Born in Paris in 1628, he studied music under Chambonnières, His first position was as organist at the church of St. Honor in Paris. In 1655 he married Marie du Moustier, at this time he came under the patronage of Cardinal Mazarin who was instrumental in his appointment as Superintendent of music to the Dowager Queen Anne of Austria mother of Louis XIV. His early works with libretto written by Pierre Perrin were frequently performed at court during this period. However, following the death of the powerful Mazarin, and the Queen’s subsequent retirement to a convent Cambert’s position at court was weakened, as new powers came into force at court.
In 1669 Perrin founded the «Academie Royale de Musique», under the auspices of the French King, Cambert was invited to join him in the administration of the project which is considered today to be one of the founding influences of grand opera. However, both Perrin and Cambert were eventually replaced at the academy by Lully. Cambert, furious at the perceived insult, and at the lack of interest in his work shown by the French court, left France in 1673 to pursue his career in England.
In England he was warmly received at the court of King Charles II, and was quickly appointed to “Master of the King’s Baud”. His work passed over in France was now performed in London, but as in Paris, while accepted at court, was not widely acclaimed in the public theatres. His operas Pomone, Ariadne and Les Peines et les plaisirs de l’amour were if anything less to the Anglo Saxon taste than the French.
Robert Cambert died in 1677. His death was widely believed to be an act of suicide at the time. More possible is that he was murdered by his rival at French court - Jean-Baptiste Lully.