Chapel Royal: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Queen's Chapel, one of the two Chapels Royal of St. James's Palace.

A Chapel Royal is a department of the Ecclesiastical Household of the monarch in right of either Canada or the United Kingdom, formally known as the royal Free Chapel of the Household. The household in the UK is further divided into two parts: an ecclesiastical household each for England and Scotland, belonging to the Church of Scotland and the Church of England, respectively, while in Canada the household is a part of the Anglican Church of Canada.



Emerging as a distinct body in the late 13th century – dating from 1483 as presently constituted, and first establishing the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal in 1312 – The Chapel Royal formerly had no official base, but travelled, like the rest of the court, with the monarch and held services wherever he or she was residing at the time, until James VI commissioned William Schaw to build a new Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle in 1594. The Italianate building was used for the christening of James's son, Prince Henry.[1] In the 17th century the chapel had its own building in Whitehall, which burned down in 1698; since 1702 it has been based at St James's Palace.

The chapel's choir, known as the Children of the Chapel, achieved its greatest eminence during the reign of Elizabeth I, when William Byrd and Thomas Tallis were joint organists. The Master of the Children had, until at least 1684, the power to press-gang promising boy trebles from provincial choirs for service in the chapel; the boy choristers were also used until 1626 as actors in productions of plays at court and in the 18th century to sing the soprano parts in performances of Handel's oratorios and other works. Under Charles II, the choir was often augmented by violinists from the royal band; at various times the chapel has also employed composers, lutenists and viol players.

The Queen's Chapel of the Mohawks and Christ Church, Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, were associated with the Royal Family since the late 18th century, but elevated to the status of Chapel Royal by Queen Elizabeth II only in 2004.


The Chapel Royal originally referred not to a building, but to an establishment in the Royal Household; a body of priests and singers to explicitly serve the spiritual needs of the sovereign. Over time, the term has become associated with a number of chapels used by monarchs for worship over the centuries. Today, the two main British Chapels Royal are located in or near St. James's Palace in London: the Chapel Royal and the Queen's Chapel; since such establishments are outside the usual diocesan structure, they are known in the UK as royal peculiars. Both Scotland and England have distinct Deans of the Chapel Royal, that of England being held since 1748 by the sitting Bishop of London, while daily control is vested in the Sub-Dean, presently the Rev'd Prebendary William S. Scott, who is also Domestic Chaplain to the sovereign at Buckingham Palace. The Canadian Chapels Royal are located in and administered by the Diocese of Ontario and the Diocese of Huron.

In the United Kingdom, the Chapels Royal are served by a choir, comprising Gentlemen-in-Ordinary and Children of the Chapel – all boys – and by a small number of Priests-in-Ordinary and Deputy Priests-in-Ordinary, appointed to assist the Sub-Dean on an occasional basis. The current Organist, Choirmaster, and Composer is Andrew Gant,[2] who is assisted by a Sub Organist. Previous holders of these offices have included George Frideric Handel (1723-59), Jeremiah Clarke (1704-1707), William Croft (1708-27), Henry Purcell (1682-95), John Blow (1673/4-1708), Orlando Gibbons (1605-25), John Bull (1591-1613), William Byrd (c.1572-c.1618), and Thomas Tallis (c.1545-85). The Children of the Chapel Royal used to attend a residential choir school, but this closed in 1923 and they now attend the City of London School as Queen's Scholars.


The Christ Church Royal Chapel, one of two Chapels Royal in Canada.

In the United Kingdom

The Chapel Royal occupies a number of buildings. The main chapel, known as the Chapel Royal, was built circa 1540 and altered since, most notably by Sir Robert Smirke in 1837, and is located in the main block of St. James's Palace. The large window to the right of the palace gatehouse illuminates this room, which has been used regularly since 1702, and is the most commonly used facility today. Once also part of the St. James's Palace compound, the Queen's Chapel was built between 1623 and 1625 as a Roman Catholic chapel, at a time when the construction of Catholic churches was prohibited in England, for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. After the adjacent apartments burnt down in 1809 they were not replaced, and in 1856-57 Marlborough Road was built between the palace and the chapel.

There are additional Chapels Royal in Hampton Court Palace, and at the Chapels of St. John the Evangelist and St. Peter ad Vincula, both in the Tower of London. All are cared for by their own chaplains and choirs. Brighton was once home to a Chapel Royal, though it is now a chapel of ease to the city's parish church, the Church of St. Peter's,[3] and one existed at Dublin Castle prior to Ireland's adoption of a republican status.

In Canada

The Queen's Chapel of the Mohawks, built in 1785 in Brantford, Ontario, and Christ Church, Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, founded in 1784 and rebuilt in 1843, near Deseronto, Ontario, are the only two Chapels Royal in Canada.

See also


  1. ^ Glendinning, Miles; McKechnie, Aonghus (2004). Scottish Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 61. ISBN 978-0500203743.  
  2. ^ "Who do We Represent? > Andrew Gant". Choral Connections. Retrieved 27 May 2009.  
  3. ^ Dale, Antony. Brighton Churches. London: Routledge. p. 29. ISBN 0-415-00863-8.  

External links

Simple English

The Chapel Royal is a department of the monarch's household in the United Kingdom. Second, the term is often used for Royal Chapels (Chapels Royal, from the French). These are churches under the monarch's direct rule.

Incorrectly, the term is also used for the choirs of these chapels. The correct name for these choirs is the Children of the Chapel. They are a group of priests and singers who sing church services for the British monarch (king or queen). It is an old tradition.

Today there are two Chapels Royal at St James’s Palace, near Buckingham Palace in London. These chapels do not belong to the diocese (group of churches in a district). That is why they are called “royal peculiars” (“peculiar” in this sense does not mean “strange” but “special”). Services are held every Sunday except during August and September. Members of the public are welcome to go to these services. This is the only time that the public can go into the royal chapels. The choir also sing at special services, including one held every year on 6 January to celebrate Epiphany when offerings of gold, francinsence and myrrh are made on behalf of the queen.


The Chapel Royal dates back to the late 13th century. At that time the priests and choir travelled with the king wherever he went.

In the 17th century the chapel had its own building in Whitehall, which burned down in 1698. Since 1702 it has been based in St. James's Palace.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the choir was the best choir in England. William Byrd and Thomas Tallis were both organists there during the reign of Elizabeth I. Boy choristers from choirs outside London were sometimes made to join the Chapel Royal if they had beautiful voices. These boys also took part in plays at the king or queen’s court. Charles II liked musical instruments, so the choir were often joined by violins, lutes and viols. The men in the choir were called “Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal”.

Some very famous composers were organists at the Chapel Royal. These include: Thomas Tallis (c.1545-85), William Byrd (c.1572-c.1618), John Bull (1591-1613), Orlando Gibbons (1605-25), John Blow (1673/4-1708), Henry Purcell (1682-95), Jeremiah Clarke (1704-1707), William Croft (1708-27), and George Frideric Handel organist from (1723-59). At the time Handel was appointed he was still German, not English, so he was not allowed to be a member. Instead, he was given a special title: "Composer of Musick of His Majesty's Chappel Royal".

Today the Choir rehearses twice weekly at St James's Palace. The choir consists of six Gentlemen-in-Ordinary who are professional singers, and ten boys who have scholarships to go to the City of London School where they are called Queen's Scholars.

The composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who is Master of the Queen's Music, works closely with the Chapel Royal. He wants to compose a new carol for them every Christmas.

The head of the Chapel Royal in Scotland is a Dean. Another Chapel Royal once existed in Ireland.

Other pages

  • Anglican church music

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