooke,
To women lewd of mind
Being bad inclin'd, he onely lent a pleasant looke:
The Lady she sate weeping,
While that he was keeping company with others moe:
Her words, my Love, believe not,
Come to me and grieve not,
Wantons will thee overthrow.

His faire Ladies words
nothing he regarded,
Wantonnesse affords such delightfull sport:
While they dance and sing, with great mirth prepared,
She her hands did wring in most grievous s[oo]rt.
Oh what hap had I
Thus to waile and cry, unrespected every day:
Living in disdaine,
While that others gaine all the right I should enjoy?
I am left forsaken,
Others they are taken, ah my Love, why dost thou so?
Her flatteries beleeve not, etc.

The Knight with his faire Piece, at length his Lady spied,
Who did him daily fleece of his wealth and store:
Secretly she stood, while she her fashions tried,
With a patient mood, while deepe the Strumpet swore:
O sir Knight, quoth she,
So dearely I love thee, my life doth rest at thy dispose,
By day and eke by night,
For thy sweet delight, thou shalt me in thy armes disclose.
I am thine owne for ever,
Still will I persever true to thee where ere I goe.
Her flatteries beleeve not, etc.

The vertuous Lady mild enters then among them,
Being big with child, as ever she might be.
With distilling teares she looked then upon them,
Filled full of feares, thus replied she:
Ah my Love and Deare,
Wherefore stay you here, refusing me your loving wife,
For an Harlots sake,
Which each one will take, whose vile deeds provoke much strife:
Many can accuse her,
O my Love refuse her, with thy Lady home returne:
Her flatteries beleeve not,
Come to me and grieve not, etc.

All in fury then the angry Knight upstarted
Very furious, when he heard his Ladies speech:
With many bitter termes his wife he overthwarted,
Using hard extremes, while she did him beseech.
From her necke so white,
He tooke away in spight her curious chaine of finest gold,
Her Jewels and her Rings,
And all such costly things, as he about her did behold.
The Harlot in her presence,
He did gently reverence, and to her he gave them all
He sent away his Lady,
Full of woe as may be, who in a sound with griefe did fall.

The second part, To the same tune.

AT his Ladies wrong
the Harlot fleer'd and laughed,
Inticements are so strong, they over-come the wife:
The Knight nothing regarded, to see the Lady scoffed,
This was her reward, for her enterprise.
The Harlot all this space
Did him oft imbrace, she flatters him, and thus doth say,
For thee Ile die and live,
For thee my faith Ile give, no woe shall work my Loves decay.
Thou shalt be my treasure,
Thou shalt be my pleasure, thou shalt be my hearts delight:
I will be thy darling,
I will be thy worldling, in despight of Fortunes spight.

Thus he did remaine in wastfull great expences,
Till it bred his paine, and consum'd him quite:
When his Lands were spent, troubled in his senses,
Then he did repent this his lewd delight:
For reliefe he hies,
For reliefe he flies, to them on whom he spent his gold,
They doe him deny,
They doe him defie, they will not once his face behold.
Being thus distressed,
Being thus oppressed, in the fields that night he lay,
Which the Harlot knowing,
Through her malice growing, sought to take his life away.

A young and proper Lad, they had slaine in secret,
For the gold he had: whom they did convey,
By a Ruffian lewd, to that place directly,
Where that youthfull Knight fast a sleeping lay:
The bloody dagger than,
Wherewith they kill'd the man, hard by the Knight he likewise laid,
Sprinkling him with blood,
As he thought it good,
and then no longer there he staid.
The Knight being so abused,
Was forthwith accused for this murther which was done,
And he was condemned,
That had not offended, shamefull death he might not shun.

When the Lady bright understood the matter,
That her wedded Knight was condemn'd to die,
To the King she went with all the speed that might be,
Where she did lament her hard destiny:
Noble King, quoth she,
Pitty take on me, and pardon my poore husbands life,
Else I am undone,
With my little son, let mercy mitigate this griefe.
Lady faire, content thee,
Soone thou wouldst repent thee, if he should be saved so:
Sore he hath abus'd thee,
Sore he hath misus'd thee, therefore Lady let him goe.

O my Liege, quoth she, grant your gracious favor,
Deare he is to me, though he did me wrong:
The King repli'd againe, with a sterne behaviour,
A Subject hee hath slaine, die he shall ere long,
Except thou canst find
Any one so kind, that will die and set him free.
Noble King, she said,
Glad am I apaid, the same person will I bee,
I will suffer duely,
I will suffer truely,
for my Love and husbands sake.
The King therefore amazed,
Though he her duty praised, he bade that thence he should her take.

It was the Kings command, on the morrow after,
She should out of hand, to the Scaffold goe:
Her husband pointed was, to beare the sword before her,
He must eke alas, give the deadly blow:
He refus'd the deed,
Shee bade him proceed, with a thousand kisses sweet.
In this wofull case,
They did both imbrace which mov'd the Ruffian in that place
Straight for to discover
This concealed murther, whereby the Lady saved was,
The Harlot then was hanged,
As shee well deserved,
this [did v]ertue bring to passe.


Method of Punishment





Printing Location

Printed at London for I. Wright.

Tune Data

Crimson Velvet first appeared in 1596 (Simpson 1966, pp. 141-142).


invented story?




“Constance of Cleveland.,” Execution Ballads, accessed June 24, 2024,

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