Educating the Aristocracy in Late Medieval England

By Hughes, Jonathan | History Today, February 1999 | Go to article overview

Educating the Aristocracy in Late Medieval England


Hughes, Jonathan, History Today


Jonathan Hughes describes how the new classical-inspired education given to young members of the aristocracy in the fifteenth century laid the foundations for future English ideas of education, empire and public service

In early fifteenth-century England, most young male members of the lay nobility received their education in the patriarchal household, where they were taught hunting, jousting, estate management, heraldry and manners. As the century went on, however, this traditional approach was replaced by a classical education that emphasised reason and discipline, and equipped the young for service to a state that was increasingly preoccupied with imperial ambitions.

The new educational literature consisted of translations and adaptations of the philosophers and historians of ancient Rome, especially Cicero and Seneca. The works of classical authors had been popularised during the reign of Charles V of France (1364-80), who had commissioned French translations of Livy, and the Ethics and Politics of Aristotle. Translations of Cicero and Seneca followed in the reign of Charles VI (1380-1422). Christine de Pisan (1364-c. 1430), who grew up at the court of Charles V, sought a broader view of the functions of the governing class as professional civil servants rather than as a retained nobility. Seeing the key to this evolving function as education, she was the first to use these authors in this way.

With the English conquest of Normandy, 1415-35, much of this culture was transmitted into English court and household circles through John, Duke of Bedford, the regent of France. Bedford acquired the royal library of Charles V at the Louvre (some 843 volumes) and Sir John Fastolf, his lieutenant, had access to French translations of works of Roman history and military theory that gave the English a sense that they were following in the footsteps of the conquerors of Gaul. By 1438, when Fastolf returned to England, he had fostered a belief in the preeminence of Roman civilisation while those who had been involved in the campaigns of the years between Agincourt and the death of Bedford in 1435 shared a nostalgia for this period of conquest. Fastolf maintained a household of young men, and besides regaling them with stories of his military exploits, he made available to them the literature that transmitted the military and ethical ideals of the Roman civilisation that he and other members of the ruling class were beginning to emulate.

Stephen Scrope, who accompanied Fastolf, his stepfather, on military campaigns in Normandy between 1415 and 1421, was among the first to render French versions of the history and myths of antiquity into English. In 1440 he translated Christine de Pisan's Epitre d'Othea into The Epistle of Othea. Reflecting on the causes of the fall of Troy (such as a lack of prudent counsel), Scrope expressed the hope that the conquest of Normandy could result from a rejuvenation of English chivalry to be achieved through the virtue of prudence. Scrope also translated The Dicts and Sayings of the Philosophers, emphasising the importance of education in classical philosophy, history and mythology and thereby adding a new dimension to a ruling class previously defined by considerations of lineage. This education was manifested in the urbane skills of witty conversation, proverbial wisdom and manners demonstrated in the Paston correspondence.

In his Boke of Noblesse (commenced soon after 1451) Fastolf's secretary, William Worcester, showed how the reconquest of Normandy could be achieved, and he too saw England's imperial destiny in France depending on the adaptation of the aristocracy's code of chivalry to that of the ancients. Like his friend Scrope, Worcester emphasised the virtue of prudence, exemplified by Fastolf. He explained the loss of Normandy as a failure of the English aristocracy to emulate the self-discipline, organisation, bravery and moral uprightness of the Roman governing classes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Educating the Aristocracy in Late Medieval England
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.