Chapel Royal

Chapel Royal

A Chapel Royal is a department of the Ecclesiastical Household of the monarch in right of each of the Commonwealth realms, formally known as the royal "Free Chapel of the Household". The household is further divided into three parts: an Ecclesiastical Household each for Canada, England, and Scotland, and belonging to the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Scotland, and the Church of England, respectively.


Emerging as a distinct body in the late 13th centuryndash dating from 1483 as presently constituted, and first establishing the office of Dean of the Chapel Royal in 1312ndash 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. [Glendinning & McKechnie, p.61] 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 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 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 in the Tower of London, both cared for by their own chaplains and choirs. Also, 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. There is also a former Chapel Royal in Brighton, which is now a chapel of ease to St. Peter's, the parish church of Brighton.cite book |last=Dale |first=Antony |title=Brighton Churches |origyear=1989 |publisher=Routledge |location=London EC4 |isbn=0-415-00863-8 |pages=p29 ]


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 Chapels Royal are located in or near St. James's Palace in London: the Chapel Royal and the Queen's Chapel. Save for the Chapels Royal in Canada, since such establishments are outside the usual diocesian structure, they are known 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 both administered by the Diocese of Ontario.

In the United Kingdom, the Chapels Royal are served by a choir, comprising Gentlemen-in-Ordinary and Children of the Chapelndash all boysndash and by a small number of Priests-in-Ordinary and Deputy Priests-in-Ordinary, appointed to assist the Sub-Dean on an occasional basis. There is also an organist, choirmaster and composer, who are 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 choir rehearses twice weekly at St James's Palace. The children 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.

ee also

* Religion in Canada
* Religion in the United Kingdom
* Anglican church music


* "London (i), §II, 1: Music at court: The Chapel Royal", "Grove Music Online" ed. L. Macy (Accessed 16 Sept. 2004) []
* "Scottish Architecture", Glendinning, Miles, and McKechnie, Aonghus, Thames & Hudson, 2004
* "The Buildings of England, London 6: Westminster" (2003) page 587.
* "Blow, John." "Grove Music Online" ed. L. Macy (Accessed 13 Dec. 2006) []
* "Purcell." "Grove Music Online" ed. L. Macy (Accessed 13 Dec. 2006) []

External links

* [ Chapels Royal] , from the official site of the British Monarchy

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