Thirty-three compositions by Henry VIII alongside a wide selection of other music from the first years of the sixteenth century are all collected together in a manuscript that probably contains the repertory of Henry’s own music-making sessions.
He was not quite eighteen years old when he became king in 1509. But in the next decade, before the difficulties began, his court was one of the most brilliant in Europe. And he himself was always eager to show off his abilities as a musician.
The book was almost certainly not made for him: its decorations are too modest.
But it is easy to imagine that it was for one of the favoured subjects who made music with him. It is clearly written and easy to read, a perfect size for three instrumentalists or singers.
Some of the pieces are textless and evidently intended for instrumental performance; others do have text but were probably also for instruments alone; and some are three-voice songs with all three voices clearly texted.
- Images courtesy of the British Library