Vergil, Polydore

Vergil or Virgil, Polydore, 1470?-1555?, historian and humanist, b. Urbino, Italy. He studied at Bologna and Padua, served as secretary to the duke of Urbino, was chamberlain to Pope Alexander VI, and was sent to England as subcollector of Peter's pence in 1501 or 1502. He secured the patronage of Henry VII, held many ecclesiastical preferments, and became an English subject in 1510. In 1515 he was briefly imprisoned for his criticism of Thomas Wolsey. Vergil remained largely aloof from the religious controversies of the time. He returned to Italy a few years before his death. His chief work was his Anglicae historicae libri XXVI [26 books of English history] (1534). This work is the first critical history of England and the first interpretive study of Henry VII. He made use of documentary as well as chronicle sources, and though his critical techniques do not meet modern standards, he marks the beginning of modern English historical criticism.

See biography by D. Hay (1952).

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