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Musiques de la foi / Musiques du pouvoir. Construction et affirmation des identités politiques, religieuses et culturelles des cours catholiques européennes (1648-1748)

Music at the British Court, 1685-1715

The Discord of Politics and Religion
William Gibson


This chapter examines the part played by sacred music in the royal court in England during the reigns of Charles II (1660-1685), James II (1685-1688), William III and Mary II (1689-1702), and Anne (1702-1714). In this period, religious music, in the Chapel Royal and elsewhere, was subject to the deeply divided politics of the period. Charles II and James II favoured Catholicism (James was a Catholic), and music at their courts reflected both their religious inclinations and also the foreign influences that came with them. After the Revolution of 1688, which saw the ejection of James II and the accession of his nephew and daughter, William and Mary of Orange, the court and nation returned to Protestantism. The sacred music of their reign, and that of Anne, showed that foreign, Catholic influences in the Chapel Royal were gone. The wars with France in the 1690s and also in the War of Spanish Succession (1701-13) provided an opportunity for sacred music to take on a martial flavour which endorsed the idea of a monarchy sanctioned by God, evident in military victories.

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  • 1 Shapiro 1993, p. 216.

1The music heard in the Chapel Royal (the formal household religious organisation of the monarch) in the reigns of James II (1685-8), William and Mary (1689-1702), Anne (1702-14) and George I (1714-27) was necessarily heavily political as well as theological in character. The contentious dynastic and religious issues which faced Britain under the later Stuarts infused all aspects of culture and society, and it is impossible that court music would not be influenced by them. This is partly because sacred music exerted a considerable influence on wider society. As Alexander Shapiro has claimed, “church music maintained an all-pervasive influence on English Society. From Samuel Pepys to Roger North, musically inclined Englishmen of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries were as attentive to church music as they were attracted to the novelties of opera”. Shapiro also claimed that probably more Londoners heard the singers of the Chapel Royal than the castrati in the opera houses.1 Moreover, music at the royal court was one of the ways in which people experienced the politics of the period. It is partly because of the extensive penetration of society that sacred music was so strongly influenced by politics, and that of the royal court especially so. This article examines the political and theological circumstances that influenced the court music under Charles II, and James II – both of whom were sympathetic to Catholicism and willing to employ continental musicians; and William and Mary and Queen Anne, who promoted distinctly Protestant forms of court worship and music. Across all four reigns, court music was made to conform to the theological imperatives which dominated the politics of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and its antecedence and aftermath. For those observers at the chapels royal and in London, music was therefore a bellwether for the politics of the day.

A Catholic monarchy and court music

  • 2 Lincoln 1959, p. 192-193, 203.For this trend see the work of Rebecca Herissone, including Herisson (...)
  • 3 Latham 1983, III, p. 197, 14 September 1662.
  • 4 Bucholz 1993, p. 21.

2On his restoration to the throne in 1660 Charles II brought with him from exile in France features which influenced the development of music at the court. Court odes, set to music for formal events, were an example of these innovations. They were especially popular on days of celebrations, such as that of St Cecilia. Anthems in the Chapel Royal were also introduced using Italian and French models of motets and oratorios.2 Songs of welcome to the monarch and important visitors were another new feature introduced at court. Charles II enjoyed the work of French and Italian musicians, although increasingly, as his financial problems grew, he could not afford lavish musical events at court. Early in Charles’s reign, however, in 1662, Pepys reported that music was played between every verse of the anthems in the Chapel Royal.3 This was another novelty, with verse instrumental ritornellos, which would, in time, give way to the symphony anthem. But financial constraints had an effect and by the late 1670s and early 1680s Charles II was forced by financial retrenchment to severely reduce his French and Italian “musicks”.4

3Although Charles II was sympathetic to Catholicism, and was received into the Catholic Church on his deathbed, he accommodated the Church of England and Parliament well during most of his reign. In fact, his reign saw legislation which strengthened the Church of England’s control of politics and society. In particular, the Test Act of 1673 excluded anyone who did not take Communion in the Church of England from public office. Without any legitimate children, Charles’s heir was his brother, James, Duke of York who had converted to Catholicism in 1669. However, James’s two daughters, Princesses Mary and Anne were both brought up as members of the Church of England. So it was expected that in time a Protestant heir would succeed to the throne. James lacked the subtlety and charm of Charles and most people feared that he would seek to restore Catholicism as the established religion in England after he became king.

  • 5 Sandford 1687.
  • 6 Shapiro 1993, p. 221.

4From the start of James II’s reign, music played an important role in providing reassurance to sceptical Englishmen that all was well under a Catholic monarch. Despite the anxiety caused by the accession of a Catholic king, James’s coronation was carefully arranged to ensure a sense of continuity with previous reigns, and music played a key role in this.5 Henry Purcell and John Blow composed the choral music for James’s coronation to enable public expressions of thanksgiving for his accession to be framed in sacred music.6 The main anthem, “I was glad”, has been sung at every coronation since 1685. The words indicated the joy at the coronation:

I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the Lord.
Our feet shall stand in thy gates: O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city: that is at unity in itself.
For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord: to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the Lord.
For there is the seat of judgement: even the seat of the house of David.
O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.
For my brethren and companions’ sakes: I will wish thee prosperity.
Yea, because of the house of the Lord our God: I will seek to do thee good.

5Perhaps the references to “unity”, “peace” and “brethren and companions” hinted at concerns which a Protestant state had for a Catholic king.

  • 7 Gibson 2011, p. 48-49.

6The music and ritual could not disguise the fact that, in the face of tradition and order, James II withdrew to celebrate the Catholic Mass instead of the Anglican Eucharist during his coronation, which was otherwise an entirely Anglican ceremony. In his coronation sermon, Bishop Francis Turner, one of the King’s closest supporters, signalled a warning that James was tied by bonds of duty to his subjects.7 This was not in keeping with James’s public embrace of absolute monarchy. The King, anxious that some of his Protestant subjects might disrupt the coronation service, even increased the size of the choirs and gave them instructions to lead the cheering – especially at the moment when he was formally acclaimed as king. Moreover, the misgivings of some leading churchmen may be deduced from the decision to omit the traditional anthem “Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened”, ostensibly for lack of time. In reality, some Anglican bishops did not want the hand of a Catholic king to be strengthened. There also seemed to be some oblique message in the anthem sung during the coronation of Mary of Modena as Queen Consort, derived from Psalm 45. The anthem included the lines:

  • 8 Range 2012, p. 75, 82, 86. However, Archbishop Sancroft did include the anthem on Psalm 89 which r (...)

Kings’ daughters were among Thy honorable women; at Thy right hand stood the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father’s house.
So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty, for He is thy Lord; worship thou Him.8

7The phrase “forget also thine own people and thy father’s house” seemed to hint that she should not bring Italian, or perhaps even Catholic, ideas to England. In subtle ways, perhaps not even evident to James himself, the selection of music for the coronation, planned and arranged by Anglican clergy, expressed the ambivalence of the Church of England to James. That ambivalence was to become more marked when a son was born to James and Mary in June 1688, who would be raised as a Catholic and displace Mary and Anne in the line of succession.

Catholicising court music under James

  • 9 Holman 1998.
  • 10 Leech 2011.

8Within a few months of succeeding, James reorganised the royal musicians at the court. In place of the six or seven bands or “consorts” which were organised by type of instrument, including wind, violin, trumpet, lute and voice consorts, James established a single ensemble band, based on twenty-four violins which would act as a single royal orchestra. This brought court music under a single control and eradicated the possibility of performance of court music which was not in sympathy with James’s Catholic policies.9 James also preserved his brother’s policy of promoting symphony anthems, a novelty inspired by the French motet, which announced the presence of the King and referred to his Catholic faith. The appointment of Innocenzo Fede, who had worked in the Papal Choir in Rome, as James’s Master of the Music, was also a cause of some consternation because, despite the fact that the post of Master of the Music was in the royal household, James decided Fede would also preside at the new Catholic chapel that James constructed at Whitehall.10

  • 11 Baldwin 1999, p. 144, 148, 159. The pulpit in Queen Catherine’s chapel was said to be one of the t (...)
  • 12 Such new chapels were highly controversial, and the creation of a Catholic chapel in the City of L (...)

9James converted the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace into a Catholic chapel. In September 1685, he instituted Catholic masses and preaching in the chapel. The old Whitehall chapel remained in Anglican use by his daughter, Princess Anne, but James usually attended Catholic services at St James’s Palace. The Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace was greatly expanded and it was used for sermons, masses, and later even for the consecration of Catholic bishops for England. James also worshipped sometimes at Somerset House, where his sister in law, the dowager Queen Catherine of Braganza, had a Catholic chapel. The provision of Queen Catherine’s chapel at Somerset House had been agreed in her marriage treaty. As part of this, she established Benedictine and Franciscan communities, and she had three Portuguese Catholic chaplains in her service.11 On occasion, James also attended mass at Windsor, at the Spanish ambassador’s chapel, and those of Catholic peers, such as Lord Petre at Ingatestone Hall, northeast of London.12

  • 13 Bucholz 1993, p25, 229.

10Consequently, under James II court music was divided along denominational lines as the King’s Chapel Royal became strongly Catholic – including a Gregorian choir and castrati, which attracted criticism from shocked staunch Protestants. In contrast, Princess Anne’s chapel at Whitehall remained firmly Protestant and she patronised English musicians like Blow and Purcell to distance herself from her father’s foreign Catholic influences. She insisted that services at her chapel should also include musical accompaniment.13 Essentially, James allowed a bi-confessional Chapel Royal which enabled both Anglican and Catholic services in different chapels. The distinctive markers of the chapels were liturgy and music.

Conflict over James’s catholicising policies

  • 14 Corp 1995.

11Arriving from Rome in 1686, James’s Master of the Musick, Innocenzo Fede, found in the Italian singers and musicians of the Queen’s chapel an immediate group of musicians with which to cooperate. Fede’s role was not confined to sacred music; he was also responsible for the musical celebrations in honour of the birth of a son to Queen Mary of Modena in June 1688. A barge on the Thames containing over 130 musicians and singers played entertainments from the evening of 26 June to three o’clock the next morning.14

  • 15 Baldwin 1990.
  • 16 Gibson 2011.

12It was James’s misfortune that the dean of the Chapel Royal, who was responsible for sacred music at court, was Bishop Henry Compton of London. Compton was an uncompromising Protestant who acted as protector of those leading London clergy who attacked Catholicism in their sermons.15 John Sharp, the rector of St Giles in the Fields, in Compton’s diocese had preached strongly anti-Catholic sermons, but Compton refused to discipline him, on the grounds that he had not broken the canons of the Church of England. Thereafter, between 1685 and 1688, London clergy were in the vanguard of opposition to James’s Catholicising policies. When the King issued his second Declaration of Indulgence in 1688, only a handful of London clergy obeyed the injunction to read it from their pulpits. Early in his reign James removed Compton as dean of the Chapel Royal, in part because he could have blocked James’s desire for a Catholic musical establishment. By 1687, James was so angry with Compton that he established the Ecclesiastical Commission to investigate him and suspended him from his diocese for failure to discipline his anti-Catholic clergy. In 1688 seven bishops challenged James’s demand that his Declaration of Indulgence should be read in all churches. James regarded this as sedition and put the bishops on trial. In a surprising verdict, the bishops were acquitted. This opened the floodgates to resistance to James.16

  • 17 This was a unique monarchy, in which William and Mary were both regnant, though the government was (...)
  • 18 Corp 1995, p. 224-231. For more on the relations between the two courts see Nestola 2019.

13In December 1688, after William of Orange invaded England at the request of seven leading nobles and bishops, James fled to France where he was given refuge by Louis XIV. Early in 1689 the throne was declared vacant and William and Mary were declared joint monarchs in James’s place.17 James’s Catholic musicians also left London, together with those of the Queen’s chapel. Many found their way to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, where James, in exile, formed the sort of royal musical regime that he probably would have established in London if he had enjoyed a completely free hand. Though short of money, and increasingly dependent on Louis XIV, James nevertheless created a musical organization on a large scale. This endorsed his formal status as a sovereign and proclaimed his staunch Catholicism. James and his son maintained the employment of all the musical émigrés from London including French, Scottish, Bavarian and Italian musicians. These musicians and singers performed at both sacred and secular events, including private events for James and Mary in their apartments. There is also evidence of links between the musical establishments of the courts at Saint-Germain and at Versailles. Michel-Richard de Lalande formed a personal link between the two courts, as he was friendly with François Couperin, the organiste du Roi to Louis XIV, who owned a house in Saint-Germain. It seems likely therefore that the styles of music and musical influences at the French and exiled English courts were similar throughout this period.18

Sacred music and power under William and Mary

  • 19 Doebner 1886, p. 12.

14The music for the coronation for William and Mary, hastily organised a few weeks after their accession, was also heavy in political symbolism. Holy Communion was restored, but otherwise Queen Mary complained that the symbolic ceremonial and ritual had squeezed out all sense of devotion. Such was the need to endorse William and Mary’s Protestant credentials that Bishop Compton introduced the ceremony of presenting the monarchs with a copy of the Bible.19 The choice of anthems was undertaken by Bishop Henry Compton, who had been one of those who had invited William of Orange to come to England and had earlier been chaplain to Mary. He settled on the text for the climactic anthem “Blessed art thou O land”, from the Book of Ecclesiastes, whose words seemed apt for the day:

Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.
A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

  • 20 Range 2012, p98, 102. Anthems were chosen for each coronation rather than required to be identic (...)

15The homage anthem, from Psalm 84, “The Lord God is a sun and a shield”, was chosen to reflect the divine nature of the regime change of 1689.20

Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

  • 21 Range 2012, p104.

16The anthem was to become a staple at British coronations, perpetuating the idea of the succession of a monarch sanctioned by divine will. While historians have often commented on the absence of grand ceremonial at the coronation of 1689, I argue that as a statement of restored Anglican identity, it did not lack political music or significance.21

  • 22 Zimmerman 1983, p. 158-159.

17On the accession of William and Mary in Britain, the majority of the Anglican court musicians and singers remained in England and continued to serve in the new musical establishment. Among those who had been promoted and encouraged under Charles II and James II was Henry Purcell. It was Purcell’s misfortune that William III was not much interested in music, sacred or secular. Perhaps it was not surprising that he had a taste for trumpets and drums, installing Matthias Shore as sergeant-trumpeter.22 This obliged Purcell to write more trumpet and martial music than he might otherwise, with the use of flourishing fanfares which endorsed the legitimacy of the new monarchs. This royal taste inevitably influenced both sacred and secular music, and composers increasingly used timpani and brass in both forms. It also reflected William’s status as a military victor in Ireland and in the war against France.

  • 23 Dexter – Webber 2007, preface.
  • 24 Shapiro 1993, p. 221.
  • 25 Husk 1857.
  • 26 Shapiro 1993, p. 223.
  • 27 Significantly, after Purcell’s death in 1695 his music for James II “Sound the Trumpet” was adapte (...)

18Court music was also influenced by William III’s Calvinist tastes. In 1691 he issued an order that the Chapel Royal would be restricted to “solemn music” thereby removing the symphony anthem, which he regarded as too Catholic.23 William ordered that there was to be no musical accompaniment other than the organ, which restricted the work of both choirs and orchestras.24 Nevertheless in time William seems to have wavered in his opposition to elaborate sacred music. Although he did not permit it in the Chapel Royal, in December 1694 William agreed to a full-blown choral and orchestral event at which he and the Queen were present at the annual festival for St Cecilia’s Day at St Bride’s Church, London; this included a Te Deum by Purcell. The festival was very popular, and it was announced in the London Gazette which made it an official court religious event at which the sub-dean of the Chapel Royal preached.25 He also permitted a great musical and choral celebration at the almost completed St Paul’s Cathedral in honour of the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697.26 Purcell composed no odes or music for William III’s birthdays but composed annual music for each of Queen Mary’s birthdays until her death in 1694.27 The best known of these, “come ye sons of art”, was a clever blend of secular lyrics with a religious and political nuance:

Come, come, ye Sons of Art
Come, come away,
Tune all your voices and instruments play
To celebrate this triumphant day.
The day that such a blessing gave
No common festival should be.
What it justly seems to crave,
Grant, oh grant, and let it have
The honour of a jubilee.
Thus Nature, rejoicing, has shown us the way,
With innocent revels to welcome the day.
The tuneful grove and talking rill
The laughing vale, replying hill
With charming harmony unite
This happy season to invite.

  • 28 Dexter – Webber 2007, preface.

19Mary was joint monarch with William, and directed the government in his absence in Ireland and France; consequently, her birthday was celebrated as that of a queen regnant. The anthems Purcell produced, including “O Give Thanks unto the Lord”, using Psalm 107, replaced elaborate string interludes with short organ music to help the structure of the verses.28 The political message in the verses were clear:

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;
And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.

20In this way, the symphony anthems of the reigns of Charles II and James II were no longer used, but the music still endorsed royal legitimacy.

  • 29 Thomas Tudway called it the most “rapturously fine and solemn” pieces of devotional music.

21The central musical event of the later Stuart reigns was the funeral of Mary II in March 1695. Mary’s status as the daughter of James II, and therefore a direct descendant in the Stuart line, as well as a princess raised in the Church of England, meant that Anglican clergy accepted the Revolution of 1688 more readily. Her death saw a national outpouring of grief, including hundreds of sermons published to commemorate her death, as well as medals struck in her honour. Mary had also championed the “reformation of manners” to eradicate public vices, which pleased Protestant opinion. Mary’s funeral took three months to prepare and was perhaps the most elaborate ceremony of the decade, and certainly the most significant musical event of the reign. Purcell’s anthem “Remember not, O Lord, our offences”, was derived from Thomas Cranmer’s exhortation in the litany of 1544.29 It contained the lines,

Remember not, Lord, our offences,
Nor the offences of our forefathers;
Neither take thou vengeance of our sins,
But spare us, good Lord.
Spare thy people, whom thou has redeem’d
With thy most precious blood,
And be not angry with us for ever.
Spare us, good Lord.

  • 30 Barclay Squire 1903. The music Purcell had composed was also adapted for his own funeral the year (...)

22The second anthem, “Thou knowest Lord, the secrets of our hearts”, also from Cranmer’s prayer book service for the dead, was composed by Purcell for the event and formed a striking opening to the funeral and is among the finest works in Purcell’s canon.30 The anthem was an allusion to the deep sorrow felt for the death of the Queen:

Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts;
Shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayers;
But spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty.
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
Thou most worthy Judge eternal,
Suffer us not at our last hour,
For any pains of death to fall away from Thee.

  • 31 British Library, Harleian Ms, 7340.
  • 32 Unwin 1987.

23It was, in the view of the composer, Thomas Tudway, music “in the old way […] a plain natural composition which shows the power of music when ‘tis rightly fitted and adapted to devotional purposes”.31 The death of Mary II was also the occasion for other musical events: a series of poems were set to music by Blow, though it is not clear on which occasion these were played; probably at private observations of the Queen’s death at which sermons were also read.32

Queen Anne and a new public faith and music

  • 33 Bedford 1706, p. 24. Bedford was a parson and a scourge of the stage, regarding playhouses and the (...)
  • 34 Brady 1697, p. 14.
  • 35 Peirce 1717, p. 100.
  • 36 Charles Leslie advanced just such a view in 1704 in The Rehearsal, no 7 (9-16 September 1704).
  • 37 Shapiro 1993, p. 232.

24In this period there was a vivid theological debate about the propriety of religious music. William III’s resistance to elaborate music in church was a product of his Calvinist upbringing. However, most churchmen agreed with Arthur Bedford, whose Temple-Musick of 1706 claimed that when David returned from slaying Goliath he was greeted by choral and instrumental music in celebration.33 Bedford was joined by Nicholas Brady who claimed that some of the earliest music was that composed to celebrate triumphs and deliverances from danger.34 Few people opposed church music; most who did so were Protestant Dissenters who drew on old seventeenth century Puritan influences to condemn the use of vocal and instrumental music. James Peirce adopted this view in his A Vindication of the Dissenters, in which he treated church music as a medieval corruption which had been swept away at the Reformation. Peirce would tolerate unaccompanied singing but not by professional choirs.35 Such views were easily parodied as crude attacks on Catholicism and a defence of austere Puritanical tastes of the seventeenth century.36 Shapiro makes the point that Queen Anne’s musical thanksgiving celebrations were powerfully Anglican in character and rejected Puritan and Catholic identities.37 They also reflected the popularity of both the Church and Queen Anne.

  • 38 Shapiro 1993, p. 220.

25After the death of Mary II, the importance of sacred music at court declined, but in 1698 the nave of the newly constructed St Paul’s Cathedral was opened and acted as a new venue for national sacred music beyond the court and the Chapel Royal. Consequently, the choirs of St Paul’s and the Chapel Royal had a new venue for concerts and musical events which was not affected by the indifference of William III for music. There were other venues including Stationers’ Hall. From January 1702 Cavendish Weedon, a lawyer, sponsored an “entertainment of divine musick” at Stationers’ Hall and continued these into Queen Anne’s reign. Often the entertainments featured music which had been first heard in the Chapel Royal, and even music from the coronation of Queen Anne.38 At such musical events the middling sort was able to enjoy elite sacred music in an accessible setting.

  • 39 Bucholz 1993, p. 229, 235.
  • 40 Boyer, 1722, p. 715-716.
  • 41 Winn 2014.
  • 42 Bucholz 1993, p. 230.
  • 43 Green 1970, p. 96.

26Queen Anne’s accession in 1702 brought to the throne the most musically educated monarch of the period. As a girl, she had been trained in music, becoming proficient in singing, harpsichord and guitar. Her father had paid considerable attention to her musical education employing five tutors for her voice and instruments. Until quite late in her reign she played the harpsichord privately in her chambers for pleasure.39 She was also regarded as one of the finest performers on the guitar.40 As Queen, she enjoyed musical performances and was patron to a number of leading musicians and composers including John Eccles.41 A feature of the Privy Purse under Queen Anne was the stipends and funds she directed to musicians and composers such as Richard Bradley, Richard Elford, Bernard Gates and John Gostling. On her accession she began the process of rebuilding the choirs which had dwindled under William III. Throughout her reign she attended musical performances at the Chapel Royal and encouraged the work of Blow, Clarke, Croft, Handel and Weldon, especially in Anglican forms including verse anthems. One scholar has claimed that Queen Anne’s court was responsible for a national musical revival.42 She was also deeply interested in religion and did not regard herself as a nominal head of the Church of England but personally selected texts for public sermons.43

  • 44 Queen Anne’s Bounty was named after her grant of funds to endow and augment poorer parishes in Eng (...)
  • 45 Bucholz 1993, p. 230.
  • 46 Bucholz 1991, Table A3, p. 317-318.

27Queen Anne’s reign exploited state occasions for musical performances. There was a multiplication of events at which music played a key role, including the sacred music of psalms, hymns and anthems. This reflected Queen Anne’s deep personal faith and her firm commitment to the Church of England.44 The Queen’s birthdays, anniversaries of her accession, royal visits, the Act of Union with Scotland and a plethora of thanksgiving services for victories in Europe, provided the opportunity for great choral Te Deums, anthems, odes, songs and concerts. Abell, Conti, Eccles, Gasparini, Hughes and Paisible were all commissioned by the Queen to compose music for these purposes.45 Altogether there were thirty-three days a year, saints’ days, commemorative days, religious festivals and royal observance days at which there was some major court ceremonial usually attended by sacred music.46 The thanksgiving celebration for the Act of Union of England and Scotland was tantamount to a second coronation for Queen Anne since it incorporated the two great coronation anthems, Blow’s setting of the triumphal anthem “I Was Glad” and “‘O Lord, grant the Queen a Long Life”. The latter, based on an anthem of 1662, was later to be adapted for male monarchs, and used throughout the eighteenth century.

O Lord, grant the Queen a long life,
That her years may endure throughout all generations.
She shall dwell before God for ever.
O, prepare thy loving mercy and faithfulness,
That they may preserve her.

  • 47 Britannia Triumphans 1704.
  • 48 Shapiro 1993, p. 235.

28Such music had a close connection to the publication of poems in celebration of the victories of the period 1702-13. John Dennis, the poet and dramatist, acknowledged the inspiration of the Queen’s orders to hold thanksgiving services in the preface to his poems on the victories of the Duke of Marlborough, Britannia Triumphans, of 1704.47 Such poets searched the psalms and other biblical verses to find appropriate celebrations of victories, principally from the Old Testament, to set to music for such events.48 This form was not new, having been used in the seventeenth century, but the scale of it and the number of musical events was.

  • 49 Bucholz 1991, p. 298.
  • 50 Bucholz 1991, Table A2 p. 316.
  • 51 Lincoln 1959, p. 204. It was not only in Britain that Marlborough’s victories were celebrated with (...)
  • 52 Shapiro 1993, p. 217.

29What has been called the “psychological importance” of participation in popular approval of a regime fighting a costly war cannot be overestimated, and the divine sanction conveyed by musical performances were not lost on the Queen.49 Political and military events were transformed by religious ritual and music into evidence of providential sanction on the nation and on the Queen’s authority. This was especially important as, after James II’s death in France in 1701, his son continued to claim to be the rightful king of England. There were, in total, eleven national thanksgiving services for the foreign wars during Anne’s reign at which the Queen attended in state, eight held at St Paul’s Cathedral and three at the Chapel Royal.50 At these thanksgiving services, Queen Anne commissioned anthems in praise of the Duke of Marlborough, often employing large-scale trumpet fanfares and violin chords.51 Croft had succeeded Blow as court composer in 1708, and his anthems were to remain remarkably popular, dominating music at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Chapel Royal for the next half century.52

  • 53 Bucholz 1991, p. 299
  • 54 Quarrell – Mare 1936, p. 115-116.

30The Queen’s birthdays were usually marked by compliments from the court, an ode in her honour and poetry set to music by the Master of the Musick.53 But the death of Anne’s husband, Prince George of Denmark in 1708, brought musical events at court to a halt as the Queen went into deep and prolonged mourning. In 1709, even the Queen’s birthday was not marked by any music. Foreigners noted the decline of music in these years; the traveller Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach, who attended a service in the Chapel Royal, noted the ceremonial in the service but also that the music was “tolerable… though hardly as befits a royal chapel for the whole music consisted of four persons, namely a chamber-organ and theorbo and two voices, a bass and an alto”.54 However even mourning could not prevent the performance of an anthem for Marlborough’s victory at Mons in 1709, for which Croft composed the anthem “O Praise the Lord ye that fear Him”. It was based on verses from Psalm 22:

Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel.
For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live for ever.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.

  • 55 Bucholz 1993, p. 222.

31The first musical event after the court emerged from the lengthy mourning for Prince George was a concert for the Queen’s birthday in 1711, which included music by Handel sung by Nicolò Grimaldi in Italian style.55

  • 56 For the Queen’s birthday odes, see Reverand 2014.
  • 57 Winn 2008, p. 548-549. See also Bayreuther 2010.

32After 1710, the celebrations of the Queen’s birthday and thanksgiving for the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 were especially political in character. In 1710 the “Junto” regime, which the Queen had tolerated from 1705 largely because of her friendship with Marlborough, had been swept from power at the elections. In its place an inflexible Tory government took power determined to end the war with France – the Tories having regarded the war as a Whig venture. Early in 1711, the Queen’s birthday ode, composed by the poet laureate Nahum Tate and set to music by John Eccles, was a strong Tory statement of the desirability of the coming peace settlement.56 And in October 1712 the impending peace settlement was the subject of rival Whig and Tory poems by Thomas Tickell and Alexander Pope respectively.57

  • 58 Elford was joined by other “English voices”: Francis Hughes, Samuel Weely, Bernard Gates, Anastasi (...)
  • 59 Winn 2008, p. 555. As Winn pointed out, Handel was popular among Whigs, Tories, Jacobites, Hanover (...)

33Naturally, the Queen’s birthday ode of 1713 was another important moment and reflected the heightened tensions between the Whigs and Tories. On the nomination of Lord Burlington, one of the few privy counsellors knowledgeable about art and music, the ode was written by Ambrose Phillips, a strong Whig and secretary to the Hanover Club. It was a partisan poem which included imagery of light and sunshine. But Phillips carefully avoided comparing the Queen with the sun, a trope which would seem too close to Louis XIV, preferring to liken her to the azure sky. Handel set the ode to music in the form of an Italian aria. His use of Italian style in music was controversial, but he took care to use English singers, notably Richard Elford, who was regarded as the ideal English male voice.58 He also employed musicians from the Chapel Royal which balanced the “exotic, Catholic, foreign imports” of his Italian aria with ‘native born boys and men of the Chapel Royal’.59 In this way, Handel negotiated the dangerous waters of a Whig ode with foreign music (which might have been seen as Catholic) and English performers.

  • 60 Burrows 2006, p. 75.

34Handel was informed in May that the national thanksgiving for the Treaty of Utrecht was scheduled for 7 July 1713, which gave him time to write both a Jubilate and a Te Deum. When it came to the Utrecht Te Deum, Handel modelled his work on Croft’s anthems. Thus, the musical celebration of peace took on the tone of earlier martial victories. Ironically, although Handel’s music was similar to that celebrating the victories of Marlborough, his participation in the celebrations of 1713 led to political concerns that he might favour the Tories and his dismissal from the employment at Kapellmeister to the House of Hanover.60

George I and a new era in court music

  • 61 Shapiro 1993, p. 231.
  • 62 Range 2012, p. 122, 125, 126
  • 63 Mitchell 1974, p. 348. See also Paduch 2015.

35The accession of George I reinvigorated a court which, during Queen Anne’s years of declining health, had seen sacred music become partisan and contentious. As a Lutheran, George I did not share William III’s Calvinist prejudices towards church music. He agreed that Handel’s Utrecht Te Deum could be sung at his coronation and when John Weldon published his Divine Harmony, Six Select Anthems in 1716 he depicted anthems sung in the Chapel Royal by a choir accompanied by an orchestra, with George I looking on surrounded by courtiers.61 It seemed that George I was prepared to permit the use of anthems. The coronation of 1714, another hurriedly planned event which took place less than a month after the new King’s arrival from Hanover, followed the pattern of the 1689 ceremony. Croft composed the music to the homage anthem “The Lord is a sun and a shield”, which has been described as “the most elaborate” music at the event. Matthias Range has interpreted the arrangement of the music in Croft’s anthem as conveying “an important message” of loyalty and support for the new regime.62 With the Jacobites known to be preparing a military challenge to George I, even music was enlisted in the defence of the throne. Under George I, the theatre was to become as important as court music, evidenced by the huge growth of theatre command performances by the king. Anne had attended only six command performances in theatres during her reign; in contrast George I attended 117.63


36The period from 1685 to 1714 witnessed a growth of the number of places in which sacred court music was heard. The principal venue was the Chapel Royal, in its various locations in London and further afield, such as at Hampton Court, Windsor and Kensington Palace. But under James II, other Catholic venues were used, including Somerset House, the home of Catherine of Braganza, and foreign embassies. Under William III and Queen Anne, this continued with the newly-rebuilt St Paul’s Cathedral gradually coming into use, which was an ideal setting for martial music and thanksgiving services for victories and for other occasions. This expansion of the settings for sacred music was important because it ensured the continuation of the appreciation by the public of religious court music. The music heard in the Chapel Royal and at St Paul’s was often sought-after for smaller venues such as City churches and concert halls.

37The presence of the monarch was a key factor in these events. James’s absence from services at the Chapel Royal in Whitehall Palace was widely known, as was his attendance at Catholic services elsewhere. Anne, as princess and later queen, was willing to distance herself from her father by patronage of “English” composers and musicians. She was also ostentatious in her presence at the Chapel Royal at Whitehall, demonstrating her Protestant credentials as well as her father’s foreign and Catholic preferences. As Queen, Anne’s repeated patronage of the services of thanksgiving for Marlborough’s victories was one of the ways in which she protected him from attack from the Tories during the period of the “rage of party” – roughly 1700 to 1714.

38The preferences of monarchs for specific styles of music and religious compositions ranged widely throughout this period. It is remarkable that musicians could accommodate the Catholic tastes of Charles II and James II and the stripped-down martial inclinations of William III. However, in some cases monarchs made wholesale changes to the artists employed by the Chapel Royal, most notably when James II fled to France. Nevertheless, for composers, like John Blow and Henry Purcell, to survive at court meant having sufficient flexibility in musical and personal styles.

39Another important aspect of sacred music in this period was the idea of foreignness. Church of England bishops and other churchmen were very successful in depicting Catholicism in this period as alien and strange. This was not helped by the fact that many of James II’s priests and musicians were French and Italian. Motets, oratorios and elaborate anthems were identified as strange and out of place in England under Charles II and James II. Under William and Mary and Anne, English music, composed by English composers and sung by English choirs and voices, endorsed a sense of the naturalness and indigenousness of both the music and the monarchs.

40Despite the fluctuations of royal interest in sacred music, and the focus of music on martial and overseas ventures, the Chapel Royal remained the powerhouse of the composition, if not the performance, of sacred music. The majority of the leading composers of the period 1660-1714, Henry Purcell, John Weldon, William Croft, Jeremiah Clarke, William Turner, Vaughan Richardson and Thomas Tudway, all spent some time in the Chapel Royal. They often debuted their performances there before taking them to a wider public. But sacred music was subordinate to the religious divisions of the period, the need to legitimise the dynastic changes of 1688 and 1715 and the conflicts with France and Spain. Between 1660 and 1688 court music was increasingly elaborate and influenced by Italian and French forms. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 swept away the pro-Catholic policies of Charles II and James II, and music was similarly affected. Foreign influences were replaced with English forms and voices. Under William and Mary and Anne martial influences were strong, and the party tensions between Whigs and Tories were played out in court music as well as in parliamentary politics. By the reign of George I, music was required to play its part in endorsing the legitimacy of the Hanoverian succession and repelling the Jacobite attempts to restore the Stuarts. In this way, repeatedly between 1660 and 1714 royal sacred music was an expression of the political and religious turbulence of the time.

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1 Shapiro 1993, p. 216.

2 Lincoln 1959, p. 192-193, 203. For this trend see the work of Rebecca Herissone, including Herissone 2013; and that of Bruce Woods and Peter Denison.

3 Latham 1983, III, p. 197, 14 September 1662.

4 Bucholz 1993, p. 21.

5 Sandford 1687.

6 Shapiro 1993, p. 221.

7 Gibson 2011, p. 48-49.

8 Range 2012, p. 75, 82, 86. However, Archbishop Sancroft did include the anthem on Psalm 89 which referred to setting “his Dominion also in the sea” – thought to be a reference to James’s naval prowess. See also Sullivan 2008, vol. 1, p. 249.

9 Holman 1998.

10 Leech 2011.

11 Baldwin 1999, p. 144, 148, 159. The pulpit in Queen Catherine’s chapel was said to be one of the tallest in London, with seven steps up to the platform.

12 Such new chapels were highly controversial, and the creation of a Catholic chapel in the City of London led to a riot in 1686. Testa 1987, p. 57. The role of sermons in James’s chapels royal is explored in Gibson 2021.

13 Bucholz 1993, p25, 229.

14 Corp 1995.

15 Baldwin 1990.

16 Gibson 2011.

17 This was a unique monarchy, in which William and Mary were both regnant, though the government was in the hands of William.

18 Corp 1995, p. 224-231. For more on the relations between the two courts see Nestola 2019.

19 Doebner 1886, p. 12.

20 Range 2012, p98, 102. Anthems were chosen for each coronation rather than required to be identical for each one.

21 Range 2012, p104.

22 Zimmerman 1983, p. 158-159.

23 Dexter – Webber 2007, preface.

24 Shapiro 1993, p. 221.

25 Husk 1857.

26 Shapiro 1993, p. 223.

27 Significantly, after Purcell’s death in 1695 his music for James II “Sound the Trumpet” was adapted and used to welcome William III back to London from Flanders. Zimmerman 1989. Dexter and Webber claim that the abandonment of symphonic music in the Chapel Royal in the 1690s led to the rise of music in theatres as Purcell and others made their livings outside the court.

28 Dexter – Webber 2007, preface.

29 Thomas Tudway called it the most “rapturously fine and solemn” pieces of devotional music.

30 Barclay Squire 1903. The music Purcell had composed was also adapted for his own funeral the year after. – Unwin 1987, p. 58.

31 British Library, Harleian Ms, 7340.

32 Unwin 1987.

33 Bedford 1706, p. 24. Bedford was a parson and a scourge of the stage, regarding playhouses and theatres as blasphemous. See Pruett 1982.

34 Brady 1697, p. 14.

35 Peirce 1717, p. 100.

36 Charles Leslie advanced just such a view in 1704 in The Rehearsal, no 7 (9-16 September 1704).

37 Shapiro 1993, p. 232.

38 Shapiro 1993, p. 220.

39 Bucholz 1993, p. 229, 235.

40 Boyer, 1722, p. 715-716.

41 Winn 2014.

42 Bucholz 1993, p. 230.

43 Green 1970, p. 96.

44 Queen Anne’s Bounty was named after her grant of funds to endow and augment poorer parishes in England.

45 Bucholz 1993, p. 230.

46 Bucholz 1991, Table A3, p. 317-318.

47 Britannia Triumphans 1704.

48 Shapiro 1993, p. 235.

49 Bucholz 1991, p. 298.

50 Bucholz 1991, Table A2 p. 316.

51 Lincoln 1959, p. 204. It was not only in Britain that Marlborough’s victories were celebrated with sacred music. In August 1704 after the Battle of Blenheim, the Electress Sophia of Hanover recorded that the court celebrated with a service of thanksgiving including a Te Deum, which they sang “with good heart”. Duggan 2010, p. 172. See also Knapp 2019.

52 Shapiro 1993, p. 217.

53 Bucholz 1991, p. 299

54 Quarrell – Mare 1936, p. 115-116.

55 Bucholz 1993, p. 222.

56 For the Queen’s birthday odes, see Reverand 2014.

57 Winn 2008, p. 548-549. See also Bayreuther 2010.

58 Elford was joined by other “English voices”: Francis Hughes, Samuel Weely, Bernard Gates, Anastasia Robinson and Jane Barbier.

59 Winn 2008, p. 555. As Winn pointed out, Handel was popular among Whigs, Tories, Jacobites, Hanoverians, Anglicans, Calvinists, Lutherans, Catholics and Jews, so he seems to have been careful to avoid the appearance of partisanship.

60 Burrows 2006, p. 75.

61 Shapiro 1993, p. 231.

62 Range 2012, p. 122, 125, 126

63 Mitchell 1974, p. 348. See also Paduch 2015.

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