Where Did the Nursery Rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” Originate and What Does it Mean?

The children’s nursery rhyme “Mary, Mary, quite contrary” is about Mary, Queen of Scots, and emerged during her struggle for power with Queen Elizabeth I.

The “pretty maids all in a row” were her ladies in waiting, the Marys: Seaton, Fleming, Livingston, and Beaton.

The cockleshells were decorations on an elaborate gown given to her by the French Dauphin.

The rhyme was popular when Mary was beheaded in 1587.