Richard Edwardes (Illustration by John Dryden)

Richard Edwardes (also Edwards, 25 March 1525 – 31 October 1566) was an English poet, playwright, and composer; he was made a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and was master of the singing boys. He was known for his comedies and interludes. He was also rumoured to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII.[1]


Richard Edwardes was born in 1525 in Somerset.[2] Some of Edwardes' descendants have claimed that his mother was a mistress of Henry VIII and that Richard was Henry's son, although there has been no evidence to prove or disprove this theory (other than a poor family being able to send one child to Oxford University, but none of the others, and then Richard being given the position of head of the Royal Chapel at Windsor Palace). Descendants observe that it was unusual for someone from such a poor family to get an Oxford education.[1]

Edwardes began his studies at Corpus Christi College, Oxford in May 1540 and joined Christ Church, Oxford as it opened in 1546. He joined Lincoln's Inn but did not take up law as a career.[2] He joined the Chapel Royal by 1557 and was appointed Master of the Children in 1561. He married Helene Griffith in 1563.[1] After he died in 1566, he was succeeded by William Hunnis.[3]



In 1566, Edwardes' Palamon and Arcite was performed before Elizabeth I at Oxford when the stage fell — three people died and five were injured as a result. Despite the tragic accident, the show continued to play that night.

The excellent Comedie of two the moste faithfullest Freendes, Damon and Pithias (written in 1564, published in 1571), a comedy, is his only extant play.[2]


Ten of Edwardes' poems appear in the first edition of the Paradise of Dainty Devices, though publisher Henry Disle says the poems are "written for the most part by M. [Master] Edwards." Edwardes possibly compiled the manuscript on which the Paradise of Dainty Devices is based.


Edwardes was less well known as a composer, but several of his compositions survive, including three pieces in the Mulliner Book: "O the syllye man," ascribed to him by the book, and two anonymous pieces usually attributed to him, "In goinge to my naked bedde" and "When grypinge griefes." Other pieces include a song from Damon and Pithias, "Awake, ye woeful wights," and a setting of the Lord's Prayer in Richard Day's Psalter of 1563.[3]


  •   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainCousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource.
  • Paradise of Dainty Devices (linked below)


  1. ^ a b c Hart, Kelly (1 June 2009). The Mistresses of Henry VIII (First ed.). The History Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-7524-4835-8.
  2. ^ a b c Bullen, Arthur Henry (1900). "Edwards, Richard". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17. Smith, Elder & Co.
  3. ^ a b Michael Smith. "Richard Edwards". Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.

External linksEdit