The education and literary interests of the English lay nobility, c. 1150-c. 1450
Until comparatively recently it was widely believed that the English medieval lay nobility was illiterate and apt to look upon literary pursuits as a degrading occupation. This view has now been effectively challenged, but no single long study of the subject exists, due primarily to the nature of the sources, which are scattered and difficult to use. Chapter I shows that there were many educational treatises, works on chivalry, and courtesy books circulating in Western Europe during the middle ages. Chapter II examines educational provisions within the royal household, a centre of education not only for the royal family, but also for other noble children. These arrangements were paralleled in the noble household - almost certainly the main place of education (Chapter III). Here education was shared between tutors in the child's own household and in other households, bishops, and resident schoolmasters. Chapter IV shows that noble education within the monasteries was uncommon after 1200. Recorded instances of nobles at school, at Oxford or Cambridge, or at the Inns of Court are rare, but by the fifteenth century educational opportunities were widening. The study of noble book-ownership and literary taste (Chapter V) reveals that many noble wills contained references to books and that noble women were considered worthy recipients. Although the composition of noble libraries changed, saints' lives and romances remained popular throughout, and the classical revival had made only a limited impact by c.lV?0. The original works and translations by noblemen represent a considerable achievement and nobles were also active as literary patrons (Chapter VI). Noble families or individuals, whose special interest in education, books, or the patronage of scholars deserves particular attention, are discussed in Chapter VII. While some nobles had no interest in literary pursuits, others were more sophisticated and brought educated minds to the political affairs of their day.