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Harmonia Time Capsule: 1578

In this year, a crew member of Francis Drake’s expedition lost his head, literally! Thomas Doughty, set off on the voyage with Drake, supposedly to circumnavigate the globe, but it soon became an expedition to relieve the Spanish ships of their large amounts of gold as they left their American ports. Thomas Doughty was assigned command of one of the secondary captured Spanish ships, the Mary-and when he complained, he was given an even smaller one called the Swan.

When Doughty’s ship separated from the rest of the fleet, he was accused of practicing witchcraft, mutiny, and treason. He was tried on board for these charges, with Drake acting as the final judge—something that was unusual for that time.

After Doughty was executed and the crew returned to England, Doughty’s brother John sought remuneration for Thomas’ death, but the request was dismissed. The ship’s carpenter had testified against Doughty in his mutiny and treason trial. When this carpenter was promoted to master of the ship Marigold, many people saw this as Drake making good on a promise of promotion if the carpenter falsely testified against Doughty.

Some have said that Drake simply wanted to make an example of Doughty since many sailors in the expedition did not want to be part of a pirate crew and were not quiet about sharing their opinions. And Drake’s choice to hold the trial in the same area where Ferdinand Magellan executed his mutineers must have been more than a coincidence.

The year 1578 also saw the birth of Ferdinand II, who through his life he would hold the titles of Holy Roman Emperor, archduke of Austria, King of Bohemia, and King of Hungary. He was Holy Roman Emperor for the majority of the Thirty Years’ War and was a supporter of the Counter-Reformation. Before this, he was recognized as the King of Bohemia by the Bohemian diet, but the Protestant majority in Bohemia deposed him in favor of a Protestant monarch. This essentially began the Thirty-Years’ War: a conflict that would envelop the majority of Europe and permanently change its borders.

Meanwhile, in Spain in 1578 Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria was in Rome working as a chaplain at the church of San Girolamo della Carita with a group of lay priests called the Congregazione dell’Oratio. During this time in Rome, he published five volumes of music that included hymns, a Magnificat setting, a mass setting, music for Holy week, and motets, paving the way for a more prestigious gig working for the Spanish Dowager Empress Maria.

Music heard in this time capsule:

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