Henry Vlll's songbook


King Henry VIII received a broad musical education and was held in high regard as a composer and performer on many different musical instruments.

This manuscript, known as the Henry VIII songbook, was probably compiled around 1518. It includes 20 songs and 13 instrumental pieces ascribed to ‘The Kynge H. viii’. The anthology also contains 76 pieces by other musicians associated with the court, including William Cornysh and Robert Fayrfax, as well as some foreign composers, but there are more pieces attributed to Henry than to any other composer.

Some of the king’s pieces are arrangements of music by others, but there are also many original compositions. It is most likely that he composed this music while still a prince, though some pieces may date from the early years of his reign.

This famous song, ‘Pastyme with good companye’, extols all the virtues of the princely life, including hunting, singing and dancing.

The manuscript was produced for someone close to the court, possibly Sir Henry Guildford, the Controller of the Household and Master of the Revels.

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Full title:
Henry Vlll's psalter
c. 1518
© British Library
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Public Domain
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British Library
Add. 31922

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