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By Bela K. Kiraly

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Without shame, dare affirme, that to a great gentilman it is a notable reproche to be well lerned” (1:99). Those who take the Governour as an example of the new, learned gentleman should recall that Elyot writes two chapters on the faultiness of education in England. Certainly his complaints and the complaints of others are the subjective observations of men who, having devoted themselves to the study of letters, might resent a nobility that had not. It is possible that humanists such as Starkey and Elyot exaggerated the nobility’s ignorance.

Taken as a whole, evidence concerning educational reform in the first half of the sixteenth century suggests neither a nobility wholly untouched by the new learning nor, as J. H. 33 Rather it points, like the scene at Pace’s banquet table, to division and conflict. The education of Henry’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Richmond, provides a vivid example of both. Henry intended that the duke should receive a humanist education; his first tutor, John Palsgrave, was directed by Henry to improve the boy’s Latin and teach him the basics of Greek.

Nonetheless, John was not a feudal magnate, but a major player in the growing absolutist court. Member of the privy council under Henry VIII and Edward VI, John became near ruler of England under the latter not through a fifteenth-century style civil war but through political battles within the court, which was weakening the power of territorial magnates and assuming the monopoly of violence. Until his fall, John wielded power through his control over the state bureaucracy. Robert Dudley, John’s fifth and most illustrious son, similarly became renowned for his chivalric skills (though his military service in the Low Countries was largely unsuccessful) and also served as a member of Elizabeth’s privy council, of which he has been regarded the leader of the activist Protestant faction.

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