Born in Swalwell-on-Tyne, County Durham, Shield was a boat builder in his early life. A violin player, he was a member of the King's Theatre, Haymarket, London at the age of 25. He composed approximately 30 operas beginning with The Flitch of Bacon in 1778. Although much of the music in his operas was original composition, Shield typically included several traditional Scottish and/or Irish folk tunes. He became quite an accomplished composer and was appointed Master of the King's Music in 1817.
An interesting and ongoing debate surrounds Robert Burns, William Shield and the composition of Auld Lang Syne. Similarities were notice between the tune and the last section of the overture in Shield's opera Rosina. The words have been attributed to Scottish poet Robert Burns, although he himself wrote that he had merely written down the lyrics of a traditional song. Read more about the controversy here.
In the first codicil of his will,dated 24 March 1827 Fuller bequeathed to William Shield £ 100. Shield, however predeceased Fuller by five years. William Shield willed his Stainer viola to King George IV.and left 'To John Fuller, Cipriani's original drawing of Dr. Arne and a large prospect of the city of Rome'. Fuller's private carriage is among those noted in Shield's funeral procession.
Excerpt from Fuller of Sussex: A Georgian Squire by Geoff Hutchinson , pp. 96 - 97.
" William Shield...died in Berner's Street in London at the age of 81. During his life he became a good friend of John Fullerand would have been a frequent guest at musical evenings held at Devonshire Place and Brightling.
There is a slight mystery about his memorial in Brightling Church. Although he has a plaque to his memory in the church, he is actually buried in Westminster Abbey and it is believed this is where the memorial was intended to be displayed. However, it is said the Dean of Westminster objected to the word 'gentleman' being used and refused permission for the memorial to be erected. His reasoning was that after death there are no 'gentlemen'; we are all equal in the eyes of God. Fuller obviously found the Rector of Brightling more tolerant. The words 'buried in Westminster Abbey ' were added later."
Dr. Thomas Augustine Arne (Composer, 1710-1778)
Arne was born in King Street, Covent Garden, London in March of 1710. His family wanted him to have a career in law but Arne was destined for musical greatness. It is said that he learned the piano and violin in secret and would sneak away to the opera and sit in the servant's gallery. Once his parents became aware of his enormous talent for music they consented to allow him to receive formal training.
He enjoyed greater popularity and success than any other English composer of his day. Charles Burney in his General History of Music wrote "The melody of Arne at this time forms an era in English Music; it was so easy, natural and agreeable to the whole kingdom, that it had an effect upon our national taste".
Arne composed over 80 works for the stage as well as cantatas, odes, glees and chamber works. Rule Britannia is perhaps his best known composition. He was named Doctor of Music by Oxford University. in 1759 was subsequently referred to as Dr Arne.
He died on 5 March, 1778 at London.
Giovanni Battista Cipriani (Painter, 1727-1785)
Born in Florence, Italy in 1727, Cipriani, " was in Rome from 1750 to 1753, where he became acquainted with Sir William Chambers, the architect, and Joseph Wilton, the sculptor, whom he accompanied to England in August 1755." (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911) He quickly gained a reputation for his Neo-Classical interiors and his work can still be seen at Somerset House and Buckingham Palace.
Cipriani received £315 for his eight side panels, with allegorical scenes reflecting England's greatness, that decorated the Gold State Coach designed by William Chambers for George III. (One is shown right) It is still in use today.
Cipriani died at Hammersmith and was buried at Chelsea.