The Schools of Medieval England

By A. F. Leach | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
HENRY VIII AND THE SCHOOLS

HENRY VIII was, perhaps, the most highly educated person for his time who ever sat on the throne of England. Whether Lord Herbert had any authority for saying that as a younger son Henry was originally destined for a clerical career and the throne of Canterbury, it is certain that he was educated like the most learned clerk. Under John Skelton, Bernard Andre, and others he received the best grammar school, song school, and university education of the day, in Latin, literature, rhetoric, dialectic, and music, besides knowing French, Italian, and Spanish. Hence it was that he became the excellent speaker and writer, the eminent theologian and the expert musician he is admitted to have been. Hence his zeal for learning and for education. No king ever showed more desire to promote learning and learned men, and none was more impressed and desirous of impressing on others the advantages, or did more for the advancement of education. Whether in the statutes of the realm or in the ordinances and statutes of the many foundations of his time, he was never tired of expatiating on the necessity of education and the benefit that educated men were to church and commonwealth.

The reign of Henry VIII has a far better title than that of his son to be regarded as an era of educational development, though it has no more title than the latter to be regarded as the starting-point of an entirely new system of schools or of any great educational advance. The notion that it was, seems to have been chiefly derived from Samuel Knight Life of Colet, published in 1724, in which a most exaggerated account is given of Colet's supposed foundation, really only a re-endowment, of St. Paul's School. Colet's foundation is not really a product of Henry VIII's reign at all. He tells us

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