Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Polydore Vergil

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Born at Urbino about 1470; died there probably in 1555. Having studied at Bologna and Padua, he became successfully secretary to the Duke of Urbino and chamberlain to Alexander VI. He became famous by two early works, "Proverbiorum libellus" and "De inventoribus rerum", which attained extraordinary popularity. In 1501 the pope sent him to England as a sub-collector of Peterspence. He became intimate with Henry VII, who in 1505 commissioned him to write the history of England, and he obtained much preferment, including the archdeaconry of Wells. On 22 Oct., 1510, he was naturalized as an English subject. Subsequently to a visit to Rome in 1514, he offended Wolsey who had entrusted him with business, and was imprisoned and deprived of his sub-collectorship. Though finally released, he avenged himself by writing a hostile view of Wolsey in his history, which profoundly influenced later English historians. This work was published in 1533 and is specially valuable for his account of Henry VII's reign. In the third edition (Basle, 1555) the work is continued from 1509 to 1538. He is the first of the modern historians, consulting authorities, weighing evidence, and writing a connected story, not a simple chronicle. His other works are too numerous to specify. Throughout the religious changes he remained loyal, though not a fervent, Catholic. He kept in touch with Italy by frequent visits, and the religious changes under Edward VI led him to return there to spend his last years in his native land.

There is no complete biography, but references to him and his career are found in all the numerous sources for the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. The best connected accounts are: ELLIS, Prefaces to the History of England published by the Camden Society (London, 1844); ARCHBOLD in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v.

EDWIN BURTON