Constantijn Huygens

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Sir Constantijn Huygens (September 4, 1596 - March 28, 1687), was a Dutch Golden Age poet and composer. He was secretary to two Princes of Orange: Frederick Henry and William II, and the father of the scientist Christiaan Huygens.



Constantijn Huygens was born in The Hague, the second son of Christiaan Huygens (senior), secretary of the Council of State, and Susanna Hoefnagel, niece of the Antwerp painter Joris Hoefnagel.


Constantijn was a gifted child in his youth. His brother Maurits and he were educated partly by their father and partly by carefully instructed governors. When he was five years old, Constantijn and his brother received their first musical education.

Music education

They started with singing lessons, and they learned their notes using gold colored buttons on their jackets. It is striking, that Christiaan senior imparted the 'modern' system of 7 note names to the boys, instead of the traditional, but much more complicated hexachord system. Two years later the first lessons on the viol started, followed by the lute and the harpsichord. Constantijn showed a particular acumen for the lute. At the age of eleven he was already asked to play for ensembles, and later — during his diplomatic travels — his lute playing was in demand; he was asked to play at the Danish Court and for James I of England, although they were not known for their musical abilities.

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