Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.
This delightful tale of unwanted sexual contact which happily normalizes the objectification of women is first recorded in the mid-nineteenth century, with another verison being recorded around the same time:
Rowley Powley, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry;
When the girls began to cry,
Rowly Powley runs away.
There are a number of competing theories for the identification of Georgie Porgie.
George Villiers (1592 – 1628)
Aged 23 Villiers became Gentleman of the Bedchamber to James I, being given the titles of earl, then marquess and (at the age of 31) the 1st Duke of Buckingham and lover to the king, who described him as ‘my sweet child and wife’. The nursery rhyme, according to this theory, is a homo- and biphobic jibe at the king for taking Villiers as his lover.
Villiers was known to be bisexual, and had numerous affairs with the ladies of the royal court. Rumour had it that Villiers had also abused his position and forced himself upon some of these ladies, making ‘kissing the girls and making them cry’ a euphemism for rape. Lovely. Ultimately cowardly, though, Villiers managed to avoid confrontation with the husbands and lovers of the women he raped (when the boys came out to play, Georgie Porgie ran away).
In 1627 Villiers, now a military man, lost 4000 of his 7000 men at Siege of Saint-Martin-de-Ré and was stabbed by a disgruntled soldier. He is interred in Westminster Abbey.
Prince Regent George IV
Son of George III was equally highly-sexed, having several mistresses, illegitimate children and a bigamous marriage. His hatred for his wife Caroline of Brunswick saw her banned from his coronation; his second (concurrent), Maria Anne Fitzherbert, a Catholic and a commoner and therefore not a suitable match, was forced to keep her marriage to the Prince Regent secret. This George made the girls cry by making them both utterly miserable.
George was a lover of bare-knuckle boxing. Unfortunately, the sport was illegal, so when one contestant looked likely to die of his injuries at a fight where George was a spectator he made himself scarce. Unfortunately, his presence had been recorded by political cartoonist James Gillray, and George was the subject of much derision for running away ‘when the boys come out to play’.
Charles II was nicknamed Rowley Powley after a favourite horse who mated with a great number of fillies. Charles used the nickname for his dalliances with his many lovers which left him with a number of illegitimate children. In this theory, then, the rhyme refers to Charles’s extra-marital affairs.
It’s unlikely any of these supposed origins are accurate, but the link to George Villiers seems the strongest. This mystery is likely to remain unsolved.