Elizabeth’s education differed from most of the other girls who were being educated at the time. She was taught by male tutors. Most girls were taught by other women who would teach a few of the girls in the community for an agreed upon fee. Or they were educated by their mother or siblings at home. This was because many of the free community schools were only open to boys. We are lucky to know a great deal about Elizabeth’s education because of her place in history. Even though the overwhelming majority of people living in England would not have had this type of education, it’s neat to look at what she would have learned and think about how it made her the ruler she became.
Elizabeth’s education leaned heavily into the classics and languages. Despite being in line for the throne, she did not receive the same political education that Edward received. She later had to catch up on this as an adult. Luckily her love of learning served her well to allow her to pick these things up. She would even reread her favorite passages from the classics for fun! Think about your own school work. Have you learned about a topic that you were so interested in that you studied it on your own time?
When talking about Princess Elizabeth’s education, it’s important to not overlook the women at court who encouraged and facilitated the learning of the young ladies at court. Catherine of Aragon, who had received an extensive education when growing up in Spain, saw to it that her daughter Mary got a thorough education, when the queen could control that. As a small child, Elizabeth would have learned first from her governess, Kat Ashby. Elizabeth’s first formal lessons would have come from Katherine Champernowne, a gentlewoman in Elizabeth’s service. Later on, Katherine Parr ensured that Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth were educated in the same manner as their brother Edward, who was in training to become a king. Do you have a favorite teacher? It can be someone at a school, someone in your home, or another family member or friend! What did they do to make you love learning?
As a member of the royal family, Princess Elizabeth would have had a much more intensive education than most girls or boys during the Tudor Era. We are lucky enough to know a great deal about Elizabeth’s education. One of her tutors, Roger Ascham, used a Humanist curriculum to teach both Elizabeth and The Nine Days Queen Jane Grey. His posthumous book, The Schoolmaster, details both the subjects he felt were important and his focus on teaching using persuasion rather than coercion. This means he thought students learned better if they loved learning. He was probably right with Elizabeth. She continued to learn throughout her life.
Her love of languages also came in handy. She was fluent in Latin, French and Italian, and competent in Greek and Spanish. This no doubt gave her confidence in dealing with other world leaders. Feel free to tell us about the different languages you might speak, or about the languages that you would like to learn.
Elizabeth use the skills from her education to make gifts for the special people in her life. She made a needlework sampler for Katherine Parr as a New Year’s gift that displayed Elizabeth skill for needlework and languages. She would also make gifts of translations of devotional books. These gifts were meant to show appreciation for the person who received them, but also show that person the skills that Elizabeth had learn. Can you think of a gift you have given someone to show what you have learned in you lessons? What was it and why did you make it?
Sources- Elizabeth I- Anne Somerset
Elizabeth I- Walace McCaffery
Schooling Shrews and Grooming Queens in the Tudor Classroom. Elizabeth Mazzola in Critical Survey