Francis Kynaston

(1587-1642 / England)

Biography of Francis Kynaston

Sir Francis Kynaston or Kinaston (1587–1642) was an English courtier and poet, noted for his translation of Geoffrey Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde into Latin verse (as rime royal, Amorum Troili et Creseidae Libri Quinque, 1639); he also made a Latin translation of Henryson's The Testament of Cresseid.

He was born at Oteley, near Ellesmere, Shropshire, eldest son of Sir Edward Kinaston, by Isabel, daughter of Sir Nicholas Bagenall. His father was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1599. On 11 December 1601 Francis matriculated at Oriel College, Oxford, and graduated B.A. from St Mary Hall on 14 June 1604, M.A. at Oxford on 11 November 1611. He was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1611. On leaving the university in 1613, he married Margaret, daughter of Sir Humphry Lee, bart., by whom he had one son. He was knighted by James I at Theobalds on 21 December 1618, was M.P. for Shropshire in 1621–2, was taxor of Cambridge University in 1623, and was proctor there in 1634. He became esquire of the body to Charles I on his accession.

At court Kinaston was the centre of a literary coterie. In 1635 he founded an academy of learning, called the Musæum Minervæ, for which he obtained a license under the great seal, a grant of arms, and a common seal; Charles also contributed from the treasury. Kinaston gave his own house in Bedford Street, Covent Garden, for the college, with ambitions to move into Chelsea College. He furnished it with books, manuscripts, musical and mathematical instruments, paintings, and statues, at his own expense. He was himself the regent, and his friends Edward May, Michael Mason, Thomas Hunt, Nicholas Fiske, John Spiedal (Spidall), and Walter Salter were professors in various areas. According to the Constitutions published by Kinaston in 1636, only the nobility and gentry were to be admitted to the college, the object of which was to prepare candidates for a Grand Tour. The full course was to occupy seven years; no gentleman was ‘to exercise himself at once about more than two particular sciences, arts, or qualities, whereof one shall be intellectual, the other corporall.’ The regent taught the following subjects: heraldry, a practical knowledge of deeds and the principles and processes of common law, antiquities, coins, husbandry. Music, dancing and behaviour, riding, sculpture, and writing also formed important parts of the curriculum.

On 27 February 1636 Prince Charles, the Duke of York, and others visited the museum, and a masque by Kinaston, entitled Corona Minervæ, was performed in their presence. In July of the same year Sir George Peckham bequeathed money to the institution.

Shortly after this, Kynaston was preoccupied with a certain ‘hanging furnace,’ recommended by him to the lords of the admiralty for ships of war. Kinaston died in 1642, and was buried at Oteley. The museum appears to have perished with the death of its founder. Its site was marked by Kynaston's Alley, Bedfordbury.

Kinaston published a translation of Chaucer's ‘Troilus and Cressida,’ with a commentary, prefaced by fifteen short poems by Oxford writers, including William Strode and Dudley Digges (Oxford, 1635). Kinaston also contributed to the Musæ Aulicæ by Arthur Johnston, a rendering in English verse of Johnston's Latin poems, London, 1635, and was author of an heroic romance in verse, Leoline and Sydanis, containing some of the legendary history of Wales and Anglesey, published with Cynthiades: Sonnets to his Mistresse (technically not precisely of the sonnet form) addressed by Kinaston to his mistress under the name of Cynthia (London, 1642).

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England Of Her Selfe

VVhile towards the North the King his course doth steare,
I was neere drownd in griefe with many a teare,
Now hee is going, griefe doth stint those showres,
For greater then teares is this griefe of ours.

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