Personal and Family Life

Lancelot Andrewes was born in 1555 in the London parish of All Hallows, Barking, by the Tower of London. He was one of twelve children born to Thomas and Joan Andrewes. Thomas was a mariner from Hordon on the Hill, Essex. Through their industry Thomas and Joan were able to accumulate a sizeable estate. Grateful for his parentage, Lancelot on one occasion expressed thanks he was "not the sad egg of sorry crows".

Lancelot was the oldest child of his family, born when his parents may not have had the prosperity they later enjoyed. As a boy of eight he enrolled at the Coopers' Free School which has been described as a charity school maintained by the Cooper's Guild for "poore mens children". The schoolmaster was Thomas Ward, who played a pivotal role in young Lancelot's life. Thomas Ward recognized in his young charge great scholarly promise. He is credited with persuading Lancelot's parents to continue his schooling rather than apprentice him to a trade. Thomas and Joan Andrewes' decision proved decisive to Lancelot and to the world. Among Andrewes' prominent character traits were gratitude and generosity. He never forgot what Thomas Ward did for him, and played a decisive role in the life of Ward's son, Robert, who like Lancelot, became one of the Translators of the King James Bible (hereinafter KJB), (see Robert Ward biography).

When Andrewes was about ten years old, he entered Merchant Taylors' School, London. The headmaster of the school was Richard Mulcaster (see Bio Bits) who became one of the most noted educators of his time. He, like Ward, was a major influence in Lancelot Andrewes' life. Mulcaster introduced his students not only to the classical languages of Latin and Greek, but to Hebrew as well. He took special pains to expose his students to music, drama and oratory. Mulcaster's curriculum proved invaluable to Andrewes.

As a young student Lancelot was intense. A contemporary biographer said:

From his tender years he was totally addicted to the study of letters. Andrewes studied so hard that his parents had to force play upon him. He never loved or used any games of ordinary recreation, either within doors as cards, dice, table chess, or abroad as bats, quoits, bowls or any such, but his ordinary exercise and recreation was walking, alone by himself or with some other selected companion, with whom he might confer or argue and recount their studies.

Fellow students of Lancelot at Merchant Taylors' included the great poet, Edmund Spenser as well as five future Translators. Spenser was one with whom he walked and talked.

Andrewes held his schoolmaster, Richard Mulcaster, in such high regard that in later years he placed Mulcaster's picture over the door of his study in tribute, and for continuing inspiration. Andrewes even remembered Mulcaster's son, Peter, in his will.

At age sixteen he began his university studies, having been awarded a scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge funded by Thomas Watts, archdeacon of Middlesex. Pembroke, though a thoroughly Protestant college, was less Puritanical than others. His friend Edmund Spenser also chose Pembroke. While at the university, Lancelot demonstrated the same scholarly rigor that marked his work at Merchant Taylors'. He continued to avoid games and recreation other than walking. He stayed at the college year round until he graduated B.A. Thereafter, as he pursued advanced degrees he traveled home once a year, walking each way. Lancelot loved nature:

He would often profess that to observe the grass, herbs, corn, trees, cattle, earth, water, heavens, any of the creatures, and to contemplate their natures, orders, virtues, uses was ever to him the greatest mirth, content and creation that could be.

Even while on vacation at home he pursued his studies, engaging his father to seek out a teacher to tutor him in a language he had not yet acquired. This may account for how he mastered at least fifteen languages during his lifetime. As he worked towards his B.D. he learned Arabic, Aramaic (Chaldee) and Syriac.

In the course of his studies he was given administrative and teaching responsibility at his college and in these, as in his studies, he flourished. His public lectures were popularly attended and many were subsequently published, some without his approval. They show that in his student years at Cambridge he entertained a more Puritan perspective than in his later life. Puritanism was marked by a belief in pre-destination and limited salvation. Later in life Lancelot moved to a broader view of universal grace, and salvation based on individual choice. Nonetheless, he counted as esteemed colleagues men such as the Puritan sage, Laurence Chaderton. A constant throughout his life was his recognition of constituted church authority, and the efficacy of sacramental observance as it was maintained in the Church of England.

During his time at Cambridge he was the beneficiary of the generous patronage of Sir Francis Walsingham, and others of the aristocracy with whom he associated. Likely it was through the good offices of such men as Walsingham that Lancelot finally left Cambridge for London, first as a parish priest and later as chaplain to royalty. He went on to hold other high offices in the church and at court. London proved to be the center of his activity for the rest of his life, though he traveled often to fulfill church responsibilities.

Lancelot Andrewes continued in London to write, and preach. His writing was at the request of the king to act as advocate and responder on issues of importance. His ecclesiastical assignments in London gave him the opportunity to develop his skill in management. As history shows, he not only enjoyed administration, but was very good at it.

His first loves, however, were teaching and preaching. Of these he never seemed to tire. When he was appointed dean of Westminster in 1601, he had responsibility not only for the administration of Westminster Cathedral, but also the Westminster school for boys of which he was the titular head. Though his responsibilities with the cathedral were substantial, he chose to be involved in the actual teaching of students as well as in school administration. Andrewes directed a classical curriculum for the students, filling their time fully from morning until night with instruction, and study related activities. He took part in their oral examinations and personally tutored the senior students in the evening up to four times a week in sessions that lasted three hours. Students recalled that despite his intensity, he was not in the least austere, and that he delighted in taking long walks with a brace of young pupils as he had with his colleagues at Cambridge.

Lancelot Andrewes was called "an angel in the pulpit", so exalted was his delivery and so powerful the content of his sermons and lectures. During his lifetime he delivered hundreds of both. His audiences included Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, the scholarly community, his fellow churchmen, students, and of course, the community.

What is known of his thought is largely derived from his sermons, many of which are preserved in written form. Reading them demonstrates what Brightman described as "his extraordinarily minute knowledge of the holy scriptures". He had an encyclopedic knowledge of scripture, and also of the writings of the early Church Fathers. He was familiar with contemporary thinkers and writers as well.

Brightman also observed that Lancelot Andrewes "took up what he found and fused it into a new whole and that, often with poetic distinction".

The great poet T. S. Eliot, described Andrewes' ability with language this way:

He takes a word and delivers the world from it. Squeezing and squeezing the word until it yields a full juice of meaning, which we should never have supposed any word to possess.

In fact, Eliot begins his poem, The Coming of the Magi, with nearly a direct quote from Andrewes' sermon on the Epiphany at Christmas 1622:

A cold coming we had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off, the very dead of winter.

Beyond his abilities, stand his character and personality. He was humble, seemingly without any over reaching ambition that is self promoting often at other's expense. He was courageous, taking stands he knew would not be popular but which he felt were correct. He was generous to the poor and, as has been mentioned, he always remembered with kindness and generosity those who had ever helped him. He was generous to them and to their families as well (see biography of Translator Robert Ward).

He was always loyal to his friends (see biography of Translator Nicholas Felton). He was a persuasive voice for mercy when others were calling for justice (see biography of Translator George Abbot). He was a devoutly spiritual man who rose before dawn and spent upwards of five hours a day in prayer and meditation. He was very much outward directed, thinking of others before himself. He certainly was not without faults as he would have been the first to acknowledge. Nonetheless, he was a grand man.

Lancelot Andrewes' health began to decline in 1621, and he died at Winchester House, London on 25 September 1626. He was buried with great ceremony at nearby Southwark Cathedral, where his tomb is marked by a monument portraying in sculpture, his reclining figure.

Lancelot Andrewes never married, but had a large extended family and many, many friends.


Lancelot Andrewes entered the Cooper's Free School, Stepney, East London in 1563. He likely stayed there under the tutelage of Thomas Ward, the schoolmaster until 1569 when he entered the Merchant Taylors' School, London, headed by Richard Mulcaster.

Andrewes was one of six students who, in 1571, were awarded a Watts scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge. He graduated B.A. in 1575, proceeded M.A. in 1579, B.D. in 1585, and later D.D.


Lancelot Andrewes, like many of the Translators, led a career both at the university and in the church. His first academic office was as a fellow of Pembroke College. This was followed by his appointment as college catechist. As catechist he delivered lectures to the university and Cambridge community on the Ten Commandments.

He was ordained a deacon and priest on the same day, 11 Jun 1580, by William Chaderton, Bishop of Chester. The next year he was appointed treasurer of Pembroke. In 1586 Andrewes was appointed chaplain to the Earl of Huntingdon.

Sir Francis Walsingham, one of Lancelot Andrewes' patrons, fearing an appointment of Lancelot to a rural parish would not optimize his talent, arranged an appointment as vicar of St. Giles Cripplegate in London (1588). Successive appointments included prebendary of St. Pancras in St. Paul's and prebendary in Southwell Minster (1589), master of Pembroke College (1589-1605), chaplain to archbishop John Whitgift and to Queen Elizabeth as well as admission to Gray's Inn (all in 1590). The queen appointed him first as canon (1597), then as dean of Westminster (1601). As dean he assisted in the coronation of King James in 1603.

Lancelot Andrewes was consecrated Bishop of Chichester in 1605 upon the appointment of the king. This bishopric entitled its holder to take office as "lord almoner", the highest court office in the land. The lord almoner had responsibility, as the name suggests, for the distribution of alms to the poor, and also by custom to be the sovereign's preferred preacher. As such, Andrewes delivered sermons to the king and court on special holidays.

Subsequently, he was appointed Bishop of Ely (1609) and of Winchester (1614-1626) as well as the Dean of Chapel Royal.

Lancelot Andrewes and the Translation

Lancelot Andrewes was designated by the king as the chief of the Westminster Translators and director of the First Company. The First Westminster Company had responsibility for translating the Old Testament from Genesis through 2 Kings. Andrewes likely had a major hand in the selection of all the Westminster Translators. He had been at the Hampton Court Conference where the new translation had its beginning and was a major influence in the project after that.

The men of the Westminster Companies all lived in London, or within a day's journey of the city, so as to be able to attend their regular meetings. A November 1604 letter from Lancelot Andrewes makes clear that his company had begun the work of translation. Tradition has it that Lancelot Andrewes' Company began its work in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey.

Though no record of the work of Andrewes' company survives, the finished product speaks for itself. Lancelot Andrewes' influence goes well beyond what his company did. His personal encouragement, mentoring, and example served to inspire all the Translators, knowing that this man, whom they all admired, would be reviewing their work.

Bio Bits

Richard Mulcaster, the school master at Merchant Taylors' School, London was not only the teacher of Lancelot Andrewes, but of future Translators, John Spenser, Ralph Hutchinson, Giles Thomson, Ralph Ravens, and John Perin as well. He was also the teacher of the famed poet Edmund Spenser. While but one of the many mentors of the Translators, he typifies the enormous influence for good of the many men and women who made the work of the Translators possible.

Mulcaster was born near Carlisle, Cumberland. He studied at Eton College, King's and Peterhouse Colleges, Cambridge, and Christ Church College, Oxford. He graduated B.A. at Cambridge and proceeded M.A. at Oxford. During his college years he was taken to the Tower in London and possibly tortured by investigators probing a theft from a famous Londoner, John Caius. Richard served in Queen Elizabeth I's parliament, and in 1561 married. He was appointed headmaster at Merchant Taylors' School in 1560 at age twenty-eight or twenty-nine. He remained at the school for twenty-six years. He had previously been ordained a priest and when he left Merchant Taylors' he served as a minister, and continued teaching at other schools, including St. Paul's School.

He retired to Stanford Rivers, Essex, where he and his wife, Katherine, lived until their deaths in 1611 and 1609, respectively. Richard died just weeks prior to the publication of the King James Bible that he influenced so greatly in an indirect way. He will also be remembered for his educational writings which continued to be consulted for generations.