Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > English Grammar Schools > Eton
  Winchester Henry Savile  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XIV. English Grammar Schools.

§ 3. Eton.

Eton, on the other hand, now begins to enter on a career of marked improvement, after a series of depressing experiences. It had seen the lilies tremble on the college shield, and ultimately disappear, altogether, from the shield of the foundation at Cambridge. But the wise supervision exercised by Waynfiete, as provost, continued to operate after his promotion to the see of Winchester, and was continued, with equal ability, by his successor, William Westbury, promoted from the headmastership. It is scarcely an exaggeration, indeed, to assert that the rule of the latter, which extended over a whole generation, was the salvation of the college, for it was by Westbury’s courage and tact that the designs of Edward IV—to whom, far more justly than to the sixth of the name, the epithet of “despoiler” might have been applied—were ultimately frustrated. Had the fourth Edward been able to accomplish his purpose, the entire foundation of Eton college would have become merged in that of the dean and chapter at Windsor, and the name of Henry VI would have disappeared as that of a founder.  3  As it was, the progress of the college was materially checked, for many years after; and, not until about the time that the college on the banks of the Cam was beginning to acquire new lustre by the completion of its noble chapel, did something of a like prestige begin to gather round the college on the banks of the Isis. The revenues of Eton, however, continued to decline; although, in 1536, along with Winchester, it succeeded in obtaining exemption from payment of tithes; and it was only with the accession of Edward VI that any appreciable change for the better took place. The interest shown by that monarch in Eton affairs is probably attributable, in part, to the fact that Richard Cox, who had preceded Udall in the headmastership (1528–34), was both the young king’s tutor and almoner; while the increase in the number of oppidans, noticeable after the dissolution of the monasteries, may be explained by the fact that they brought with them (although contrary to the founder’s designs) a certain augmentation of their teachers’ scanty incomes. In the first year of Edward’s reign, the college acquired certain advowsons and estates which had before been held by the suppressed orders.  4  Cox’s successor, Udall—described by Walter Haddon as the “best schoolmaster and the greatest beater” of his time—can hardly be said to have raised the reputation either of the Winchester where he had been educated or of the college which he was called upon to rule, although he so far outlived the obloquy which he encountered as to die master of the school at Westminster. But the precarious condition of affairs throughout the country, which menaced every institution and every office, is also to be recognised in the fact that the headmastership of Eton was held by no less than twenty-one individuals during the sixteenth century. The function of the provost was to exercise a general superintendence over the financial administration and also to ensure a due performance of the duties attaching to each subordinate office—not excepting that of the headmaster himself.   4

Note 3. See Maxwell Lyte, Hist. of Eton College, chap. IV. [ back ]
Note 4. Lipscombe, G., Hist. and Ant. of the County of Buckingham, IV., 474. [ back ]

  Winchester Henry Savile  

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