50 Facts, Rumours and Speculations on his Life and Literary Achievements.
In September 2017 my original list of 30 Facts and Rumours on Kit Marlowe appeared on this website. It was my first attempt to compile such a list but, as there is more information known about Kit, his family and the Tudor era in which he lived, I have amended it and added a further 20 facts, rumours and speculations.
Written by @Chasquipenguin (twitter)
1. Christopher (Kit) Marlowe was born in Canterbury to shoemaker John Marlowe and his wife Katherine, their second child and eldest son.
2. He was baptised as Christofer on Wednesday, 26th February 1564 at the church of St George the Martyr, opposite the house thought to be the Marlowes’ home, located on the corner of St George’s Street and St George’s Lane.
3. It is likely he was born in the preceding few days, though his exact date of birth is unknown. It was customary then for babies to be baptised soon after birth as infant mortality rates were high.
4. His parents married at St George the Martyr on 22nd May 1561.
5. John Marlowe was from the village of Ospringe (now part of Faversham), about 10 miles from Canterbury, and thought to have been born around 1536. He was educated at the Maison Dieu in Ospringe. The building has served as a hospital, monastery, hostel and retirement home but is a museum today, with its history dating back to the 13th century.
6. John is thought to have moved to Canterbury when he was about 20 years of age, either as an apprentice shoemaker or to take up an apprenticeship in Canterbury. He became a freeman of the city in April 1564, when Kit was two months old.
7. Katherine Marlowe (née Arthur), daughter of William Arthur, is believed to have grown up in Dover.
8. John and Katherine were married for 44 years, dying within two months of each other in 1605.
9. John passed away in early 1605, and was buried in the churchyard of St George the Martyr on 26th January. Katherine passed away on 18th March 1605 and was buried the next day in the churchyard of All Saints in Canterbury, despite her will, written the day before her death, stating that she wished to be buried near her husband.
10. The Marlowes had nine children and all but the youngest were baptised at St George the Martyr:
Boy (name unknown)
Short biographies of Kit’s eight siblings are in points 11–18 below.
11. Mary – baptised on 21st May 1562 (the day after her parents’ first wedding anniversary), died at the age of six and was buried on 28th August 1568 in the St George the Martyr churchyard.
12. Margaret – baptised on 18th December 1565, married John Jordan on 15th June 1590, believed to have died in 1642 (making her 76 or 77).
13. Boy (name unknown) – baptised on 31st October 1568, buried in the churchyard on 5th November 1568. His birth was about two months after the death of Mary and does raise the question of whether his was a premature birth, possibly due to the trauma his mother was undergoing having lost her eldest child.
14. Jane – baptised on 20th August 1569, married John Moore on 22nd April 1582 at St Andrew’s, Canterbury, and is thought to have passed away in January 1583 at the age of 13. It is speculated that she died in childbirth but this is not known for certain.
15. Thomas – baptised on 26th July 1570, buried on 7th August 1570 in the churchyard of St George the Martyr.
16. Anne – baptised on 14th July 1571, married John Cranford on 10th June 1593 at St Mary Breadman, Canterbury, buried on 7th December 1652 (aged 81) in the churchyard of All Saints, Canterbury (where her mother was buried).
17. Dorothy – baptised on 18th October 1573, married Thomas Gradell on 30th June 1594 at St Mary Breadman, Canterbury, died after 1625.
18. Thomas – baptised on 8th April 1576 in St Andrew’s, Canterbury. There are no further details of him, though it is believed that, like his big brother Christopher, he attended The King’s School in Canterbury. It is not known how long he lived but as he was not mentioned in his mother’s will, it is presumed that he died before 1605.
19. Kit grew up surrounded by younger sisters. There was a difference of 12 years between him and his youngest brother Thomas, so it is unlikely the boys were very close, especially as Kit set off for Cambridge University in December 1580 when Thomas was only four.
20. The Tudor era heralded the start of free schools – petty schools for young children, who could progress to grammar schools around the age of seven. These schools taught Latin grammar, hence their name, but education was not compulsory in the 16th century.
21. It is likely Kit attended both types of school, and would have received an excellent grounding in Latin, in which he became proficient. However, there is also a theory that his father paid for him to attend The King’s School, perhaps affording the fees in part by supplying shoes to the teaching staff – the Headmaster and Lower Master.
22. At the age of 14 Kit gained a scholarship to Canterbury’s King’s School. There has been speculation that his scholarship was provided either by the school itself or by Sir Roger Manwood, a senior judge and philanthropist, also from Kent. On Sir Roger’s death in 1592, Kit wrote an elegy in Latin to him.
23. The King’s School is considered the oldest extant in England, and probably in the world, dating back to the 6th century, though the school was refounded by Henry VIII following his dissolution of the monasteries which began in 1536.
24. As a pupil at the King’s School, Kit is said to have sung in the choir of nearby Canterbury Cathedral. He would also have been required to speak in Latin, even in the playground. The school day started at 6 or 7 a.m. and continued till 5 p.m. over six days a week, with homework after this, and harsh discipline. Even though he lived fairly close to the school, it is almost certain that Kit was a boarder.
25. In 1580 Kit gained The Matthew Parker Scholarship enabling him to further his studies at Corpus Christi College (called St Bene’t’s at the time), Cambridge University, where he gained his BA in 1584 and his MA in 1587.