Tag Archives: God save the King

Music for Harpists: Royal Amateurs, Virtuosi, and a Child Prodigy

Egan, Charles. A New Series of Instructions Arranged Expressly for the Royal Portable Irish Harp (Dublin: for the author by John Egan, circa 1822). Illustration on preliminary page

A revival of traditional Irish harp music in the early 19th century led instrument makers to design new harps suitable for amateur players.  John Egan, a harp maker active in Dublin, invented his “royal portable Irish harp” circa 1819.   Though resembling a traditional Irish harp in size, this instrument incorporated “ivory stops,” used to raise and lower pitches, allowing changes of key.  The illustration above appears in Charles Egan’s A New Series of Instructions Arranged Expressly for the Royal Portable Irish Harp (Dublin: for the author by John Egan), prefaced by a dedication to Princess Augusta dated 1822. 

Egan, Charles. A New Series of Instructions Arranged Expressly for the Royal Portable Irish Harp (Dublin: for the author by John Egan, circa 1822). Title page

Both John and Charles Egan were associated with the royal family: John was “harp maker by authority of the royal warrant” to George IV, and Charles served as “professor of harp” to Princess Augusta.  Also present in the Archive are a manuscript “Selection of Preludes & Airs for the Royal Portable Irish Harp” by Charles Egan, accompanied by a letter of dedication to Princess Augusta and an essay on Irish music, all presumably in Egan’s autograph.  The “Preludes & Airs” incorporate Irish tunes, as well as a version of “God Save the King”:

Egan, Charles. Selection of Preludes & Airs for the Royal Portable Irish Harp. “God Save the King”

Princess Augusta’s interest in the harp extended beyond the revival of Irish traditions.  A volume of harp music with Augusta’s personalized binding includes popular opera excerpts arranged for pedal harp by Charles Egan and other composers.  Many song collections in the Archive employ the harp as an accompanying instrument.  One example is this collection of English ballads dedicated to Princess Augusta’s younger sister Mary by Sir William Parsons (1746-1817), “master of His Majesty’s band of musicians”:

Parsons, William. Six English Ballads With an Accompaniment For the Harp or Piano-Forte (no publisher, 1791). Title page

The Archive also contains works of two French harp virtuosos.  Nicholas Charles Bochsa (1789-1856), served as harpist to Napoleon and Louis XVIII, 1813-1816.  Fleeing charges of forgery, he arrived in London in 1817, was appointed professor of harp at the Royal Academy of Music and served as music director of the King’s Theatre, 1826-1830.  Bochsa composed opera, orchestra, and chamber music, as well as music for solo harp.  His pedagogical works included A New and Improved Method of Instruction for the Harp:

Bochsa, Robert Nicolas Charles,. A New and Improved Method of Instruction for the Harp (London: Chappell & Co., undated). Title page

Jean-Baptiste Cardon (1760-1803), a harp virtuoso and teacher in Paris, visited London in 1785 and dedicated his harp sonatas, op. 22, to George IV, then Prince of Wales.  After the French Revolution, Cardon settled in Russia and was appointed harpist to the Russian royal family.  The Archive’s copy of Cardon’s variations on the French folksong “Ah, vous dirai-je, maman” is annotated with manuscript fingerings, probably by Princess Augusta:

Cardon, Jean-Baptiste. Ah vous dirai je maman, with variations, pour la harp par Cardon Fils. Print (London: Chappell & Co., undated). First page

The presence of several works by Joseph Tudor Hughes indicate the royal family’s interest in this child prodigy harpist.

Hughes, Joseph Tudor. The Celebrated Welch Air...to which is added The Juvenile Bards Idea (London: Welsh, undated). Cover

Joseph Tudor Hughes (born circa 1827) was one of several siblings, all musical prodigies who sang and played the harp, violin, and concertina.  Originally from Wales, the children performed in England during the 1830s and emigrated with their parents to the United States in 1838. 

Hughes, Joseph Tudor.  British Melodies, the Composition of Master Hughes, from the fourth to the ninth year of his age (London: for the proprietor, by D'Almaine, undated).  Cover

Hughes, Joseph Tudor. British Melodies, the Composition of Master Hughes, from the fourth to the ninth year of his age (London: for the proprietor, by D'Almaine, undated). Cover

Hughes, Joseph Tudor. British Melodies, the Composition of Master Hughes, from the fourth to the ninth year of his age (London: for the proprietor, by D'Almaine, undated). Illustration

The collection of compositions by Joseph Tudor Hughes shown above includes “Llewellyn’s Lament,” based on a legend of Prince Llewellyn the Great of Wales:

Hughes, Joseph Tudor. British Melodies, the Composition of Master Hughes, from the fourth to the ninth year of his age (London: for the proprietor, by D'Almaine, undated). Llewellyn’s Lament. First page

One manuscript by Hughes is present in the Archive.  Titled “The Infant’s Farewell,” the manuscript is annotated “this melody was composed by Master Hughes on the occation of leaveing his mother to come to Brighton as farewell”:

Hughes, Joseph Tudor. The Infant’s Farewell, undated

Sadly, Joseph Tudor Hughes’s life was cut short by a drowning accident in 1841.  His brother David Edward Hughes (1831-1900) became a professor of music and natural philosophy at St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky.  He returned to London in the 1870s, where he had a distinguished career as a scientist and inventor of telegraph and telephone technology.

Englische Gesänge

The bound volumes of Osborn MSS 146 comprise several dozen albums of print and manuscript music, each usually with a spine title identifying the contents and sometimes also a cover title identifying the owner.   As well as compilations for particular media (“das Piano Forte,” “Vocal Music”), musical genres (“Walzer,” “Gesang und Tanzcompositionen”), and composers (“Pepusch, Purcell, Blow, &c”),  many of the volumes are also songbooks, classified by language.  Alongside the albums of “Italienische” and “Französ. u. Deutsche Gesänge,” we also find several albums of “Englische Gesänge.”

One of the songbooks, with the shelf-mark label used throughout the archive

What were the “Englische” songs, and in what ways were they English?   Many were simply in the English language; others were more discernibly infused with a patriotic culture.   Some were printed, others in manuscript.  In Item 830, an English songbook of mainly manuscript material, copies of often untitled songs dating to the 1820s or 1830s can be found alongside more elaborate pieces or individual poems set to music, as in the examples below of “Cowper’s Poem on the Loss of the Royal George at Spithead adapted to the March in Scipio,” dated August 29, 1830, or Dr. Green’s “Sing unto the Lord a new song,” dated January 22, 1829.

Popular titles are bundled alongside each other, at times attributed, at others not, in differing hands and on various types of paper.  One piece, a holograph setting by Johann Christian Bach, “The Expiring Christian to His Soul,” is annotated with the note, “Words written by Alexander Pope Eqr”; another hymn, “When the heart with sin & sorrow,” carries the note, “Words by Miss MB.”  The majority were either familiar, anonymous, or simply ephemeral enough not to merit attribution.

Others, like the “Anthem, Mr Handel” (Handel’s “Zadok the Priest” coronation anthem, above)–with its refrain of “And all the people rejoyced, rejoyced, rejoyced, and said God save the King long live ye King God save ye King may ye King live for ever amen amen Hallelujah Hallelujah amen”–were more explicitly patriotic.  Immediately preceding the Handel, a Purcell duet, “Let Caesar &  Urania Live,” with its own refrain, “Let all delights the stars can give upon the Royal pair descend.”

Still other “Englische Gesänge” were about the Scottish or Irish, as in this titlepage of a printed selection of Scottish songs, from Item 868.  Others, reinforcing the impression of the albums as indiscriminately bound bundles, simply weren’t English at all.

Why these songs, then, and not others?  There seems to be no clear answer: the albums, like the rest of Osborn MSS 146, formed that part of the Hanover household music library which went with Ernest Augustus to Germany, when he became King of Hanover in 1837.  The songbooks contain music at least through 1839, implying that they were bound after the move.   By whose selection, though, and with what principles–and in what haste, and with what degree of attention–remains unknown.

The King’s Anthem for the Jubilee

A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.
Bible, King James Version, Leviticus 25.

Celebrations for the fiftieth anniversary of King George III’s reign began on October 25, 1809: to enthusiasts, the first time in over four hundred years that a British monarch had reigned so long; to critics, technically still only the forty-ninth year since his coronation (Colley 1984; Semmel 2007).  The term “jubilee”–of religious origin, from Leviticus 25, for the year of celebratory emancipation or penal remission to be observed every fifty years–was widely used in early modern Britain, from the literature of radical political reformers to David Garrick’s “Great Shakespeare Jubilee” at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1769 (Chase 1990).  The publications and festivities surrounding the King’s Jubilee drew on these two meanings, provoking applause and criticism from loyalists and radicals in the newspapers, pamphlets, poetry, songs, and performances which marked the occasion in towns and cities across the realm.


Like their subjects, the Hanover royal family also read and collected the literature of the King’s Jubilee.  Shown here are two examples of the popular ephemeral literature surrounding the event: the printed sheet music to “God Save the King,” from an album of printed and manuscript music in Osborn MSS 146 (Beinecke call number: OSB MSS 146, Item 868), and “The Character of the King, or, Royal Jubilee. Interspers’d with authentic anecdotes of His Majesty,” an anonymous pamphlet owned by Ernest Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland (Beinecke call number: 1976 644).

The “King’s Anthem” itself, or “God Save the King,” was both an icon of the patriotic fervour for George III and the territory of radical commentators, who continued–as they had in Scotland for the Young Pretender, in the Jacobite uprising of 1745–to colonize the song for political protest (Branham 1999).  For many of the subjects of George III, this example of “God Save the King,” from the bound volumes of Osborn MSS 146, might also have evoked the “Jubilee Hymn” of the political radical Thomas Spence, sung to the same tune, and calling on its readers and listeners to proclaim “the perfect Rights of Man, true Common Sense.  Now hath the Oppressor ceas’d, and all the World releas’d, from Misery” (Spence 1807).

Sources Cited
Branham, Robert James. “‘God save the —!’ American National Songs and National Identities, 1760-1798,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 85 (1999): 17-37.
Chase, Malcolm. “From Millenium to Anniversary: The Concept of Jubilee in Late Eighteenth- and Nineteenth Century England,” Past & Present 129 (1990): 132-147.
Colley, Linda. “The Apotheosis of George III: Loyalty, Royalty, and the British Nation 1760-1820,” Past & Present 102 (1984): 94-129.
Semmel, Stuart. “Radicals, Loyalists, and the Royal Jubilee of 1809,” Journal of British Studies 46 (2007): 543-569.
Spence, Thomas. The Jubilee Hymn.  To be Sung an hundred Years hence, or sooner. London: Seale & Bates, [1807].