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A Day in the Life of an Elizabethan Schoolboy, 1576  
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Introduction: Claude Holyband

Claude de Sainliens, better known by his English name, Claude Holyband, or Hollyband, arrived in England with his wife and family some time in 1564 or 1565. He made his living by running a private school, first in Westminster, then Lewisham, and finally in London, where he lived for many years. His school in London was in St Paul 's Churchyard. He taught French and wrote the story of the schoolboy to help his pupils learn the language. This English translation of Claude Holyband's story helps us discover more about going to school in Elizabethan times.

Author: Gillian Spraggs


Books on a shelf Books on a shelf Schoolboy, writing Schoolmaster, writing in a book Ruler, for ruling lines on writing paper. The Elizabethan schoolboy can’t buy ruled paper - he has to rule his own! Sander. This is a pot containing fine sand, for use instead of blotting paper. If we could see it better, we would see that the top curves in, like a bowl. It is also pierced with little holes. The sand is sprinkled on the wet ink to soak it up and dry it. Then it is poured back into the sander to be used again. That is why the top is wide and bowl-shaped - to make it easier to pour the sand back in. We aren’t sure. It doesn’t look quite like a knife, or a quill pen either. Perhaps it is a fescue, or pointer, used by the teacher to point at the words when he listens to pupils read. Then again, perhaps it isn’t. What’s your guess? A pair of dividers, for marking off the paper for ruling An inkhorn (ink bottle) with a quill pen sticking out of it A penner (pencase) and inkhorn (ink bottle), attached to each other with cords. This way they can be slung over a belt for carrying (so long as the stopper is tightly in the bottle, of course) An inkhorn (ink bottle) with two quill pens sticking out of it. It seems to be fitted into a penner (pencase) in some way A penner, or pencase, for holding quill pens A penknife for cutting quill pens into shape A spare quill Schoolboy dipping his quill pen in an inkhorn (ink bottle) Schoolboy, writing Schoolboy, writing Schoolboy, writing Schoolboys on a bench, reading The schoolmaster’s stick, to remind the boys to behave themselves Two ink wells? We are not quite sure, but it is hard to see what else they can be Window; notice the diamond-shaped panes of glass Window; notice the diamond-shaped panes of glass Window; notice the diamond-shaped panes of glass
Elma's TIP!
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Roll your mouse over the image above to learn more about the Elizabethan schoolboys in the picture.

Early in the reign of Elizabeth the First a French Protestant refugee called Claude de Sainliens arrived in England with his wife and family. He soon began to call himself by a more English-sounding name, Claude Holyband.

In order to make a living he became a schoolmaster, running his own school. He lived first in Westminster, later in Lewisham and finally in the City of London. His pupils studied the usual subjects that were taught in Elizabethan schools: reading, writing, arithmetic, Latin.

Claude Holyband also taught his pupils to read and speak French. Since he could not find any good textbooks for them to use, he wrote his own.

His books contain a number of dialogues, or little plays, to help people who were starting French learn words that they would find useful. On one page, he put a dialogue in English and on the facing page he put the French translation.

Several of Claude Holyband’s dialogues are set in school. We can use them to build up a picture of a day in the life of an Elizabethan schoolboy.

You may can choose to read the dialogues in a modern English translation.

Or you may like to read them in Elizabethan English,  In this version unfamiliar words are explained.

Our junior web author, Louise, was inspired by the story of Francis, the Elizabethan schoolboy. She has written about the 21st Century schoolgirl. Maybe you could do the same? Click here to read A Day in The Life of a 21st Century Schoolgirl.





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