Music at the Court of Henry VIII & Elizabeth I

The great chronicler, Raphael Holinshed, claimed that in 1510 Henry VIII was exercising himself daily in shooting, singing, dancing, wrestling, casting of the bar, playing at the recorders, flute, virginals . . [and also] in setting of songs, making of ballads and did set two goodly masses, every of them five parts.  The epitome of the Renaissance man, Henry VIII – through his passion for music – had a pivotal influence on the development of English music, laying the foundations for the so-called ‘golden musical age’ at the end of the 16th century.

Like her father, Elizabeth I had a passion for music and possessed skills in singing and performing on the lute and the virginals;  in addition, she was remarkably nimble footed on the dance floor.  As the  Spanish Ambassador related after he had attended the Twelfth Night celebrations at the English Court in 1599 The head of the Church of England and Ireland was to be seen in her old age dancing three or four galliards.

Music was a driving force in the lives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and their desire to be surrounded by it inspired the great composers of the day to rise to the challenges of producing first class compositions, which readily rivalled those being written on the Continent. The lecture-recital explores the wide range of musical talent that existed at the Tudor Court and draws on the music of Cornyshe, Henry VIII, Tallis, Byrd, Morley, Johnson, Dowland, and – of course – Anon.

Italian Virginals

A modern copy of a late 16th century Italian virginals (right) is available to connoisseurs.  It may be heard in the following recording of Galliard Neopolitana.

Galliard Neopolitana by Antonio Valente 1576 – played by Peter Medhurst on Italian Virginals

John Bull – Les Buffon – played by Peter Medhurst on a Virginals Muselar