Nixon the Cheshire Prophet

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During the rivalry of Jacobites and Hanoverians in the early 18th century, both parties interpreted prophecies attributed to ‘Robert Nixon of Cheshire’ to their own advantage. Nixon is supposed to have been an imbecile living in the days of Henry VII (or James I, in other versions) but it is unlikely that he really existed; sayings ascribed to him were circulating in Cheshire from the 1520s. The only early manuscript surviving is of the late 16th or early 17th century. It is full of local allusions, mingled with political sayings drawn from late medieval and oral folk tradition; they are vague, but picturesque, for example:When a raven shall build in a stone lion's mouthOn a church top beside the Grey Forest,Then shall a king of England be drove from his crown,And return no more.

The first known printed text appeared in 1713, and has a Jacobite bias, corresponding to the views of several Cheshire aristocrats at that time, notably the Cholmondeleys of Vale Royal (who secretly held the manuscript until 1943). Hanoverian pamphlets appeared in 1714 and 1719, and were frequently reprinted, especially in the 1740s. They were reissued in the 1790s in collections of Doomsday predictions.

Jacqueline Simpson, Folklore 86 (1975), 201–7;Ian Sellers, Folklore 92 (1981), 30–42;T. Thornton, in Prophecy, ed. Bertrand Taithe and Tim Thornton (1997), 51–67.

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