Top 10 Horrible Histories songs

Top 10 Horrible Histories songs

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Friday, 19th April 2024
Various stars of Horrible Histories songs have been edited together
From top-centre clockwise: Akemnji Ndifornyen, Mathew Baynton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas and Mathew Baynton (credit: BBC)

It’s been 15 years since Horrible Histories first hit screens. 

Amongst the best-loved sketches were the songs, known for educating kids with the most effective educational tool known to man: earworms.

Here’s our pick of the 10 best songs across the show’s run so far. Think Top of the Pops, but historical: Most Esteemed of the Bards, if you will.

10. The Wives of Henry VIII: Divorced Beheaded & Died

Series one, episode two

Henry VIII sidles about palatial gardens while recounting how each of his spouses met their end, except Catherine Parr. As the king tells us, his last wife was the one who got away, and outlived Henry before he could divorce her, or worse.

Ben Willbond shines as the spectacularly sinister serial monogamist. His co-star is an executioner, mercifully there to assist with prop work rather than hacking anyone’s head off. – JM

9. We Sell Any Monk

Series three, episode nine

‘We Sell Any Monk’ is a noughties-tastic parody on the We Buy Any Car ads. Jim Howick gives it his all as both announcer and dancer, backed by a host of actual dancers all laughably better than him. They don’t have his charm, though. There’s also Simon Farnaby playing a monk getting not one, but two arms chopped off.

Purists will know that Horrible Histories did another Monk song, but that one has less dismemberment, so didn’t make it onto the list. – JM

8. Do the Pachacuti

Series two, episode 12

What does every bloodthirsty Incan monarch need? A novelty dance, of course!

The emperor, played here by an impeccably-costumed Mathew Baynton, sings about making flutes out of his enemies’ arms, all with a big smile on his face. Complete with back-up dancers (Alice Lowe and Martha Howe-Douglas), there’s only the odd Kubrick stare to tip you off as to how decidedly un-cheery Pachacuti really was. Well, that and the drinking from skulls. – JM

7. Boudica

Series two, episode 10

Martha Howe-Douglas takes the lead as the Celtic warrior queen in an alt rock pastiche that uses some truly atrocious filters.

Even if the rebellion spearheaded by the Iceni tribe ultimately ended in defeat, there’s no denying lyricism like “No man, Roman, will push around this woe-man”. All hail. – JM

6. We’ve Been Here From the Start

Series nine, episode one

In one of Horrible Histories’s later series, Akemnji Ndifornyen (Famalam) sung about the forgotten contributions Black people have made to history. The music production is noticeably more high-end than in earlier episodes, but what makes this a stand-out is Ndifornyen’s dancing. He’s particularly good as a Georgian aristocrat, but bonus points for his caveman. – JM

5. The Monarchs' Song (The English Kings and Queens)

Series three, episode two

A song so catchy and educational, that when King Charles III acceded to the throne, Horrible Histories didn’t write a new song, but instead whacked a slightly animated King Charles III on the end and reuploaded it under the title “ALL NEW Horrible Histories Song”. Is this an admission that no other cast could capture the magic of “William William Henry Stephen Henry Richard John, OI”? I would argue so.

Kids in school who could relay the reprise of reigning monarchs at high speed almost rivalled those who knew PI up to 50 digits, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this track made the list. – ECS

4. Ra Ra Cleopatra

Series three, episode five

This Horrible Histories classic combines the Queen of Egypt with the Queen of Pop. Complete with plenty of Gaga references and the last line “today I’d be a favourite of the paparazzo,” Howe-Douglas solidifies Cleopatra’s rightful place as an it-girl.

The music video treats Cleo’s several orchestrated murders and incestual relationships in 69BC so flippantly it raises the question – are we laughing too soon? – ECS

3. The 4 Georges: Born 2 Rule

Series one, episode one

In an amalgamation of all things boyband, Simon Farnaby, Jim Howick, Willbond and Baynton perform as “Georges 4, 3, 1 and 2.” In true Westlife fashion, the four sit on well-lit stools on a dark stage, only standing up for the key change two thirds of the way through… in unison, of course.

This track makes it to third on the list due to the winning formula of casting Baynton as “the bad one.” – ECS

2. Charles II: King of Bling

Series two, episode two

Picture the scene: Hampton Court Palace has allowed a film crew into its great hall to film for the very first time… Cue Mathew Baynton pimp walking down the table, surrounded by priceless tapestries, and no doubt plenty of shocked staff members.

Although the original music video of My Name Is does star Slim Shady, unlike its parody it doesn’t have the Ghosts cast juggling in periwigs and throwing Baynton into the air. Maybe Eminem should consider a reshoot. – ECS

1. Dick Turpin, Highwayman

Series three, episode one

Baynton’s Dick Turpin became a heartthrob after he reimagined the highway robber with eyeliner. 

The song tries to bring truth to the myths that surround Turpin. His horse wasn’t called Black Bess, and he was “no romantic hero - shot not one but two man dead.” But where the song falls down is when it tries to convince the audience that “there’s nothing dandy about [Turpin]” in the chorus – whilst Baynton looks quite dandy indeed. – ECS

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It’s been 15 years since Horrible Histories first hit screens.