John Skelton

John Skelton, Court poet, writer and playwright, was buried in the chancel of St Margaret's church Westminster on 21st June 1529. He has no monument or inscription today but Weever, writing in 1631, recorded that he had a short inscription in Latin. This can be translated as: 

John Skelton, poet of the Muses, is sited here. Breathed out his soul 21 June 1529

It is thought he was born in about 1460, possibly in Yorkshire. He may have been in the Percy household, as he wrote an elegy on the death of the 4th Earl of Northumberland. William Caxton praised his work and Cardinal Wolsey commissioned some poems from him. He was tutor to Prince Henry (later Henry VIII) and was ordained, serving at the abbey of St Mary of Graces and then as rector of Diss in Norfolk.  As well as many poems and a few plays he translated various works into English. By 1519 he was leasing a tenement within the Sanctuary of the monastery at Westminster having incurred the wrath of Wolsey by writing a satire attacking him. During this time he composed epitaphs for some royal tombs in the Abbey which were set up on wooden boards near the monuments of Lady Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII, for example. These were printed in John Dart's 1723 history of the abbey but disappeared centuries ago.

Further reading

"Skelton, the life and times of an early Tudor poet" by H.L.R. Edwards, 1949

"The poetical works of John Skelton" edited by A. Dyce, 1864

Poem Hunter

 

Died

21st June 1529

Occupation

Writer; poet; playwright

Location

St Margaret's Church

John Skelton
St Margaret's church interior

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

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