Henry VIII was a patron of the arts and music, which is often over-shadowed because of all the other things for which he’s known.
He was a skilled musician and had been well educated in many subjects. He reportedly had a pleasant voice, and would sing regularly, and the ability to play musical instruments and knowledge of the latest dances were important skills in the royal court. Music was taught in schools and universities during the Tudor period, and Henry so loved music that he made his court into a center for music and musicians from all parts of Europe were welcome. This in part led to the experimentation and innovation that was the foundation for modern orchestras.
Being a king meant Henry had access to any instrument he wanted, and many of them! His collection included hundreds of musical instruments, including bagpipes, lutes, a harpsichord, numerous viols, and dozens of recorders. The actual number of recorders varies according to whom you ask, but the generally accepted number is between 76 and 79. I’d like to get a look at the inventory myself, because a list I found on Wikipedia only listed 49 and I think there may be some addition or transcription errors between the original inventory and the lists publicly found.
Henry wasn’t the only monarch to love music, but he was one of the most supportive of it. So the next time you think of the recorder as a “kid’s” instrument, think of Henry VIII and remember, the recorder was once the instrument of Kings and Queens!
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