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An illustration of the rhyme Three Blind Mice

The Reformation in England is notorious for the religious impact it had on the countries of the world, and the current ongoing dispute among the various factions of Catholicism and Protestantism. Three Blind Mice, a rhyme that emerged in 1609, roughly a few years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, is somewhat a dark reminder of the Dark Ages.

The Reformation began in England when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church because he wanted to divorce his wife, to marry another woman who would bear him a male heir. His wife was a devout catholic and refused to give up her crown to another. The king decided to break away from the Papacy, from Rome, where the Catholic church reigned from. He created the Church of England, and put himself as the legal head. England broke into two factions based on religion, and after Henry's death, the country was plunged in war.


Henry's eldest daughter, Queen Mary I took the throne after her father, and propagated Catholicism, as taught by her mother. Henry's other daughter, through his second wife, Queen Elizabeth I embraced the Protestant faith. Queen Mary was always paranoid of losing her throne to Elizabeth, and she hated the Protestants because of what happened to her mother. She set about ruthlessly persecuting anyone who openly professed their faith, which led to her being known as 'Bloody Mary'.

Illustration of Christian protestants being burned at the stake Image source: wikimedia commons


History has recorded the death of three Bishops, Ridley, Lattimer, and Crammer, known as the Oxford martyrs. They were burned at stake for teaching the Protestant doctrine. The rhyme Three Blind Mice is believed to be an allegorical allusion to the incident of the bishops' execution. They are called 'blind' because of their refusal to recant their confession. Queen Mary is said to have "cut off their tales with a carving knife" and is referred to as a farmer's wife to lighten the scene for children; perhaps to also reduce the ruthlessness of the act.

Three blind mice. Three blind mice.

See how they run. See how they run.

They all ran after the farmer's wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a sight in your life,

As three blind mice (Modern version of the rhyme, Wikipedia)

Three Blind Mice is sung widely in nurseries of the world by little children, often innocent of the true story behind it.


Keywords: Three Blind Mice, Nursery Rhymes, Reformation, Persecution, England, Queen Mary


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