There are several possible origins of this nursery rhyme. It may refer to either Richard III or Charles I of England. A more likely explanation is that “Humpty Dumpty” was the name for a powerful cannon mounted atop the St. Mary’s Wall Church in Colchester to defend the city against siege during the English Civil War (1642-49). The enemy hit the church with their own cannon and Humpty Dumpty fell to the ground and could not be mended. Centuries ago in England, a short, dumpy person was sometimes called “humpty dumpty.” The image of Humpty Dumpty as an egg first appeared in “Alice Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll.
Question, and answer, of the week from the Groton Public Library, 6 August 2004.