10 Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know About John Skelton

Are you fond of literature and intrigued by historical personalities? Then you have definitely heard about John Skelton, the famous poet laureate of the early Tudor era. But there’s so much more about Skelton you probably aren’t familiar with. So let’s unearth ten fascinating facts about this 15th-century poet that remain relatively unknown.

1. Skyrocketing Early Education

John Skelton was not an ordinary poet. His intelligence was recognized early on, and he got a chance to study at Cambridge University. What’s noteworthy is Skelton earned his Bachelor of Arts degree as a mere teenager at the age of 15, a feat that’s quite a rarity even by today’s standards.

Furthermore, he was awarded the title of ‘poet laureate’, which was then an academic degree in rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy, at the young age of 19. This early academic success was a clear testament to his intellectual prowess.

2. Skelton’s Innovative Verse Style: Skeltonic Verse

John Skelton was not only a poet but an innovator. He developed his unique style of writing, known as ‘Skeltonic Verse’ or ‘Skeltonics’. This verse form breaks away from the traditional rhymed iambic pentameter and instead uses irregular short verses featuring two to four stresses and an abundance of rhyming.

His utilization of this verse form demonstrates Skelton’s daring deviation from traditional English poetry norms. Notable poems in this verse style include ‘Colin Clout’ and ‘Philip Sparrow.’

3. As the King’s Tutor

It’s not common knowledge that Skelton was the tutor of King Henry VIII during the royal’s childhood. As the King’s tutor, Skelton played a critical role in shaping King Henry VIII’s intellectual upbringing, and he wielded considerable influence in the royal court during the early years of King Henry VIII’s reign.

However, as Henry grew up and diverged from Skelton’s teachings, Skelton found himself losing favor. Despite the fall from grace, his contributions to the young king’s education solidify his place in British historical records.

4. Rector of Diss

Along with being a poet and a tutor, Skelton was also a religious figure. In 1504, he was appointed ‘Rector of Diss’ in Norfolk, where he continued writing and producing his works of literature and conveying his messages to the audience from a religious platform.

However, his time in Diss wasn’t all harmonious. He developed several contentious relationships with local gentry and faced allegations of misconduct, giving an intriguing twist to his otherwise illustrious life.

5. Skelton’s Satire

Skelton’s poetry is often characterized by a keen sense of satire, especially in regards to clerical abuses and political issues. His verses were edged with sharp social criticism, conveyed with humor and wit. Some of his satirical poems openly criticized the powerful personalities of his time, including Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

This audacious approach often landed Skelton in trouble, but he carried on, unperturbed. His satirical works continue to be admired and studied, being reflective of the socio-political scenario of Tudor England.

6. Royal Disapproval

Despite initially having the King’s favor, Skelton’s position slipped owing to his unflinching commentary and criticism of the monarchy and political figures. His outspoken verses led to his disfavor in the court of King Henry VIII, especially following his satirical attack on Cardinal Wolsey.

Ultimately, Skelton’s daring and audacious nature cost him his connection to the royal court. He spent his last years in the sanctuary of Westminster fearing persecution, which significantly contrasted with his earlier influential status.

7. Skelton’s Unknown Birth and Death

Surprisingly, despite Skelton’s significant contributions to English literature, the exact dates of his birth and death remain a mystery. Historians speculate that Skelton was born around 1460, while his death is supposed to have occurred around June 21, 1529.

This adds a layer of enigma to Skelton’s life, considering how a person of such importance and influence has unrecorded dates of birth and death.

8. Influence Over Modern Writers

Even centuries after his death, Skelton’s influence continues to reign in modern literature. Many writers and poets have claimed to be influenced by his works, including prominent figures like Robert Louis Stevenson, T. S. Eliot, and Robert Graves.

These writers admired his unique style, wit, and boldness, highlighting how Skelton’s legacy extends far beyond the 15th-century borders.

9. Multilingual Poet

Another aspect of Skelton’s prowess was his ability to use multiple languages in his poems. He effortlessly interspersed Latin and English, bridging the gap between the two languages and their cultures, thereby showcasing his linguistic aptitude.

This style of narrative also reflected his educated background, further establishing his stature as a prestigious poet.

10. Inspiration for Children’s Literature

Perhaps surprising to many, Skelton’s poetry has found a place even in children’s literature. The popular nursery rhyme ‘Ride a Cockhorse to Banbury Cross’ is believed to be inspired by Skelton’s poem ‘The Tunning of Elynour Rumming.’

The rhythm, playfulness, and simplicity of his verses have made them suitable for children’s rhymes. This interesting fact proves that Skelton’s work appeals to a broad range of audiences, further elevating his status as a timeless poet.

After delving into these lesser-known facts about John Skelton, it becomes evident that his influence, creativity, and audacious personality extend far beyond his poetry. Readers interested in learning more about this fascinating figure may refer to the following resources:

Britannica’s Biography on John Skelton

Luminarium’s Dedicated Page to John Skelton

Truly, John Skelton remains a compelling figure in the annals of English literature and history.