Henry Purcell came of age at a time of religious and social turmoil, when writing for the monarch got a composer noticed but could be perilous. Clive Pagettalks with Harry Christophers about how ‘The English Orpheus’ helped prop up the shaky Stuart dynasty, and how he emerged a better, brighter composer because of it.

Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell (1659–1695), portrait by or after John Closterman, oil on canvas, 1695. Image: IanDagnall Computing/Alamy Stock Photo

Few doubt that Henry Purcell was the greatest British composer of his age, but before his final flowering in commercial hits like The Fairy Queen, before even Dido and Aeneas, his star had risen through music written for and at the behest of the Stuart monarchy. In the...