The son of a master mariner, Lancelot Andrewes grew up in London, the oldest of twelve children. He was sent to school, instead of to work, where he mastered Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and won a scholarship to Cambridge. There he took up an academic career, becoming fluent in fifteen modern European languages as well as Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic, studying theology, and becoming a priest.
Andrewes was known as “an angel in the pulpit” for his innovative, scholarly, and pleasingly delivered sermons, which won admiration from figures as diverse as the playwright Thomas Nashe and Queen Elizabeth. His appointment as dean of Westminster was the highest and last of his many honors from the queen, and at first gave his company of translators the chance to meet at Westminster Abbey’s Jerusalem Chamber. In 1605, he was promoted again, to bishop of Chichester; it is uncertain where the translators gathered after that.
Although Andrewes disliked sports, he loved to walk and discuss intellectual topics. As dean of Westminster, he took an active role in instructing the choir-school pupils and enjoyed teaching “a brace of this young Fry” by walking and talking “with way-faring Leisure.” His brother Roger, though never matching Lancelot in distinction, often followed him professionally; Roger Andrewes was a translator in the First Cambridge Company.