The Kennedy Center

William Lawes



Biography

William Lawes was an English court musician and composer.   He is most remembered today for his inspirational viol consort suites.   He is considered one of the most important creator of English stage music.
 
He was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire and was baptized on May 1st, 1602.  His father was Thomas Lawes, a vicar choral at Salisbury Cathedral.  And his elder brother was famous musician Henry Lawes, a very successful composer in his own right.
 
His sponsor and mentor was Edward Seymour the Earl of Hertford.  And at the recommendation of the Earl he became an apprenticed and student of composer John Coprario.  John Coprario introduced him to Charles the Prince of Wales as a child.  Both William and his brother Henry received court appointments after Charles succeeded to the British throne as Charles I.  William was appointed as the 'musician in ordinary for lutes and voices' in 1635.  He spent his entire life working in the court of King Charles I, he also developed a personal friendship with King Charles I.  His main job was writing music for incidental music for plays, masques and for entertainment performed at court.  He also collaborated with many of his contemporaries on special projects, they include Ben Jonson, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher James Shirley and William Davenant.  He composed secular music and songs for court masques as well as sacred anthems and motets for the Kings private worship.
 
King Charles dispute with Parliament led to the outbreak of the Civil War.  He joined the Royalist army of King Charles I.  His friendship with King Charles, got him appointed to the Royal Lifeguards just to have him around and he was given a job intended to keep him safe and out of danger a post in the King's Life Guards, but even despite a royal command to stay out of harms way, he got involved in a skirmish and on September 24th 1645 he was shot by a Parliamentarian at Chester while riding with the king whose troops were attempting to rescue and set free a garrison.  As a part of the Kings mourning he instituted a special mourning for him honoring him with the title of 'Father of Music’ and his portrait as a cavalier hangs in the Faculty of Music at Oxford. 
William Lawes