David Starkey's Music and Monarchy (2013) s01e01 Episode Script

Crown and Choir

Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, performed in the place where monarchy and music have met for over a millennium - Westminster Abbey.
It's been performed here at royal occasions, including coronations, since the 18th century.
I first heard it in my childhood, sung by Northern massed choirs.
Then, in my early twenties and on the threshold of my academic career, I heard it again - here.
The chapel of King's College, Cambridge.
Now, the music and the building together hit me, like a revelation.
The walls, with their crowns and coats of arms.
The words, thick with kings and lords.
The music, with its thunderous rhythm.
All were royal.
This was the music of monarchy in a shrine to monarchy.
This series is the story of how, over six centuries, successive kings and queens have shaped the history of British music as patrons and taste-makers - and even as composers and performers.
Music takes you both into the most intimate personal aspects of monarchs' lives.
And then, of course, the most public and triumphant, grand ceremonious face of monarchy.
I'll explore the monarchy's crucial role in the careers of our greatest composers, from Purcell and Handel, to Parry and Elgar.
I'll be hearing their music in some of Britain's most historic locations.
Performing this music in the places for which it was written, you get a sense of that world in depth.
Because of the way music operates, I think it bursts out of time.
And I'll uncover why and when the music of today's royal family was first created for their ancestors.
And, beginning with the golden age of English music, which culminated in the genius of Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, it's a story of the kings who made English music the envy of Europe, and then brought it to the brink of destruction.
And of the queen we have to thank for the continuing glories of English choral music.
Our story begins with King Henry, the man who was our greatest king and finest general.
Who made the name of England feared and who reshaped the English church for his own purposes.
Who employed an unprecedented number of musicians.
And who was even a composer himself.
I mean, of course, King Henry V.
I'm listening to an English song that's nearly 600 years old.
Not only was this song heard in King Henry's lifetime, it also takes him as its subject.
This is a musical account of Henry V's overwhelming defeat of the French at Agincourt in 1415, when Henry's much smaller army overcame a far bigger one.
It's perhaps the moment at which the English came nearest to achieving the centuries-old ambition of conquering France.
And it quickly became the stuff of legend, as in this carol here.
Nowadays, we think of carols as only for Christmas.
But then they were used to celebrate any joyful event.
Mostly the sacred, like the birth of Christ, but sometimes the apparently secular, like this great military victory.
To our ears, the English verses, with their uninhibited glorying in battle and bloodshed and the refrain, with the solemn liturgical phrase, "Deo gratias" - thanks be to God - belong to different worlds.
But to Henry V and his people, they were one and the same.
And their combination of military ambition and the church militant is the foundation of royal music in England.
By the time the King went into battle on that famous St Crispin's Day, he'd already heard Mass, and not a hurried, makeshift service, but a beautifully-sung one.
For, alongside the knights, archers and horses, the King had also brought with him to Agincourt his own mobile choir.
These were the most important military supplies of all - the dozens of priests, singing men and choirboys of Henry's Chapel Royal, along with all their equipment - the rich vestments, the altar plate of massive gold, the relics, the choir books and the sacred banners.
Henry's cannons were there to batter down the walls of Harfleur.
His Chapel Royal had a more vital task - to bombard the gates of heaven with praise so that God smiled favourably on his enterprise and gave him the victory.
This was a holy war to be fought with the sacred weapons of prayer and song and music.
The year after Agincourt, Henry's forces again triumphed against the French.
This time at the Battle of the Seine.
Henry celebrated the news immediately at the heart of English Christianity - Canterbury.
He offered thanks to God with magnificent music and in the company of a most distinguished guest.
In a diplomatic coup equal to Henry's military victories, the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund was in England and about to sign a treaty with the King.
I am standing where king and emperor stood 600 years ago and I'm hearing the kind of English royal music they heard.
For me, it's one of those moments when the centuries dissolve and a window opens into the past.
Sigismund, on the other hand, despite his Europe-wide travels, would never have heard anything so fine.
The Emperor would have been treated to a pioneering new style called La Contenance Angloise - the English sound.
It went on to conquer Europe even more effectively than Henry's armies.
His leading proponents worked for the royal family, chief among them the first great English composer whose name has come down to us John Dunstable.
This piece by him - Preco Preheminencie - could be one that was sung on that very day, and a contemporary copy remains at Canterbury.
Continental church music of the time often sounded rather angular, intellectual and hollow.
Dunstable's music, by contrast, was smooth and sweet.
He underpinned strong melodies with rich harmonies.
It's wonderfully incantatory.
And you've just heard chords that last for a long time.
So that he's extending all the wonderful vocal lines in the same sonority.
So this is why this sense, almost of a languor, a lingering on the note? Some of the parts they are singing are very florid and rhythmically very intricate and it would have been really remarkable in the time.
So this is really professional music of the highest calibre.
And he's making demands.
He must have been able to teach these people and demand from them even more than they'd done before because what he's doing is new.
The victory celebrations for the Battle of the Seine weren't just an opportunity to show off England's musical splendours to one of the most powerful rulers in Europe.
They were also a turning point in the history of royal music.
The victory took place on the 15th of August, 1416 - the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
For Henry, the coincidence of the victory and the holy day was proof positive of divine intervention in English affairs and proof also that his prayers and sacred music had worked.
So immediately he decided to multiply the already elaborate devotions of his Chapel Royal.
He added three antiphons - that is sung anthems - to the daily High Mass sung in his chapel and no fewer than six antiphons to the evening service.
Never had there been such profusion of praise and thanksgiving.
Never such demand for music.
The Chapel Royal was expanded to meet that demand.
In earlier centuries it had a dozen or so singers.
Under Henry, there were 50 - three times the size of any cathedral choir.
They travelled with the King from palace to palace, and in each there was a place of worship where they sang called the Chapel Royal, too.
And this is one of the books they would have used, which includes compositions by four of the chapel's gentlemen.
But the most surprising composer of all is this.
Le Roi Henri.
King Henry himself, who composed this Sanctus and another part of the Ordinary of the Mass, a Gloria, elsewhere in the book.
Henry led his armies from the front because that was how he inspired his men to win victories.
He was equally hands-on as a composer and liturgist because that was how he believed you won God over to your side.
And that was the most important victory of all.
Barely heard in the intervening centuries, this is music that came from Henry V's soul.
It's a simple, harmonised chant, pretty much in the style of its time, musically competent, spiritually impeccable.
Such piety wasn't enough to save Henry from death at the age of only 35, in 1422, on another of his French campaigns.
He was succeeded by his infant son, Henry VI.
During his disastrous reign, Henry VI lost all of his father's gains in France and more.
He was a worthier heir, however, to his commitment to England's music.
He maintained the Chapel Royal in its full splendour and he gave his kingdom a more permanent legacy than his father's military victories in two great institutions.
One was Eton College.
Today it's the most famous school in the world.
When established, however, its chief purpose was not to educate, but to pray and to sing for the souls of Henry and his family.
In the late Middle Ages, a college was first and foremost a non-monastic community of priests.
The collective worship of the chapel and its music was most important, as can be seen from this early charter.
The official title of the college is The King's College Of Our Lady Of Eton Besides Windsor.
And here is Henry VI and the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom Henry VI believed, like his father, was the special protectress of England.
And here and here and here are the choirs of angels who sing praises to the glory of God.
Henry's intention was that the clerks, or singing men, and choirboys of the foundation would echo the heavenly choirs here on earth in his college.
Henry's chapel is still in daily use by the school.
The college has also preserved the kind of music that he intended to be sung there in the pages of a choir book.
Written at the end of the 15th century, it's the most important collection of English sacred music to survive from the period, having miraculously escaped the mass book-burnings of the Reformation.
Dr David Skinner is an early music specialist who's here to advise Eton's present-day choirmaster, Tim Johnson, on how the book would originally have been used.
It is extraordinary how different this is from the style of notation that we would be used to using in the choir.
The other thing that's immediately apparent is how difficult a lot of this music is.
- They must have been extremely good.
- It's virtuosic.
It really is.
You can see how the notation just speeds up towards the end.
It's like fireworks there.
And then again it slows down.
- This is showing-off music? - Yeah.
Music designed to show off the quality of the boys.
And really only in England do you find this.
Continental choirs, primarily, are made up of three types of voice.
A treble line, a tenor line and a bass line.
In England, there's one, two, three, four, five.
So you have the full spectrum.
The layout of the choir book really does determine where the boys would stand in front of it.
So the trebles, right up on the upper left-hand portion of this page.
Would you come through, boys? And if you could position yourself quite centrally so you have a good view of that part.
And then, altos, you need to be able to see your part here.
Then let's bring in the high tenors.
And baritones.
And then the low basses.
The thing to remember is that this book would have been much higher, and on a lectern, about here, so that you all could see your parts very clearly.
And, of course, the reason each one of them doesn't have a part, as you would now, is there's no printing.
Or there's no printing of music yet.
Books are unbelievably expensive.
They are luxury objects.
Far too good for the likes of choirboys.
Right, Tim, are you going to take them forward? This is typical late-Medieval polyphony.
Each of the five types of voice is singing an individual melody, which harmonises into a whole.
Thanks to royal ambition and royal investment music was achieving unparalleled heights of complexity in late-Medieval England.
That royal infrastructure remains central to British musical life even today.
King's College, Cambridge, was founded by Henry VI as Eton's twin.
It was completed by his successors and is still world-famous for the quality of its choir.
Look listen what the music and the architecture have in common.
It's a sense of proportion, a perfect balance between extremes of simplicity and elaboration.
And the achievement of almost impossible effects with seemingly effortless technical skill.
In the architecture, it's the fan vaulting.
It looks almost gossamer-light.
In fact, it's held in place by its very weight, which locks the voussoirs, or the shaped stones, into place.
In the music, it's the multitude of different lines which weave together just like the ribs in the vault.
Each separate.
Each interlocking with the other into a solid structure of miraculous sound.
Above all, both the music and the architecture are uniquely archetypically English and they're almost as exclusively royal because only kings could afford them.
Others did aspire to them, however.
Across England, wealthy noble families emulated the royal model and founded colleges of their own.
By the 16th century, they numbered in the hundreds, providing musical employment on an unparalleled scale.
Monastic music-making had been restricted to those who'd taken holy orders.
But colleges were open to the outside world and able to pay for the best musicians.
Composers, in turn, took advantage of improvements in both the skill and the size of choirs.
So a piece like this, from the early 1500s, is built round eight individual parts.
Even more complex than the five-part polyphony I heard at Eton.
It was a moment to savour, for the reputation of English music would never be so high again.
The responsibility for that lay with the monarch who finally completed King's College Chapel.
Henry VIII loved the music that King's was built for.
He grew up with it.
He patronised its best performers and composers.
He even, like his namesake and role model, Henry V, composed such music himself.
But there's a difference.
Henry V, the story goes, got his bad behaviour out of the way as a young man.
Henry VIII's character, on the other hand, darkened and deteriorated as he got older.
And, as it did so, it threatened to bring down everything that this building stood for.
Choirs church the lot.
And both sides of his character- the profane as well as the sacred - could be found in the music he composed.
This is a so-called Henry VIII manuscript, produced for Henry's court in the first half-dozen or so years of the reign.
It gets its name from the fact that Henry is by far the most frequently-named composer in the book with some 30-odd pieces.
And this is his masterpiece.
Pastime With Good Company.
At first sight, it seems pretty straightforward, all about youth having its fling et cetera.
But listen again a bit more carefully.
"Who shall me let" That is, "Who's going to stop me?" This reflects the fact that Henry had just been stopped indeed by his council from relaunching Henry V's war against France, which he'd come to the throne determined to do.
In revenge, as it were, Henry spent the second summer of his reign in a kind of internal exile, enjoying himself and writing music.
And it was then, in 1510, that most - maybe all - of the songs in this book would have been written.
But how can we be sure that Henry didn't simply put his name to music that other people had written for him? You can really tell that Pastime is, primarily, must be by the King because there are certain errors in the part-writing that just would not have happened by one of his court composers.
It just wouldn't have happened.
He liked what he heard and it stayed in.
And everybody else, because the King had written it, liked it too! On the other hand, Pastime is hugely popular outside court circles where the King couldn't say, "You will like this or else.
" The simple fact is that the tunes really draw us in.
They're good tunes.
This is very different from the kind of liturgical music of Henry V in which the King exposes his faith.
Here we've got Henry exposing his heart.
It's autobiography in music and words.
Well, Henry's writing about the chase, isn't he? About the hunt.
- About love.
- Of women and especially love.
I mean, this is a king as pop star, isn't it? - It's not the Henry that we see in Holbein, is it? - No, he's slim.
- Handsome.
- Good-looking.
Completely different man.
Henry employed nearly 100 musicians by the end of his reign.
Not only the sacred singers of his chapel, but the secular musicians of the court.
The range and number of his instrumentalists would have made for a splendid orchestra.
At this point in history, however, they weren't yet playing together in a single group.
Instead, there were a number of smaller bands, each playing a different kind of instrument.
The string consort, for instance, specialised in violins and the instrument played here, the viol, which was first heard in England at Henry's court.
Further distinctions were made according to function, status and even volume.
Some instruments were classed as being "haut", meaning "loud".
Chief amongst them were the trumpeters, who blasted out fanfares for royal entrances and processions.
This instrument is also loud.
It's called a shawm.
The shawm players, unlike the drummers and trumpeters, could read music and played art.
That is to say, composed music like this piece by Henry VIII.
With music like this, they accompanied the dances and revels of the ladies and gentlemen of the court.
They were the court dance band.
Other instruments were classified as "bas", or "soft", and the musicians who played them were often the most highly skilled and highly paid virtuosi, including the lutenists.
This is music for royal love-making.
Or to entice the King to repose.
The King played the lute himself, along with the harp, recorder and keyboard.
But he also loved to listen to his favourite performers for hours at a time.
Music was more than a personal passion, however.
Henry's ambition was to have the grandest, the most magnificent court in Europe.
A court to cow his enemies, to impress his rivals and to convey to everyone that England and the English monarchy was glorious once more.
Henry was a master of the politics of splendour.
And the brightest jewel, and the most effective instrument was his Chapel Royal.
This is a prayer for Henry VIII, rendered in Latin "Enrico Octavo".
It was composed by a prominent gentleman of the Chapel Royal early in Henry's reign - Robert Fairfax - and it's the kind of showpiece that was intended to give visiting diplomats something to write home about - literally.
"His Majesty invited the ambassador to hear Mass sung by His Majesty's choristers, whose voices were really rather divine than human.
They did not chant but sang like angels.
And as for the counterbass voices, I don't think they have their equals in the world.
" One can only imagine Henry's displeasure when, during the Christmas celebrations of 1517, he learned of a choir that could sing even better than the Chapel Royal.
What was worse, it served the King's own chief minister, Cardinal Wolsey.
To even the field, Henry took a "gift" from Wolsey - the best treble from the cardinal's choir, a young lad named Robin, praised in letters for his sure and cleanly singing and also his good and crafty descant.
Descant was a very noble art form which is now sadly lost.
That's the idea of improvisation.
The master would sing a chant melody that was well known and the boy would know which notes he could actually sing against the plain chant notes.
And what is created is, hopefully, a beautiful seamless melody.
The extraordinary thing here, I think, is that we're dealing with a 13-14-year-old and the level of training you must achieve in order to be able to do this is extremely high.
So Robin must have been at the top of his trade.
Henry went on to take more than a chorister off Wolsey.
He'd go on to confiscate the cardinal's palace, Hampton Court, and then all his possessions and all his power.
All because of the cardinal's failure to persuade the Pope to allow Henry to marry Anne Boleyn.
Anne was highly musical.
She played the lute and harp and sang and danced well which must surely have been part of her attraction to a man as musical as Henry.
It was the love story that led to the English Reformation.
To make Anne his queen, Henry had to break with the Roman church and set England on a path that would lead it to become a Protestant nation.
Henry made himself head of the Church Of England for the narrowest and most self-interested of motives.
But there was a powerful sting in the tail of the new approaches to religion he'd decided to embrace.
In the old faith, especially as we've seen it practised by the English kings, music was inseparable from religion.
Mass was rarely said.
It was sung with every variety of skill, elaboration and instrumental accompaniment.
But for the new faith, the word was there to be spoken - clearly, simply, directly.
Words were to be understood, and anything that got in the way of understanding - like a foreign language or ritual or music - was wrong.
It did not matter if it moved the emotions or plucked the heart strings.
Those were the wiles of the devil, to be swept aside by the pure, redeeming word of God.
It was the start of a war that would change the sound of England for ever.
Music was a central battleground in the religious conflict which took centuries to be settled.
The case against music was mockingly put by the scholar Erasmus.
"The English think God is pleased with ornamental neighings and agile throats.
The whole day is now spent in endless singing.
Yet one worthwhile sermon exciting true piety is hardly heard in six months.
" Henry's Archbishop Of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, agreed.
Traditional music was "too full of notes", he complained.
He wanted English music to be more like the spoken word, sung distinctly and devoutly.
For every syllable, one note.
Music still had one very powerful defender.
The head of the Church Of England himself.
This is Henry VIII's Psalter, or book of Psalms.
It's specially written and illuminated for him.
And it's annotated in Henry's own bold and unmistakeable handwriting.
It's a profoundly personal book that reflects the ageing Henry's vision of himself and his kingship.
And both of them focus on music.
As here, in the illumination to Psalm 52, which shows Henry playing on his harp just like the Old Testament King David.
Or here.
With musicians making a joyful noise under the God of Jacob, just as Henry VIII's Chapel Royal continued to do.
Again and again, Henry's personal annotations approve of the central role of music in this Biblical text.
Praise on the psaltery," he writes at one point.
That's the instrument pictured here.
And when the psalmist says, "Praise the Lord upon the harp," Henry writes simply, of worship, "Music is worship and worship is music.
" Just as it had been for Henry V and Henry VI.
Henry fervently believed that he too was leading his people in the true melodious worship of God.
And so, in spite of the suspicions of zealous reformers, Henry's Chapel Royal remained as musically magnificent as ever.
In 1543, the King's choir was made even more glorious still when one of the greatest English composers of all was admitted to its ranks.
Thomas Tallis.
Like so many musicians of this period, we know next to nothing about his character.
We can't even be sure exactly when he was born, though we think it was around 1505.
What we do know about Tallis, however, is that during his extraordinary long life - he lived some 80 years - he served four successive monarchs of wildly different religious bents.
The great changes prompted by Henry's assumption of the headship of the church not only affected Tallis's professional career, more importantly, they shaped and reshaped the very style and form of the notes he wrote.
Tallis began his career as organist and singing man in monasteries, until Henry abolished them.
This luxurious piece is typical of the music he composed in his younger, monastic years.
So that's what Latin church music sounds like under Henry VIII.
In other words, Latin polyphony, the voluptuousness of the English sound.
Absolutely so.
And it's important to remember that music served no other purpose than, say, a stained-glass window or a tapestry.
- It was meant as - Incense.
- Exactly.
- Aural incense.
A backdrop for prayer.
Then the change.
The change was Henry's death in 1547.
He was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, who - even at the age of nine - burned with Protestant zeal.
To him, the sacred music loved by his father was a Popish corruption that should be rooted out.
With Edward's enthusiastic approval, Cranmer issued the first version of the English Book Of Common Prayer.
Latin was no longer to be the language of the church, nor of its music.
Thomas Tallis would now have to change his tune.
The introduction of the English prayer book changed everything.
The walls are whitewashed.
The stained glass is removed.
No longer is the Latin polyphony appropriate.
What is appropriate is a text that can be clear, transparent and heard.
It's in English and it makes completely new demands on music.
Could we have an example? With the closure of choir schools and the new prayer book, there was no need for a boys' line, so Boys, you can go.
You're not longer needed.
All that remains - the bass, baritone and tenors.
The clerks.
The men of the choir.
Practically every note is imprinted with reformed.
And Tallis uses certain devices to ensure that the listener can understand the words.
He gets the voices to sing together, in what's called homophony, or chordal writing.
You'll find the upper voices singing together, the lower voices singing together.
So what they're doing is, if you like is a kind of sermon in music.
And the word dominates everything.
Tallis proved as gifted writing in this new style as in the one he'd grown up with.
Almost overnight, he had reinvented English sacred music.
Even this was not enough to satisfy the radical reformers.
Henry had dissolved the monasteries, which employed large numbers of musicians.
Now Edward oversaw the closure of many other religious institutions, including most of the colleges which had for so long been central to English music.
By 1551, even the choir at King's, Cambridge, had been silenced.
And still worse was to come.
In 1552, Edward's council published a second and much more radical prayer book here.
In this, references to music are few and dismissive.
"There shall be lessons sung in a plain tune, after the manner of distinct reading.
" In other words, don't bother.
Music is a hindrance, not a help, to devotion.
Only five years before, the great tradition of English music had been central to Henry VIII's vision of his kingship and his church.
Now, under his son, it hung by a thread.
The choirs and the organs had gone, and even the memory of the music risked disappearing entirely as thousands of choir books were burned or cut up for scrap like these few stained, chopped fragments here.
Leaving only a hundred or two intact pages to preserve the memory of the entire body of Medieval English music.
And yet, within a couple of generations, this was the kind of music being produced for the Church Of England.
It's by a gentleman of the Chapel Royal and the only man who rivalled Thomas Tallis for the title of the greatest English composer of the 16th century - Tallis's pupil, William Byrd.
Musically it displays clear links to the rich, sweet polyphony of the Catholic past.
And yet, this verse anthem is definitely Protestant music and it's in English.
So how did music like this take root in the Protestant Church Of England? Just as English music had been on the point of total annihilation, in 1553, Edward had died at the age of just 15.
His sister, Bloody Mary, had then returned England back to the worship, and music, of Catholicism.
Her reign, like her brother's, lasted barely five years.
So the musical future of England came down to the power and preference - and exceptionally long reign - of Henry's last-surviving child.
Elizabeth was Henry VIII's daughter by his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
In spite - or perhaps because - of her mother's disgrace and execution, Elizabeth was wholly her father's daughter in her love of music, of which she was a connoisseur and was herself a very skilful keyboard player.
And in her idiosyncratic approach to religion.
Elizabeth rejected both the austere Protestantism of her brother Edward and the fervent Catholicism of her sister Mary.
Instead, like Henry VIII, Elizabeth too wanted a middle way.
Most of her subjects, however, did not, and were soon set on the road to radical reform.
In the majority of churches, their colourful walls were whitewashed over, as in this Gloucester chapel.
Instead of an altar at the east end of the church, there was now a communion table surrounded by seats.
The only music likely to have been heard was the unaccompanied singing of songs.
This is a translation of Psalm 100 by a Scot - William Keith.
It was published early in Elizabeth's reign, along with English-language versions of the other Psalms and a handful of standard tunes that the words could be sung to.
This one has been sung with Keith's words ever since, which is why it's now known as the Old 100th.
This is as good as it got in most Elizabethan churches and after decades of reformation and counter-reformation all the music that most aspired to.
And yet there was one notable exception.
Very elaborate works by Thomas Tallis and William Byrd were regularly and magnificently sung.
The royal household.
At Hampton Court, we can still see where Elizabeth would have heard her beloved music.
The space known, like the choir that sung there, as the Chapel Royal.
This was the Queen's personal religious space and she treated it with all the possessiveness worthy of the greatest of her ancestors.
The result was that the Reformation had less impact here than anywhere else in England.
Here, the clergy still wore rich vestments, the organs played and the choir still sung, often in Latin, music by the great William Byrd.
Outside it was the cold winter of Protestant austerity.
Inside it was indeed the warm summer of the golden age of English church music.
Elizabeth was too astute to attempt to impose her preferred style of worship on a country still riven by religious division.
William Byrd was a case in point.
Openly, flamboyantly Catholic, he was frequently fined for refusing to attend his parish church.
By the 1580s, he was even writing protest songs about religious persecution.
It says much about Elizabeth's powers of patronage that a recusant like him could remain a gentleman of her Chapel Royal.
I think there's no doubt whatever that Elizabeth was driven by personal taste, but that, after all, is what a personal monarch should be.
Their wishes are what drive it.
Nowadays, it's what we talk about if we talk about somebody as a conviction politician.
It is their wish, their will.
Elizabeth's personal taste for the music also reflected the fact that she understood the nature of royal ceremony.
Almost all royal ceremony before the Reformation was religious.
What Elizabeth does is to stop that disappearing.
And this means, then, that you have a fully ceremonialised Protestant monarch.
She composed a kind of personal oratorio of monarchy in which she supplied the words, she supplied the performance, and then others took what she'd begun and carried it to further and fresh heights.
This, I think, is why she is such an inspiration.
Though this is not a sacred song, it too celebrates Elizabeth and her reign.
It's by John Dowland, who composed the greatest secular music of the era.
His love songs were popular across the whole of Europe.
This song, however, he's paying an elaborate compliment to his monarch.
Like much of the art of Elizabeth's reign, Dowland's song mythologises the Queen and presents her to the listener as the embodiment of virtue.
Elizabeth died in 1603, after a reign of nearly 45 years.
There's a 17th century account of her death, which, though medically implausible, tells us how much her reign was associated with music.
The story goes that in her last days she called for the royal musicians to gather round her deathbed.
"So that, she said, she might die as gaily as she had lived and that the horrors of death might be lessened.
" "She heard the music tranquilly until her last breath.
" And music, more than anything else, was to be her personal legacy.
Elizabeth stands at the crossroads of English music.
Not only did she save the musical traditions of the English monarchy and the English church, she also offered a model to succeeding generations.
The kind of worship she preferred and patronised - in English but accompanied with rich ceremony and richer music - became the ideal which her Stuart successors tried to impose on the whole of the English church.
It was rediscovered in the 19th century and it triumphed in the early 20th.
No-one today would question that music was central to the Church Of England.
No-one today could imagine royal ceremony without music.
We are all Elizabethans now.
Before Elizabeth's vision could triumph, however, Protestant hostility to church music had to be overcome.
Next time, I'll explore just how much of a struggle that was to be in the 17th century, as the era of civil war, regicide and revolution.
But it also produced the greatest musical genius to have been born on British soil - Henry Purcell.