Italian Immigrants in England, 1550-1603

Alan Haynes describes how Italian scholars, merchants and craftsmen were welcomed in Elizabethan London and enjoyed high patronage.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries England became an increasingly attractive haven for Italian, French and Flemish artisans, craftsmen, merchants, entrepreneurs and scholars of varying distinction. Italians had, of course, come to England before 1550, but rarely stayed - their insistent cultural superiority meant that England appeared uncouth, not to say barbarous.

Henry VIII, as became a humanist prince of considerable pretension, employed Italians at Nonesuch; had Guido Mazzoni design a tomb for his parents, which was rejected in favour of that of Torrigiani now in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey, and also gave work to the mysterious John of Padua and Antonio Toto da Nunziata, who was primarily concerned with the staging and production of court masques.

At the same time, Henry’s army for dealing with the Scots was a remarkably heterogeneous, not to say unmanageable one, including Albanians, Hungarians, Spaniards and Italians. Captain Francesco Tiberio was one of the mercenary commanders, along with Captain Paolo Baptista Spinola, whose mercenaries were harquebusiers.

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