VERGIL, Polydore

(1470-1555)
Polydore Vergil was an Italian humanist scholar and antiquary who wrote a history of England that became compulsory in schools and influenced sixteenth-century chroniclers such as Edward Hall and Raphael Holinshed.* Born in Ur-bino, Italy, and educated in Padua and Bologna, Vergil became an ordained priest and secured a position in the chancery of Pope Alexander VI by 1496. In 1498 he published the Proverbiorum libellus, a collection of classical adages. In 1499 De inventoribus rerum libri tres, an antiquarian work on the origins of everything from mirrors to prostitution, precious metals, and navigation, ap­peared. In 1502 the pope sent him to England as a deputy collector of Peter's pence, an annual tax to support the papacy. Vergil was well received by Henry VII, as were most learned Italians who became useful to the advancement of the Tudor state. In 1503 he acquired the living of Church Langston in Leices­tershire; in 1507, the prebendary of Lincoln and Hereford; and in 1508, the archdeaconry of Wells. Vergil was naturalized in 1510, became prebendary of St. Paul's in 1513, and began to move in learned circles.
Vergil corresponded with Desiderius Erasmus* and became friends with Sir Thomas More.* At the request of Henry VII in 1505, Vergil began the Anglicae historiae libri xxvi, a history of England from its beginnings to the present, which was finished in 1513, but not published until 1534. This work challenged the traditional mythic view of England's founding by the Trojan Brutus, created originally by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century. In 1582 the Privy Council made the Anglicae historiae required reading in English schools because of its influence on the chronicles of Hall and Holinshed, the latter being a favorite source of William Shakespeare.*
Bibliography
D. Hay, Polydore Vergil: Renaissance Historian and Man of Letters, 1952.
Richard J. Ring

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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