E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Vicar of Bray (The).
Let who will be king, I will be vicar of Bray still.
Brome says of Simon Alleyn that he “lived in the reigns of Henry VIII.,
Edward VI., Mary, and Elizabeth. In the first two reigns he was
Protestant, in Mary’s reign he turned Papist, and in the next reign
recanted—being resolved, whoever was king, to die Vicar of Bray.”
(1540–1588.) Others say it is Pendleton.
Ray refers to Simon
Symonds, a vicar who was Independent in the Protectorate, Churchman in
the reign of Charles II., Papist under James II., and Moderate
Protestant under William and Mary.
The well-known song,
“I will be Vicar of Bray,” was written by an officer in Colonel
Fuller’s regiment. This vicar lived in the reigns of Charles II., James
II., William III., Anne, and George I.