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The Tudor Society

16 September – John Colet dies after three attacks of sweating sickness

On this day in Tudor history, 16th September 1519, scholar, humanist, theologian, Dean of St Paul's and founder of St Paul's School, John Colet died after suffering three attacks of sweating sickness between 1517 and 1519. Humanists such as Erasmus were influenced by Colet's work.

In today's talk, I share an overview of this influential scholar's life, including the fact that he was one of 20-22 children and that he used his wealth to refound a school.

Also on this day in Tudor history, 16th September 1541, King Henry VIII entered the city of York as part of his Northern Progress with his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. This was a chance for the people of the North to show their loyalty to their king and his consort, and to make up for rebelling against him. How could they do that? Well, by getting on their knees in submission and paying him lots of money. Find out more about this progress and how the king ended up being humiliated too, in last year’s video:

Also on this day in history:

  • 1539 – Birth of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, nobleman, soldier and adventurer, at Chartley in Staffordshire. Devereux was the eldest son of Sir Richard Devereux and Dorothy Hastings, and was the father of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and a favourite of Elizabeth I.
  • 1574 – Death of Sir Robert Catlin, judge and Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, at Newnham, near Bedford. He was buried at Sutton in Bedfordshire. Catlin was Chief Justice during the Ridolfi Plot and attended the trial of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, in 1571.

Transcript:

On this day in Tudor history, 16th September 1519, scholar, humanist, theologian, Dean of St Paul's and founder of St Paul's School, John Colet died after suffering three attacks of sweating sickness between 1517 and 1519. He was buried in St Paul's Cathedral. Humanists such as Erasmus were influenced by Colet's work.

Let me give you a few more facts about this Tudor scholar…

• John Colet was born in January 1467, probably in London, and was the son of mercer Sir Henry Colet, who served as mayor of London twice, and his wife, Christian Knyvet. John was one of at least twenty children born to the couple. The humanist scholar Eramus wrote of John being the eldest son and only surviving child of the couple’s eleven sons and eleven daughters – wow!
• Colet was educated at either the school of St Antholin’s Hospital or that of St Thomas of Acon, before moving on to Oxford and Cambridge.
• By the time he was ordained as a deacon in December 1497, he held a doctorate in theology.
• In the mid 1480s, he held the rectorship of Dennington in Suffolk and Hilberworth in Norfolk, and in the 1490s he became rector of Thurning, in Huntingdonshire, canon of York, prebendary of Botevant, canon of St Martin's-le-Grand and prebendary of Goodeaster
• Colet was ordained as a priest in March 1498 and went on to hold the living of Stepney, and to become canon of Salisbury, prebendary of Durnford, rector of Lambourn, treasurer of Chichester, and dean of St Paul’s.
• He spent some of the 1490s travelling in France and Italy, visiting Paris and Orléans, Rome, and probably Florence to continue his studies. He was in Oxford by the late 1490s and it is believed that he lectured on the epistles of St Paul. During this time, he corresponded regularly with Erasmus, and twenty-three of their letters survive, and the two men also met. Eramus certainly served as a mentor to Colet.
• Colet’s father died in October 1505 making Colet a wealthy man. He used the wealth to refound St Paul’s School, with the intention “specially to incresse knowledge, and worshipping of god and oure lorde Christ Jesu, and good Cristen lyff and maners in the Children”. The first high master appointed to the school was William Lily. Erasmus did not teach at the school but did advise on appointments and wrote works that were used at the school.
• Colet was known for his serious and dramatic preaching. He preached Good Friday sermons at court between 1510 and 1517, with his sermon in 1513 condemning war and declaring that it was contrary to Christianity. He also preached to the Convocation of Canterbury and in 1515 he preached when Thomas Wolsey was made cardinal.
• It is thought that Wolsey influenced Colet’s appointment to the king’s council.
• In 1517, Colet who already had a liver condition, caught sweating sickness for the first time, and went on to have two further attacks, which weakened him and exacerbated the problems he had with his liver. He made his will on 22nd August 1519, leaving instructions to be buried at St Paul’s Cathedral, and he died on this day in history, 16th September 1519. His mother, Christian, survived him.
• Colet’s works include his convocation sermon, commentaries on St Paul’s epistle to the Romans, as well as commentaries on 1 Corinthians and 1 Peter, responses to other works such as the Celestial Hierarchy of the Pseudo-Dionysius, and an unfinished commentary on the creation story in Genesis.
• His biographer J B Trapp writes of how the more learned Erasmus may have tried to steer him, but “Colet remained profoundly his own man as he attempted to arrive at holiness through a true perception of scripture.”
• John Colet is still remembered today by St Paul’s with a special John Colet Day and John Colet Day service.

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16 September – John Colet dies after three attacks of sweating sickness