Nobles very rarely sent their own sons to university although they often helped find places for the sons of men in their service.
Any boy who had done well at a grammar or song school could go to one of the only two universities in England: Oxford or Cambridge. Three universities were founded in Scotland in the 15th century: St Andrew’s, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
There were about 3,000 students at Oxford and Cambridge during this period.
The 15th century was a time when Catholic religious belief underpinned every aspect of life. Universities taught courses intended to better understand God’s creation of the universe through a standard curriculum.
- Trivium (‘three ways’): Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric
- Quadrivium (‘four ways’): Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astronomy
Having mastered these, they could choose to go on to do degrees in Divinity, Law or Medicine
New types of degree were introduced in the fifteenth-century: Master of Music and Master of Grammar (for school teachers).
Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, and Edward IV’s queen, Elizabeth, both helped to found Queens’ College, Cambridge. Richard III’s queen, Anne Neville, was later a patron of this college too.
Through the later middle ages Anglo-Norman French and Latin were used for most public business and literature. The use of written English gradually became more common from the middle of the fourteenth century. By the end of the fifteenth century law books were being printed in English. In 1483 Richard III had his Coronation Oath translated into English and may have been the first to swear it in English actually in the ceremony.
Latin was still the language used in church matters. If someone could quote sufficient Latin to persuade the authorities that they had been trained as a clergyman they could escape justice in the civil court and be tried in the church courts instead. These were generally more lenient and did not use the death penalty.