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The 1604 Royal Charter

Two copies of the Musicians’ Company’s 1604 Charter are to be found in Guildhall Library. The older of the two (shown in the pictures right) is stoutly bound in dark brown leather with the Royal Arms stamped in gold on the cover.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project
The Musicians' Company Archive Project
The Musicians' Company Archive Project

It appears that this is a copy of the 1604 original (now missing), and was a translation into English made later in the 17th century from the original Latin. It is stored in its own protective case, which is pictured on the above far right image. The pages are of vellum.


Images of each internal page are provided below. This volume contains the wording of the Charter itself and indeed the Byelaws (which were confirmed by the Lord Chancellor in 1606). A transcript of the full Charter text is provided as Appendix 4 in Crewdson's 'Apollo' (2000).

The second copy of the Charter, entitled 'The Charter and Act of Common Council and Bye Laws of the Company of Musicians of London’ held in Guildhall Library, was made in the late 18th century. It is bound in hard marbled covers (shown right, again click on the image to expand) and includes more written material than the older version.

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

The opening page records a decision taken at a Committee Meeting on 9th September 1774. Minute Book pages MB1,pp.91-92 refer. The motion proposed was that : ‘A true copy of the Charter of this Company be printed and sent to every Livery-man of this Company’. However, the Committee resolved that it would not be printed and instead, Members of the Livery be allowed to read the Charter upon proper notice being previously being given to the Master. This copy of the Charter was to be held in a locked tin case (now lost).


The contents include:

- the 1604 Charter and 1606 Bye Law wording (as in the early version), together with margin notes;


- an Act of Common Council repealing an Act of The Court of Aldermen (1693/4) restricting the teaching of music and dancing to freemen of the Musicians' Company, dated 11 December 1700;


- an Order of the Court of Aldermen from 13 December 1737 (excusing the Company from attendance at the Lord Mayor’s Show of that year);


- rules and orders (pre-1747);


- a List of Fees for admission to the freedom, bringing of an apprentice, turnovers and the swearing in of officers and Liverymen


- the Lord Chancellor’s confirmation of the Bye Laws regulating internal procedures on 25 August 1706

Below are images of each internal page of the volume - Click to expand. Inside the front cover is a date stamp of 14 Dec 1933 (shown as final image below). It is not known to what this date refers.

Unfortunately, the validity of the 1604 Charter lasted only 31 years. It was forfeited at the instigation of Nicholas Lanier, a courtier and friend of King Charles I, who instead was himself able to obtain a Charter from the King entitled ‘The Marshall, Wardens, and Cominality of the art and science of Music in Westminster in the County of Middlesex’. As first Master of the King’s Musick, Lanier was jealous of our City Company and its authority.


Despite his machinations, the Worshipful Company of Musicians continued to operate in the City without a valid Charter until 1950 (Click Here to see that section), when King George VI granted the Company a fresh one.


Full details of Lanier’s successful plans and the reasons behind them are fully explained in Chapter 5 of Apollo’s Swan and Lyre.

The Report into the Cancellation of the Charter:


In March and early April of 1887, a number of letters were published in The Musical Standard that attacked the existence and origins of the Charter/s under which the Company operated. The relevant pages from this publication are shown below (click the image for a large view).

Such was the severity of the accusations, the Court decided to appoint a Committee to look into the issue and specifically the cancellation of the James I 1604 Charter. The report of that Committee was not discussed further in the Court (at least, it was not Minuted), but it is bound and held in the Library and is shown below:

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

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