Handel’s Messiah in St. George’s Chapel Windsor Castle

December 20, 2007 at 6:40 pm | Posted in Advent, Architecture, Choir, Christmas, England, Handel, Knights of the Garter, London Handel Orchestra, Messiah, Most Noble Order of the Garter, My photos, Perpendicular Gothic, Photography, Quire, Religious music, St. George's Chapel, Tenebrae, Windsor, Windsor Castle | 4 Comments

Last night, four children accompanied me to a performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, who were augmented by six soprano voices from Tenebrae, and were accompanied by the London Handel Orchestra. The magnificent setting was St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, with the choirs singing and orchestra playing in the nave. We could not see the performance, but there was so much visual stimulation in the Quire, and we went to hear the music and voices, so were as happy as clams (as pleased as punch) to have the chance to attend. One of our group had been a chorister of St. George’s Chapel himself, another had just returned from another College Chapel Choir tour of Munich the previous day, and the other two know Handel’s Messiah so well from hearing it at home every year during Advent and Lent that they occasionally played silent trumpet and percussion during the performance ~ out of sheer joy!

Handel’s Messiah is impressive in any place, at any time of year. Although it can be enjoyed by anyone of any faith, and Christians can appreciate its devotional rapture fully in any liturgical season, it must be said that this sacred grand oratorio is particularly moving during the final week of Advent.

The Choir of St. George’s Chapel was outstanding—the soloists were superb—and the London Handel Orchestra certainly lived up to its reputation for a flawless, historically informed performance. In addition, the professional chamber choir, Tenebrae, provided six soprano voices, known for their ability to use the acoustics and atmosphere of an ancient building to fullest effect for the benefit of the audience. No wonder tickets sell out fast!

Quire of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle 10 December 2007

Last week I was at St. George’s Chapel for another reason, and took this photo (above) of the Quire. Of course, for the evening performance we were sitting inside (where no photographs are permitted) under the second window of the seven here. We chose to sit in the back row of the Quire, which meant we had the most comfortable seats (and no-one behind us).

We arrived in plenty of time, so were able to study the stall plates of the honourable Knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter that decorate each of those stalls. Those whose seats we occupied are listed at the end of this post: their names hint at the historical significance of this beautiful chapel, built as a spectacular example of a church in the Perpendicular Gothic style, for the enduring and daily worship of God.

On many occasions, after attending a regular Sunday service or special event in St. George’s Chapel, a fellow member of the congregation or audience may be heard remarking on the majestic surroundings. Comments of awe abound. It is amazing to reflect on the accomplishment: design, construction and completion of such a magnificent edifice over six hundred years ago seems an impossible achievement for anyone who did not truly love and worship God.

While admiring the visual marvels, I feel obliged to include this excerpt from the Chapel website, since this essence permeates all that takes place here:

The heart of the College of St. George is the worship of Almighty God. The College’s ancient statutes require that it should ‘wait eternally upon the Lord’. That all its life should be worship is made clear through the services offered every day in the Chapel – the celebration of Holy Communion, and the daily services of Mattins and Evensong (Morning and Evening Prayer). The worship in St George’s Chapel forms the spiritual centre of the Castle and its community.

This daily observance of ancient statutes is one of the spiritual aspects of this site that touches your heart and leaves an impression on your soul forever.

Here follow the names of those whose seats we were fortunate to occupy for this marvellous uplifting evening of good tidings and joy:

Stall S7 (7)

  • 1348 (6) William (de Montacute), 2nd Earl of Salisbury. One of the Founders of the Order. In the wars of his time he was chiefly distinguished in naval actions. He was the last survivor of the Founders.
  • c.1397el (89) John (de Montacute), 3rd Earl of Salisbury. Joined in a conspiracy for the restoration of Richard II in 1399, but was captured and beheaded.
  • c.1461 (187) John (Tiptoft), Earl of Worcester. Constable of England. Supporter of Edward IV. On the restoration to power of Henry VI he was beheaded for high treason.
  • 1472el (203) John (de Mowbray), 5th Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshal. One of the leaders in the invasion of France in 1475.
  • 1527 (293) John (de Vere), 15th Earl of Oxford. Knighted at the battle of the Spurs.
  • 1544 (314) Henry (Fitzalan), 12th Earl of Arundel. Present at the capture of Boulogne. Married, firstly, Catherine daughter of Thomas, 1st Marquess of Dorset, K.G., aunt of Lady Jane Grey.
  • 1555 (336) Anthony (Browne), 1st Viscount Montagu. Served with the army in Picardy. Ambassador to the Holy See.
  • 1561 (345) Henry (Carey), 1st Lord Hunsdon. Son of William Carey and Mary Boleyn.
  • 1572 (356) William (Cecil), 1st Lord Burghley. For 40 years leading Minister of Queen Elizabeth.
  • 1574 (360) Henry (Herbert), 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Married Mary, sister of Sir Philip Sidney: “Sidney’s sister, Pembroke’s mother.”
  • 1575 (362) Charles, 2nd Lord Howard of Effingham. Afterwards Earl of Nottingham. Lord High Admiral. In command of the fleet at the capture of Cadiz and the defeat of the Spanish Armada.
  • 1593 (378) Henry (Percy), 3rd Earl of Northumberland. Served at the siege of Ostend under Sir Francis Vere. Heavily fined and imprisoned in the Tower of London for suspected complicity in the “Gunpowder” Plot.
  • 1593 (379) Edward (Somerset), 4th Earl of Worcester.
  • 1593 (381) Edmund. 3rd Lord Sheffield. Afterwards 1st Earl of Mulgrave. Served in the fleet against the Spanish Armada.
  • 1661 (444) James (Butler), 1st Marquess of Ormonde. Afterwards 1st Duke of Ormonde.
  • 1661 (461) Aubrey (de Vere), 20th (and last) Earl of Oxford. Imprisoned in the Tower of London as party to a plot against the Protector Cromwell.
  • 1693 (501) John George IV, Duke of Saxony.
  • 1700 (507) Thomas (Herbert), 8th Earl of Pembroke and 5th Earl of Montgomery. Lord High Admiral of England. Viceroy of Ireland.
  • 1713 (520) Henry (Grey). 1st Duke of Kent.
  • 1760 (577) Ferdinand, Prince of Brunswick-Beyern.
  • 1842 (689) Frederick Augustus II, King of Saxony.* The original stall-plates of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Earls of Salisbury were missing at a very early date. The present plates were affixed about the year 1741 by George, Duke of Montagu. Hope followed Beltz, who was in error in suggesting that both the plates in this stall represent the 2nd Earl. The wording of their style differs; but an error was in fact made on the plate of the 3rd Earl, whose name was John, not William; and hence arose the misunderstanding. The plate of the 4th. Earl is in Stall 23 North side.

Stall S8

  • 1771 (589) Augustus Henry (Fitzroy), 3rd Duke of Grafton.
  • 1823 (655) John VI, King of Portugal.
  • 1882 (776) Albert, King of Saxony.
  • 1895 (806) Carlos I, King of Portugal. Assassinated 1908.
  • 1909 (838) Manoel II, King of Portugal.

Stall S9 (9)

  • 1348 (8) Sir John de Lisle, afterwards 1st Lord Lisle de Rougemont. One of the Founders of the Order. Granted a manor at the age of 17 to enable him to serve in the wars, in which he won great fame.
  • c.1356el (30) Sir Richard de la Vache. One of the Knights specially summoned by Edward III in 1347 to support him in arms.
  • 1408el (113) Edward, 3rd Lord Cherleton of Powys.
  • 1421el (136) Sir Hertong von Clux.
  • c.1465el (198) Richard (Plantagenet) Duke of Gloucester. Afterwards RICHARD III, King of England. Killed at the battle of Bosworth.
  • 1486 (228) John (de Vere), 13th Earl of Oxford. In command at the battle of Bosworth in support of Henry VII, and later against Simnel’s rebellion.
  • 1543 (311) William (Paulet), Lord St. John of Basing. Afterwards 1st Marquess of Winchester. High Treasurer of England. Joined in the overthrow of the Protector Somerset.
  • 1547 (319) Edward (Stanley), 3rd Earl of Derby. “With his death the glory of hospitality seemed to fall asleep. “—Camden.
  • 1551 (327) Edward, 9th Lord Clinton. Afterwards 1st Earl of Lincoln. Lord High Admiral of England. He was buried in the Lincoln Chapel (in St. George’s Chapel), in the centre of which is a monument displaying: full length figures of himself and his third wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Gerald, 8th Earl of Kildare, K.G., —”the Fair Geraldine” of Surrey’s poems.
  • 1597 (384) Thomas, 1st Lord Howard de Walden. Afterwards 1st Earl of Suffolk. Served in the Fleet against the Spanish Armada.
  • 1599 (388) Robert (Radclyffe), 5th Earl of Sussex.
  • 1605 (404) Philip (Herbert), 1st Earl of Montgomery. Afterwards 4th Earl of Pembroke.
  • 1625 (418) William, (Cecil), 2nd Earl of Salisbury.
  • 1625 (420) Edward (Sackville), 4th Earl of Dorset.
  • 1661 (445) Edward, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria. Son of Frederick, King of Bohemia, and the Princess Elizabeth. daughter of James I.
  • 1661 (465) William (Wentworth), 2nd Earl of Strafford.
  • 1671 (470) John George II, Duke of Saxony.
  • 1684 (489) George (Palmer, afterwards Fitzroy), Duke of Northumberland. 3rd son of Charles II and Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland.
  • 1703 (512) John (Churchill), 1st Duke of Marlborough. The hero of the battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.
  • 1713 (523) Thomas (Wentworth), 3rd Earl of Strafford.
  • 1714 (527) Lionel Cranfield (Sackville), 7th Earl of Dorset. Afterwards 1st Duke of Dorset. Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
  • 1771 (587) Henry Frederick, Prince of Brunswick-Luneburg. Afterwards Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn. 4th son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and brother of George III.
  • 1801 (598) William (Cavendish), 5th Duke of Devonshire.
  • 1801 (611) Ernest Lewis, 5th Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg. Cousin of George III.
  • 1837 (681) Charles William Frederick Emicon, Prince of Leiningen. Half-brother of Queen Victoria.
  • 1838 (682) Ernest Frederick Anthony Charles Lewis, Reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Uncle of Queen Victoria. Styled Ernest I.
  • 1877 (767) Prince Frederick William Victor Albert: of Prussia. Afterwards William II, Emperor of Germany (popularly known as “The Kaiser”). His banner was removed from over his stall in 1915, during the Great War.
    For a second stall-plate, affixed after his accession as William II, see Stall 5 on the north side.
  • 1903 (826) Muzaffer-ed-Din, Shah of Persia.

Stall S10

  • 1801 (610) Hugh (Percy), 2nd Duke of Northumberland.
  • 1801 (613) John (Pitt), 2nd Earl of Chatham. Lord Privy Seal. Lord President of the Council.
  • 1801 (614) James (Cecil), 1st Marquess of Salisbury.
  • 1801 (615) John (Fane), 10th Earl of Westmorland. Viceroy of Ireland.
  • 1805 (624) John Henry (Manners), 5th Duke of Rutland.
  • 1823 (663) William George Spencer (Cavendish), 6th Duke of Devonshire.
  • 1862 (735) Frederick William Charles George Ernest Adolphus Gustavus, reigning Grand-Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
  • 1906 (830) Mutsuhito, Emperor of Japan.
  • 1912 (845) Yoshihito, Emperor of Japan.
  • 1924 (867) Ferdinand, King of Roumania.

Stall S11 (11)

  • c.1368el (44) Ralph, 4th Lord Bassett of Drayton. Served in the French wars under the Black Prince and Richard II.
  • c.1438el (152) Richard (Nevill), 5th Earl of Salisbury. Lord Chancellor. Taken prisoner at the battle of Wakefield and beheaded, 1460.
  • c.1461 (189) John (Nevill), Lord Montagu. Afterwards Marquess of Montagu.
  • 1505 el (260) Richard (Grey), 3rd Earl of Kent. Present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.
  • 1526 (290) Sir William Fitzwilliam. Afterwards 1st Earl of Southampton. Served with distinction against the Scots and French, and on important diplomatic missions. His altar-tomb is beneath the south window of the Bray Chapel in St. George’s Chapel.
  • 1549 (322) Francis (Hastings), 2nd Earl of Huntingdon.
  • 1549 (325) Sir William Herbert. Afterwards 1st Earl of Pembroke. Took part against the Protector Somerset. Supporter of Queen Mary I.
  • 1554 (334) William, 1st Lord Howard of Effingham. Lord High Admiral.
  • 1611 (407) Robert (Kerr), Viscount Rochester. Afterwards 1st Earl of Somerset. Accused of complicity in the Overbury Plot.
  • 1630el (431) James, 3rd Marquess of Hamilton. Afterwards 1st Duke of Hamilton. In command of the Scotch forces he was defeated by Cromwell in 1648 and beheaded in Palace Yard.
  • 1635 (436) Algernon (Percy), 10th Earl of Northumberland. Lord High Admiral.
  • 1677 (480) Henry (Cavendish), 2nd Duke of Newcastle-on-Tyne.
  • 1685 (492) Laurence (Hyde), Earl of Rochester, 2nd son of Edward, 1st Earl of Clarendon and uncle of Queen Anne. First Lord of the Treasury.
  • 1694 (503) Charles (Talbot), 12th Earl of Shrewsbury. Afterwards 1st Duke of Shrewsbury. Supporter of William III. Viceroy of Ireland. Lord High Treasurer.
  • 1703 (513) Meinhardt (de Schomberg), 3rd Duke of Schomberg and Duke of Leinster. Present at the battle of the Boyne, at which his father was killed.
  • 1721 (537) Charles (Fitzroy), 2nd Duke of Grafton. Viceroy of Ireland.
  • 1801 (621) George John, 2nd Earl Spencer. Lord Privy Seal.
  • 1836 (678) Henry (Petty), 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne. Lord President of the Council.
  • 1844 (695) Ernest Augustus Charles John Leopold Alexander Edward. Reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Styled Ernest II. Brother of Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria.
  • 1892 (797) Ernest Lewis Charles Albert William, Grand Duke of Hesse and the Rhine. Styled Ernest V. His banner was removed from over his stall in 1915, during the Great War. His name is wrongly given on his plate as Lewis V.

4 Comments »

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  1. You sat in the Duke of Marlborough’s stall? That’s cool.

    My first real exposure to English history was the TV production of The First Churchills, when I was in high school.

    I’ve been fascinated ever since.

  2. Hi Breen,

    Yes, one of the children sat in the First Duke of Marlborough’s seat. I sat in S11😉

    We sat in the Nave on regular fold-away chairs tonight for Midnight Mass. Near the back of the Chapel, as we were, we had a great view of the ceiling. Don’t laugh: it is superb!

    The young choristers filled the enormous cavity with beautiful music, which is amazing since they are the same ages as our lads. When the older members of the choir accompanied them, they added depth and volume, but I was still amazed that young boys, alone, could send their voices so far with pure sounds so distinct that they could be heard clearly all around in an extremely tall building like that.

  3. tutaj…

    hej, jestem pod wrazeniem!…

  4. I am glad you are impressed!


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