This children's game is found in "A History of Nursery Rhymes" by Percy B. Green, published in 1899.

Here's what Green had to say about it: "In this street game an entire regal court is appointed, the children taking the characters of king, queen, princes, and courtiers. When these preliminaries are settled two children join hands and whisper something - supposed to be a great state secret - to each other. This at once causes a rivalry amongst certain of the mock courtiers, and the dissatisfaction spreads, culminating in an open rebellion. The children take sides. Things now look serious; the prime minister tells the king he fears rebellion, and for safety his little majesty, attired in royal robes, and wearing a paper crown, retires to his palace - one of those places "built without walls." The soldiers, the king's bodyguard, are summoned, and orders are given to them to suppress the insurrection and capture the little rebels. As each one is taken prisoner the soldiers ask…"

Notes

This seems awfully complicated. It's hard to imagine kids today following such an elaborate procedure, unsupervised. But, back when it was current there were many less distractions! - Mama Lisa

We recently received this note: "I stumbled onto your site whilst searching for what I remembered as 'The King Of The Barbarees', played by the girls when I was at primary school in the Harrow area of NW London starting in 1955. Since I am a boy, I do not know how intricate their game was, but the chant, unclear to start with but emphatically finishing on the 'King' line, has occasionally come into my mind, as it did this evening, when I reflect on my childhood."

We'd love to know if this game is still played in England. Please email me, if you know or if you remember playing this game in your childhood. -Mama Lisa