18. Queen Elizabeth I faced many struggles being a woman in a man’s world, but her language skills helped her rule over her kingdom
Young princes and princesses have almost always benefited from the finest education possible – and the girl who would go on to become Queen Elizabeth I of England was no exception. However, while such tutoring was often wasted on young royals, Elizabeth thrived in such an environment. By all accounts, she was an extremely bright and diligent pupil, excelling in the arts, sciences and in culture. And, of course, Elizabeth was a keen linguist. In fact, it was claimed that the future queen was fluent in six languages by the age of 11.
The princess would have been expected to learn foreign languages once she reached five years old. By this point, however, she already knew English, her mother tongue, as well as Welsh, the language of her first governess. From this point on, she had daily lessons in French from Jean Belmain, a private tutor who also worked at the prestigious University of Cambridge. She also had daily lessons with Richard Cox. While he was the Provost of Eton, an all-boys school, he taught the princess both Greek and Latin on the side.
In all, Elizabeth spoke English, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Welsh and French, all fluently. It’s also believed that she had a good understanding of Flemish and Italian. According to Roger Ascham, the scholar who served as her final tutor, Elizabeth truly excelled at languages, was blessed with flawless recall and could speak in a range of different accents. She would put such skills to good use after she was crowned Queen of England and Ireland in November 1558. In particular, she used her knowledge of foreign languages to shape her foreign policy. Indeed, it might even be the case that her knowledge of their own language helped Elizabeth plot victory over the Spanish, most notably with the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, still regarded as one of the finest and most significant military victories in all of English history.