"A Nursery Rhyme,
the first step to
your children's education"
The grand old Duke of York: lyrics
Nursery rhyme origins in British history
The origins of the lyrics to this nursery rhyme dates back to the 15th century and refers mockingly to the defeat of the Duke of York in the Wars of the Roses - which were between the house of York (whose symbol was a white rose) and the house of Lancaster (whose symbol was a red rose. The Wars of the Roses were originally referred to as the hundred year war. The Duke of York is a title bestowed to the son of the reigning monarch of England.
Oh, the grand old Duke of York he had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
and he marched them down again.
When they were up, they were up
and when they were down, they were down
and when they were only halfway up
they were neither up nor down.
The grand old Duke of York : history & origins