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by Resolute John Florio



With the accession of James I John Florio’s life at court begins a new chapter. His best patrons were now in favour, and Sir Robert Cecil now exercised greater influence than before. Most certainly, he may possible have been instrumental in obtaining John Florio his court appointment. John Florio was now living at court, holding a prestigious position at the centre of power. From 1604 to Anne’s death in 1619 he had a secure income, and his life was on a steadier course. He probably owed his appointment to a number of factors: Robert Cecil’s patronage, the widespread respect for his work, and diplomatic skills acquired at the French Embassy and with his aristocratic students, which allowed him to prosper under politically very different reigns.


Over the course of the following four hundred years, Queen Anne “has been ignored and even denigrated throughout the twentieth century, often by otherwise reliable historians,” 1. Despite some of them have sadly dismissed her as a lightweight, vain Queen,2 Anne of Denmark, was instead politically astute and very active. Her independence and most importantly, her innovations at court made her a fundamental patron of the arts during the Jacobean age. She used entertainment and court masques for political aims, therefore playing both political and cultural roles:

“The reinstatement of Anne’s importance to English culture and politics is well underway. While the trajectory of Anne’s historical reinstatement began with her involvement in the creation of the Jacobean court masque, for Leeds Barroll the project became one of recovering her widespread cultural and political influence.”

Frye, S., Anne of Denmark, cit.

Acknowledging that these features of culture have political ramifications has opened the door for new understandings of the court masques 3 as well as the role of John Florio, Queen’s Anne’s most important confident and collaborator.

De Critz the elder, John; Anne of Denmark (1574-1619), Queen Consort of James I; Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service;


What were John Florio’s duties and his influence with the Queen at court, transpire from various official documents. Firstly, he became reader in Italian to Queen Anne and as one of the grooms of her privy chamber. In a document dated March 1619 there is a list of Queen Anne’s “Grooms of the Privy Chamber” with the length of their service and the amounts of their yearly salary. In this Florio is stated to have served her for fifteen years at a salary of one hundred pounds per annum. This makes 1604 the year in which John Florio began his court service.


A groom’s salary was sixty pounds per annum. The higher rate in Florio’s case seems to have been due to his additional functions of reader in Italian and private secretary to the Queen. 4 Further, he wrote her letters and interviewed people for her. In addition to his attendance on the Queen, John Florio was also tutor in Italian and French to Prince Henry at court.

John Florio mentioned in a list of the Queen’s gift by patent, sent to George Carew’s lodging. (NLS MS 2066.)


The interest in Italian culture consistently informs Anne’s patronage. This is especially visible not only in her architectural activities, but also in her patronage of John Florio. She gave him a prominent central role at court, both connected with diplomatic political affairs and with entertainment.


The Queen regularly purchased books from Florio, many of which were in Italian. In 1605, for example, Florio gave the Queen a copy of the Italian Histories by Matteo Bandello and received £6.14s. Furthermore, he gave her two dictionaries, two dialogues in Italian and English, as well as some writing materials. Later, on 22 February 1607, The Queen paid Florio for a sumptuous £4 copy of ‘Italian Bible for her Maiestie’ and for a copy of ‘Plutarches lives in English’. 5 Also, in 1608 Florio purchased a French Plutarch and an English Plutarch for the use of the Queen and her daughter. 6


Further evidence of Anna’s proficiency in Italian is found in an extant epistle to the Danish diplomat Jonas Charisius, executed in Italian. Another evidence is found in the the Venice ambassadors Foscarini and Correr. They claimed that in response to Christian IV’s gift of the “C4” jewel in June 1611:

“The Queen replied in Italian, by her own hand, wishing him all success, declaring she desired nothing more than to see the increase of his glory and his State.” 7



From Ottaviano Lotti’s dispatches, the representative of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in London, we know that John Florio had a major and confidential role with the Queen at court:

“…and I do not know if it is by chance that this Florio, who is with the Queen all day long teaching her the Italian language and hearing her conversation on all subjects and who writes all her most confidential letters, said to the Pincess, “Madame, I shall see Your Royal Highness made a Queen one day”. And the Princess promised him if that came to pass a large gift, and added, “Whoever thinks that I will marry a Prince who is not absolute is mistaken.”

Ottaviano Lotti, Archivio di Stato, Florence. Archivio Mediceo, 4189.

This throws a flood of light upon Florio’s position with the Queen. It turns out to have been much more important than has hitherto been guessed. It also shows that he knew how to make use of his ears. 8 Lotti was one among many emissaries visiting the English court to try to negotiate marriage matches with the Royal children. And they all had to deal with Florio before they could hope for an audience with the Queen. Lotti also reported that he had some difficulty at receiving the queen at Greenwich. He wanted to attend about Charle’s matrimonial prospects, and obtained it through Florio:

“I gained over Florio by standing him a dinner and by presenting him with a tobacco-pipe, things which they use….”

Ottaviano Lotti


Writing to the Doge and Senate in 1607, Nicolo Molino, the Venetian ambassador in England, states that the Queen Anne of Denmark:

“likes enjoyment and is very fond of dancing and of fêtes. She is intelligent and prudent; and knows the disorders of government.”

Molin’s summary of the English Queen consort makes a crucial observation: Anna was both culturally active and politically relevant. The relationship between Molino and Florio is stated in a letter dated 1605 Aug. 7/17 9, in which he informs Florio that he sent him some answers that Molino himself later sent in Scotland as ordered by the Queen’s secretary Robert Cecil. Probably Florio’s duty in this case was to translate them, as suggested by Miss Yates. She underlines how in 1607, Florio still worked at the French Embassy. Probably he answered letters addressed to him and translated them.


Florio was also in close contact with Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Secretary to the Signoria. Scaramelli was appointed at the end of December 1602 to commend to her Majesty’s attention about the English piracy in the Mediterranean which had grown so brass-necked. Scaramelli was an agent functioning as legate and orator to make complaint to the Queen. He was a witness of Elizabeth I’s death as well as King James’s coronation. Through his stay in London he sent informations and updates to Italy. Venice knew England by what Scaramelli wrote of England. Three letters in the National Archive (London) dated April and September 1603, testify to Scaramelli’s friendship with Florio. Florio’s relationship with Scaramelli was important as determined the political relationship between Venice and London at the time.


Another political figure in this contest is Henry Wotton, who was appointed Venetian ambassador in 1604. Wotton sent regularly dispatches in London, disseminating informations to policymakers and, as information leaked into the public domain, to a wide readership, including playwrights.10 Moreover, Wotton’s scribe in Venice was Scaramelli himself. He was appointed as Venetian who knew most at first-hand about England to record England-in-Venice. This diplomatic partnership between London and Venice, the agents/ambassadors Wotton and Scaramelli, had John Florio as the crucial link between the two worlds. 11


Zorzi Giustinian was the ambassador of Venice in London from January 1606 to 1608. He personally knew Florio and got in contact with him after his departure. There are several letters that prove Florio’s friendship with Giustinian. One written on October 1609 when he was already back in Venice 12 The second written in July 1608, 13 when the ambassador went to see Pericles at the Globe.


On July, in fact, together with the secretary of Florence Ottaviano Lotti, the French ambassador Antoine de la Broderie, and his wife, Giustinian held a party over the lords’ room over the stage. He paid more than 20 crowns as an entrance fee for himself and his guests. De La Broderie arrived in London on May 6, 1606, and did not leave until 13 November 1618. Due to the plague, the theatres were closed from July to December 1606 and for all of 1607 except for a week in April and late December. The theatres re-opened from April to Mid July 1608. This means the group would have attended the performance only from April to mid July 1608. 14

“To his louing Father, & worthy Freind, Mr John Florio: The ayde of his Muses…”



Another Florio’s tasks at court was to interview and select musicians, often Italian, who were seeking an introduction at court. Ottaviano Lotti, for example, in 1606 asked Florio to assist with his influence a musician, who wishes to obtain employment at court. They arranged a supper-party with the idea of inducing Florio to introduce the musician and his lyre at court. This shows not only another accomplishments Florio added in his career, but also another talent: his musical competence.


Similarly, alongside Inigo Jones, Ben Jonson and his longtime friend Samuel Daniel, Florio took part in the production of the court masques in which Queen Anna herself took part six times. 15 The court masques were an Italian cultural import, primarily associated with weddings during the Elizabethan period. The English masque as court entertainment enacted by nobles was an innovation of Queen Anne:

“Masques were a complex artistic form which possessed the potential for making both cultural and political statements. [..] They were a form of state theatre, which is described by Clifford Geertz as “meta-physical theatre…designed to express a view of the ultimate nature of reality and, at the same time, to shape the existing conditions of life to be consonant with that reality; that is, theatre to present an ontology and, by presenting it, to make it happen—make it actual.”

Politics and Culture at the Jacobean Court: The Role of Queen Anna of Denmark, Quidditas, 2008
Thomas Courtney


  Her contemporary audience would have been varied. It would have included members of the English gentry and peerage, courtiers, ambassadors, and visiting foreigners of rank and title. Through John Florio, these figures would have sought an audience with Anna at one of her palaces, or would have attended a banquet, an official ceremony, court masque, or semi-public meal that she either held, or was present. 16 In this context, Queen Anne was an important patron of the Jacobean theatre through her participation in, and popularisation of, the court masque, and John Florio a central figure having an instrumental role both with the ambassadors and the arrangement of the court entertainments. Describing the “splendour of the spectacle” of the Masque of Beauty by Ben Jonson, the ambassador Giustinian stated that:

“It was a miracle… but what beggared all else, and possibly exceeded the public expectation was the wealth of pearls and jewels that adorned the Queen and her ladies, so abundant and splendid that in everybody’s opinion no other court could have displayed such riches. 17


Foreign ambassadors saw these invitations to the Queen’s masques as special marks of favour shown to them by the monarchy.  In one example, a French ambassador bristled for a period of several weeks when the Spanish ambassador was invited to a masque and he was not. 18 As was the case with Anne’s masques, all the leading nobles and ambassadors expected to be among the guests and vied for invitations. On January 27 1605, Molino wrote to the Doge that he assisted to a masque “which was very beautiful and sumptuous” 19 Two weeks earlier, Ottaviano Lotti, on January 10, commented on on the Queen’s masque that was performed on the Twelfth Night:

“With much more magnificence and rarer invention than the other [Susan De Vere’s wedding]. Also it was staged in a larger room which was most adorned, quite apart from the assembly of so many of the nobility, which made a lovely sight.” 20

This new way of arranging sumptuously court entertainments, primarily connected with political relationships, were introduced by Queen Anne. And had John Florio, her first and most important confidant, as the go-between who played a central role with both parties.


In1605 James I and Queen Anne of Denmark visited Oxford. At Magdalen College, John Florio’s longtime friend Matthew Gwinne staged a play with the students of the college. The play, entitled Vertumnus sive annus recurrens, is the story of Three Sibyls. They appear as saluting Banquo who was to be “no King, but the father of many Kings.”

“These sybils now in the name of England and Ireland saluted the King of Scotland as the fulfilment of the old prophecy.”

The three Sybils joined their welcome to Anne, parent, wife, sister, daughter of King, and to the Princes. The King was pleased with the allusion to his ancestor Banquo, and someone present was inspired to carry the idea further. 21


The importance and influence which Florio’s established reputation and his court position gave him are illustrated by the fact that books were now dedicated to him. These dedications reveal that he had some association during these years with Nicholas Breton, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Thorpe. Nicholas Breton dedicated to him A Mad World My Masters (1603) and the dedication is:

“My Verie loving, and approved good friend, the lover of all vertues and labourer in good studies, Signor John Florio, perfect Reader of the Italian language.”

Nicholas Breton

Breton seems to owe some debt of gratitude to him for past kindnesses. In fact, he speaks of “your many undeserved kind passages” 22. John Florio’s friendship with Ben Jonson is of great interest and importance. It is well-attested by an inscription written in Ben’s own hand upon the fly-leaf of a copy of Volpone which is now in the British Museum:

“To his louing Father, & worthy Freind, Mr John Florio: The ayde of his Muses. Ben: Jonson seales this testemony of Freindship, & Loue.”

Ben: Jonson his Volpone or the Foxe. A comedy in five acts and in verse and prose, 1607, London. Held by British Library, Shelfmark: C.12.e.17.

The word “Father” which the dramatist uses in addressing his friend, suggests not only the disparity in their ages. It most importantly implies some suggestion of discipleship, with a more striking tribute by speaking of him as “The ayde of his Muses“. This dedication implies that Florio played a fundamental part in Jonson’s theatre writing which has not been fully investigated. It’s important to understand the modes and forms of this influence, and not give Florio the simple role of a ‘teacher’ who supplied his “Muses” of banal informations about Italian folklore.



Thomas Thorpe, in 1610, published a translation from Epictetus his Manuall. He dedicated this work to Florio, reminding him that he had procured a patron for an earlier work of John Healey’s His apprentises essay, and hoping that he would do the same by this one. In the three existing dedications by Thorpe, other than that to W. H., the first is addressed to Florio, the two others to the Earl of Pembroke, while the other, some years before, is addressed to the editor, Edward Blount. We thus have Thorpe’s evidence that Florio procured him the Pembroke’s patronage. He also did the same for John Healey. Florio secured the patronage of William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke for Healey’s The Discovery of a New World. This work was an extremely free and humour version of the “Latin Mundus Alter ed Idem”, a satire of England.


For F. A. Yates, in some points of Healey’s translation Florio was probably “looking over Healey’s shoulder as he translated”, 23 alluding at the fact that he most likely revised and edited the work. Futhermore, the fact that Healey signed himself as Resolute I. H. suggests that “Resolute” John Florio was writing under the cloak of Healey. 24


A year after Florio’s death, in 1626, his old friend William Vaughan published three volumes of cryptic memoirs about events at the Court of James and Anne. Golden Fleece is an assortment of memoirs from James and Anne’s court, told in a cryptic language. But behind apparently apocryphal yarns, Vaughan recounts real stories and gossips from the period of Florio’s presence at court. He uses for Queen Anna the pseudyonym Princess Thalia while for James I Apollo. When it comes to John Florio however, Vaughan has no problem giving us the real name and a few stories about him.


Hugh Broughton, who was an English divine and rabbinical scholar, was aspiring at the same position of Groom of the Privy chamber. But Queen Anne chose Florio not only for his writing talent, his diplomatic skills and his fame among the aristocratic students, but also for his specific knowledge of Judaism and the Bible. Jealous of Florio’s prestigious position at court, Broughton tried to make trouble when he discovered Florio had been instrumental in producing some verses that Vaughan defines “a strange morall letany”, which was released during a royal birthday. As a result, Florio had to appear before James I to defend himself from this charge which has been brought against him, having been accused to have descended to a frivolity of tone and matter unsuited to a person of his gravity. Braughton considered himself a superior and more serious scholar to the “Novelist Italian” and resented his appointment:

Hvgh Broughton, a very learned Diuine, and an admirable Linguist, specially in the Hebrew and Chaldaick tongues, hauing for a long time awaited in Apolloes Court for some place of preferment, and seeing many persons, whom he thought to be farre beneath him in knowledge, or at least, that his penny was as good siluer as theirs, exalted to promotion, grew about this time of the Moone maruellously discontent; and chiefly for that Signior Florio, a new commer into Parnassus, had beene lately promoted to be Deane of the Lady Thaliaes Chappell, a place of honour more fit for a Cabalisticall Rabbine, as him∣selfe was, then for a Nouelist Italian;


For this reason, Broughton hoped to bring John Florio down by revealing his involvement in this poetic production. Florio is described performing salacious and obscene verses during the royal birthday. Vaughan, reports that Florio defended himself by saying:

 “It is not unknowne, most illustrious Prince, 
both to your matchlesse prudence, and to all discreet Politicks,
that a new broome sweepes cleane,
that euery Seruant at his first entertainement into a great Ladies Court,
must sute his affections to hers, as neere as possibly he can
With conueniency, and study by all meanes of solace to giue her content: in some degree or other.
To this end I inuented this new Letany, knowing that my gracious Mistresse liked pleasant raptures, better then the
graue and austere rules of the Stoicks.”

Florio defended himself by arguing that it is sometimes necessary to temper gravity with brightness to suit the tastes of one’s pupils and patrons. There are several sexual puns that Florio used to make his own “apology”. He, for example, refers to the Queen Anna as “The great lady”. This throws a light upon the level of confidence which Florio had with the aristocracy. After Florio’s defence, Apollo (James I) gave judgement in Florio’s favour. The chapter ends with these words from King James:

There is a time of earnest things to write,
A time to talke of matters small & light,
A time to walk, to run, to ride, or praunce,
A time to sit and laugh, or lead a Daunce.
There is a time for men to fast and pray,
And so a time to sing like Birds in May.


The story does of course beg the question: what volume of verses Florio was responsible of? Vaughan doesn’t give anything away on this question. He refers to the volume of verses as “strange morall letany” during a royal birthday. Florio’s scholar, Miss Yates, suggests that John Florio in 1609 gave to Thomas Thorpe both his translation of Healey’s Discovery of a New World and the collection of Shake-Speares sonnets, which is a proof that he was involved in this production:

It might be interesting to inquire why Thorpe was so keen on publishing old material in this year. […] Yet in that year Thorpe addressed to William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke – via Florio – a translated satire, Healey’s Discovery of the new World, and to a “Mr W.H.” a sonnet-sequence by William Shakespeare.

Yates, F. p. 291


According to Vaughan, Florio was also received at court by James I for his past political activities. Also, because he was a partisan of Essex. Indeed in a passage of The Golden Fleece, Vaughan writes that in the mythical court of Apollo:

“Knowing how exemplary and useful the presence of serious personages served to reclayme lewd people (…)  appointed John Florio Dean of the Princesse Thaliaes Chapell, as a reward for his care and pains in the  apprehension of Marianna. ”

William Vaughan, The Golden Fleece, parte I, D4 – E3.

Princesse Thaliaes is Queen Anne. Marianna is a reference to Mary Stuart and the conspiracy of Babington of 1586. Vaughan describes Florio employed by Walsingham in the Babington’s plot. The principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth established a system whereby Mary’s personal letters were carried in and out of Chartley (her current residence) hidden in beer barrels. Walsingham, also thanks to Florio’s help, as suggested by Vaughan, was able to intercept and decode her correspondence. The relatively simple code used by Mary was quickly deciphered, and translations were provided for Elizabeth. The Babington Plot ultimately resulted in not just the execution of Anthony Babington and his conspirators, but also Mary, Queen of Scots.



During the years at court Florio became grandfather to children of his daughter Aurelia. She married to James Molins, a renowned physician, and worked by his side as obstetrician. His two grandchildren, born in 1605 and 1606, both received presents from the royal family on the occasion of their christening.

There is no record of the decease of his first wife, Anna Soresollo. But most certainly John Florio lost her during the terrible years of plagues in London between 1592 and 1593. Florio sadly lost all his children, Aurelia was his only surviving daughter.


Florio remarried in 1617, at 65 years old, with Rose Spicer. She nursed him through his last years and to whom, in his will, he refers in terms of tender affection.

The period as Groom of the Privy Chamber and Personal Secretary to the Queen were for Florio happy years. Anne had promised him a pension of £100 a year until death. But as King James’ financial position worsened these Court pensions were never paid. Many loyal old courtiers were abandoned to poverty in the last years of his reign. Despite not being wealthy as he was before, Florio remained attached to all the things that once belonged to the Queen. Even after her death, he never sold them. Florio, in fact, still possessed her presents when he made his will, including her writing desk set with pearls and fitted with silver ink wells and sand box. Precious tokens of affection that he never tempted to give away. A sentimental value for him more important than any other sum of cash.

How to cite this entry:

“Resolute John Florio”, “Groom of the Privy Chamber”, URL= https://www.resolutejohnflorio.com/2019/09/19/groom-of-the-privy-chamber/

This entry was first published on November 13, 2019. It was last modified on November 21, 2019.

  1. Frye, S., Anne of Denmark and the Historical Contextualisation of Shakespeare and Fletcher’s Henry VIII, in Women and Politics in Early Modern England, 1450-1700, ed. James Daybell (Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004), p. 181
  2. Frances Yates, for example, in John Florio’s biography describes her as a ‘rather stupid, rather frivolous person.’
  3. R. Malcolm Smuts, Culture and Power in England, 1585-1685 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), p. 2.
  4. Yates, F., John Florio, cit., p. 247
  5. Field, J., Anna of Denmark: A Late Portrait by Paul Van Somer, The British Art Journal, 18, n.2, 2017. p. 6
  6. TNA: PRO, SC6/JASI/1648.
  7. Wade, Queen’s Courts, 56; CSPV, vol. 12, 162, no. 250.
  8. Yates, F., John Florio, cit., p. 251.
  9. SP 99/2/300
  10. Rutter, C. C., Hear the ambassadors: marking Shakespeare’s Venice connection, Shakespeare Survey n. 66, 2013.
  11. Ibidem
  12. TNA, SP 99/5/330
  13. TNA, SP 99/5/388
  14. Taylor, G., The Nex Oxford Shakespeare: Authorship Companion, (2017) p. 570
  15. The six masques presented by the Queen are, in chronological order and with the inclusive dates for the relevant Christmas holiday season: The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses (1603-04); The Masque of Blackness (1604-05), The Masque of Beauty (1607-08), The Masque of Queens (1608-09); Tethys’ Festival (June 1610); and Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly (1610-11), Bevington, D., Holbrook, P., The Politics of the Stuart Court Masque, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 142
  16. R. Malcolm Smuts, Art and the Material Culture of Majesty in Early Stuart England, in Smuts, Stuart Court, p. 93
  17. Scarisbrick, Anne of Denmark’s Jewellery, p. 229
  18. Courtney, T., Politics and Culture at the Jacobean Court: The Role of Queen Anna of Denmark, Quidditas, 2008, p. 3
  19. Molino to the Doge and Senate, 27th January, 1605, CSP Venetian, no. 332, p. 213
  20. Barroll, L., Anna of Denmark, Queen of England: A Cultural Biography, 2001, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 103
  21. Stoppes, C., The Life of Henry, Third Earl of Southampton: Shakespeare’s Patron, p. 296.
  22. Yates, F. A., John Florio, cit., p. 277
  23. Ivi, p. 288
  24. Ibidem
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“In truth I acknowledge an entyre debt, not onely of my best knowledge, but of all, yea of more then I know or can, to your bounteous Lordship most noble, most vertuous, and most Honorable Earle of Southampton, in whose paie and patronage I have lived some yeeres; to whom I owe and vowe the yeeres I have to live.”



From 1585 John Florio seems to have disappeared from the scenes. There is no mention of him previous to 1591, with four exceptions. Two are in connection with the christening of his children in 1588 and 1589. The third is a letter dated May 26, 1587 in which a certain Alexander Teregli refers to John Florio as his godfather. 1 The description of the letter written in Italian is as follows: “Alexander (?) Teregli to his godfather, John Florio, in Cork: meeting with William Barnes, the lord mayor’s son; Booll’s and Woods’ kindness to Florio. Regrets Florio cannot be with him at Whitsun; is to stay with Cavalier Dimock; London; 26 May 1587; Italian; Sealed.” We know, therefore, that in 1587 John Florio was in Cork with William Barnes. The fourth episode is connected with Philip Sidney’s Arcadia.


Fulke Greville, who knew Florio after the period at the French Embassy and La Cena delle Ceneri, appointed him as the “over-seer” of his manuscript copy of Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia, probably in collaboration with Matthew Gwinne. Philip Sidney, John’s friend, patron of Giordano Bruno and a participant in La Cena delle Ceneri, completed the first version of Arcadia, normally referred to as the Old Arcadia, between 1577 and 1580. The Arcadia was one of the most popular English romances of the seventeenth century, testifying to Sidney’s inimitable abilities. He started revising it in 1584 but was interrupted by an expedition to the Netherlands in 1585. Unfortunately, Sidney died during a battle on October 17, 1586, at 31 years old. The shock of Sidney’s death did not prevent Greville from stopping the unauthorized publication of his work.


As a result, Greville’s manuscript, which preserved Sidney’s partial revision, was used as copy-text for what was going to be known as 1590’s edition of the Old Arcadia. 2 Florio showed a remarkable instinct as an editor, and contrary to Hugh Sanford, the ‘over-seer’ of the 1593 edition of The New Arcadia, commissioned by Sidney’s sister, Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, Florio published only those books which Sidney had managed to revise. Frances Yates remarks on the exceptional editorial sensitivity displayed by Florio:

“In short, he is comparing the printed Arcadia with The Old Arcadia [..] and like modern critics, he decided in favour of the latter. […] Thus Florio, a contemporary is at one with the best modern critics on this point, and I think he should take some credit for it.”

John Florio, The Life of an Italian in Shakespeare’s England, 1932, Cambridge University Press, p. 202-3
Yates, F.

Hugh Sanford reproposed to the Countess of Pembroke, sister of Sidney, a new edition of Arcadia, and published it in 1593. The literally quarrel between Florio and Sandford didn’t stop, as Florio mentioned him in A Worlde of Wordes (1598) as the man who in 1591 made of the first letter of his surname (F.) a nickname “as if I had been his brother”:

“But my quarrell is to a tooth-less dog his name is HS. (…) This fellow, this H.S., reading (…) under my last
Epistle to the reader I.F., made a familiar word of F. as if I had been his brother.”

A Worlde of Wordes
John Florio

John Florio, in his translation of Montaigne’s Essays, (1603) called this composite edition “that perfect-vnperfect Arcadia, which all our world yet weepes…[that Sidney] lived not to mend or end it: since this end wee see of it; though at first above all, now is not answerable to the precedents”. Florio’s contribution in the publication of Arcadia was fundamental enough that current critics recognize his publication of the Arcadia an excellent, artistic work, clearly superior to the one curated by Sanford.


Hughes Sanford, secretary of the Pembroke family could not accept that Florio could access tasks as relevant as the care of a fundamental book like the Arcadia and began a dispute which saw Florio publicly replying in 1598 in A Worlde of Wordes. The opposition which the Elizabethan translators met with from some quarters was a real danger. And among them, Florio was the most famous and successful. The publication of the Arcadia curated by Florio in 1590 generated a pandemonium that reverberated even in the publication of his 1591 Second Fruits. It is not a coincidence that in his Second Fruits he referred to his enemies as dangerous people with “a knife at command to cut my throat.” Despite the several threats he received, by 1590 John Florio started a new career as editor of literal texts.


In 1591 behind the name “I.F.”, John also translated for John Wolfe Perpetuall and naturall prognostications of the change of weather, a small pamphlet which contained various tokens of foul, fair and calm weather and which was successful enough to be reprinted in 1598. 3 But to some of his contemporaries, John appeared as a newcomer, a social climber, and even more when he officially began tutor of Henry Wriothesley, one of the most important and influential patron in the literal and theatrical world.


It’s not certain when John Florio took the role of tutor to Henry. However, he dedicated A World of Words (1598) to the young Earl. In the preface, he confessed that had lived “some years” in his house, which proves that between late 1580s and early 1590s he became tutor of Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624), Patron of John Florio.
NPG L114 Private collection; on loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London.



Arundel del Re has suggested that the years between 1585 and 1591 were spent very quietly. He implies that Florio might have read books, collected proverbs and material for the dictionary. Similarly, he might have tried to earn a living by teaching Italian which had now become his regular profession 4 This would take Florio into the service of Wriothesley from 1591.



Countess Longworth de Chambrun, instead, has suggested that Florio had been tutoring the Southampton before 1590. She points out that in Second Fruits (1591), there is a dialogue between John Florio and Henry. They play at tennis together and go to see a play at theatre. 5


For Frances Yates too, this identification meets with some support from the fact that in the dialogue John quotes the proverb Chi si contenta gode”, which is the motto on Florio’s portrait. Moreover, the topics touched on in the Second Fruits, like primero, the theatre, love, and tennis, represent Southampton’s tastes. Furthermore, The British Library holds a letter of 1592 signed by Henry and likely written by John Florio. Charlotte Carmichael Stopes suggests that it was Florio who taught the young Earl that writing style. 6 This suggestion has been also marked by Miss Yates. In fact, she agrees that Florio, during his thirty five years of career as language tutor, must have also taught his famous exquisite writing style. 7


In that period, a new generation of patrons had grown up. Leicester, Walsingham and Sidney were dead, while brilliant young men, like Essex and Raleigh stood up. Elizabethan literature lived the most fertile and brilliant phase. The sonneteering fashion was in full swing, journalism was just born. Least but not last, Marlowe and the university wits were creating a new drama. We find Florio installed, as usual, at the heart of the most interesting of the new groups. 8


It has been suggested that Lord Burghley was responsible for Florio’s appointment to the young Earls of Rutland and Southampton. Both were his wards, and he needed a trustworthy person close to them. Florio’s entrance into this brilliant literary circle closely associated with the drama, marks a very important stage in his career. It firmly established his social position and his reputation. However, it also exposed him to further and more violent attacks such as those of H.S., Eliot, Nashe, and others. 9


When he published his dictionary in 1598, John Florio dedicated his laborious work to Henry:

“In truth I acknowledge an entyre debt, not onely of my best knowledge, but of all, yea of more then I know or can, to your bounteous Lordship most noble, most vertuous, and most Honorable Earle of Southampton, in whose paie and patronage I have lived some yeeres; to whom I owe and vowe the yeeres I have to live. But as to me, and manie more the glorious and gracious sunne-shine of your Honor hath infused light and life: so may my lesser borrowed light, after a principall respect to your benigne aspect, and influence, afforde some lustre to some others.”

 John Florio, A Worlde of Wordes, The Epistle Dedicatorie, 1598.

In 1594 John Florio was residing at Titchfield with the young Earl. The Southampton had devoted himself to Italian studies, both in literature and language. Thanks to Florio we know that Henry Wriothesley, along with the Earl of Rutland, were intended to travel to Italy. In the “Epistle Dedicatorie” he explained:

I might make doubt, least I or mine be not now of any further use to your selfe-sufficiencie, being at home so instructed for Italian, as teaching or learning could supplie, that there seemed no need of travell: and nowe by travell so accomplished, as what wants to perfection?

 John Florio, A Worlde of Wordes, The Epistle Dedicatorie, 1598.

It is also plausible that Florio’s tutorage to the two young Earls must have provided a preparation for their travel to Italy. 10

Miniature of Henry Wriothesley at 21 years old by Nicholas Hilliard, Fitzwilliam Museum.



Young, rich and beautiful, Henry Wriothesley was very keen on literature and specially drama. On February 28 1588 he was a spectator of a comedy played at Gray’s Inn. In that occasion, most of the noblemen are recorded to have been present: the Earls of Warwick and Leicester (Florio’s patron in First Fruits), the Earl of Ormond, Lord Burleigh, Lord Gray of Wilton, and others. The misfortunes of Arthur written by Thomas Hughes was acted by 8 members of the Society before the Queen at Greenwich, and the next day Southampton was admitted member of Gray’s Inn introduced by his guardian William Cecil.


In those fervent years for the theatre, aspirants crowded round the brilliant young nobleman, bringing their poems. John Florio’s pupil, Barnabe Barnes, wrote a collection of poems, sonnets and madrigals called Parthenophil and Parthenophe (1592). He also included a sonnet to Southampton, asking for the same advantage of Florio. It would seem that George Chapman had striven to win Southampton’s notice by this time. In 1598 Chapman published the first two and other five Books of his Translation of the Iliads and dedicated them to the Earl of Essex. Some years later – not earlier than 1609 – he published his Homer…in twelve Bookes of his Iliads, dedicated to Prince Henry. At the conclusion he added fourteen sonnets to likely patrons. Among these is included Henry, writing a sonnet that refers to Southampton’s interest in colonisation.


On 27 June 1594 Thomas Nashe published his picaresque novel, The Unfortunate Traveller, and dedicated it to Southampton. He termed him “A dere lover and cherisher … as well of the lovers of Poets, as of Poets themselves”. When Henry saw the dedication, he was deeply displeased and told Nashe that he would not have it. Later, Nashe will angrily admit:

Amongst their sacred number I dare not ascribe myself, though now and then I speak English…”.

On analysis of the evidence, it becomes clear that this relationship had turned sour. Also, the whole of the address was a disrespectful jibe at Southampton. Nashe wanted to embarrass the Earl, not praise him. Specifically, his words on loving poets as well as their lovers point to scandal not eulogy. Nashe tried again with The Choice of Valentines but its contents were even more distasteful to Southampton, who subsequently banished him.


Author Arundel Del Re, in the Introduction to Florio’s First Fruits in a facsimile reproduction he published in 1936, wrote that “Evidences recently brought forward, shows that he [John Florio] was also involved in the Harvey-Nashe quarrel.” 11 The patronage that Southampton gave to Florio and refused to Nashe is most likely one of these reasons. The decade-long literary quarrel Florio had with Thomas Nashe can be traced from 1589 through to 1600 in almost everything the two men published.

John: “What shall we doo until it be dinner time?”

Henry: “Any thing pleaseth me, so we may doo something”

Thomas: “As for me, I referr myself to the companie”

John: “Let us make a match at tenis”

Henry: “Agreed, this coole morning calls for it.”

Thomas: “And afterwards we will dine together.”

John: “And then after dinner we will goo see a plaie”

Henry: “The plaies that they plaie in England, are not right comedies.”

Thomas: “Yet they doo nothing else but plaie every daye.”

Henry: “Yea but they are neither right comedies, nor right tragedies.”

John: “How would you name them then?”

Henry: “Representations of histories, without any decorum.”

– Second Fruits, Chapter 2.


As he clearly pointed out in the reference letter written before Castelnau’s departure, John Florio wasn’t just a mere language tutor. He, in fact, wrote letters for him and became Henry’s confidant and trusted friend. A famous episode showed his ‘resolute’ attitude when Wriothesley seeked help from him for an urgent, delicate case. On Friday 4th October 1594, in fact, John Florio took part in the famous Danvers case, backing Henry’s friends in their efforts to escape. Henry Danvers and Sir Charles Denvers were the two elder sons of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey. Both close friend to Henry Wriothesley, they committed a crime in Wiltshire.

Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby in a portrait of the 1630s by Anthony van Dyck.


According to one account, Henry Long was dining in the middle of the day with a party of friends in Corsham, when Henry Danvers, followed by his brother Charles and a number of retainers, burst into the room, and shot Long dead on the spot. According to another account, Henry Long had challenged Charles Danvers, that he was pressing an unfair advantage and had his arm raised to kill. When Henry Danvers thrust himself between to ward off the blow, was wounded in the act, and striking upwards with his dagger killed Henry Long accidentally.


The fugitives arrived at 8/9 in the morning of Saturday the 5th at Whitley Lodge near Titchfield, where Thomas Dymock lived, and there they remained till Tuesday morning. The Danvers’ servant, Gilbert Scott, stayed at Titchfield secretly for 10 days and was sent post haste to London and to the various ports, to secure a passage for France. On Sunday 6th Henry remained at home for his 21th birthday. On Monday the Earl went to Calshot Castle. Master Lawrence Grose, Sheriff, was informed on the murder, and on the evening of October 12th the following scene took place at Itchen’s Ferry:

“The said Grose, passing over Itchen’s Ferry with his wife that Saturday 12th, one Florio an Italian, and one Humphrey Drewell a servant of the Earl, being in the said passage boat threatened to cast Grose overboard, and said they would teach him to meddle with their fellows, with many other threatening words.”

Charlotte Carmichael Stopes


The Denvers brothers fled and went in Whitley Lodge between 8 and 9 o’ clock where Thomas Dymock, Henry’s bailiff, resided. The cook made them food and on Henry came to the Lodge on Monday night, supped with them, spent the night and departed with them two hours before day next morning. He managed to get them shipped over to France.

John Florio had a close relationship with Henry Wriothesley at least until 1603, when Henry’s family, Florio and other friends of the Southampton, flocked to him on his releasement from the Tower. 12 At the close of the sixteenth century, Resolute John Florio was on intimate terms not just with Henry Wriothesley, but with all the chief literary men of London and their patrons.

How to cite this entry:

“Resolute John Florio”, “Tutor of Henry Wriothesley”, URL= https://www.resolutejohnflorio.com/2019/09/19/john-florio-tutor-henry-wriothesley/

This entry was first published on November 13, 2019. It was last modified on January 20, 2020.

  1. TNA SP 46/125/fo 163, 163d
  2. Höfele, A., Renaissance Go-Betweens: Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe, 2005, p. 112
  3. Chiari, S., Shakespeare’s Representation of Weather, Climate and Environment: The Early Modern ‘Fated Sky’, 2019, Edinburgh University Press, p. 11
  4. Del Re, A. Florio’s First Fruites, Facsimile Reproduction of the Original Edition II, Introduction and Notes, 1936, p. XVI
  5. Longworth C. C., Giovanni Florio, Un Apôtre de la Renaissance En Angleterre a l’Époque de Shakespeare, 1921, Paris Payot, p. 23
  6. Stopes, C.C. The Life of Henry, 1922, Cambridge, pp. 25
  7. Yates, F. A., John Florio, the life of an Elizabethan in Shakespeare’s England, 1934.
  8. Yates, F. A., John Florio, cit., pp. 124.
  9. Del Re, Arundel, Florio’s First Fruites, cit.
  10. Stopes, C.C., The Life of Henry, cit., pp. 93
  11. Del Re, A. Florio’s First Fruites,cit., XIII
  12. Ivi, p. 261.
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Between the summer of 1583 and 1585 John Florio moved with his family at the French Embassy. It was situated in London, at Beaumont House, Butcher Row. The French Ambassador at the time was Michel de Castelnau, Lord of Mauvissiere. His first mission was to defend the cause of Mary Stuart against Elizabeth. Similarly, he watched the intrigues between England and the French Protestants.


Michel de Castelnau, Sieur de la Mauvissière (c. 1520–1592), French soldier and diplomat, ambassador to Queen Elisabeth.

Castelnau employed Florio for two years as tutor in languages to his daughter Catherine Marie. Secondly, he also employed him “in other honourable employment”, in the discharge of which duties he bore himself prudently, honestly and faithfully. 1 As a result, Florio earned the warm commendation of his master and all the household. His duties, beside that of tutor, translator and interpreter, were of personal secretary and legal representative of the ambassador when the latter departed from London.


At the French Embassy, Florio got intimate with the London society as well, both aristocratic and literary. Above all, he had the chance to attend several meetings with Lord Burghley, Walter Raleigh, Francis Walsingham, the Countess of Oxford and the Countess of Sussex. Undoubtedly he did not fail to extract advantage from these opportunities. This prove that his connection with Castelnau was an important step in his career, earning the position of loyal Englishman. Subsequently, he enjoyed the full confidence and friendship of the ambassador, working both as scholar as well as diplomat.


When Castelnau and Giordano Bruno departed from the French Embassy in 1585, The English situation was precarious. The succession of anti-Elizabeth plots like the Norfolk conspiracy certainly had shown an immense dissention among the English people. It had become apparent to the Protestant faction that a Catholic revival was gaining momentum in their country. 2 During the captivity of Mary, Queen of Scots, several attempts were made to place her on the English throne. The most significant of these was the Babington Plot, which ultimately led to Mary’s trial and execution in 1587. The person for whom the plot was named was Anthony Babington.


Babington began to write his own letters to Mary. Written in cipher, Babington’s letters explained his plans to rescue her and reestablish Catholicism in England. What Babington and Mary did not realize, however, was that their letters were being intercepted by Elizabeth’s spies. One of these, was John Florio. Walsingham also hired Gilbert Gifford, an exiled English Catholic, as a double agent. Gifford was to reestablish contact with Mary. Letters between Mary and her supporters, including Babington’s letters, were sent via a beer keg supplied by a brewer. While in his possession, Walsingham had the letters deciphered and copied. Later, in 1586, Babington wrote a letter outlining the details of the plot to rescue Mary. In the letter, he asked for Mary’s permission to assassinate Elizabeth. When she agreed, Walsingham had his proof. Consequently, Mary was tried on the basis of the forged evidence and executed in February 1587.


William Vaughan’s Golden Fleece was written one year after Florio’s death, in 1626. It contains references to Florio’s involvement in the conspiracy of Babington of 1586. Walsingham, also thanks to Florio’s help, as suggested by Vaughan, was able to intercept and decode Mary’s correspondence.

Pierre-Henri Révoil,   Mary, Queen of Scots, Separated from Her Faithfuls,  1822.
Pierre-Henri Révoil,  Mary, Queen of Scots, Separated from Her Faithfuls, 1822.


During his stay at the French Embassy Florio accompanied Castelnau to his audiences to the Queen. In the dedication of his Dictionary, for example, John Florio, praising Elizabeth, discussed her proficiency in languages. In fact, he asserted that:

“… of whose innumerable excellences, if not the fore-most, yet most famous I have heard, and often haue had the good hap and comfort to see, that no Embassador or stranger hath audience of her Maiestie, but in his natiue toong.” 3


John Florio also embarked in a new, pioneering job as translator of news. In the Elizabethan England this trend had a tremendous demand, and quickly became a class of literature. Newspapers were not yet born. Even so, Florio intuitively began to translate several Italian newsletters that had been dispatched from Rome to France. The Roman correspondent provided news of events surrounding the papacy and other gossips from various parts of the world. The resulting pamphlet was published in 1585 entitled A letter lately written from Rome, by an Italian gentleman to a freende of his in Lyons in Fraunce. Translated it from Italian, Florio dedicated it to the Earl of Derby.


Among divers facts that Florio translated and reported, there is the story of Captain Emmo. He was a nobleman of Venice, who went out to scour the seas for pirates. Near Corfu, he meet a galley belonging to the King of Algeria going with tribute to the Great Turk. He was with his wife and her two daughters. While disregarding the alliance between Venice and Turkey, Emmo fell upon this galley and took the booty murdering the crew. He also dishonoured the two daughters and threw their mother into the sea.

“Truely a lamentable and memorable case that a lady in that extremitie, flooting up and downe the waters, with smyling countenance, should take her death so constantly, saying, that it was more pleasant unto her to die, then to live with such a wicked beast.” – John Florio.


The Rialto in Venice figures in another story Florio translated from the news. An explanatory note is added to make the word clear to English readers: “A noble man of the house of Contarini, even in the Rialto (which is a place in Venice as the Royall Exchange in London) shot at another Noble man with a Pistol..” 4

“What a tragicomedy! What act, I say, more worthy of pity and laughter can be presented to us upon this world’s stage, in this scene of our consciousness.”- Giordano Bruno


Living with Giordano Bruno was the most important experience Florio had at the French Embassy. Bruno’s influence will have a huge impact upon him. The philosopher, undoubtedly shaped Florio’s character changing his vision of life and world permanently. Likewise, it’s highly probable that it was Bruno who introduced Florio to Castelnau after their first meeting in Oxford. The great Italian philosopher, in fact, came to England in the spring of 1583. He had been lecturing in Paris winning the favour of Henri III. Later, the King gave him a letter of introduction to Michel de Castelnau. Later, Bruno went to Oxford to dispute the Aristotelian physics, but his discourse wasn’t received with favour. Bruno was left alone and in a country where he didn’t speak the language. In such a difficult situation, Castelnau took him into the French Embassy in London.


Those two years in London were, for Bruno, a peaceful heaven where he focused on his writings. Consequently, he thanked the French Ambassador for the hospitality and protection he received. Bruno surely received many attacks after the quarrel and tumultuous period that followed The Ash Wednesday Supper. During that party he discussed his revolutionary theories. After that, he got into a quarrel with the guests who didn’t receive with favour his ideas. Undoubtedly, Florio and Castelnau always defended him. Bruno described the event in a philosophical pamphlet written the same year: La Cena delle Ceneri. In a copy of this work kept at the National Library in Naples the event is described happening at Whitehall. 5


The publication of La Cena della Ceneri led to the estrangement between Fulk Greville and Bruno. What part Florio played in the controversy is not known. But it is reasonable to suppose that he would have found it difficult to keep out of it. He was Bruno’s friend. Moreover, he was asked by Greville to attend the supper on Ash Wednesday, February 14, 1584. However, Philip Sidney’s friendly attitude towards Bruno may have helped to bring Florio into closer contact with that circle. Eventually, it paved the way for Florio’s task of overseeing the print of the 1590 Arcadia.


Giordano Bruno often accompanied Castelnau to his audiences to the Queen. In the court documents of his trial in Rome, he publicly admitted that during his stay at the French Embassy, many times had the chance to accompany Castelnau to the Queen Elizabeth 6 described in his work De La Causa, Principio et Uno as “diva”. Bruno considered the French Ambassador a welcoming, kind and sincere friend. However, some historians have tried to pen the Nolan philosopher as a spy or saboteur of Castelnau. 7 But the documents of that period prove that Bruno was in good terms with the French ambassador. 8 From Bruno, we also learn a few domestic details: he was much attached to the ambassador’s daughter, Catherine Marie. For instance, he spoke about her with kindness:

“Hardly yet six years of age, she speaks Italian, French, and English so equally that no one can tell her nationality; she plays various instruments so that one wonders whether she be flesh or spirit, and form her already ripe and noble bearing, whether she be of earth of have come down from the skies. Both her parents reappear alike in her body and in her mind.” 9

Giordano Bruno, De La Causa, Principio et Uno, QEM Classic, Dialogo IV, p. 65 – 66.


Moreover, well suited at the embassy and welcomed by a warm atmosphere, Bruno produced some of his most exciting works. Sir Philip Sydney was undoubtedly enchanted with Bruno’s scholarship and imagination and gave him generous patronage to continue his works.

  • La Cena de le Ceneri (The Ash Wednesday Supper, 1584)
  • De la Causa, Principio et Uno (On Cause, Principle and Unity, 1584)
  • De l’Infinito, Universo e Mondi (On the Infinite, Universe and Worlds, 1584)
  • Lo Spaccio de la Bestia Trionfante (The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, 1584)
  • De gl’ Heroici Furori (On the Heroic Frenzies, 1585). 


Giordano Bruno – Portrait from “Livre du recteur” (1578)

Living with Giordano Bruno under the same roof for two years, John Florio embraced Bruno’s philosophy. Above all, the thesis upon the infinite universe, the post-Copernican, heliocentric theory and the possibility of life on other planets. Florio also got to know other important themes that Bruno discussed in his works:

  • The strong and decisive condemnation of a corrupt and arrogant power.
  • The fiercely satirical treatment of the pedants.
  • Anti-Petrarchism.
  • Death as a pure moment of passage in the courses and appeals of a universal vicissitude.
  • The arduous search, within this new infinite universe, for a new historical and civil role for the man of thought.


The friendship that linked Bruno and Florio is particularly rich and significant. Florio in fact appears in La Cena delle Ceneri as one of the messengers that brings to Bruno the invitation to dinner by Fulke Greville. In another scene Bruno and Florio are on a boat at night. They burst into song chanting stanzas from Ludovico Ariosto‘s Orlando Furioso. Later, Bruno will portray him as “Eliotropo” in De La Causa, Principio et Uno. In Dell’Infinito, Universo e Mondi, fifth dialogue, Bruno adds Florio as “Elpino” and Alberico Gentili as “Albertino”. Similarly, Florio returned the compliment by introducing the figure of Bruno, ‘Il Nolano’, in Second Fruits (1591). He portrayed him lounging on a window-seat, leafing through a book and poking fun at his friend John for taking too much time over getting dressed in the morning.

‘Oh feminil ingegno’ warbled the Nolan, following Messer Florio’s rendering of ‘Dove, senza me, dolce mia vita’ which he sang as though thinking of his loves.” 10

Bruno, Giordano. Ash Wednesday Supper.


The portrait painted by Florio is undoubtedly that of a friend. Bruno surely appears in his pages in a positive light, like a satirical and healthy whip of pedants. Florio will never forget Bruno, even after the long years of the trial and their tragic outcome at the stake. For instance, in 1603, John Florio recalled his old “fellow Nolano”, who had taught him the cultural value of translations:

“’Yea but my olde fellow Nolano tolde me, and taught publikely, that from translation all Science had its of-spring.”

John Florio, “To the Corteous Reader”, Montaigne’s Essays, 1603.

Moreover, in 1611, he listed Bruno’s Italian works among the texts he used for the composition of the dictionary. Bruno scholars Gentile and Spampanato have both proved Florio’s indebtedness to the philosopher’s writings. Many of Bruno’s thoughts are undeniably shaped in Florio’s work Second Fruits. Also, in his two dictionaries Florio added many terms as well as Neapolitan dialect words taken from Bruno’s works.11


Life at the French Embassy wasn’t always easy for Bruno and Florio. In fact, an unfortunate event happened with a certain William Gryse, clerk for the Queen’s stable. He was building a house in Butcher’s Row, the same street of The French Embassy. Gryse used a rude language to the household. He called them “French dogs, villains and rascals.” One day later, he assembled a number of people in the street, including ten armed men. They broke all the windows of the embassy, injuring three persons. They also dragged Florio and other people out of their chambers, animated by the intense dislike of foreigners. After that, Florio recalled this unfortunate even in his 1591 work Second Fruits. 12


The ambassador Castelnau and Giordano Bruno came back to France in 1585. As a result, the French ambassador passed into the service of his successor, Casteauneuf de l’Aubespine. Before leaving the Embasssy, Castelnau wrote a reference letter in Latin for Florio (in double copy) on September 28, 1585. He praised John Florio and his capacities demonstrated during the two years at the French Embassy. In the letter “Iohannes Florius” is described as dedicated “mainly in the education of our daughter Caterina Maria, the interpretation of languages, and other residual honorific tasks”, without further remuneration (“caeterisque honorificis administrationibus”).


Below you can read the Latin letter of reference on September 28th 1585 translated into English:

“We, Michel de Castelnau, (..) Through these words we undoubtedly attest to all and everyone that the noble master, John Florio, during the two-year period when, at our service, and in our familiarity he devoted himself mainly to the tuition of our daughter Caterina Maria.

In the interpretation of tongues, and to residual honorific tasks he behaved in such a prudent, sincere and faithful manner that he in no way merited any remarks of bad satisfaction.

But especially showed himself worthy of being praised and recommended by me and by all my family members. So I promise that neither I nor my family will ever fail, as for everyone’s authority, to give proof, in any future, in favor of or for him, if necessary. We have approved the above words, signed in our own handwriting as a guarantee of the above, and bearing the usual seal. September 28th , 1585 Castelnau.”


The reference letter was written in Latin by Florio himself, with the approval and subscription of the French ambassador. Firstly, Iohannes Florius underlined that he devoted himself mainly to the education of the ambassador’s daughter, Catherine Marie. He also pointed out other residual honorary positions, assignments carried out “honoris causa”, “by way of honor”. It is clear that the remuneration for the main assignments also included various assignments useful to the patron. In short, a real tempting promotional offer, including additional unpaid services.


Iohannes Florius in this way proved to be a true “marketing man” ante litteram. In fact, he wanted to find a highly placed job, aiming at a deserved social ascent. In short, John wanted to ensure a dignified employment with an aristocrat. To do so he made it clear that he would reciprocate with the activity of educator/translator and other residual activities. Services and necessities that he already demonstrated at the French Embassy and will be further accentuated when he became tutor of Henry Wriothesley and took part in the Danvers case. John’s “modus operandi” inevitably exposed him to the criticisms and attacks later in his life by his contemporaries.


On October 1585 Michel de Castelnau with his family and Giordano Bruno left London. During the return, misfortune overtook the travellers. In fact, the ship containing all their belongings which had preceded them, met with pirates in the channel. It was thought that the pirates had turned towards England or towards Flushing. Consequently, he sent Ribot, his servant, back to England, hoping to recover some of his property. Florio was the man in charge of this trouble. Later, he received the letter in which Castelnau asked him to accompany his servant Ribot to Walsingham. After that, some of his properties were recovered.


After one month of his departure, Castelnau wrote to Florio to “assure yourself that I am your good friend”. Above all, the French ambassador asked Florio to meet with several aristocratic figures. The aim was to thank them humbly for all the favours which they have rendered him. 13 Nothing could have been more valuable to Florio than all these opportunities of bringing himself before the notice of the great. Through the letter, in fact, it is stated that he had the chance to meet important aristocratic figures. For instance, the Countess of Oxford, Walsingham, Walter Raleigh, and the Countess of Sussex. This letter was useful to Florio’s career, and it shows how he became so widely intimate with London society. 14


Florio won’t stop working at the French Embassy after 1585. For instance, it is proved that in 1606 Florio was still doing secretarial work at the French Embassy. 15 He became something of an institution with an office of his own. 16 After Castelnau’s and Bruno’s departure, Florio had officially made his way on the social, literal and aristocratic circle of London. Subsequently, Lord Burghley sent Florio to begin a new experience with Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.

How to cite this entry:

“Resolute John Florio”, “At The French Embassy”, URL= https://www.resolutejohnflorio.com/2019/09/19/french-embassy-1583/

This entry was first published on November 13, 2019. It was last modified on November 21, 2019.

Useful Links:
  1. Calendar of State Papers, Foreign Series, 1585 – 1586.
  2. Herbert, S. G., The Scottish Queen, New York, Farrar and Rinehart, 1932, p. 448.
  3. John Florio, ‘To the Reader’, A Worlde of Wordes.
  4. Yates, F. A., John Florio The Life of an Italian in Shakespeare’s England, 1934, Cambridge At The University Press, p. 82
  5. Franzero, C. M., John Florio a Londra ai tempi di Shakespeare, 1969, p. 80
  6. Bruno, G., Un’autobiografia, a cura di Michele Ciliberto, Castelvecchi, 2017, p. 79
  7. John Bossy, for example, in Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair depicts, with bizarre deductions, Bruno as “diabolic spy”.
  8. Calendar of State Papers Foreign, 1583-’86, p. 175.
  9. “Che dirai de la generosa figlia, che a pena un lustro e un anno ha visto il sole, e per le lingue non potrai giudicare s’ella é da Italia o da Francia o da Inghilterra, per la mano circa gli musici instrumenti non potrai capire s’ella é corporea o incorporea sustanza, per la matura bontà di costumi dubitarai s’ella é discesa dal cielo o pur è sortita da la terra? Ognun vede che in quella, non meno per la formazion di sì bel corpo é concorso il sangue de l’uno e l’altro parente, ch’alla fabrica del spirto singulare e le virtù dell’animo eroico di que’ medesimi.” Giordano Bruno, De La Causa, Principio et Uno, QEM Classic, Dialogo IV, p. 65 – 66.
  10. “Messer Florio (come ricordandosi de suoi amori) cantava il Dove senza me dolce mia víta. Il Nolano ripigliava: Il Saracin dolente, o femenil ingegno”. – Giordano Bruno, La Cena delle Ceneri.
  11. Spampanato, V., Giovanni Florio, Un amico del Bruno in Inghilterra, La Critica. Rivista di Letteratura, Storia e Filosofia diretta da B. Croce, 21, 1923; 22, 1924.
  12. Yates, F., John Florio At the French Embassy, The Modern Language Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan., 1929), pp. 16-36
  13. 30th of November, 1585, M. De Castelnau
  14. Yates, F. A. John Florio at the French Embassy, cit., p. 26
  15. Calendar of State Papers Domestic: James I, 1603-1610, August-November, 1606, Sept. 8. Canterbury, “Alex. Fougli (?) to Giovanni Florio. Has received the letter translated, of which he approves. Apologises for troubling him, but desires him to add a given postscript to the letter. Italian.”
  16. Yates, F. A., John Florio, cit., pg 79.
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“In cloth good colour..”


Elizabeth I ascended to the throne on November 17th 1558. The first actions as Queen was the establishment of an English Protestant church. Therefore, England was finally no longer a threat for John. At about 18 years old, after his formative years in Soglio and in Tubingen, he came back to London.


Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, c. 1564.

At 25 years old John Florio published Firste Fruites which yeelde familiar speech, merie prouerbes, wittie sentences, and golden sayings. Also a perfect induction to the Italian, and English tongues, as in the table appeareth. The like heretofore, neuer by any man published (1578). This collection of dramatic dialogues contains translated passages from literature and philosophy. Moreover, it is designed for novices in both the Italian and English language. Florio inscribed the manual to “All Italian gentlemen and merchants who delight in the English tongue”. He dedicated his first work to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. In the dedication, John reminded Dudley of his father’s faithful service, successfully entering his social circle:

“Since I am issued from the bowels of him who was your faithful and devoted vassal and have consequently succeeded to the same service and devotion, I would fain be numbered, if it please Your Excellency, among those who serve you with perfect love.” 1

John Florio’s dedication to Robert Dudley, First Frutes, 1578


In the manual, John Florio refers to himself as “povero artigiano” (poor artisan). His insistence upon the fact that the teaching was not his profession indicates that this was the very first time he approached to the languages as profession. In addition, the commendatory verses that precede Firste Fruites show that John Florio got in contact with the Dudley’s theatre company: The Leicester’s men. The first pages of the First Fruits, in fact, contain various commendatory verses written by the company actors: Richard Tarlton, Robert Wilson, Thomas Clarke, and John Bentley. They thank him for having contributed to bring the Italian novelist to the English theatre.

“In Prayse of Florio – his Labour: if we at home, by Florios paynes may win, to know the things, that travailes great would aske: By openyng that, which heretofore hath bin a daungerous journey, and a feareful taske. Why then ech Reader that his Booke doe see, Give Florio thankes, that tooke such paines for thee.” – Richard Tarlton’s dedication to John Florio in the First Fruits.


With Firste Fruites, John Florio began a new career in London in the language-teaching while having contacts with the theatre. Subsequently, by the summer of 1578, he was sent by Lord Burleigh, William Cecil, to Oxford at the Magdalen College. He entered as poor scholar and became servant and tutor of Italian language to Barnabe and Emmanuel Barnes, sons of the Bishop of Durham. John Florio remained at Oxford at least until 1582. According to the Athenae-Oxoniensis, he was later allowed to wear the academic gown. 2 Magdalene College today commemorates his time there with the John Florio Society that meets to appreciate its members’ own poems.


During these years John matured as a lexicographer and made the development of modern English language his primary mission. Firstly, he became tutor of Italian language to John Lyly. Author considered to be the first English prose stylist to leave an enduring impression upon the language, Lyly was a key figure of Euphuism. Another Euphuist and pupil of John Florio was Stephen Gosson. Both Gosson and Lyly adopted the Euphuistic style and were saturated in Italian reading through John Florio’s lessons. It is possible that another Euphuist, George Pattie was the “I.P.” that signed Italian verses before the First Fruits. 3


John Florio’s social climbing in Oxford continued when he began a long-lasting friendship with Samuel Daniel. English poet and historian, Daniel exerted a considerable influence on the development of Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry. Daniel matriculated on 17 November 1581 at Oxford; there he met Florio, who had been teaching from 1580. By 1582 Daniel contributed to a short poem to the manuscript of Florio’s Giardino di Ricreatione.


It has been suggested that Daniel began taking Italian lessons under Castelvetro around 1579 when he was 15 or 16 years old. Later, he continued when he arrived in Oxford with John Florio. 4 This would explain how in 1585, with the help of John Florio, he published his translation of Paolo Giovio’s The Worthy tract of Paulus Iovius (1585). John Florio signed the preface before Daniel’s work behind the pseudonym N.W. In the preface, he contrasts this worthy enterprise with other types of reading matter:

“For it Courtiers are inwardly rauished in vewing the Picture of Fiammetta which Boccace limned. If Ladies eintertaine Bandel or Ariosto in their Closets. If Louers imbrace their Phisition Ouid in extremitie of their passion: then will Gentlemen of all tribes, much rather honor your Impresa, as a most rare Iewell, and delicate Enchiridion.”

fol *4 – *5


In all these cases, the analogies drawn by John Florio are to private, intimate encounters. The “inwardly ravished” courtier uses the Fiammetta as an exploration of the interiorized rhetoric of the emotion; the chivalric, even lurid narrative of Ariosto and Bandello are consumed by ladies in their “closets” (echoing a typical plot device of such tales), and lovers turn to the classical “Physition” of the erotic Ovid, for an explanation of their symptoms. 5 Coming from the life-changing experience at the French Embassy with Giordano Bruno, in the preface, Florio adds a defense of translation, evoking Giordano Bruno who talked to him about the importance of translation. He will write a similar defense in his superb defense of translation in Montaigne’s Essays (1603):

“You cannot forget that which Nolanus (that man of infinite titles among other phantasticall toyes) truely noted by chaunce in our Schooles, that by the helpe of translations, al Sciences had their ofspring.”

N.W. in S. Daniel, The Worthy Tract of Paulus Iovius, 1585, 7

“My old fellowe Nolano told me, and taught publikely, that from translation all science had its ofspring…”

John Florio in Montaigne Essays, 1603, To The Reader


Matthew Gwinne was another close friend John Florio met in Oxford. Physician and playwright, Gwinne will contribute to write commendatory verses in Florio’s works behind the pseudonym “Il Candido”. Florio mentioned him in the Epistle Dedicatory of Montaigne’s Essays (1603) as his “only dearest and in love-sympathising friend”:

“The other (my onelie dearest and in love-sypathising friend, Maister Doctor Guinne, of whome I may justly say what my Authour saith of his second-selfe Steven de Boetie: for, he could not better pourtray him for him selfe, then he hath lively delineated him for me) willing to doe me ease, and as willing to doe your Honour service, as you know him a scholler (and pitty is it the World knowes not his worth better; for as the Prince of Italian poets saide of Valerius Corvinus, Non so se miglior Duce o Cavalliero, so may I truely say of him. Non so se meglior Oratore e Poeta, o Philosopho e Medico).

John Florio, Preface to Montaigne’s Essays, 1603

“..where the air is most temperate, and the soil most fruitful.”


A Shorte and briefe narration of the two navigations and discoveries to the northweast partes called Newe Fraunce
[electronic resource] :
first translated out of French into Italian by that famous learned man Gio : Bapt : Ramutius, and now turned into English by John Florio; worthy the reading of all venturers, travellers, and discoverers.
Florio’s first translation-1580.

In Oxford, beside his job as Italian tutor, John Florio also began a career as translator. He met Richard Hakluyt, an English writer who was very passionate about maritime literature. His collaboration with Florio was very fruitful: he commissioned him to translate Jacques Cartier’s voyage to Canada. Later, in 1580, Florio published his translation under the name A Shorte and briefe narration of the two navigations and discoveries to the northweast partes called Newe Fraunce: first translated out of French into Italian by that famous learned man Gio : Bapt : Ramutius, and now turned into English by John Florio; worthy the reading of all venturers, travellers, and discoverers.


Florio quickly developed an awareness of the potential of the ‘New World’. In fact, he was among the first Englishmen, if not the very first, to suggest that the newly discovered lands across the ocean should be permanently colonised by settlers from the mother country. In the preface, he addressed all the “Gentlemen, Merchants and Pilots” to “trasporte our Beasts and cattle of Europe into those large and champion countreys”:

“Iohannes Vorazzana, a Florentine, if he had not been preuented by death, purposed (as the foresaid Ramusis wrote) to persuade Francis the French King to send forth good store of people to inhabite certaine places of these coastes, where the aire is moste temperate, and the soyle most fruitfull, with goodly Riuers and Hauens sufficient to harborough any nauie, the inhabitantes of which places might be occasion to bring many good purposes to effecte, and amongest manye others, to reduce those poore rude and ignorant people to the true worship and seruice of God, and to teache them how to manure and tall the ground, transporting our Beasts and cattle of Europe into those large and champion countreys.”

John Florio, To The Reader, Shorte and briefe narration of the two navigations and discoveries to the northweast partes called Newe Fraunce, 1580.

Florio advocates “planting” the “New-found land” four years before Hakluyt and Raleigh, the pioneers of colonisation. He threw himself early into the spirit of these English patriotic ventures. Furthermore, he committed himself to both refine the English language and be a contributor of England’s colonial enterprise.


In Oxford John Florio also met Sir Edward Dyer, poet and courtier. He dedicated to him the first version of Giardino di Ricreatione, a collection of proverbs he published in 1591 along with Second Fruits. The first version, handwritten by Florio, is at The British Library. It contains an handwritten dedication from Florio to Edward Dyer dated November 12, 1582. The dedication suggests that Dyer had been of some service to him. Above all, it indicates a sincere appreciation of his qualities as an Italian scholar. This discredit Yates’ theory that Florio attacked him in First Fruites. 6 Thanks to more recent discoveries about his early career, in fact, the dialogues in First Fruites do not refer to Edward Dyer as suggested by Yates, but to his early job as dyer.

John Florio dedication to Sir Edward Dyer. Image copyright: Giovanni Florio, Un Apôtre de la Renaissance En Angleterre a l’Époque de Shakespeare by Clara Longworth De Chambrun.


The last, and most important meeting John Florio had at Oxford was with the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, one of the most adventurous thinkers of the Renaissance. In Oxford, he took two lessons: one on the immortality of the soul, the other upon the quintuplici sphera. In addition, both Florio and Bruno attended the arrival of the Prince Laski in Oxford. Bruno attended the event with Philip Sidney, his patron. On that famous occasion, many figures, friends of Florio, held the event: Matthew Gwinne and Samuel Daniel among the others. The French Ambassador Michel de Castelnau was in Oxford as well, and asked Florio to become tutor of his daughter Catherine Marie. Subsequently, in the summer of 1582, John Florio moved to London at the French Embassy with Giordano Bruno.

How to cite this entry:

“Resolute John Florio”, “London & Oxford”, URL= https://www.resolutejohnflorio.com/2019/09/19/oxford/

This entry was first published on November 13, 2019. It was last modified on November 21, 2019.

  1. “Massime per essere io uscito dalle viscere di chi [Michelangelo] vi è stato fedele e devoto vassallo, e conseguentemente essendo io restato successore della medesima servitù e devozione, vorrei così piacendo alla Vostra Eccellenza essere nel numero di quelli che con perfetto amore vi servono.”
  2. Franzero, C. M., John Florio a Londra ai tempi di Shakespeare, Guanda, 1969, p. 71.
  3. Yates, F. A. John Florio, The Apostle of the Renaissance in Shakespeare’s England, 1934, Cambridge University Press, pg. 50
  4. Woudhuysen, H. R., Sir Philip Sidney and the Circulation of Manuscripts, 1558-1640, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1996, p. 362
  5. Armstrong, G., The English Boccaccio: A History in Books, University of Toronto Press, 2019 p. 186
  6. Del Re, A., Florio’s First fruites: facsimile reproduction of the original edition, Volume II, Introduction and Notes, 1936.
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Michelangelo Florio, born in Figline Val D’arno (Florence) was a Franciscan friar who converted to Protestantism. He worked as pastor in both England and Switzerland. Tutor of Lady Jane Gray, writer and translator, Michelangelo Florio was an important Protestant reformer whose life and works had a major influence on John Florio.


“I was never a Jew nor son of a Jew but born of a father and mother baptized as Papists like yourself; and if you should say that my ancestors were Hebrews before baptism, this I will not deny... “

John Florio was born in London 1 in 1553. 2 His father was Michelangelo Florio, an exponent of the Reformation with a biblical and humanistic culture. He was a Franciscan friar who converted to Protestantism and later arrested for heresy. Following two years of imprisonment in Rome, he was brought to trial and condemned to death. However, he managed to avoid execution by escaping from prison on 4 May 1550. Subsequently, he abandoned his Franciscan habit, moving to Venice, where he established contact with the English ambassador. Florio was a fervent protestant with Jew ancestors. In fact, in his book Apologia, he explained that:

“I was never a Jew nor son of a Jew but born of a father and mother baptized as Papists like yourself; and if you should say that my ancestors were Hebrews before baptism, this I will not deny...”

Apologia, 1557.
Michelangelo Florio


Michelangelo arrived in London on 1 November 1550. He was soon appointed to be the preacher of the Italian Church, established under the superintendence of John Alasco. Firstly, the members of the Italian congregations provided him with a house and a yearly salary. In addition, he received 20 pounds granted him by the King through the good offices of William Cecil. Nevertheless, Michelangelo soon fell of his Italian flock, most of whom were merchants and artisans. They resented his violent attacks on the Pope and the Church of Rome. Consequently, they ceased to attend services to pay him his allowance.


Two letters that Michelangelo wrote to Cecil reveal his hostility towards the Italian congregation. During this time of trouble, Cecil received him into his house. The letters, in Latin, written in 1551, are reported in John Strype’s work, Memorials of the Most Reverend Father in God Thomas Cranmer (1694). Michelangelo proves to be very impulsive and drastic towards some of his parishioners. In fact, he points out that the Italian congregation does not respect the obligation to bestow him his allowance. Moreover, they dare to “speak ill of him and of the Gospel”, having also resumed attending Catholic mass. As a result, in his letter, Michelangelo does not hesitate to denounce (with a list of names and surnames) 14 of his parishioners.


There are no traces of John’s mother. Some scholars seem to agree that she was probably English, given John’s knowledge of the language. But in First Fruites (1578), Florio wrote that the first time he arrived in London he didn’t know the language. In fact, he asked in Italian and French were the post dwelt. He explained later that he learnt the language by reading books. However, Miss Yates quotes a note written by Simmler in Michelangelo Florio’s Apologia in which he wrote:

“De uxore, quae Angla Videtur, et liberi nihil constat.” (“About his wife, it seems she was English and unmarried.) 3

We have very few informations about her, and only through Michelangelo’s turbulent personal life in London. It is more likely she was French or Italian, being a servant into Cecil’s house.

Lord Burghley, William Cecil, Michelangelo's patron.
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley from National Portrait Gallery. Attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger.


In contrast, Michelangelo’s denounce against the Italian congregation, quickly turned against himself. In 1552, in fact, during his stay at Cecil’s house, they accused him of “an act of fornication” with an unnamed woman of the Italian congregation, a servant in Cecil’s house. Consequently, Cecil condemned him to go through a form of public penance and depose from his ministry. The documents reveal that he had a sexual relationship with a woman outside the marriage. However, Michelangelo wrote him a letter on January 23 1552. His intention was to explain Cecil:

“The affair, as it really is, and not like the unclean mouths of any impudent dared to throw up”. 4

Nevertheless, thanks to Michelangelo’s skilfully argued letter, he was able to recover Cecil’s favour and marry her.


It has been suggested by Florio’s scholars Yates 5 that John was not born in 1553 as generally reported, but in 1552, precisely after the scandalous “ act of fornication”. For the sake of clarity, Yates, after having argued that “John’s age is given on his portrait as fifty-eight in 1611, making the birth-year 1553”, in the following pages, does not seem to be at all persuaded by this opinion, since she states (in a footnote) that “Florio may have deliberately given misleading information as to his origin in order to cloak the scandal connected with his birth” [i. e.  that Florio was willing to cancel the unpleasant fact that he was the fruit of an “act of fornication”].


Michelangelo’s subsequent career in London was less agitated. He worked on translations while teaching Italian. Moreover, he probably knew, and may even have taught, the future Queen Elizabeth. As a member of the household of the Duke of Suffolk, he came into close contact with Lady Jane Grey. He became her tutor until the last days of her life, teaching her Italian and Latin. Later, he dedicated to her a book of grammar, the Regole et Institutioni della Lingua Thoscana. He also wrote Historia de la vita e de la morte de l’Illustriss. Signora Giovanna Graia published later in 1607. The book reports the persecutions suffered by the English Protestants during the reign of Mary Tudor, “Bloody Mary”. In the Preface of the book, in fact, the anonymous publisher explained that:


“The original of this book was written by his own hand by the author (Michelangelo Florio). It was found, after his death, in the home of an honored and great benefactor. (..)
I did not want, as a depositary of the will of the author, to fail to fulfill this wish. He would certainly have had this book published if he had not been prevented from very cruel persecutions. He in fact deposed it for fifty years in safe hands.”6

Historia de la vita e de la morte de l’Illustriss. Signora Giovanna Graia, 1607, Riccardo Pittore di Venezia.
Michelangelo Florio

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, painting by Paul Delaroche.


Unfortunately, when Mary Tudor ascended to the throne in 1554, she re-established Catholicism in England and Ireland. In February 1554, a royal edict proclaimed that all strangers had to avoid the realm within twenty-four days. Consequently, on the 4th of March 1554, Michelangelo and his family left England. In his Apologia Michelangelo recount his escape with John:

“…Where we were until March 4, 1554. And there left me with my little family I came to Anversa in Alemagna. And I went to Argentina (Strasbourg) for May 6th 1555. 7

Apologia, p. 108-112
Michelangelo Florio


Michelangelo, along with John went through Antwerp into Germany, staying in Strasbourg (Argentina) until the 6th of May, 1555. In this city the generous citizens offered themselves to give a first temporary refuge to the exiles for twenty days. Moreover, Michelangelo Florio had a first meeting with the noble Frederik von Salis, coming from Soglio. He invited Michelangelo to become pastor of the Reformed Evangelical Church of Graubünden in Soglio. 8 Subsequently, Michelangelo and his family departed again and arrived in Soglio on 27th of May 1555, when John was 3 years old. In Apologia Michelangelo wrote that when they arrived:

“Sufficient living is provided for myself and for my little family.” 9

Michelangelo Florio


John Florio's hometown: Soglio
Soglio is a tiny village in the Italian-speaking Val Bregaglia, surrounded by meadows and chestnut forests, and with striking mountain scenery.

Florio, with his family, arrived in Soglio on May 27th. This tiny village of Val Bregaglia had embraced the reformed doctrines. Furthermore, the Grisons canton included the Valtellina, the nearest place for Italians who escaped from Inquisition. That’s where John Florio grew up: in a large house in front of his father’s church. In the first years of his infancy, he lived a modest, humble life. While working as pastor and notary, Michelangelo educated John in an environment rich in religious and theological ferment. In addition, he taught John Italian as well as Latin, Hebrew and Greek.


Michelangelo Florio, in 1563 wrote and published De Re Metallica. This Italian translation of Giorgio Agricola’s De re metallica (L’arte de metalli) was a fundamental work about the mining techniques. He also dedicated his work to the new Protestant Queen of England, Elizabeth I. He probably did it to pave the way for his son’s coming into England. For instance, in the Dedication he wrote:

Alla Serenissima e Potentissima Lisabetta..che infino de la Sua più giovanile etade s’è ingegnata d’intendere e parlare questa mia lingua…” 10


Michelangelo Florio died in 1566. After 1566 his name is no longer mentioned. In fact, in the synod of 1571 he is mentioned as a deceased person. Furthermore, in a letter found in the municipal library of Berne (ms. A.93.II) Girolamo Torriani defended himself by the accusation made against him in the synod of 1571 asserting that he knew Michelangelo Florio, “because the heresy of these was known only after his death.”11 In conclusion, Luigi Firpo, in his book about Giorgio Agricola and Florio, explains that with Michelangelo’s death:

“A tumultuous and stormy existence darkly came to an end, not without intellectual vigor and combative dynamism among the many of the Italian cultural diaspora, in the great civil and religious crisis of our sixteenth century.”

‘Giorgio Agricola e Michelangelo Florio’, in Firpo, Scritti, pp. 245–259 p. 259
Luigi Firpo


John Florio's tutor: pier paolo vergerio
Pier Paolo Vergerio, engraving by akob Verheiden.

In 1563, at 11 years old, John Florio went to a college (Paedagogium) to be formed at Tubingen by Pier Paolo Vergerio. His tutor was an Italian Protestant reformer and Venetian university lecture, bishop of Capodistria. Moreover, Vergerio was a cultured man, well versed in modern Italian authors. In addition, he had a close friendship with John’s father. Under these circumstances, John was formed in the humanist cultural circle of Tubinga, in a strong Italianate atmosphere. During these years, he furthered his studies in Languages and Italian Literature. This was for John a fundamental period of education, travel, and formative experience, but unfortunately, he never completed his studies. Pier Paolo Vergerio, in fact, died in 1566. Without any financial and educational support, and now orphan at 14 years old, John left Tubingen. He came back temporarily to Soglio, and later departed for England.


Frances Yates asserts that Wurttemberg would have been a convenient stage for John on a gradual migration from Soglio to England. In fact, this state was in constant communication with England. 12

Similarly, she suggests that John might have spent some time in France before coming to England, given his knowledge of French. In conclusion, at about 18 years old, he arrived in London to start a new adventurous journey of his life.

- How to cite this entry:

“Resolute John Florio”, “Infancy and Formation”, URL=https://www.resolutejohnflorio.com/2019/09/19/infancy-formation.

This entry was first published on November 13, 2019. It was last modified on January 9, 2020.

- Useful links:
- Notes:
  1. Aubrey, J., Brief Lives: chiefly of Contemporaries between the Years 1669 & 1696, 1898.
  2. Facing the title page to Queen’s Anna New World of Words (1611) the inscription reads: Aet: 58 A.D. 1611, Chi si Contenta Gode.
  3. Florio, M., Apologia, 1557, p. 13, n.2.
  4. The letter, dated January 23 1552, in Latin, is reported in John Strype’s work, Memorials of the Most Reverend Father in God Thomas Cranmer (1694).
  5. Yates, F.A., John Florio The Life of an Italian in Shakespeare’s England, Cambridge University Press, 1934, p. 259, note 2, point (3)
  6. “L’originale di questo libro, scritto di propria mano dall’autore (Michelangelo Florio), fu trovato, dopo la morte di questi, nella casa di una persona onorata e grande benefattore. Non ho voluto, così come depositario della volontà dell’autore, mancare d’eseguire questo suo desiderio. Questo libro l’avrebbe sicuramente fatto pubblicare egli stesso se non ne fosse stato impedito da crudelissime persecuzioni. Egli infatti lo ha deposto per ben cinquant’anni in sicure mani.”
  7. “…Dove siamo stati fino al 4 marzo 1554 e di quivi partitomi con la mia famigliola me ne venni per Anversa in Alemagna e sono stato in Argentina ( Strasburgo) per infino il 6 maggio 1555”
  8. Florio, M, cit., p. 108-112
  9. Ci sono dati mezzi sufficienti per vivere per me e per la mia famigliuola.
  10. “To the most Serene and powerful Lisabetta…that since her youngest age she endeavoured to speak my mother tongue…”
  11. Cantimori D., Eretici italiani del Cinquecento, Torino, Einaudi, 2002, p. 292.
  12. Yates, F. A., John Florio, cit., p. 26
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