John Speller's Web Pages Domine Salvum Fac

John Speller's Web Pages - Choral Music of William Russell (1777-1813)
Domine Salvum Fac Russell Horizontal
Have you ever heard of the Catholic custom of having a Domine salvum fac Regem at the end of the Mass? Apparently it was practically universal until the end of the nineteenth century. The text is:

Domine salvum fac Regem et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te.

of which a free translation is,

Lord, save the King, and hear us in the daytime when we call upon thee.

The custom seems to have arisen at the Court of Louis XIV of France, but soon spread to other European countries. Sometimes the monarch is specifically named, as in the example here where the monarch at the time of Novello's publication would have been William IV. At the time that Russell was writing, however the monarch would have been George III. I have accordingly changed Guglielmum to Georgium. The Gloria Patri was sometimes added, as in this example.

There are settings of this text by all sorts of people including Charpentier (the examples by him seem to be the most recorded), Lully, Clérambault, Couperin, Buxtehude, etc., right down to the nineteenth century, when there were settings as part of masses by William Russell, Franz Liszt, Charles Gounod, Hector Berlioz and even Sir Edward Elgar. I think Elgar's may have been one of the last to have been written in 1878.

Meyerbeer and Mussorgsky also wrote examples, but these do not really count as they were respectively parts of the coronation scenes in Le Prophète and Boris Godunov.

The Domine salvum fac Regem is the Catholic equivalent of the Prayers for the Royal Family in the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer. I wonder if any Catholic congregations still use it. I gather that Westminster Cathedral in London offers daily prayers for the monarch even though Catholicism is not the Established Church.

What happened in Quebec in 1759 is particularly interesting: Catholic congregations simply shifted the Domine salvum fac Regem from Louis XV to George III, though perhaps some continued to toast "the King across the water." Anyway, the Domine salvum fac Regem was still being said at the end of masses in Canada in the reign of Queen Victoria.

John Knowles Paine, who was Professor of Music at Harvard University, wrote a Dominum salvum fac Praesidem nostrum for the inauguration of Thomas Hill as President of Harvard University on 4 March 1863.

This particular example is included in a mass in Vincent Novello's Convent Music (1834). The phrase et in saecula saeculorum is consistently misspelt et in soecula soeculorum, perhaps not surprising for Russell, who was an Anglican, but one would have expected Novello, who was a Roman Catholic, to correct it. The inclusion of the Gloria Patri seems here to be an excuse to end the Mass on a more than usually jubilant note.

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Rowlandson print of a Mass at the Roman Catholic Chapel in Lincoln's Inn Fields, otherwise known as the Sardinian Chapel, in 1808. Vincent Novello was organist here and Russell's Mass in C would almost certainly have been in use. Image courtesy of WikiGallery.org
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