Friday, 14 March 2014

The musical Lupo family of Tudor England

In 1540, Henry VIII gave Thomas Cromwell the mission of finding European musicians to come to England to help improve music standards in England.
In November of that year six viol players were brought from Venice to England;
Ambrose, Alexander and Romano Lupo, Albert and Vincenzo of Venice and Juan Maria of Cremona.

The Viol Family


Ambrose was the eldest of the Lupo brothers and the patriarch of the family, born in 1505. 
The Lupo brothers were not Christians, but Sephardic Jews of Spanish origin. In 1542 when Henry VIII was persecuting Jews hiding their religion, the Lupo brothers returned to Venice for a few months. Ambrose and Alexandro did return to England later that month, however Romano died in 1542. Alexandro died in 1544. 
Ambrose played the viol at the funeral of Henry VIII as well as at the coronations of Edward VI and Elizabeth I. 
For New Years 1577-8, Ambrose gifted the Queen "a box of lute strynges", and the same a year later when he presented her with "a box of lute-strynge".
On March 17th 1589 a warrant was made to the Auditor of the Exchequer to make out the particulars of a lease in reversion of lands to the value of 20l per annum for Ambrosio Lupo, "one of the eldest of her Majesty's musicians for the vials". A further warrant in 1590 was made as it pleased the Queen to increase in value the grant given to him. 
Ambrose held his position of court musician until his death in 1591, being the longest serving of the six viol players brought to England in 1540. 
Ambrose had two sons with his wife Lucia who were also viol players, Peter and Joseph.


Peter, born in 1534 in Italy, was a craftsman of instruments as well as a viol player. He was admitted to the Musician's Guild in Antwerp in 1555, then started his career as a court musician in 1556. In 1567 he was employed by Robert Dudley, and later in 1570 became a musician at Elizabeth's court. On the 18th March 1578, Peter wrote to Robert Dudley offering to return to his service at court. 
For New Years 1599-1600, he gifted the Queen with "six bottles of sweete water". 
Peter played at Elizabeth I's funeral in 1603, along with other members of his family. 
Peter married Katherine Wickers in 1575, and they had nine children together; Mary, Elizabeth, Ferdinando, Jane, Katherine, William, Philip (1582-1668), Albiano (1579-1626) and Thomas - who was also a musician. His son Albiano, an adventurer and share holder in the Virginia Company, settled in America. He sailed aboard the ship The Swan in 1610, predating the Pilgrims. Peter's son Philip was a goldsmith in London, and visited Albiano in America in 1621, but did not stay. Peter died in 1608.

Signature of Peter Lupo


Joseph was born in 1537 and like his father became a viol player. He was admitted to the Musician's Guild in Antwerp in 1557. He became a court musician in 1563, and remained so until his death.  For New Years 1599-1600, he gifted the Queen with "one paire of pfumed gloves". He played at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in 1603. 
Joseph married Laura Bassano, the daughter of a fellow court musician; Alvise Bassano, a recorder player. The Venetian Bassano family had been musicians at the English court since the 1520's, and were also Sephardic Jews like the Lupo family. Joseph and Laura had at least seven children together; Bridget, Joseph, Francis, Ambrose and Theophilus, as well as two sons who became musicians like their father; Thomas and Horatio. His son Francis, although not a musician, made instrument making his trade and by 1609 was living in Amsterdam with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Sybil.
Joseph died in 1616.


Thomas was born in 1571, the son of Joseph Lupo, and became a violinist. Despite being a court musician, he in fact was unpaid from 1588 to 1591, however in 1592 he was given a paid position that would be his for life. For New Years 1599-1600, he gifted the Queen with "one paire of pfumed gloves". In 1603, he played at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth. Upon the accession of King James, Thomas was made Musician to the King, and during the years 1610-12 he was a violinist in Prince Henry's household, and then in Prince Charles' household 1617-25. The position of 'Composer for the violins' was created for Thomas in 1619, for which he would be paid 40 marks a year, so that "they may be the better furnished with variety and choice for our delight and pleasure in that kind". In 1622 Thomas was granted £16 2s 6d a year for his livery. Thomas died in 1627.
With his wife Lydia, he had two daughters; Martha and Sarah, and a son, Theophilus, who also became a violinist. Theophilus was given a grant of 40l per annum for life, previously given to his father, on the 1st December 1628. On May 19th 1637, Lydia, now a widow, petitioned the king for the money owed to her husband at the time of his death as well as money owed to her son Theophilus; 48l was owed to Thomas for three years arrears of his livery out of the Great Wardrobe, and 32l owed to Theophilus for the same reason. She had previously petitioned the Master of the Wardrobe but his reply was that he could not pay the money owed without a warrant from the king. 


Horatio was born in 1583, the younger child of Joseph and Laura. On February 6th 1612, Horatio was granted the place of Musician on the Violin for life. In 1625 he became a musician in Ordinary on the violin, however he died only a year later. 
He married Mary Storye in 1616 and the couple had four children; George, Barbara, Elizabeth and William.


Thomas was the son of Peter Lupo, born in 1577 in England. For New Years 1599-1600 he gifted the Queen with "one paire of pfumed gloves". He became a court musician, playing the violin, under King James I, from 1603 until his death in 1642.


  1. Ambrose Lupo was my 12th great grandfather. Thanks for the information.

    1. Hi Mr. Runnels--I'm betting we're cousins. Lupo, Royals, Runnels, Lack, McAlpin, Hopkins, Currie, Bishop, Kennedy--these family names ring a bell? Hope this finds you well!

  2. Danielle, thank you for your fascinating article about the Lupos which I found while preparing notes on the origins of viol playing in Britain, to accompany a recital of consort music. Our consort has played many of the fantasias by Thomas Lupo - it's good to now know a bit more about him. Best wishes, Peter.