Born in 1563, John Dowland served the ambassadors of England to the court of France as a young man; during his years in Paris, Dowland was converted to Catholicism. Back in England, he married and in 1588 was admitted to his degree of Bachelor of Music from Christ Church, Oxford, on the same day as Thomas Morley.

In 1594, after failing to find a post as court lutenist, he travelled to Rome to study with Luca Marenzio; the following year, he published his first book of Ayres for voice and lute, thus initiating a genre in which England was to excell for a quarter of a century.

In 1608, after spending one third of his life abroad, he returned to his native land, only to find – not without bitterness – that the court was indifferent to his music; and he devoted himself to translating Latin treatises and writing musical tutors.

His last collection of works for voice and lute was published in 1612; when he was at last appointed one of the King's Lutes. His final works were devotional; he died in 1626.