Ideal and practice : aspects of noble life in late Elizabethan and Jacobean England

Ideal and practice : aspects of noble life in late Elizabethan and Jacobean England

Danushevskaya, Anna Vladimira

Doctoral Thesis, Department of History, The University of Hull, May (2001)


The thesis investigates what sixteenth and seventeenth century humanists thought about the role of the nobility in society; their views about the proper education of the nobility (including its expected cost) and way of life they considered appropriate to a nobleman. It then tries to consider how all these ideals were realised in practice, drawing heavily on household accounts. The dissertation consists of an introduction, four chapters and a conclusion. The first chapter studies sixteenth and seventeenth century tracts on education, and advice literature on the conduct of noble life and on the behaviour and customs appropriate to noblemen. The second chapter deals, with the practical implementation of the educational ideas of English humanists, and presents a detailed examination of the education provided to the nobility and its cost. The third chapter deals with the tradition of reward and almsgiving as a realisation of the noble virtue of liberality. Scales showing the patterns of reward and alms-giving displayed by different groups of the nobility have also been calculated. A final chapter provides a case study of the life of Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland. It shows in detail the formation of a Protestant humanist nobleman and the ways in which he fashioned his own understanding of his place and function as a nobleman.

The dissertation shows that the English nobility took to heart the humanist ideal of true nobility, with its emphasis on the need for education and virtue to complement birth and blood. From the second half of the sixteenth century the nobility began to provide its children with a humanist education, training them intellectually for a life of service to the state and commonwealth. Their cultural tastes also became broader, and noble patronage played an important role in the general development of English culture in the period.


Click here to read this thesis from The University of Hull

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