queen elizabeth I
Four hundred, nineteen years ago, today, James Charles Stuart was crowned James I, King of England and Ireland, after the death of Elizabeth I. Though England and Scotland were sovereign, individual states, he ruled them in personal union.
He was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots and the great-great grandson of Henry VII. He was thirteen months old when his mother abdicated and he succeeded to the Scottish throne, though he had regents governing due to his minority status. He took full control of the government in 1583 and succeeded Elizabeth I, whom was childless, the last monarch from the House of Tudor, in 1603.
He ruled over all three kingdoms for 22 years during the Jacobean Era until his death in 1625 (also in March, on the 27th). During his reign, the Plantation of Ulster and the Colonisation of the Americas began.
He was the longest reigning Scottish monarch, ruling nearly 58 years, surpassed only by crazy King George III (59 years), Queen Victoria (nearly 64 years) and current Queen Elizabeth II at 70 years. He was on the throne during the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (see my post on Guy Fawkes) and, during the Elizabethan literature Golden Age, with writers such as William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon. He sponsored the English translation of the Bible, the most widely read version and was a poet, himself. He preferred peace to war, steering clear of the Thirty Years’ War that involved most of Europe. There are indications that he was bi-sexual.
He died young at the age of 58 and was succeeded by his second son, King Charles I, a poor ruler that was executed in 1649.
Who Was King James VI & I
King James I
Three hundred, fourteen years ago, today…
The Treaty of Union is the name usually, now, given to the agreement which led to the creation of the new state of Great Britain [.] [It stated] that England, which already included Wales, and Scotland were to be “United into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain[.]” At the time it, was more often referred to as the Articles of Union. The details of the treaty were agreed on [July 22], 1706 and separate Acts of Union were then passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to put the agreed articles into effect. The political union took effect on [May 1], 1707.
Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland, last monarch of the Tudor dynasty, died without issue on [March 24], 1603 and the throne fell at once […] to her first cousin twice removed, James VI of Scotland, a member of House of Stuart and the only son of Mary, Queen of Scots. By the Union of the Crowns in 1603, he assumed the throne of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Ireland as King James I. This personal union lessened the constant English fears of Scottish cooperation with France in a feared French invasion of England. After [the] union, the new monarch, James I and VI, sought to unite the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England into a state which he referred to as “Great Britain”. Nevertheless, Acts of Parliament attempting to unite the two countries failed in 1606, 1667 and 1689.
Scots History Online
Union with England (UK Legislation)
Union with Scotland (UK Legislation)
Scottish Referendums (BBC)
Mob Unrest and Disorder (Web Archive/Parliament UK)
Moving forward to 1580…
A widespread belief exists that the song Greensleeves was composed by none other than King Henry VIII following an early rejection of his love by his future wife Anne Boleyn. The lyrics of this song of unrequited love have been seen to relate to his courtship of Anne in the 1520s. Many of the verses of Greensleeves imply a rich and extravagant courtship […]. Henry VIII was a composer and musician of some merit […]. [C]ourt officials […] attribute to Henry many compositions which were not his and the consensus of expert opinion, today, is that Greensleeves was composed rather later in the Tudor era, during the reign of Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. [T]he piece is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after Henry’s death […].
A broadside ballad […] was registered at the London Stationer’s Company in September [of] 1580, by [a] Richard Jones, as A Newe Northern Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves. Six more ballads followed in less than a year, one on the same day […]. Needless to say the rights to the song were in very hot dispute. It was in 1584 that Jones printed his final version of the melody and this is the one we know today. It was titled A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves […].
Who was Lady Greensleeves
[W]hy would anyone be named for their green sleeves? Interpretations […] usually have a sexual connotation, most notably in the phrase “a green gown”, a reference to the grass stains on a woman’s dress from engaging in sexual intercourse outdoors. Was this lady a prostitute? [T]he song lyrics mention a “discourteous” rejection of the singer’s advances, suggesting to some that the lady in question was actually virtuous but, perhaps, was mistaken for a prostitute as a result of her green sleeves. [A]nother explanation is quite the opposite to promiscuity […]. [I]n heraldry, colour also had symbolisms and green indicated truth and fidelity […]. [A] knight may give a green armband to his true love to wear to show his devotion to her, giving rise to the familiar phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” meaning, to show your true feelings.
None of these theories, however, really seem to reflect the song’s true meaning, which clearly expresses an unrequited love by a rich man for a fair lady. All that we can confidently deduce, is that “Lady Greensleeves” is a nickname, not a title. Exactly who she was, remains a mystery.
♦ In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, the character Mistress Ford refers, twice, to “the tune of ‘Greensleeves'”.
♦ The tune was the basis for “Home in the Meadow,” a recurring song throughout the 1962 epic film How the West Was Won.
♦ A rendering of the tune, titled the “Lassie Theme”, was used extensively in the Lassie television show, especially the ending credits.
Everyone will remember this tune as What Child Is This? ~Vic
Now, we are in the 1570s…
Spem in Alium is Latin for “hope in any other” or “hope in another”. A 40-part Renaissance Motet, it was composed in 1570 (thereabouts) by Thomas Tallis (Tallys). Written for eight choirs of five voices each, meaning there are 40 separate voices singing individual lines of music, it is considered to be Tallis’s greatest achievement and, possibly, one of the finest compositions of all time.
Information on where it was first performed is scarce. There appears to be some confusion regarding where it took place, as two locations…Nonsuch Palace, a royal Tudor palace in Surrey built by Henry VIII (not to be confused with Nonsuch Mansion) and Arundel House, a London townhouse originally for the Bishops of Bath & Wells…were both owned by Henry Fitzalan, the 12th/19th Earl of Arundel at one time. Most of what I have read leans towards Arundel House but, truly, I don’t think anyone really knows. It’s all a big guess. And, it is pure speculation as to why he wrote it. Some suggestions include a challenge due to an Italian composer doing same, Elizabeth’s 40th birthday or, perhaps for Mary as he was Catholic. Again, no one really knows.
The music, below, is soul stirring. ~Vic
The text of the motet:
Spem in alium nunquam habui
Praeter in te, Deus Israel
Qui irasceris et propitius eris
et omnia peccata hominum
in tribulatione dimittis
Creator caeli et terrae
respice humilitatem nostram
I have never put my hope in any other
but in Thee, God of Israel
who canst show both wrath and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins
of man in suffering
Creator of Heaven and Earth
Regard our humility
Additional Reading & Sources:
The Belle Jar (Blog Post)
Oxford Music Online
Spem in Alium History (PDF on Super Flumina Website)
How To Buy Spem In Alium (Classic FM Website)
Tallis and His Song of Forty Parts (Zenodo Website)