Sir Thomas Hoby (1530–1566) was an English diplomat and translator. He was born in 1530, the second son of William Hoby of Leominster, Herefordshire, by his second wife, Katherine, daughter of John Forden. He matriculated at St. John's College, Cambridge in 1546. Encouraged by his sophisticated half-brother, Sir Philip Hoby, he subsequently visited France, Italy, and other foreign countries, and, as Roger Ascham states, "was many wayes well furnished with learning, and very expert in knowledge of divers tongues." His tour of Italy, which included visits to Calabria and Sicily and which he documented in his autobiography, is the most extensive known to have been undertaken by an Englishman in the 16th century. In this and other respects, it may be regarded as a pioneering Grand Tour.
On 27 June 1558, Hoby married Elizabeth, third daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke, of Gidea Hall, Essex. Elizabeth was a sister-in-law of Lord Burghley and a great friend of Queen Elizabeth I. The two were resident at Bisham Abbey in Berkshire.
Hoby translated Martin Bucer's Gratulation to the Church of England (1549), and Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano (1561). The latter translation of The Courtier, entitled The Courtyer of Count Baldessar Castilio, had great popularity and was one of the key books of the English Renaissance. It provided a philosophy of life for the Elizabethan era gentleman. A reading of its pages fitted him for the full assimilation of the elaborate refinements of the new Renaissance society. It furnished his imagination with the symbol of a completely developed individual, an individual who united ethical theory with spontaneity and richness of character.
On 9 March 1566 he was knighted at Greenwich, and was sent as ambassador to France at the end of the month. At the time of his landing in Calais, on 9 April, a soldier at the town gate shot through the English flag in two places. Hoby demanded redress for the insult, and obtained it after some delay, but he was not permitted to view the new fortifications. He died at Paris on 13 July 1566, and was buried at Bisham, Berkshire, where his widow erected a monument to his memory and to that of his half-brother Sir Philip Hoby.
By his wife Elizabeth, Thomas Hoby had two sons, Edward and Thomas Posthumus (both subsequently knighted), and two daughters, who died young. The Elizabeth and Anne commemorated on the family tomb were not these daughters; they were the daughters which Hoby's wife, Elizabeth, had with her second husband Lord Russell.
- "Hoby, Thomas". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- A Book of the Travaile and Life of me Thomas Hoby, ed. Edgard Powell, Camden Society, X, 1902.
- John Hale, England and the Italian Renaissance: The Growth of Interest in its History and Art, 4th ed. E. Chaney (Blackwell: Oxford 2005)
- Edward Chaney, The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations since the Renaissance, 2nd ed (Routledge: London and New York, 2000)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Hoby, Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- Hoby family tree
- Luminarium: Life & Works of Sir Thomas Hoby
- Renascence Editions: Book of the Courtier, translated by Sir Thomas Hoby