King Henry VIII

(1491 - 1547)

King of England (from 1509) and composer. Not only did he himself compose church music and songs, he made his court a center of musical culture. Indeed, one explanation of the change in the early sixteenth century to a more modern style of church music from that prevalent through the reign of Henry VII (see The Conservatism of English Music after Dunstable) may be found in the chronicles and records of the time. Hall writes of events in 1513: 'On the daie of the Epiphanie at night, the kyng with a. xi. other were disguised, after the maner of Italie, called a maske, a thyng not seen afore in Englande . . . ' At the same time, royal account books begin to list many foreign musicians who were engaged to play at court. There are numerous references to Philip van Wilder, lutenist, composer, and keeper of the instruments to Henry VIII; Ambrose Lupo ('Lupus Italus'), 'viall' player; Domynyk and Andryan, trumpeters; Guillam Troche and Piero Guye, flutists; Hans Aseneste, violist; Marc Antony, Gasper, Batist, 'Musicians'; Benedictus de Opitiis (traceable in England, 1516-1518) and Dionisio Memo (Memmo), organists to the king. Such an influx of continental musicians, and this by no means exhausts the list, certainly affected musical composition in England. Undoubtedly many European musicians came to England for religious reasons. But one must also take into account the musical activities of Henry VIII himself, instrumentalist and composer of Masses, motets, and part-songs. The day-book of Sagudino, secretary of the Venetian embassy, contains an account of Henry's having listened for four hours to the playing of Memo.

The Henry VIII manuscript is a collection of music used at court that includes some of his own compositions.

See also the article Secular Part-Songs, including those of Cornysh and Henry VIII.

A Partial King Henry VIII Discography  |  IV M: England Through 1635