'THE KING AND THE MILLER

 

The extract below is taken from "History of Sutton In Ashfield, or Past Links With The Present" published by local printer Luther Lindley in 1907.

One day in hunting the king was separated from his retinue, and found his way towards dusk to the Mill, and requested the mistress of the house to give him food and a night's lodging. Upon remarking that he looked like a clean, decent man, she gave him his supper, and arranged that he sleep with her son, Dick.

In the morning she gave him some breakfast, and [her daughter] 'Carrotty Margery' waited upon his Majesty; and whilst engaged on the meal a number of courtiers arrived, asking if anything had been seen or heard of the missing King, in search of whom they had been engaged all the night.

The King then declared himself, much to the amazement of Mistress Cockle, who went on her knees to beg pardon for the familiarity with which she had treated him, and above all for putting him to sleep with her son.

But the King graciously thanked her for her kindness and hospitality, knighted her husband on the spot, and thus made her 'My Lady'.

The story goes on to say that the despotic Monarch insisted on one of his Lords taking 'Carrotty Margery' to wife, and finding a wife for his quondam bedfellow amongst the ladies of the court."

 

The truth behind this romantic tale is that it was the subject of a play written in 1737 by Robert Dodsley. Theophilus Cibber first produced Robert Dodsley’s satire on the court of King Henry II, The King and the Miller of Mansfield, at Drury Lane on 30 January 1737. The play was a great theatrical success, attracting thirty-seven performances in its first season alone, before going on to become one of the eighteenth century’s most frequently performed pieces of theatre. In this short, six-scene play, Dodsley transposes the court from London to his native Sherwood Forest, where a King, named “Harry”, and his courtiers lose contact with each other while out hunting. The king, wandering alone, meets one of his keepers, a miller called John Cockle, in the forest. Challenged by the miller, who does not know whom he is addressing, the king declares himself to be one, who has “the Honour to belong to the King as well as you and, perhaps, should be unwilling to see any wrong done him.” He tells the miller he came hunting with the king and “has lost his way.” The miller offers “such poor entertainment as a miller can give” for the night. Click here to read the full play (pdf file)

Robert Dodsley 1703-1764

Robert Dodsley was born at Ratcliffe Gate, Mansfield 1703. His father was the master of the Free School at Mansfield but Robert was apprenticed to a stocking weaver from where he ran away to London into domestic service as a footman. There he wrote collections of poems and plays gaining a considerable literary reputation by which he became a wealthy man. By 1735 he had used his wealth and influence to establish himself as the foremost publisher and bookseller of the day noted for suggesting and co-financing the first Dictionary of the English Language. He also campaigned for the freedom of the press even spending a short time in prison for some of his controversial publishing's.