(an excerpt from chapter 12 of the forthcoming book, The Pilgrims, Leiden, and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation)

Dr. Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, PhD

The Marriage of Princess Elizabeth Stuart and Frederick, Elector Palatine.

The Composer John Coprario, Pilgrim in Leiden?

The marriage of the king’s daughter on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1613, eclipsed in elaborate splendour all other events at that time in the English court.1 Plays by Shakespeare were performed for the couple in the preceding period when they were becoming acquainted. The Archbishop of Canterbury officiated at the wedding ceremony in the royal chapel at Whitehall Palace. Crowds of English and European nobles attended, all carefully shown to their places according to rank and influence. Observers tried to count the jewels on the bride’s dress, but failed. Masques by Thomas Campion, Francis Beaumont, and Sir Francis Bacon marked the celebrations, as did banquets with frequent music. Inigo Jones provided the stage sets. Campion’s masque was performed on February 14, the day of the marriage. Some of its music was composed by John Cooper, known as Coperario or Coprario.2 Music for virginals, by William Byrd, John Bull, and Orlando Gibbons, was published under the title “Parthenia,” dedicated to Frederick and Elizabeth. (This is the first keyboard music printed in England.) Poems by George Herbert and John Donne were also composed and printed for the occasion.

This marriage symbolized the over-arching unity of Protestant princes from northern Europe, conjoining Thames and Rhine, as was said at the time, and uniting Anglican, Reformed, and Lutheran opponents of resurgent Catholic power. Heresy-hunting was, for the moment, a luxurious distraction unwelcome in the dreams of King James I, a monarch with expansive visions of dynastic links contributing to a harmonious and civilized world. It would become evident later that James imagined he could use politics and kinship to transcend religious division. In pursuit of that idealistic goal, he seriously considered having his son and successor Prince Charles marry a daughter of the King of Spain.3

Prince Frederick and Princess Elizabeth departed from London to travel to Frederick’s palace at Heidelberg. Their first stop on the Continent was at The Hague, where Count Maurits (usually known by his later title as Prince of Orange) welcomed them. Frederick, grandson of Prince William the Silent, was Maurits’ nephew. Frederick and Elizabeth were accompanied by numerous members of the Stuart court and by friends of the Elector. Frederick went ahead to prepare his palace for the arrival of his bride, who made a slower progress through The Netherlands and then to the upper Rhine. The Princess brought along musicians to perform when the cavalcade stopped. Chief among them were Orlando Gibbons and John Coprario. They reached Leiden on May 21, 1613.4

Although Leiden was not unaccustomed to the visits of dignitaries and nobles, nothing of such magnificence had occurred in the city since the triumphal entry of the Earl of Leicester in 1586, and, many years before that, the similar festivities marking the visits of the Hapsburgs.5 Thirteen boatloads of baggage had to be brought from The Hague, then later transported either to Utrecht or via Haarlem to Amsterdam.

When the princess arrived in Leiden, the town’s bells pealed from the spires of the three principal churches and the St. Catherine’s Hospital; and so again at her departure. Nineteen hundred pounds of gunpowder was used in the festive salutes, coming and going. The Princenhof mansion, that Leiden had maintained for visits by the Prince of Orange, was cleaned and decorated for Elizabeth’s benefit, as was the Militia Guildhall with its banqueting hall and turning observation tower. Besides the nobles lodged in the Princenhof, thirteen innkeepers were paid for the expenses of putting up other distinguished guests and their servants. Reception areas were customarily decorated with hired tapestries, the best of which were displayed to mark the seat of honor at meals. While Orlando Gibbons and John Coprario brought new music from England, Leiden’s composer Cornelis Schuyt and the town musicians led by the Englishman John Jordan were expected to answer in kind.6 In the midst of the extravagance, bearing the symbolic value of hope for peace, the young Princess Elizabeth was merely sixteen years old.

A Return to Rancor

Leiden's Princenhof Palace, where the music of Orlando Gibbons and John Coprario was performed in 1613.

Evanescent hope left town with the departure of the royal couple. Preachers and common people argued the doctrinal differences that separated the followers of professors Jacobus Arminius and Franciscus Gomarus. Recriminatory bitterness about the selectivity of God’s mercy revived against a background of massing international struggles only partly defined by the religious denunciations that theologians thought meant most. What the visit brought to Leiden and the Pilgrims turned out to be particularly specific. John Cooper, composer, came to reside in Leiden. By 1616 he had traveled on the Continent, eventually as far as to Dubrovnic. In 1616 he was in Leiden, where his name appears as “Johannes Cuperus.” That is the form in the payment record when the city of Leiden commissioned him to write music that would be sung by children in Leiden’s Latin school, at the beginning and end of the school day.7 The town’s official musician Cornelis Schuyt died on June 9, 1616.8 Cuperus may have been replacing Schuyt as the school’s music teacher, responsible for teaching the pupils to sing.9 Despite the payment in August, 1616, no long-term contract is, however, recorded.

Having returned to London by 1618, he obtained a passport for travel again to “Germany” (a broad term that the English sometimes used to include the Low Countries). Cooper turns up living in one of the small houses behind John Robinson’s across from the Pieterskerk.10 In a census of 1622 he is “Jan de Cuyper” with the occupation “musician.” In English, the name translates as John Cooper. In Latin, John Cooper becomes Johannes Cuperus, and in Italian, Giovanni Coprario. For unknown reasons, John Cooper, the musician and composer who visited Leiden with Orlando Gibbons and Elizabeth Stuart, Princess Palatine, preferred to be known by the Italianate name-form, Coprario. That these references point to one and the same person cannot be proven, although it seems likely.11 (Coprario’s music forms no great contrast with that of Schuyt.) John Cooper, musician and songmaster – that is his identification when living among the Pilgrims. We know very little more about him with certainty, besides the names of his wife and children listed in the census – Cristina, Jeremia, and Anna. The music commissioned from him by the city of Leiden is lost. Coprario, court musician and composer of music for voice, and for lute and viols, had visited the Low Countries before, in 1603, besides his trips in 1613 and, evidently, in 1616.

Hypothetically, he could have been gripped by the charismatic attraction of the Pilgrim attempt to live a godly life. Coprario/Cooper/de Cuyper did not, however, emigrate to New England. Instead, he evidently returned to life as a court musician in London, where he tutored Prince Charles in music, before dying in 1626. If the Pilgrims’ John Cooper was indeed John Coprario, we can appreciate Edward Winslow’s memory of “making joyfull melody in our hearts, as well as with the voice, there being many of the Congregation very expert in Musick, and indeed it was the sweetest melody that ever mine eares heard.”12

William Brewster’s library hints about what Winslow must have meant when he claimed that many in the church were “very expert in Musick.” Brewster owned a book listed as “David’s musick.” This has been identified as Richard Allison’s The Psalmes of David in Metre, the plaine song being the common tunne to be sung and plaide upon the Lute, Orpharyon, Citterne or Base Violl, severally or altogether, the singing part to be either Tenor or Treble of the instrument, according to the nature of the voice, or for foure voices. With tenn short Tunnes in the end, to which for the most part all the Psalmes may be usually sung, for the use of such as are of mean skill, and whose leisure least serveth to practize.13 Although we do not find Coprario’s music listed, we can certainly expand our idea of the Pilgrims’ music beyond the unison tunes of Ainsworth’s Psalter.


1. See Frances A. Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972; Routledge Classics, 2002, pp. 1-23 (ch, 1, “A Royal Wedding: The Marriage of Princess Elizabeth with the Elector Palatine”). The wedding is described in detail in: Nationaal Archief, The Hague, Staten Generaal, inv. 5885 (1605-1613), Folder for 1613: letter from Noel de Caron, dated Feb. 11, rec. March 16, 1613; letter dated Feb. 20, rec. March 13, 1613. For background, see Brennan C. Pursell, The Winter King, Frederick V of the Palatinate and the Coming of the Thirty Years’ War. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003, pp. 11-42 (Chapter 1, “Signs of Impending Disaster?”).

2. On Coprario, see John Irving, “Coprario, John,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in Association with The British Academy, From the earliest times to the year 2000. Oxford University Press, 2004, vol. 13, Constable – Crane, pp. 375-7.

3. The topic of this proposed marriage recurs throughout diplomatic correspondence in the time. For a recent study of the topic, see: Glynn Redworth, The Prince and the Infanta: The Cultural Politics of the Spanish Match. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

4. Regionaal Archief Leiden, S.A.II, 1415 (Ordonnantieboek 5, 1606-1616), fol. 245 verso- 248.: Staet ende Reeckening vande uijtgeven bij mij ijsaack van Swanenb[urg] […] gedaen tot betalinge vande oncosten gevallen op t’onthalen van Hare Cheurff. Hoocheijt de Phaltz Gravinne zijner Ec.cie mitsgaders de Vorderen Princen ende Heeren mette zelve Hare Hoocheyt opten XXIen Maij 1613 alhier binnen Leijden gecomen […]. John Harper cautiously reports that “In 1613 someone named Gibbons accompanied Princess Elizabeth after her marriage on the journey to Heidelberg as an attendant of the Earl of Arundel (John Coprario and the harpist Daniel Callender attended the Duke of Lennox). By this time Gibbons was the most talented keyboard player and keyboard composer available to the court.” See Harper’s lemma “Gibbons, Orlando,” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, in Association with The British Academy, From the earliest times to the year 2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, vol. 22, Gibbes – Gospatric, pp. 32-5, specifically p. 33.

5. For the visit of the Earl of Leicester, see Chapter 4. For the earlier visits, see D. P. Snoep, Praal en Propaganda, Triumfalia in de Noordelijke Nederlanden in de 16de en 17de eeuw (Alphen aan den Rijn: Canaletto, 1975); and, with corrective commentary, J. D. Bangs, Cornelis Engebrechtsz.’s Leiden, Studies in Cultural History (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1979), pp. 107-12 (chapter 11, “The ‘Joyous Entries’ of Maximilian and Charles”). In September, 1610, Count Ernst van Nassau and the Ambassador of Venice visited Leiden (S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 119 verso); on Nov. 1, 1610, the Ambassador of Sweden visited (S.A. II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 123 verso); on Nov. 10, 1610, the Ambassador of the King of Barbary (i.e. Marocco) and the Duke of Wirtsenburg (Wurttemburg); S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 124 verso); the Duke of Neuburg came on Jan. 10, 1610 (S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 133 verso). In June, 1611, the Ambassador of Venice came (S.A.II 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 147 verso); Prince Maurits visited in October that year and in the following March (S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 168 verso, 174 verso). The French Ambassador came in May, 1612; representatives of the Hansa cities came in July (S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 180 verso, 184 verso); a month before the visit of Elizabeth Stuart, Leiden welcomed the Margrave of Baden and Durlach (S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 209 verso).

6. For music in Leiden in this period, see: Alfons Frans Johan Annegarn, Floris en Cornelis Schuyt, Muziek in Leiden van de Vijftiende tot het Begin van de Zeventiende eeuw. Utrecht: Vereniging voor Nederlandse Muziekgeschiedenis, 1973; = diss. Utrecht, which does not, however, mention either the visit of Elizabeth Stuart, Orlando Gibbons and John Coprario to Leiden or the payment to Johannes Cuperus.

7. S.A.II, 1415, Ordonnantieboek F (1606-1616), fol. 342: [Aug. 25, 1616] Ordonnancie verleent op Pieter Arentz. Deyman Thresorier ordinarus te betalen aen Johannes Cuperum Sangmeester de somme van twintich guldens te XL grooten tstuck hem bij die vande Gerechte toegevoucht tot een vereeringe van dat hy ten dienste vande Triviale schole alhier gemaect ende gestelt heeft enige musijcq stucken Waer inne haer de Jonge scholieren des mergens opt aencomen in tschool, ende des avonts int affscheyden hebben t’ouffenen.

8. Annegarn, Floris en Cornelis Schuyt, p. 78.

9. Giving singing lessons was part of Schuyt’s contractual obligation. Annegarn does not mention the school but mentions private singing lessons.

10. See Chapter 9.

11. John Coprario appears again in England in 1622 or 1623, with annual payments on March 25 (“1622” Old Style). This raises questions about the hypothetical identity but does not provide a definitive negation. See Irving, “Coprario,” p. 376.

12. Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, Pilgrim Edward Winslow: New England’s First International Diplomat, A Documentary Biography. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004, p. 14. Schuyt lived in a house in the Bagijnhof, directly behind the houses of the Groene Poort (Pilgrim minister John Robinson’s house). In summers, at least, the sounds of Schuyt’s music for virginals, lute, and viols must have been audible to the Pilgrims.

13. Charles H. Simmons, Jr., Plymouth Colony Records, Volume 1, Wills and Inventories 1633-1669. Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1996, p. [122]; Gilbert Chase, America’s Music, From the Pilgrims to the Present. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1955, p. 12.