- Joseph Kerman
- , revised by Kerry McCarthy
(b London, c1540; d Stondon Massey, Essex, July 4, 1623). English composer.
Byrd was born in London, the son of a Thomas Byrd of whom little is known (Harley, 1997; source of much new information on Byrd’s life). Though a family genealogy has survived, record of William’s birth has not, and his birth date can be most clearly deduced from a deposition of October 1598 where he gave his age as ‘58 yeares or ther abouts’. (His will, dated November 1622, declares that he is ‘in the 80th yeare of myne age’, but it appears to have been drafted earlier and recopied without the necessary changes.) The Byrds styled themselves ‘gentlemen’; Simon, the composer’s oldest brother, took out a coat of arms in 1571. A family member had been an abbot, and the composer was able to arrange a marriage between his oldest son Christopher and a great-granddaughter of Sir Thomas More....