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Thomas Elyot

Thomas Elyot (ca.1490 – 1546) was an English humanist and diplomat.

Born into a noble family in Derbyshire, Elyot received a humanistic education and may have studied at Mary’s Hall, Oxford. [1]

Elyot was appointed senior clerk of the king’s council in 1523, and later became Henry VIII’s ambassador to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. During his two-year stay in Continental Europe (1531 – 1532), Elyot visited Nuremberg, Worms, and Speyer.

Elyot’s writings were instrumental in disseminating Classical and Humanist medical, political, and philological learning in Britain. His three major works include The Boke Named the Governour (1531), a political treatise dedicated to Henry VIII, a Latin-English dictionary based on classical sources (1538), and a medical treatise entitled Castel of Helth (ca.1539).

He is claimed to have been the first person to translate Classical texts directly from Greek into English, as well as the first to write scholarly texts in English rather than Latin.

The Defence of Good Women (1540) presents one of Elyot’s later works, and has been variously interpreted as a veiled eulogy of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon (d. 1533), but also as an attempt to curry favour with his fourth wife, Anne of Cleeves.

Elyot died in 1546 in Cambridgeshire.



Fox, Alistair. “Thomas Elyot (1490?-26 March 1546).” Sixteenth-Century British Nondramatic Writers: Second Series. Ed. David A. Richardson. Vol. 136. Detroit: Gale, 1994. 94-106. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 136. Dictionary of Literary Biography Main Series. Web. 30 Aug. 2016. URL

Lehmberg, Stanford. “Elyot, Sir Thomas (c.1490–1546).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, January 2008. (accessed April 22, 2016).



[1] [even the ‚may have‘ is perhaps too strong: someone named Thomas Eliett did graduate from Oxford in 1519 (BA) and again in 1524 (Bachelor of Civil Law, but our Thomas Elyot claims that he did not have any teachers after age 12 (Fox, 95)]