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Work by Henry VIII’s final wife found at Oxford College performed for first time in 500 years

The words King Henry VIII’s sixth and last wife wrote in his support have been recited for the first time in over 470 years.

‘Against Enemies’, a psalm paraphrase which was part of Queen Katherine Parr’s first publication Psalms or Prayers, was performed by the Alamire choir in St John’s Smith Square in London as part of the Holy Week Festival.

The text came back to life when a fragment was discovered behind plasterwork in the walls of Corpus Christi College in Oxford back in 1978, but it was only recently when the words were identified as Katherine Parr’s. The fragment features an early version of Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis’ work ‘Gaude gloriosa dei mater,’ which emphasises suggestions that both collaborated to produce music in support of the king as he went to war with France in 1544.

There is an unmistakable patriotic tone to this Tudor work. It reads:

‘Se lord and behold, how many they be, which trouble me, how manie, which make rebellion against me. They saie among themselues of my soul: there is no helpe of god for it to trust upon. O lorde god, in the haue I put my hope and trust: saue me from them which doe persecute me, and deliuer me. Lest peraduenture at one time or an other take my life from me.’

David Skinner, founder and conductor of the the Alamire choir, said, “This fragment suggests that Katherine Parr and Tallis knew one another, and indeed worked towards a common cause: they were to serve, together, as part of Henry’s PR machine to create a most effective mouthpiece for the king’s cause.’’

Katherine Parr’s publications include Prayers or Meditations, the first book published by an English queen under her own name, and The Lamentations of a Sinner, a sequence of reflections published in 1547 following the king’s death.

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