We all know the story of Humpty Dumpty. He sat on a wall, had a great fall, and none of the king’s men could put him back together again. Neither could their horses. It’s one of those classic, beloved nursery rhymes that generations have grown up with.
As with a lot of these iconic old tales, though, things aren’t as they seem here. Not at all. Incredibly, the original Humpty Dumpty wasn’t an egg. “He” was probably a cannon!
According to a number of military historians, Humpty Dumpty was the name of a cannon used by the Royalists during the English Civil War.
The conflict raged from 1642 to 1649, and in June of 1648, Humpty Dumpty was stationed on the walls of Colchester. It was one of several cannons erected to try and keep Parliament’s army from taking the city. The next month, however, the Parliamentary forces heavily damaged the walls beneath Humpty Dumpty with their own artillery. You can guess where this is going: Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, and broke into pieces.
As for that business with all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, it seems those lines can be taken literally. The Royalists, or Cavaliers, were very much the king’s men, fighting in support of King Charles I—who would go on to lose the war and his head, paving the way for Oliver Cromwell’s brief stint as Lord Protector.