The Founding of the Choir – Henry VIII is Jealous

Agnus Dei’ from Music for Cardinal Wolsey; Missa Veni sancte spiritus, Richard Pygott (1485-1549)

HT to treblechoir99 a goldmine on Youtube with hundreds of pieces and as important really thoughtful commentary.

Here is his description of the early years of the Choir. The splendid palace you see on this video is of course Hampton Court – built by Wolsey and given by him to the King. It is still a private home for the Royal Family – but they don’t live there.

Thomas Wolsey (1471 1530; sometimes spelled Woolsey), who was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, was an English statesman and a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.

When Henry VIII became king of England in 1509, Wolsey became the King’s almoner. Wolsey’s affairs prospered and by 1514 he had become the controlling figure in all matters of state and extremely powerful within the Church. The highest political position he attained was Lord Chancellor, the King’s chief adviser, enjoying great freedom and often depicted as an alter rex (other king). Within the Church he became Archbishop of York, the second most important seat in England, and then was made a cardinal in 1515, giving him precedence over even the Archbishop of Canterbury. His main legacy is from his interest in architecture, in particular his old home of Hampton Court Palace, which stands today. Few men born without noble blood had as much power as Wolsey during Europe’s Early Modern period.

Although it would be difficult to find a better example of abuses in the Church than the Cardinal himself, Wolsey appeared to make some steps towards reform. In 1524 and 1527 he used his powers as papal legate to dissolve thirty decayed monasteries where corruption had run rife, including abbeys in Ipswich and Oxford. However, he then used the income to glorify God by founding a grammar school in Ipswich (The King’s School, Ipswich) and Cardinal College in Oxford. The college in Oxford was renamed King’s College after Wolsey’s fall. Today it is known as Christ Church. In 1528, he began to limit the benefit of clergy.

Wolsey’s chapel choir clearly prospered under Pygott’s direction — so much so, in fact, that it soon aroused the envy of the king. Late in March 1518, the dean of Henry’s own household chapel, Richard Pace, wrote to Wolsey in order to requisition one of the cardinal’s choristers, couching his reason as a veiled threat: ‘if it were not for the personal love that the King’s highness doth bear unto your grace, surely he would have out of your chapel not children only, but also men; for his grace hath plainly shown… that your Grace’s Chapel is better than his, and proved the same by this reason that if any manner of new song should be brought into both the said Chapels to be sung ex improviso then the said song should be better and more surely handled by your chapel than by his Grace’s.’ A few days later, when Pace wrote again to thank Wolsey for the chorister, he remarked that ‘Cornyshe [the master of the king’s chapel] doth greatly laud and praise the child… and doth in like manner extol Mr. Pygote for the teaching of him.’ Pygott seems to have continued to direct Wolsey’s chapel for the rest of its existence, accompanying his master on embassies to France on at least two occasions, and being rewarded from time to time with annuities from monasteries susceptible to the cardinal’s influence.

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