Throughout a long life, George Frideric Handel consistently bucked the stereotype of the 18th-century composer. Except very briefly, and even then as a mere stepping stone to greater opportunities, he never clocked in as a church organist or a court capellmeister. As nobody’s humble servant, he spent as little time as necessary dancing attendance on royalty and nobility. Marchese Ruspoli, his patron during two years spent in Rome, treated him as an honoured guest rather than a household musician and when, in his first phase of working in London, he wrote a set of anthems for the Duke of Chandos, richest and proudest of Augustan aristocrats, the benefit to each of them was clearly seen as mutual.
Handel was an operator, a fixer and a networker, controlling, by every available means, the motors of his professional career and clinging to his artistic autonomy, whatever the commercial risks involved. As an adoptive Londoner, he always, to use a period expression, ‘supported the character of a gentleman’, renting a