King Henry Viii: The Musical Court

1569 words - 7 pages

King Henry VIII was born in 1491, and became king in 1509, until his death in 1547. He is probably most known for his six marriages, which he had two of his former wives beheaded. As king, Henry VIII was responsible for separating England from the Roman Catholic Church creating the newly formed Church of England. As a result of this reformation, King Henry VIII discontinued all monasteries serving Rome in England to get rid of all Catholic influences which ultimately led to a new form of church music being written for the Anglican Church. King Henry VIII was a unique king in the sense that he was a strong advocate for the arts especially music. He was a composer, musician, and had a very large court fill with some of the best musicians in Europe. His compositions were some of the most popular songs in England during the Renaissance. He was originally intended to play a major leadership role in the church, but due to the death of his elder brother Arthur he became king. The education and training he received for the church naturally played an enormous role in the daily life in his court. The fact that he was so involved with music really shaped his ideology on what should be the role for the arts in his monarch and how his court should function on a daily basis.

King Henry VIII’s interest in music started at a young age. As stated before, he received a music education throughout his childhood and he became accomplished at the organ, lute, and virginals. As king he employed no fewer than 58 musicians in his court. He owned 56 keyboard instruments, 20 horns of various sorts, 19 bowed string instruments, 31 plucked strings, and no fewer than 220 wind instruments of various kinds. He understood that music and art should be an important part of any intellectual society. Music was used at almost all ceremonies, precessions, banquets, and tournaments etc. King Henry VIII’s musical ambitions served as a way to humanize him with the people who sometimes saw him especially later in his reign as a tyrant.

Henry felt that music should be a vital part of society; he would listen to four hours of organ music played by Dionisio Memo, the organist of St. Marco, Venice. He also made his court listen to great performances of different musicians Henry thought highly of. Musicologist Andrew Ashbee described what it was like to be in the royal court when he said, “Music making at Henry’s court took place in public places such as the Guard Chamber, the Presence Chamber and the Chapel. Trumpeters and drummers sounded the alarm at appropriate moments, the playing of wind instruments was heard at meal-times and for ceremonials, and stringed instruments accompanied dancing.” Henry also expected his wives to do the same; he thought they should be able to read, play, and write music of their own. His second wife Anne Boleyn loved music, she played the lute, harp, flute, and rebec and was said to dance and sing very well. In contrast, his fourth wife Anna of...

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