The negligent choir of Westminster

Lambeth Palace Library regularly loans items from its collections to other institutions for their exhibitions. For example, in 2013 the Death Warrant of Mary, Queen of Scots was lent to the National Museums Scotland for a major exhibition on the life of that ill-fated Queen and a copy of Basilika: the workes of King Charles the Martyr, that had been expurgated by the Inquisition in Lisbon, was lent to Tate Britain for their exhibition Art under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm. We have had many requests for exhibition loans for this year and next and earlier this month one of our conservators installed a book at the Foundling Museum as part of an exciting new exhibition.

Annotated Coronation Service
Annotated copy of Coronation service of George II

The book in question was presented to the Library by Archbishop Secker in 1767 and is entitled The form and order of the service that is to be performed and of the ceremonies that are to be observed, in the coronation of their Majesties King George II and Queen Caroline, in the Abby Church of S. Peter, Westminster, on Wednesday the 11th of October, 1727 (London:  John Baskett, 1727). It is known as Lambeth Palace Library MS 1079b, as it is heavily annotated by Archbishop William Wake, who presided at the coronation.

The service does not seem to have gone as well as it might have, as Wake’s annotations in the book make clear. He notes, for example, that the first anthem was omitted due to “the negligence of the choir of Westminster”and describes a later anthem as being sung “in confusion”. Even Zadok the Priest, the  anthem composed especially for the Coronation of George II, and sung at the coronation of every British monarch since, was sung in the wrong place.

If you would like to see this fascinating book it is on display in By George! Handel’s Music for Royal Occasions, which runs from 7 February to 18 May 2014 at the Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, London WC1N 1AZ.

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