- Elin Manahan Thomas – Soprano
- Elizabeth Kenny – Lute and Theorbo
Anon. (attr. Henry viii) – Pastime with good company
Anon. Passava amor
Orlando Lassus – Bonjour mon Coeur
Philippe De Monte – La grand amour
Claude de Sermisy – Secoures moy
Anthony Holborne – The countess of Pembroke’s paradise
John Dowland – Come away
- Now o now
Dowland – Can she excuse my wrongs
- His golden locks
Anon. – Woe worth the tyme
Giacomo Carissimi – Ferma, lascia ch’io parli
Queen Elizabeth I gloried in her reputation as the world’s most famous virgin. Unmarried until the end, throughout her reign she used her maidenhood as a pawn, promising one great European after another the greatest gift she could bestow: her hand in marriage. Treaties were drawn up around suggested betrothals, and country allied to country on the basis of a possible marriage to the Queen of England. Among Elizabeth’s suitors were Philip II of Spain, Archduke Charles of Austria, and two Dukes of Anjou, Henry and Francis. But her lasting love was for her courtier and lifelong devotee Robert Dudley, the one man she could not marry.
Through all this turbulent time the English Renaissance flourished. The Tudor court buzzed with music, and the cult of ‘Oriana’ gave rise to the madrigal and the popularity of the lute, with one John Dowland trying (but failing) to gain a place as court lutenist. Elizabeth employed two official royal composers, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, but even here there was intrigue as both were devout Catholics in a Protestant court. The influence of continental music by Tessier, Francesco di Milano, De Monte and their contemporaries, permeates vast amounts of works by English and Scottish composers.
Elizabeth’s suitors, too, presided over flourishing royal courts. Philip II reigned during Spain’s ‘Golden Age’ which saw the rise of composers such as Victoria, Morales and Guerrero; and the Archduke Charles II of Austria counted Orlando de Lassus as his protégé among other Franco-Flemish composers.
Pressed to marry, and besieged by threats of war on all sides, Elizabeth trusted no-one, least of all her Tudor cousins, each of whom had a claim to the throne. Her most famous cousin, the alluring and adamant Mary, Queen of Scots, was such a threat that Elizabeth eventually had her beheaded, turning Mary accidentally into a Catholic martyr who would be celebrated for centuries to come. Carissimi’s telling of Mary’s end through her own words is one of the greatest early laments to survive.
© Elin Manahan Thomas 2021