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William Lawes, ‘Treasurer at Warr’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

David Pinto*
Layton Ring
Low Warden, Hexham
*Corresponding author. E-mail:


Amongst estate papers in the Letterbook of Walter Powell (National Library of Wales) are six letters or receipts by William Lawes, five of them holograph, dated December 1644 to March 1645 – only six months before his death in battle. Transcription and annotation give a chance to list exhaustively life-records or contemporary testimonia for him, as well as to examine his normative writing hand and in the light of a now better-definable army service, gauge whether outbreak of civil war in England in autumn 1642 marked the end of his composing career, or what minor exceptions there could be.

Research Article
Copyright © 2013 The Royal Musical Association

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1 Martyn Bennett, ‘Dampnified Villagers: Taxation in Wales during the First Civil War’, Welsh History Review / Cylchgrawn Hanes Cymru, 19, no. 1 (1988–9), 29–43 seems to be the first mention.

2 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [ODNB], Grove for recent summary accounts. John Aubrey called Wulfhall in Savernake Forest another residence of the earl. It was derelict by 1571, and in a part of Wiltshire fairly unknown to Aubrey at the time he wrote, in the later seventeenth century: John Edward Jackson, Wulfhall and the Seymours (privately printed, 1874). Recently freed from house arrest, the earl maintained Tottenham Lodge near Wulfhall from ca.1575 and entertained James I there on three occasions 1603–20. In London, he resided at Hertford House, Canon Row, Westminster.

3 Charles Butler, The Principles of Musik (1636) F/ intr. Gilbert Reaney (New York, 1970), p. 45 marginal note places ‘Henri Lawes, Iohn Lawes’ at the list's head after Nicolas Lanier: maybe a slip, John in error for William – or, from a country clergyman's church-music perspective, just possibly not.

4 The corporation's documents, investigated by Sir John Hawkins, are reproduced in full in Records of English Court Music, 5, ed. Andrew Ashbee (Aldershot, 1991), 245–69. See too Andrew Ashbee and David Lasocki with Peter Holman and Fiona Kisby, A Biographical Dictionary of English Court Musicians 1485–1714 (Aldershot, 1998).

5 It had four commendatory poems including a sonnet by John Milton, on Henry alone. The other music included was: by William, ten canons and an elegy on John Tomkins (d. 1638); on him, eight elegies set by colleagues (possibly to their own verse). The longest, most elaborate is by John Jenkins; one by Captain Edmond Foster (so far unidentified) is at the simplest, presumably amateur level.

6 Murray Lefkowitz, William Lawes (London, 1960).

7 John Lawes also sang bass to his brothers' ‘contratenors’: Murray Lefkowitz, ‘The Longleat Papers of Bulstrode Whitelocke: New Light on Shirley's “Triumph of Peace”’, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 18, no. 1 (1965), 42–60; Andrew J. Sabol, ‘New Documents on Shirley's Masque “The Triumph of Peace”’, Music and Letters, 47, no. 1 (1966), 10–26.

8 John R. Elliott, Jr. and John Buttrey, ‘The Royal Plays at Christ Church in 1636: A New Document’, Theatre Research International, 10 (1985), 93–106. The Royall Slave, performed on 30 August, was repeated 2 September and, at the minor royal palace of Hampton, 12 January 1636/7. Those repeats probably availed themselves of the core of royal servants who were its main original actors.

9 British Library (GB-Lbl) Additional MSS 40657–40661; five partbooks extant out of six. Supplementary Publications for the Viola da Gamba Society (VdGS) of Great Britain, a series with Dodd as general editor; from March 1964, nos. 5, 8, 20, 34, 38 (VdGS Thematic Index William Lawes nos. 336, 110, 318 with 319, 306, 208 with 226 and 320–1). See also the almaines in William Lawes, Pavan and Two Aires, ed. Layton Ring (Universal Edition, 1964), U.E. 12648L (VdGS 101, 337, 103b: the numeration is amplified here for the last almaine, to distinguish it from variant form 103a).

10 John Cunningham, The Consort Music of William Lawes 1602–1645 (Woodbridge, 2010) passim. So far, the lengthiest comment on his proposals is David Pinto, ‘Reassessing a Court Composer’; reviews, Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society, 4 (2011), 127–51.

11 Listed and discussed in The Viola da Gamba Society Index of Manuscripts containing Consort Music Volume I, ed. Andrew Ashbee, Robert Thompson and Jonathan Wainwright (Aldershot, 2001), 200–4. This links the hand to Oxford, Christ Church (GB-Och) Mus 732–5 (miscellaneous string parts of the same era, in at least four hands). As a counter-suggestion, one can compare details in the Shirley Partbooks. For example, Add. MS 40660 f. 26v ‘Horatio Vocchi [sic]’ has an ‘H’ form comparable to that in ‘Heare begingth … [sic]’, heading 24.k.3. f. 31v. The various degrees of formality in the Shirley books make 40660 ff. 29v-30 (copies of William's own five-part fantasias) closer than other stretches to the neatness in hand of the organbook.

12 Their value for assessing any development is also limited by circumstance: playhouses were shut to ward off the spread of plague for the lengthy period May 1636 to October 1637.

13 David Pinto, ‘Unmasking Thyrsis and Dorinda: Viper-wine, Reclaimed Women and Declamatory Song’, The Consort, 58 (2002), 29–40, part of a more detailed study abbreviated for publication without the writer's concurrence; for the full version see This would place Lawes in the circle of Henrietta Maria, queen consort of Charles I and sister of Louis XIII of France.

14 David Pinto, ‘The True Christmas’, William Lawes 1602–1645 Essays on His Life, Times and Work ed. Andrew Ashbee (Aldershot, 1998), 102. Henry's book is now GB-Lbl Additional MS 53723.

15 The amplest study is Willa McClung Evans, Henry Lawes Musician and Friend of Poets (New York, 1941). For Salisbury musicians, see Dora H. Robertson, Sarum Close (London, 1938).

16 Ian Spink, Henry Lawes Cavalier Songwriter (Oxford, 2000), 3. Thomas Lawes, taverner, was one of eight tobacco sellers licensed for Salisbury in 1637: Public Record Office (GB-Lpro) E159/477, in Tradesmen in Early-Stuart Wiltshire A Miscellany, ed. N. J. Williams (Devizes, 1960) Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (later Wiltshire Record Society) Records Branch 15; item no. 1275. Item no. 525 has Thomas Lawes vintner acting as a surety for other Salisbury tradesmen in a recognisance of 4 March 1620 (and so not to be confused with the vicar choral or indeed his son, far too young to have been of such standing). Mayor 1640–1, he was the possessor of a manservant John Luxon noted by Robert Benson and Henry Hatcher, Old and New Sarum, or Salisbury (1843), 310, 392 (volume 6 of The History of Modern Wiltshire, ed. Sir Richard Colt Hoare).

17 Fane, second Earl of Westmorland, was picturing pastimes at a court from which he retired ca.1640: Otia Sacra (1648); Pinto (1995), 23. Herrick's verse records Fane's patronage and goodwill. Maybe by chance, Herrick in Hesperides compares Henry to Gaultier for skilled lute playing, as Fane did William.

18 The Muses Melody in a Consort of Poetrie sig.[A]8v: David Pinto, for y eViolls The consort and dance music of William Lawes (Richmond, 1995) 175. Its title seems another shot in the dark, since it calls Lawes ‘Batchelor in Musick’ – not a wholly impossible degree, but simply unrecorded elsewhere.

19 Thomas Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England (London, 1662), 157. Fuller's son prepared the posthumous first edition for the press.

20 Da[niel] Lloyd, Memoires of the Lives … of those noble, reverend, and excellent personages, that suffered … for the Protestant Religion … (London, 1668), 621, on William and Henry Lawes. We learn that William was ‘of great respect among all the Nobility and Clergy of England’; but even this trite observation may have been sparked by his origin as ‘a Vicar Chorals son’, also found in Fuller.

21 Quoted by P.R. Newman, The Old Service Royalist Regimental Colonels and the Civil War (Manchester, 1993), 163, from Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica ed. Joseph Jackson Howard n.s. II (1877), 82. It is on a brass memorial plate in Winchester Cathedral, N aisle, so-dated; here as in John Vaughan, Winchester Cathedral Its Monuments and Memorials (London, 1919), 187.

22 Malcolm Rogers, William Dobson 1611–1646 (London, 1983), catalogue of an exhibition, National Portrait Gallery 21 October 1983 – 8 January 1984: nos. 12, 19, 20; cf no. 18 for a coloured riband.

23 Layton Ring, ‘Wednesday, 24 September, 1645. The Death of William Lawes during the Battle of Rowton Heath at the Siege of Chester’, William Lawes, ed. Ashbee, 155–73.

24 The one contemporary anecdote about the Lawes brothers gleaned from the minor composer Thomas Brewer has them parting swords drawn between their fellow-servant and drinking partner, John Wilson, and a passer-by: Jestbook of Sir Nicholas L'Estrange, GB-Lbl Harleian MS 6395, under compilation in the 1640s, item 361; Lefkowitz, William Lawes, 15. A less colourful version told by John Jenkins, item 599 in the source, mentions Wilson alone and no sword to boot: Andrew Ashbee, The Harmonious Musick of John Jenkins Volume One (Surbiton, 1992), 38.

25 The basis for this is in Ronald Hutton's work: ‘Charles Gerard’, ODNB and, in general terms, The Royalist War Effort (2nd edn, London, 1999) – though we have to differ on some of the more exact detail in that.

26 He asked Rupert for marching orders in a letter from Bampton, Oxfordshire; undated, but written as soon as he received ‘scertayn newes’ of Monmouth's capture: GB-Lbl Additional MS 18981 f. 326.

27 The National Library of Wales, Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (NLW) MS 17091 E, formerly Llangibby Castle Collection C44: items 8, 18, 19, 32–3. We are much obliged to Martin Robson-Riley and staff at the National Library, Aberystwyth, for information and courteous assistance.

28 The Diary of Walter Powell 1603–1654, ed. Joseph Alfred Bradney (Bristol, 1907), now NLW MS 17088 A; at the time of editing in the hands of Sir Henry Mather Jackson, Bart., whose father had purchased the Llantilio estate from Powell descendants. The MSS are explicitly stated to have gone with it (p. vii); explaining the survival and eventual transmission of the letterbook.

29 Jeremy Knight, Civil War & Restoration in Monmouthshire (Little Logaston, 2005), 83–4 (with notes) and passim: a welcome contextual account among other matter of activities by Lawes (though fused with his brother Henry qua setter of Milton's Comus).

30 They were half in cash, half in kind with a rating worth adjudged on the exactor's terms. Martyn Bennett, The Civil War in Britain and Ireland 1638–1651 (Oxford, 1997), 192 lists prices posted then for staples, recorded by Powell: bread, cheese, butter and beef respectively 1d, 2d, 4d, 1¼d per lb, and oats 2d per quarter; see also Hutton, ‘Charles Gerrard’, 168; Knight, Civil War & Restoration, 84. At this date, a free-market rate for beef in Plymouth was 2½d: The Weekly Account, 24–30 July 1644 226 (GB-Lbl E.3.[23.]), quoted in Elliot Warburton, Memoirs of Prince Rupert and the Cavaliers, 3 (London, 1849), 6 n. 1.

31 Bennett, ‘Dampnified Villagers’, 36. NLW 17091 E, item 18, seems to threaten retaliation of this sort for shortfall in payments.

32 David Pinto, ‘William Lawes at the Siege of York’, The Musical Times, 127 (1986) 579–83.

33 Edward Lowe, of Christ Church, Oxford, copied the sole complete set, possibly in the 1650s; it is still in the college library, GB-Och Mus 768-770. One of the psalms survives at Durham Cathedral as part of a later-century score, Durham Cathedral (GB-DRc) MS B.1 pp. 97–107. It omits the ‘common tune’ for the piece, which points up how far beneath sanction the practice was in normal cathedral usage.

34 It has been stated that settings of high-art categories used low-status Geneva tunes, which ‘could serve equally as a symbol of the royalist cause’: Nicholas Temperley, The Music of the English Parish Church, 1 (Cambridge, 1979), 78. However the settings by Lawes are the only evidence proposed: as soon as that is rebutted the force of the argument is clearly circular. Simply, Geneva tunes were the only proper accompaniment to public worship for puritans, and certainly nothing in more elaborately composed form.

35 Prince Rupert commanded at Marston Moor outside besieged York. The Earl of Newcastle, for whom William may have written music, joined him from inside. Sir William Blakiston (see item 18 and Figure 1), led a brigade of 500–600 of the Northern Horse there, and was later at Rowton Heath.

36 Musicks Hand-maide (London, 1663, etc.) (henceforth MH) nos. 45–7 [Suite in key a]: ‘Golden Grove Mr. Wm. Lawes’, ‘Coranto Mr. Wm. Lawes’, ‘Saraband’ (unattributed, but strain 1 has the bass of VdGS no. 48, Royall Consort Saraband in a, and some melodic similarities). B.A.R. Cooper, ‘The Keyboard Suite in England before the Restoration’, Music and Letters, 53 (1972), 309–19, supposed that the suite was not originally for keyboard, but did not list surviving ensemble versions. MH nos. 45–6 are VdGS 361–2, Courtly Masquing Ayres (1662) nos. 15–16 (there, in g). No VdGS number is held by no. 47, since in keyboard sources only; GB-Och Mus 1003 f. 16v, anon; London, Lambeth Palace (GB-Llp) MS 1040 no. 5.

37 Hutton, ‘Charles Gerrard’, 139.

38 He retired to his estates, and is now best known for patronizing Jeremy Taylor. Sir Christopher Hatton, first Baron Hatton by an Oxford creation and comptroller of its court, also cultivated Taylor. By coincidence perhaps, additions of this period to the Hatton musical collection, one vast in scope, included partbooks of William's influential ‘Royall Consort’: GB-Och Mus 754–9. David Pinto, ‘The Music of the Hattons’, RMARC, 23 (1990), 79–108; Jonathan P. Wainwright, Musical Patronage in Seventeenth-Century England Christopher, First Baron Hatton (1605–1670) (Aldershot, 1997). For its unique variation divisions in one pavan see William Lawes The Royall Consort, ed. David Pinto (new version, London, 1995), no. 49.

39 See notes to the letter of 26 December 1644 [A].

40 Evans Henry Lawes (1941), 107, notes how in December 1634 William Hussie, servant to the dowager Countess of Derby, fetched Henry's horse ‘& his brothers’ from London to Harefield for £2. 2s. 0d. This was three months after grandchildren of the countess had enacted Comus.

41 C.V.R. Blacker and David Pinto, ‘Desperately Seeking William: Portraits of the Lawes Brothers in Context’, Early Music, 37 (2009), 157–74. A suggestion made here (p. 164) that one major work by Dobson is dateable to 1646, his final poverty-stricken year, is not the view of both authors.

42 Both Gerard and the unknown musician are illustrated in Rogers, Dobson. No. 41 (pp. 80–1) was reproduced in Musica Britannica 60 and its identification as William first proposed, undiscussed.

43 An army's treasure chest was a ‘massive box, iron-bound and furnished with huge locks … dragged along on a cart by horses or oxen in the army train. Its immediate protection was provided by a guard of at least a score of soldiers. The keys never left the possession of the Treasurer-at-War. In the field all transactions were conducted in coin. For the pay of soldiers it was issued from the Treasure Chest to the Captains of companies by the Treasurer-at-War on the basis of muster rolls. All dealings with soldiers were in the hands of the Captains and their clerks.’ L.G. Hinchliffe, Trust and Be Trusted: The Royal Army Pay Corps and its Origins (Winchester, 1983).

44 Cunningham, Consort Music, 25–31 and passim, with copious illustrations. To be exhaustive, yet a third ‘e’ is found in lute and lyra tablature: a civilité form, idiosyncratically slipped 90 degrees anticlockwise.

45 GB-Lbl Additional MS 31432; facsimile in English Song 1600–1675. Facsimiles of Twenty Six Manuscripts and an Edition of the Texts, ed. Elise Bickford Jorgens, 2 (New York, 1986).

46 Cunningham, Consort Music, 311, for this, in a handlist of contents.

47 Cunningham, Consort Music, 39, Figure 2.9 (a); from GB-Lbl Additional MS 40658 f. 5v.

48 L'Estrange and Cobb: Lefkowitz, William Lawes, 15, 26; Fane, Tatham and Jordan: Pinto (1995), 23–4, 175. Leycester's Prolegomena Historica de Musica gave a list ‘sub anno 1640’ putting ‘Will. Lawes, servant to his Majesty’ at its head, above his brother. It must have been retrospective, as Christopher D.S. Field observes; it correlates most with names of an exact decade later, in John Playford's Court-Ayres (London, 1655). Hermione Abbey, ‘Sir Peter Leycester's Book on Music’, Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America , 21 (1984), 28–44, on Chester Record Office (GB-CHEr) DLT/B31.

49 The verse has some parallels to Herrick's shorter elegy on Bernard Stuart in Hesperides (London and Exeter, 1647–8): another, also brief, is found there on William Lawes.

50 Cunningham, Consort Music, 29–30 and Figure 2.3 notes a part-parallel in John Coprario's script: ‘j’ for ‘I’ (first person); it also stands for his own given-name capital initial.