John Bull

John Bull (1562/3 - 1628)

Dating from 1589, the portrait is from the 16th century English School.

The Bull by force
In field doth raigne
But Bull by skill
Good will doth Gayne


Dr John Bull was a leading composer for virginals in Tudor England, and many of his keyboard works were collected in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Following an Oxford degree and doctorate, and with a recommendation from Elizabeth I, in 1597 he was appointed the first Public Reader in music at the newly-founded Gresham College in London, at a salary of £50 per annum.

His promising musical career in England ended abruptly after accusations of adultery caused him to flee to Flanders in 1613. According to George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, 'the man hath more music than honesty and is as famous for marring of virginity as he is for fingering of organs and virginals.'

Bull seems to have narrowly avoided extradition back to England by falsely claiming religious persecution as the reason for his exile, and re-established his musical reputation to become principal organist of Antwerp Cathedral in 1617, remaining in that post until his death.