The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Three Kings Of Cologne

Source: Brand's Popular Antiquities Of Great Britain

W. Carew Hazlitt, Faith and Folklore: A Dictionary of National Beliefs, Superstitions and Popular Customs, Past and Current, With Their Classical and Foreign Analogues, Described and Illustrated.

Forming A New Edition of "The Popular Antiquities of Great Britain" By Brand and Ellis, Largely Extended, Corrected, Brought Down To The Present Time, and Now First Alphabetically Arranged.

In Two Volumes

London: Reeves and Turner, 1905.

Vol. 2, p. 356

See Kingham and Virgins of Cologne. In the 16th c. the Festival of the Three Kings was kept with great solemnity and merriment throughout Northern Germany. Gostwick and Harrison, Outlines of German Literature, 1873, p. 111.

Vol. 2, p. 586

Of these Magi or sages (vulgarly called the three Kings of Cologne), the first named Melchior, an aged man with a long beard, offered gold: the second, Jasper, a bearless youth, offered frankincense: the third, Balthasar, a black or moor, with a large spreading beard, offered myrrh: according to this distich:

"Tres Reges Regi Regum Tria Dona Ferebant;
Myrrham Homini Uncto Aurum, Thura dedere Deo."
                        Festa Anglo-Romana, p. 7.

The dedication of "The Bee-hive of the Romish Church," compiled, rather than translated by George Gilpin the elder, 1579, concludes thus: "Datum in our Muso the 5 of January, being the even of the three Kings of Collen, at which time all good Catholiks maker merry and crie, 'The King drinkes." In anno 1569. Isaac Rabbolence, of Loven." Selden, in his "Table Talk," p. 20, says, "Our chusing kings and queens on Twelfth-Night has reference to the three Kings; (but is not this, after all, a little doubtful?)"

The "lyf of the three Kynges of Coluyn" was one of the early books printed at Westminster by Wynkyn de Worde, and in Fleet street in 1511, 1526, and 1530. Hazlitt's Handbook, 1867, p. 116. In the Chester Mysteries, the play of the "Three Kings" was allotted to the Corporation of Vinters. Comp. King-Game.

The following "Charm, or Protection," was "found in a linen purse of Jackson, the murdered and smuggler, who died (a Roman Catholic) in Chichester Gaol, Feb. 1749. He was struck with such horror on being measured for his irons, that he soon after expired.

"Ye three holy Kings,
Gaspar, Melchior, Balthasar,
Pray for us now and the hour of of death.

"These papers have touch'd the three heads of the holy Kings at Cologne. They are to preserve travellers from accidents on the road, head-achs, falling sickness, fevers, witchcraft, all kinds of mischief, and sudden death." Gent. Mag. for Feb. 1749.

King-Game or Kingham. The pageant of the three Kings of Cologne. See Three Kings of Cologne, [above] and Nares, Glossary, 1859, in v. Under the parish of St. Laurence, Reading, we read: "A.D. 1499. It. payd for hose mete to the horses for the kynges of Colen on May-day, vjd." A note adds: "This was a part of the pageant called the King-play, or King-game, which was a representation of the Wise Men's Offering, who are supposed by the Romish Church to have been kings, and to have been interred at Cologne." Then follows: "It. payd to mynstrells the same day, xijd." Laysons, in his Extracts from the Church wardens' and Chamberlain's Accounts at Kingston-upon-Thames ("Environs of London," vol. i. p. 225), affords us some curious particulars of the King-game, and in another quotation from the same accounts, 24 Hen. VII. the "cost of the Kyngham and Robyn-Hode" appears in one entry, viz.:

A kylderkin of 3 halfpennye bere and a kilderkin of singgyl bere024
7 bushells of whete063
2 bushels and 1/2 of rye018
3 shepe050
A lamb014
2 calvys054
6 pygges020
3 bushels of colys003
The cokes for their labour0100

The clear profits, 15 Henry VIII. (the last time Lysons found it mentioned) amounted to 0 10s. 6d., a very considerable sum. Was the child's game called "King I am" a derivative from this? [Vol. 2, pp. 353-54]

Editor's Note: Also see: We Three Kings Of Orient Are, and from William Hone's The Every Day Book: January 6 - Epiphany.

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.

Related Hymns and Carols