Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary

Mary in 1685

Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, Z. 860 is a march, canzona, and anthem for orchestra and choir written by Henry Purcell in 1695 for the funeral of Queen Mary II of England. Parts of the piece were performed again at Purcell's own funeral in November of the same year.[1] An electronic version of the Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary by Wendy Carlos was used by Stanley Kubrick for the main theme to his film A Clockwork Orange.


When Queen Mary II died, Purcell prepared music especially for the ceremony of her funeral. Most of the pieces were based on music he had composed earlier, but exactly what was performed at the funeral is debatable because no autographed scores exist, and Purcell left no accounts of the ceremony.[2]

Text and instrumentation

Autograph manuscript of the second Funeral Sentence, British Library

The work is scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, four trumpets, and organ. The text is from the Book of Common Prayer (1662):

1. Man that is born of a woman
hath but a short time to live,
and is full of misery.
He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower;
he fleeth as it were a shadow,
and ne'er continueth in one stay.

2. In the midst of life we are in death:
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord, O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains
of eternal death.

3. Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts;
shut not thy merciful ears unto our pray'rs;
but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty.

O holy and most merciful Saviour,
thou most worthy Judge eternal,
suffer us not, at our last hour,
for any pains of death, to fall from thee. Amen.


The march was written for a quartet of flatt trumpets, which could play in a minor key.[2] In the middle of the march is the brass canzona.

The first of the choral selections, Man that is born of a woman, introduces a melancholy theme. Moving forward, Purcell brings tension to the phrase with hath but a short time to live, and the melody rises and falls with the words he cometh up and is cut down like a flower. With In the midst of life we are in death begins a soprano part that is passed on to the choir. The music portrays with chromaticism an air of anguish.[2] Finally, Thou know'st, Lord, the secrets of our hearts ends the music in a quiet and serene manner.

See also


  1. ^ "Queen Mary's Funeral Music", The Oxford Dictionary of Music. Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-861459-4).
  2. ^ a b c Chris Woodstra, Gerald Brennan, Allen Schrott, ed. (2005). All music guide to classical music: the definitive guide to classical music. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. ISBN . 

External links

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