William Grindal was born in about 1520. Grindal entered the University of Cambridge and became a student at St John's College. An excellent Greek scholar, he developed a close friendship with his tutor, Roger Ascham. Another academic at St John's, John Cheke left the college in July 1544 to become tutor to Prince Edward. (1) Towards the end of 1546, and following representations from Ascham, Cheke was able to secure for Grindal the post of tutor to Princess Elizabeth, the eleven-year-old daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. (2)
Jane Dunn, the author of Elizabeth & Mary (2003) argues that Grindal was "an inspirational tutor" who gave her an excellent grounding in Greek, Latin and foreign languages. (3) It was not long before she was "fluent in Latin and Greek, in French and Italian, and was conversant in Spanish". (4)
William Grindal died from plague in January 1548. It has been claimed that the "tragic death of someone so young and close to Elizabeth stripped more security from her life". (5) Roger Ascham, who replaced Grindal admitted he did not know "whether to admire more the wit of her who learned, or the diligence of him who taught". (6)
Elizabeth I enjoys the reputation of being the best-educated of British queens and, as a result, her schooling has been the subject of much discussion.
Her most famous tutor was the Cambridge academic Roger Ascham, who has left the only account of what she studied. However, Ascham’s time with her was brief, from mid-1548 until the beginning of 1550. He was preceded by his pupil and friend, William Grindal, who taught Elizabeth from 1545 until he died of the plague in January 1548.
Grindal and Ascham taught the future queen Latin and Greek, but they were not her only tutors. Giovanni Battista Castiglione (who later became a groom of her Privy Chamber) taught her Italian, and Jean Belmain taught her French, as he did her brother, Edward VI.
Elizabeth's ability at her lessons was now generally recognized as something unusual; she was learning history, geography, mathematics, the elements of architecture and astronomy and four modem languages: French, Italian, Spanish and Flemish. Her Greek and Latin had been entrusted to a young Cambridge scholar, William Grindal; he was considered to have brought the Princess on very well, the more so as he had had the help and advice of his master, the celebrated Roger Ascham.