approx finish time 2pm

Two of the UK’s leading artists present an intriguing programme highlighting political 'games' of renaissance Europe.

Elizabeth I plots to keep France, Spain and Scotland on her side through years of marriage promises, flirtation, pacts and treaties. Includes music by Dowland, Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Carissimi and others.

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 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, 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.

Prom Ticket/SP (on door only) £5

Programme to include:

  • Songs by Guillaume Tessier
  • Works from Dowland’s First Book of Songes 1597
  • Songs by William Byrd from the Paston Lute Book
  • Spanish songs from A Musical Banquet (published by Robert Dowland)
  • Lute works by Francesco da Milano (collected in the Elizabethan lute book, the Marsh Lute Book)
  • Thomas Morley’s Italian-inspired Canzonets
  • Carissimi’s Il Lamento di Maria Stuarda
The music will be woven in with commentaries on Elizabeth’s tastes in music, love of languages and dancing.

Nicholas Hilliard (called) - Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth and Leicester miniatures by Hilliard

Mary Queen of Scots Mourning