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" ... towardes the better attaynyng of thys langage ... " : French as a subject for study in Early Tudor England

Conway, RK 2014 , '" ... towardes the better attaynyng of thys langage ... " : French as a subject for study in Early Tudor England', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In January 1506, a storm forced Philip, Archduke of Austria and King of Castile and Leon, and his wife Joanna, sister of Catherine of Aragon the dowager princess of Wales, to land unexpectedly near Weymouth on the Dorset coast. As the traditional story goes, about twenty-year-old John Russell - the son of a relatively obscure, local gentry family with long and continuing mercantile ties with France - was called upon to act as translator and then to accompany the royal visitors to the court at Windsor. His performance at these tasks apparently so impressed Henry VII that Russell was soon appointed to the king's chamber. How young Russell acquired enough foreign language skills and cosmopolitan polish to be chosen for this opportunity and then make such an impression is not certain. He may have encountered foreigners through his family's trading activities in Weymouth or he may, as was claimed in the seventeenth century by Thomas Fuller, have been 'bred beyond the Seas' .1 Either way, this was not the traditional beginnings of a courtly career - typically a childhood spent in a noble or clerical household, followed perhaps by a period at university or the inns of court. French was clearly not the only skill he possessed. It needed much more than a flair for vernacular languages (he may have spoken Italian and Spanish as well) to succeed in his wide-ranging domestic and overseas appointments, including a number of undercover or espionage activities mostly in France; to weather the storms of Henry Vlll's marriages; to be a valued servant to four monarchs; and to be rewarded with increasingly important lands, properties, wealth and titles.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Conway, RK
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Copyright 2014 the author

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