Henry Lawes [q.v.]; both brothers were pupils of Coperario, the Earl of Hertford paying the cost of William's musical education. He was a member of the choir of Chichester Cathedral until 1602, when he was sworn a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, 1 Jan. 1602-3. He resigned his place on 5 May 1611, and was readmitted on 1 Oct. of the same year. He joined Simon Ivee in the composition of the music to Shirley's masque, 'The Triumph of Peace.' represented at Whitehall on Candlemas night 1638-4, and afterwards given in the Merchant Taylors' HalL The composers each received 100l for their work. Lawes also wrote the music to Sir W. D'Avenant's masque, 'The Triumph of the Prince d' Amour.' performed in 1635 in the Middle Temple. The music of this piece, together with that of two other masques, 'The King's Masque ' and ' The Inns ot Court Masque,' is preserved in manuscript in the Bodleian (Mus. Sen. MSS. B. 2, 3, and D. 229). On the outbreak of the civil war Lawes took up arms for the king. 'And though.' writes Fuller, 'he was by General Gerrard made a Commissary on designe to secure him (such Officers being commonly shot-free by their place, as not exposed to danger), yet such the activity of his spirit, he disclaimed the covert of his office, and betrayed thereunto by his own adventurousness, was casually shot at the Siege of Chester, the same time when the Lord Bernard Stuart lost his life [September 1645]. Nor was the King's soul so lngrossed with grief for the death of so near a kinsman, ana noble a Lord, hut that, hearing of the death of his dear servant William Lawes, he had a particular Mourning for him when dead, whom he loved when living, and commonly called "the Father of Mustek."'
In spite of the distinguished position which William Lawes held among musicians of the day, none of his works were published in his lifetime ; the first music of his that was printed was his portion of 'Choice Psalmes.' edited by his brother in 1648 [see Lawes, Henry]. In his interesting preface Henry Lawes declares his object in bringing out the book to be ' that so much of his' (William's) ' Workes as are here published, may be received, as the least part of what he hath compos'd, and but a small Testimony of his greater Compositions (too voluminous for the Presse) which I the rather now mention, lest being, as they are, disperst into private hands, they may chance be hereafter lost; for besides his Fancies of Three, Foure, Five, and Six Parts to the Viols and Organ, he hath made above Thirty severall sorts of Musick for Voices and Instruments; neither was there any Instrument then in use, but he compos'd to it so aptly, as if he had only studied that.' Elegiac poems on his death appear in Herrick's 'Hesperides.' Tatham's 'Ostella' (1650), and R. Heath's 'Clara-stella' (1650), and a musical elegy, by Simon Ives, is in Stafford Smith's 'Musica Antiqua.'
The most important of his works are in the form of short pieces for viols, lutes, &c. A collection of these, to the number of sixty- six, forms his 'Royall Consort,' of which one complete manuscript copy is in the Christ Church Library (K. 304). The two treble parts are in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 31431,2, and parts are in the Mus. Sch. MSS. D. 233-236. The Christ Church Library (I. 5, 1-6) contains also his 'Great Consorte.' consisting of sixsuites for two treble viols, two theorbos, and two bass viols, the same combination of instruments as the ' Royall Consort.' In Add. MSS. 29410-14 are sixteen pieces in five parts, and eighteen in six for viols and organ ; the bassus part of the same set, but with the pieces arranged in a different order, is in the composer's autograph (Add. MS. 17798). The organ part only of eight suites, in three parts, each consisting of a fancy, an almain, and an air, and eight suites in four parts is in Add. MS. 29290, and in Add. MSS. 10445, 18040-4. More of his instrumental works and some single imperfect parts of many compositions will be found in Christ Church MSS. I. 4, 91-3, 1. 4. 79-82, K. 3. 32, as well as in the Music School MSS. in the Bodleian, D. 233-6, 238-40, E. 431-0, F. 575, &c. A few of the single parts areprinted in Playford's 'Musica Harmonia.' in 'Court Airs.' 1656, and 'Courtly Masquing Ayres.' 1662 The second part of the 'Musical Banquet.' 1651, contains many of his pieces for two treble and bass viol. His anthem 'The Lord is my light.' the words of which are in Clifford's 'Anthems.' 1664, p. 324, is in the Tudway Collection, Harl. MS. 7337, and in Boyce's ' Cathedral Music;' a slightly different version is in Christ Church Library, H. i. 12, where there is also found an anthem for bass solo, 'Let God arise.' H. i. 18. A curious set of compositions is in the same library, K. 3. 73-5, called 'Psalmes for one, two, and three parts, to the common tunes.' These may be described as interludes for solo voices, the choir being only employed to sing the well-known psalm-tunes. Another anthem, 'Sing to the King of Kings.' is given in Hullah's 'Vocal Scores.' The interesting autography Add. MS. 31432, contains a saraband and corant in lute tablature, a beautiful canon, 'Tis joy to hear.' and some fifty-five vocal compositions, besides an Elegiack in the