William Grindal

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)

Primary Sources

(1) Simon Adams and David Scott Gehring, Elizabeth's Faithful Tutor (21st January 2013)

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.

(2) Elizabeth Jenkins, Elizabeth the Great (1958)

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.

Student Activities

Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Henry VII: A Wise or Wicked Ruler? (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII: Catherine of Aragon or Anne Boleyn?

Was Henry VIII's son, Henry FitzRoy, murdered?

Hans Holbein and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

The Marriage of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon (Answer Commentary)

Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves (Answer Commentary)

Was Queen Catherine Howard guilty of treason? (Answer Commentary)

Anne Boleyn - Religious Reformer (Answer Commentary)

Did Anne Boleyn have six fingers on her right hand? A Study in Catholic Propaganda (Answer Commentary)

Why were women hostile to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn? (Answer Commentary)

Catherine Parr and Women's Rights (Answer Commentary)

Women, Politics and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (Answer Commentary)

Historians and Novelists on Thomas Cromwell (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and Thomas Müntzer (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and Hitler's Anti-Semitism (Answer Commentary)

Martin Luther and the Reformation (Answer Commentary)

Mary Tudor and Heretics (Answer Commentary)

Joan Bocher - Anabaptist (Answer Commentary)

Anne Askew – Burnt at the Stake (Answer Commentary)

Elizabeth Barton and Henry VIII (Answer Commentary)

Execution of Margaret Cheyney (Answer Commentary)

Robert Aske (Answer Commentary)

Dissolution of the Monasteries (Answer Commentary)

Pilgrimage of Grace (Answer Commentary)

Poverty in Tudor England (Answer Commentary)

Why did Queen Elizabeth not get married? (Answer Commentary)

Francis Walsingham - Codes & Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)

Codes and Codebreaking (Answer Commentary)

Sir Thomas More: Saint or Sinner? (Answer Commentary)

Hans Holbein's Art and Religious Propaganda (Answer Commentary)

1517 May Day Riots: How do historians know what happened? (Answer Commentary)


(1) Stephen Wright, William Grindal : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(2) Anka Muhlstein, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (2007) page 23

(3) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) page 90

(4) Philippa Jones, Elizabeth: Virgin Queen (2010) page 38

(5) Stephen Wright, William Grindal : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004-2014)

(6) Jane Dunn, Elizabeth & Mary (2003) page 90

(7) John Allen Giles, The Whole Works of Roger Ascham (1864) page 272