Born in London, John Florio was of Anglo-Italian origin. He referred to himself as "an Englishman in Italiane". John's father, Michelangelo Florio, born in Tuscany, had been a Franciscan friar before converting to the Protestant faith. He got into trouble with the Inquisition in Italy, after preaching in Naples, Padua, and Venice. Seeking refuge in England during the reign of Edward VI, he was appointed pastor of the Italian Protestant congregation in London in 1550. He was also a member of the household of William Cecil. He was dismissed from both on a charge of immorality, but William Cecil later fully forgave him.
Michelangelo Florio then became Italian tutor to Lady Jane Grey and in the family of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, father of Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke who would become the husband of Mary Sidney, sister of Philip Sidney. He dedicated a book to Henry Herbert and Jane Grey, his highest-ranking pupils: Regole de la lingua thoscana (Rules of the Tuscan language). Lady Jane Grey's youth, faith, and death affected him deeply and later, in seclusion, in Soglio in Switzerland, he wrote a book about her life. It was only published in 1607 but written around 1561/1562. He describes her as a martyr and innocent "saint". It is possible that he had witnessed some of the events surrounding her or had told her about the persecutions in Italy.
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