Monday, March 21, 2011

We are going to the Renaissance Society of America conference in Montreal to give a paper on Friday in a session about this young man.

He's Henry, Prince of Wales, first son of James I. He would have been Henry IX, and Charles would not have been king and not got his head chopped off and no Commonwealth and no Restoration with more constrained constitutional monarchy and there might have been a British absolute monarchy like Louis XIV and then there might have been a more emphatic revolution than the Glorious Revolution and Britain would be a republic. But none of that happened because Henry died of typhoid at age 18. Thomas Campion wrote the words and John Coprario the music for a cycle of seven songs about this loss. The songs are addressed to James, his queen Anne, Charles, his sister Elizabeth, her husband Frederick, the most disconsolate Great Britain and the world.

The paper will be about how the song to Anne has her displaying many more symptoms and symbols of what we might call 'clinical' melancholy that James's song. Remember how Elizabeth II was criticized for not being emotional enough when Diana died? Well, she couldn't really; it would be undignified and in fact James himself wrote that the monarch's actions had to be well tempered. Luckily James had Mannerism at his (or at least his court composer's) command. Coprario quotes the musical melancholy emblem of the Lachrimae incipit in James's song, so the in-the-know would hear, if not see, that James was just as melancholy as Anne.

If only Elizabeth had had Campion and Coprario at the funeral instead of Elton John.

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