Green Groweth the Holly

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Green Groweth the Holly
by King Henry VIII of England
Hans Holbein, the Younger, Around 1497-1543 - Portrait of Henry VIII of England - Google Art Project.jpg
Henry VIII
GenreChristmas carol

"Green Groweth the Holly", also titled "Green Grow'th the Holly", is a 16th century English poem and Christmas carol written by King Henry VIII of England.[1][2][3] The carol was written as "a carol for three voices".[4]


During Medieval times, carols had started to develop a separate style from ordinary Christian hymns though not necessarily performed just at Christmas.[5] King Henry VIII was a Renaissance monarch who was educated in music and several languages.[6] The King wrote "Green Groweth the Holly" as his own take on the developing Christmas carol style. It is not known exactly when King Henry wrote the carol.[7] In addition to writing the words, the King also composed the music for the carol.[8]

In 1522 the carol was published in "The Henry VIII Book" (manuscript: Add MS 31922).[4][7][9] Despite the initial popularity during King Henry's reign, when it had been described as "this little piece by Henry VIII that is one of the half dozen that mark him as the first lyricist of his age",[10] the carol afterwards fell into disfavour and the British Library described it as a "failed classic".[3] The King may have written it as an adaption of the English folk carol "The Holly and the Ivy", but it has been argued that "Green Groweth the Holly" preceded that more famous carol.[11][12]


"Green Groweth the Holly" has also been adapted into a poem. The poem version is more secular and removes references to God in it, with it being re-imagined as a love poem to the unchanging nature of the holly during the winter's weather and the faithfulness of the lover.[6][1]


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b "Green Groweth the Holly by Henry VIII, King of England". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  2. ^ "Green Grow'th the Holly". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b "The Medieval origins of the Christmas Carol". British Library. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b "Henry VIII, king of England : Green Groweth the Holly". Toronto Library. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  5. ^ "The Medieval Origins of The Carol: How Christmas Songs Have Survived Through the Centuries". Ancient Origins. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  6. ^ Jump up to: a b Description by Timothy Dickey. "Green groweth the holly, carol". AllMusic. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  7. ^ Jump up to: a b "The Henry VIII Book (British Library, Add. MS 31922). Facsimile with Introduction by David Fallows". Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  8. ^ "Manuscript viewer: Add MS 31922". British Library. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  9. ^ "Add MS 31922". British Library. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  10. ^ Apple (of Beauty and Discord). Colour Limited. 1920. p. 60.
  11. ^ "The English Christmas carol" (PDF). Albert Carols. Retrieved 2018-11-13. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Christiansen, Rupert (2007-12-14). "The story behind the carol: The holly and the ivy". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
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