Talk:William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley

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Questions of Fact[edit]

"King Harold" - Harold I (Harold Harefoot) or Harold II (Harold Godwinson)? / Elinnea 15:24, 27 March 2006 (UTC)

Questions of Ancestry[edit]

In the article I read "There is now no doubt that the family was from the Welsh Marches," but there is.[1]

The authentic history of the house of Cecil may be said to begin with David Cyssell, or Syssell, of Stamford, the grandfather of Lord Burghley. Unfortunately Burghley delighted in heraldry and genealogy, a dangerous hobby in those days, when even the kings-of-arms were not above manufacturing a long pedigree for a man of wealth and position. Numerous scraps of pedigrees and genealogical notes in Burghley's handwriting exist at Hatfield, which, if they prove nothing else, show at least that the pedigree which was finally accepted was the outcome of a dozen other versions which did not work out satisfactorily. "The collections made for him," says Mr. Oswald Barron, " are suspect in their origin and untrustworthy in detail, and it might have been better for the modern genealogist had Burghley been careless of his source, for we have on this side the suspicion of documents tampered with, and on the other side the suspicion that inconvenient fact has been suppressed."
According to the official pedigree, David Cyssell was the younger son of Richard Cicell of Allt yr Ynys in Herefordshire, and his descent is traced back through fifteen generations to one Robert Sytsylt, who, in the year 1091, assisted Robert Fitzhamon in the conquest of Glamorganshire, and was the father of Sir James Sitsilt, baron of Beauport. In the course of four centuries the family is said to have become allied by marriage to many of the most ancient and eminent families in the county of Hereford, such as the Frenes, Pembridges, Baskervilles, De la Beres, and others, yet it is a surprising fact that throughout this long period its name does not once appear among the sheriffs of the county, nor among its representatives in Parliament, nor even in the list of the gentry of Herefordshire drawn up in the reign of Henry VI., though that list contains many of the names which are enumerated among the Cecil alliances.
Returning to reasonable probabilities, it may be said that although the pedigrees which assign a long lineage to the Cicelts or Seycelds of Allt yr Ynys are entirely untrustworthy, there seems no reason to doubt that a connection did exist between them and the Cecils of Stamford.
The history of David Cecil, the younger son of Richard, is of greater interest, as he was the founder of his family's fortunes. Through his grandmother he was related to Sir David Philipp, who accompanied Henry VII. out of Wales and fought at Bosworth Field, afterwards settling at Thornhaugh in Northamptonshire. Burghley states that David Cecil followed Sir David Philipp in the campaign, and " Davy Scisseld " proved his will in 1506 as one of his executors. Further proof of the identity of Burghley's grandfather with the Welsh David is afforded by the fact that the former was one of the yeomen of the guard, who were chiefly composed of Henry's Welsh followers.

Apithonor (talk) 12:05, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

Serious POV[edit]

I suggest that we confront the POV issue head-on and that someone create a separate "Historical Perspectives" section. It could include a summary or quotes from the EB article; it should incorporate the Cobbett take currently headed "Description" (inappropriate as Cobbett wasn't a contemporary). (Though it's great writing, whether or not you agree with it!) We should state explicitly that Cecil is someone whose actions and character are the subject of discussion and controversy. And that this is partly due to how people feel about the issues he was involved with (the Reformation, the succession, the nature and future of English forms of government, the nature and future of historical events in England). And that this highlights the importance of his place in English history--whether one thinks highly of him or not. John Guy's recent bio of Mary Queen of Scots certainly provides some fodder--Cecil as Mary's nemesis, and as a not entirely a true servant to Elizabeth.Myrmidon2000 (talk) 13:16, 19 October 2008 (UTC)

There was nothing heroic about Cecil or his policy; it involved a callous attitude towards struggling Protestants abroad. - Just one example of the many POV comments that pervade the latter half of this article. If no one raises any objections, I will rewrite this and other sentences. Walton monarchist89 16:03, 15 January 2007 (UTC)

Sure, just remember that statements like this are sourced to the 1911 EB, and your own personal statements may be sourced only to you. Any controversial statements should be quoted and cited to some secondary work, and you can't be the author :) Wjhonson 08:02, 16 January 2007 (UTC)
But it isn't marked with a ref to the EB, so at the moment it just looks like uncited POV/OR. Probably better to put it in quote marks and include a direct EB citation, for the sake of clarity. Walton monarchist89 09:21, 17 January 2007 (UTC)
When the article was created, it was copied, entire, from the 1911 EB. Each statement wasn't marked, just the whole article was. I believe the 1911 EB is actually online, in a pristine form, so it can be googled to see what it did or didn't say previously. Wjhonson 18:19, 17 January 2007 (UTC)

The previous section as well, where it notes his lack of courage. The Burghley of this article is about as close to reality as Richard Attenborough's performance in the film Elizabeth, where he's played as a fussy old man obsessed with the queen's bedsheets. Not at all. I think it's acceptable to tone down the Brittannica bias, without altering statements of fact, in order to give an NPOV balance.--Shtove 14:58, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

Of course the objection to that might be that you are white-washing the article with your own pov. Now if you could actually cite your sources that would probably be fine. Wjhonson 08:59, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
True. The EB article isn't so bad, now that I read through it. Bit light on the later, more important years. Burghley is a big subject - one of England's outstanding statesmen - and a lot has been written about him from various POVs. The handiest balancing source would probably be the latest DNB. Anyone?--Shtove 16:20, 19 February 2007 (UTC)
An interesting debate, thanks for sharing it. I don't have much to add except that I'm not sure Burghley's DNB entry would help very much. The Britannica text quoted in the article was written by the Elizabethan historian Prof Albert F Pollard (1869-1948) and, as his Wikipedia entry reminds us, Pollard also wrote over 500 entries in DNB, so what's the betting Burghley's DNB entry is also largely by Pollard?! Daniel Longhurst 22:38, 19 September 2007 (UTC)

Here is the 1886 DNB entry Cecil, William, LORD BURGHLEY (1520–1598), minister of state, the only son of Richard Cecil of Burleigh in the parish of Stamford Baron St. Martin, Northamptonshire, by Jane, daughter and heiress of William Heckington of Bourn, Lincolnshire, was born at his grandfather's house in Bourn on 13 Sept. 1520. Though immense pains were taken to construct a long pedigree of the family by no less a person than Camden the antiquary, and though Cecil himself spared no effort to prove his descent from an ancient stock of notable personages, it has hitherto proved impossible, and probably will always remain so, to trace the origin of the family further back than the great statesman's grandfather, David Cecil. This gentleman was early taken into favour by Henry VII, under whom he held some office of trust, the nature of which does not appear. As early as 1507 he had founded a chantry in St. George's Church, Stamford, and was apparently then ‘yeoman of the chamber’ to the king. On the accession of Henry VIII he rose in favour, became high sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1529 and 1530, and died in 1541, being then in the enjoyment of various offices and emoluments which had been bestowed upon him by his sovereign. The same astuteness in making the most of his opportunities and advancing his fortunes was observable in his son Richard. He, too, was a courtier. In his youth he was a royal page; in 1520 he was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold; he rose to be groom of the robes and constable of Warwick Castle. He was high sheriff of Rutland in 1539, and was one of those who received no inconsiderable share of the plunder of the monasteries, and when he died (19 May 1552) he left an ample estate behind him in the counties of Rutland, Northampton, and elsewhere. William received his early training at the grammar schools of Stamford and Grantham. In May 1535 he entered at St. John's College, Cambridge, being then in his fifteenth year. He had already given unmistakable signs of his great abilities, was doubtless a precocious youth, and had acquired a certain mastery over the Greek language, which at that time was an accomplishment few young people could boast of. It is even said that he ‘read the Greek lecture’ in the college before he was nineteen, but this is probably a perversion of facts or a mere fable. St. John's was at this time the most famous place of education in England, and numbered among its fellows several enthusiastic scholars who were soon to win substantial recognition as men of learning. Foremost among them were the courtly Roger Ascham [q.v.] —five years older than Cecil—and the unfortunate John Cheke, whom men esteemed the profoundest Grecian of his time. Cheke was admitted to a fellowship at St. John's in March 1529. His father, who occupied the position of university beadle, died a few months after this, and left but a scanty provision for his widow and their young family. Mrs. Cheke was driven to support her children as best she could, and she kept a small wine shop in the parish of St. Mary's. Her son's reputation increased from year to year, and when Cecil came up to St. John's he threw himself with eagerness and enthusiasm into the studies of the place and became a devoted friend and pupil of the great Greek professor. The intimacy between the two young men took Cecil to Mrs. Cheke's house more frequently than was prudent, and when scarcely out of his teens he lost his heart to Cheke's sister Mary, with a fortune of 40l., which was all her father could leave her, and no further expectations in the world. It seems that news came to Cecil's father that his only son had become fascinated by the wineseller's daughter, and the news was not pleasant to him just at the time when he was actually high sheriff for Rutlandshire, and a great future might be in store for the heir of his estates. Young Cecil was at once removed from Cambridge, without taking a degree, though he had resided already six years at the university, and he was entered as a student at Gray's Inn on 6 May 1541. If the motive of his abrupt departure from Cambridge was to prevent a mésalliance, the plan failed. Two months after he came up to London Cecil married Mary Cheke, probably secretly, for the place of the marriage has not been discovered. Indeed, it looks as if the union was concealed for a considerable time, for Thomas, the future earl of Exeter [q.v.] , the only fruit of the marriage, was born at Cambridge on 5 May 1542, and therefore presumably in the house of his grandmother. The marriage was so distasteful to Cecil's father that he is said to have altered his will, or, at any rate, had intended to do so; but the young wife did not live long to enjoy her married happiness or to seriously interfere with her husband's advancement. She died on 22 Feb. 1544. This is the one romantic episode of the great statesman's life. It should be added, to his honour, that he kept up the friendliest intercourse with his wife's family, and when his mother-in-law died in 1548, she bequeathed all her ‘wine potts,’ with her ‘second feather bed,’ to her eldest daughter, but her ‘new bed, with the bolsters and hangings,’ she bequeathed to her grandson, ‘Thomas Sysell,’ to be kept by her executors in trust ‘untill the said Thomas shall come to school to Cambridge.’

As Cecil had been a diligent student at the university, so he continued to apply himself to the study of law at Gray's Inn. His father's position at court soon brought him under the notice of the king, but there is no indication that at this period he looked for advancement to royal favour only; the presumption, rather, is that his ambition pointed to a brilliant career at the bar. In 1547 he became custos brevium in the court of common pleas, a valuable office, the reversion to which he had secured by grant some years before.

He did not long remain a widower. As his first wife was the sister of the greatest English scholar of his time, so his second was the daughter of a man hardly less eminent for his profound learning. This was Mildred, eldest daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke of Gidea Hall, Essex, to whom he was married on 21 Dec. 1545. Sir Anthony was preceptor, or governor, to Edward VI. Cheke was the king's tutor, to which office he was appointed in July 1544. Roger Ascham pronounced Lady Mildred and Lady Jane Grey the two most learned women in England; but Sir Anthony's second daughter, Ann, became eventually even more celebrated than her sister, and, by her marriage with Sir Nicholas Bacon, was the mother of the illustrious Sir Francis. With the accession of Edward VI a new direction was given to Cecil's ambition. The lord protector Somerset took him by the hand and made him his master of requests. When the war with Scotland broke out, Cecil accompanied his patron to the north, and was present at the battle of Pinkey, where he narrowly escaped being slain (11 Sept. 1547). He had scarcely returned to England when he was chosen to sit for Stamford in the parliament that met on 8 Nov. 1547. In the following September he became the protector's secretary, and when Somerset fell his secretary was committed to the Tower. There he remained for two months, and was liberated on 25 Jan. 1550, only after giving a bond for a thousand marks to appear before the council when he should be called. By this time, however, it had become evident that his extraordinary ability could not be dispensed with by the party in power, and the eyes of all the chief personages in the state were turned upon him. On 5 Sept. 1550 he was appointed one of the secretaries of state, and sworn of the privy council, and from this time till his death he continued to occupy a position in the affairs of the nation such as no other man in Europe below the rank of a sovereign attained to, his transcendent genius and wonderful capacity for public business making him for forty-eight years an absolutely necessary minister to the three children of Henry VIII, whom he served so effectively, and, it must be added, so loyally. His earliest preferments indicate that he had already won some reputation as a lawyer. In January 1551 he was one of a commission with Archbishop Cranmer, Bishops Ridley and Goodrich, and others, for trying certain Anabaptists (Fœdera, xv. 250). Shortly after this he appears as recorder of Boston, and in April 1552 he was appointed chancellor of the order of the Garter.

In October 1551 he received the honour of knighthood, together with his brother-in-law, Sir John Cheke. In May 1552 his father died, leaving him large estates in Rutlandshire, Lincolnshire, and Northamptonshire. He was now a rich man, and began to live in a manner befitting his ample means. His ambition began to widen its horizon, but it never betrayed him into treasonable intrigues or tempted him to forget that the highest honours he could hope for were to be won only by faithful service to the crown. When the insane scheme of the Duke of Northumberland for altering the succession and setting Lady Jane Grey upon the throne was forced upon the judges and nobility in June 1553, Cecil added his signature to the document under protest, declaring that he signed it as a witness only (FROUDE, v. 509). He had already expressed himself very strongly against the measure, and actually resigned his post as secretary of state when it was persisted in (TYTLER). When Queen Mary succeeded to the throne by the death of her brother on 6 July, Cecil was out of office, and the queen did not reinstate him; she was already under the influence of very different advisers. During the first year of Mary's reign he seems to have lived in retirement, if that might be called retirement when he was attracting attention by the great expense of his establishment and the large sums he was spending upon his houses at Wimbledon and Burleigh (Salisbury MSS.; Calendar, p. 127). He was watching for his opportunity and biding his time.

Meanwhile, on 23 July 1554, Mary became the wife of Philip of Spain, and the immediate effect of the marriage was that steps were speedily taken to ‘reconcile’ England to the church of Rome. It is at this period that Cecil appears first as a diplomatist. On 6 Nov. he set out with Lord Paget and Sir Edward Hastings on a mission to bring Cardinal Pole to England as legate of the pope (TYTLER; and see FROUDE, vi. 266, n. †). On the 23rd of the month the three envoys returned, the cardinal with them. In the following January the persecution began, and on 4 Feb. 1555 Rogers, the first of the Marian martyrs, was burned at Smithfield. In May an attempt was made to conclude a peace between Henry II and the emperor, and once more Cecil was despatched with the cardinal to arrange the terms. The negotiations came to nothing, and he was back again by the end of June. The parliament met on 21 Oct., and Cecil was chosen one of the knights of the shire for Lincoln. A measure had been brought in for confiscating the estates of the protestant refugees. Cecil protested against the iniquity of the proposition, and it appears that it was owing to his protest that the measure was thrown out. In the parliament which met in January 1558 Cecil had no seat. He probably held himself aloof advisedly, and there is reason to believe that he regarded with something like horror the detestable cruelties of the persecution which disgraced Queen Mary's reign. Watching the current of events, he seems to have warily put himself into communication with the Princess Elizabeth; certainly he had won her confidence, and when Mary died on 17 Nov. 1558 he was the first to receive an unqualified expression of esteem from the new queen. Elizabeth at once appointed him chief secretary of state. She was at Hatfield when the news of her sister's death reached her. She had already instructed Cecil how to act, and on the same day that Mary died he drafted the form of proclamation which it was advisable to issue, and assumed the direction of the government. On the 20th Elizabeth gave her first audience in the hall at Hatfield. Cecil took the oaths as secretary, and to him the queen addressed those words which have been so frequently quoted that it is hardly necessary to repeat them here. When she said, ‘This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted with any manner of gifts, and that you will be faithful to the state,’ she gave proof of her sagacity, and showed that she knew the character of the man who, through evil report and good report, was true to his royal mistress, and faithful in his stewardship to the end. A new parliament assembled in January 1559, and Cecil once more took his seat as knight of the shire for Lincoln. He had already issued certain inquiries as to the condition of parties in the country. There were difficulties of all sorts to contend with wherever he turned his eyes. In December a committee of divines met at the house of Sir Thomas Smith, who had been vice-chancellor when Cecil was at Cambridge in 1543, to revise the prayer-book. Suggestions were invited and sent in for the reformation of the ecclesiastical laws. At the same time Philip of Spain made his outrageous proposal of marriage, which itself was a menace in case of refusal. There was a serious want of money. The pope, the English catholic party, France and Scotland, all were factors in the great problems of state with which the new minister had to deal. Elizabeth was crowned on 15 Jan. Parliament met on the 25th. Sir Nicholas Bacon, Cecil's brother-in-law, was keeper of the great seal. On 9 Feb. a bill for restoring the royal supremacy was introduced into the lower house and referred to a committee, of which Sir Anthony Cooke, Cecil's father-in-law, was chairman. In April the bill was passed. Meanwhile a peace had been concluded with France; Scotland was making eager overtures for an alliance with England; the English catholics were dispirited; the commons voted a sufficient subsidy; the outlook everywhere grew clearer. In February Cecil had been elected chancellor of the university of Cambridge; in June he was at the head of the commission for a visitation of the two universities. Just at this time Lord Robert Dudley appears upon the scene as the rising favourite. For a time it seemed as if he had stepped between the queen and the secretary, and there were rumours that Cecil's influence had received a check. Nevertheless, perhaps at no period of his life was the amount of work which he got through more astonishing than during those very months which passed while Lord Robert Dudley was supposed to be supplanting him. Just in proportion as the queen threw the cares of business aside and chose to amuse herself with her early playmate, were the affairs of the nation left to Cecil to manage according to his judgment; and if Elizabeth withdrew herself for a brief period from the routine of business, the secretary had more anxiety and responsibility thrown upon him. His health suffered under the severe strain of all this constant labour of mind and body, and he seems to have been in danger of breaking down. In June of this year he was once more employed on a diplomatic mission to Scotland, in conjunction with Sir William Cordell and Dr. Wotton, and the treaty of Edinburgh was signed on 6 July. The queen was angry at the concessions that had been made, and when Cecil returned to court he found that Dudley had gained ground and he himself had lost it. In September Amy Robsart came by her death. Dudley was in extreme perplexity, and applied to Cecil for counsel. His reply has perished. Soon the rumours spread that the queen was going to marry her early playmate, but gradually the reports lost credit. Cecil's star again rose. On 10 Jan. 1561 Cecil was appointed master of the court of wards. It was his first really lucrative office, and a very important one; but it was an office whereby a great deal of vexatious tyranny had been exercised upon the gentry for a long time. The court of wards was talked of with the same abhorrence and dread as the court of chancery was among ourselves thirty years ago. With characteristic energy Cecil applied himself to reform the abuses which were matters of common scandal, and at the same time he contrived to make the department a source of increased revenue to the crown. Nor was this all. The country was suffering severely from all the religious and social disturbances of the last fifteen years. The condition of the people needed to be looked into, for there was disorder everywhere. In July 1561 Cecil organised what we should now call a commission of inquiry into the discontent that prevailed. At this time he appears to have been considerably embarrassed, insomuch that he was compelled to sell his office of custos brevium, to lessen his establishment, and borrow money of Sir Thomas Gresham for his immediate necessities. The truth seems to be that his buildings at Burleigh, which had been going on for years, were carried on upon a scale which no ordinary income could support, and to this must be added the great demands which about this time were made upon him by his son Thomas, who occasioned him great anxiety and distress by his dissolute way of living while on his travels abroad.

In the parliament of 1563, where he sat for Northamptonshire, Cecil was chosen speaker, but declined the honour. The duties were hardly to be discharged along with those for which he was already responsible. One of the most important measures of the session was that which was intended to carry out the domestic policy which had been in Cecil's mind while he was formulating the inquiries circulated during the previous year. On 6 July 1564 Queen Elizabeth stood sponsor to Cecil's daughter Elizabeth, who became eventually the wife of William Wentworth, eldest son of Lord Wentworth of Nettlested. In August she paid her famous visit to Cambridge. Cecil had cause for uneasiness as to the reception the queen might receive. Party feeling ran very high in the university, and there had been unseemly disorders in some of the colleges, as well as a good deal of strong language and insubordination outside the college walls. Cecil, as chancellor of the university, felt that his own credit was at stake, and he took the precaution to go down to Cambridge before the queen started on her progress, to smooth the way for her reception. By his adroitness he brought it about that the Cambridge visit was one of the most successful entertainments of her long reign. The university, in recognition of Cecil's merits, created him M.A., and the townsmen presented him with some wonderful confectionery! In 1566 he was with the queen during her visit to Oxford, and there too he was created M.A.

The next three years were full of events which could not but have their effect upon the line of policy that Cecil found himself henceforth compelled to follow. The long and fierce struggle between the protestant and catholic party in Scotland ended at last in Mary Stuart's crossing the border and becoming a prisoner upon English soil in May 1568. New complications arose, and the great question of how to deal with the catholic party in England soon forced itself into prominence. In March 1569 Cecil drew up a most able paper upon the political situation (HAYNES, p. 579), in which he shows clearly that he knew what was coming, and that he was no less completely master of the intrigues that were going on in Europe than he was of all that was passing at home. The great northern rebellion came upon him as no surprise; the attempt to crush him in the council (FROUDE, ix. 441; Salisbury MSS. 1319, 1328) caused him no disturbance. The northern outbreak had collapsed before Christmas. The ferocity with which the deluded victims were treated must be laid to the queen's account, not to that of any of her ministers. One thing had made itself clear to Cecil—the northern rebellion had been a religious war, and the catholics in England were a far more powerful and far more dangerous party than queen and minister had hitherto allowed themselves to believe.

In February 1570 the bull of Pope Pius V excommunicating Elizabeth was published, and on 15 May a copy of it was nailed to the door of the bishop of London's palace. It was not only an insolent and wanton defiance, it was practically a declaration of war. Cecil understood the significance of the act, and knew better than any one else that from henceforth there could be no peace with Rome. In the council he stood almost alone, but Elizabeth, as always on any great emergency, gave him her steadfast support. As Mr. Froude has well said, ‘she was a woman and a man: she was herself and Cecil.’ Against the secret intrigues that were everywhere now at work, and the secret emissaries of the English refugees supplied with money from their sympathisers at home and from Spain and Rome abroad, Cecil felt himself compelled to resort to baser weapons. His life began to be threatened; assassins were bribed to slay him and the queen; the murder of both or either, it was taught, would be something more glorious than mere justifiable homicide. Against the new doctrine and its desperate disciples, growing ever more reckless and furious as their failures multiplied, it seemed to Cecil that extraordinary precautions were needed, and for the next twenty years he kept a small army of spies and informers in his pay, who were the detective police, that he used without scruple to get information when it was needed to keep watch upon the sayings and doings of suspected characters at home and abroad. They were a vile band, and employment of such instruments could not but bring some measure of dishonour upon their employer. Such men almost necessitated that cruelty and treachery should be wrought under their hands, and the use of torture and other barbarities in the treatment and slaughter of the Roman missioners and their supporters are the shame and indelible reproach which attach themselves to Cecil's conduct of affairs, and which not all the difficulties of his position, or the unexampled provocations he endured, can altogether excuse. In the grim conflict that ensued, however, he carried out his purpose and gained his end. Before the defeat of the Armada, all chance of a restoration of the papal supremacy in England had gone for ever.

Hitherto, though the most powerful man in the kingdom, and far the ablest and most laborious secretary of the queen, Cecil had received no great reward. He had lived bountifully and spent lavishly, but he was still a plain knight. On 25 Feb. 1571 he was created Baron of Burghley. ‘If you list to write truly,’ he says, addressing one of his correspondents, ‘the poorest lord in England’ (WRIGHT, i. 391). Next year he was installed a knight of the Garter, and in July 1572, on the death of the Marquis of Winchester, he became lord high treasurer of England. These were the last honours he received from the queen. To follow his career from this point to its close would be to write the history of England; for by him, more than by any other single man during the last thirty years of his life, was the history of England shaped. He outlived all those who had at one time been his rivals, and almost all who had started with him in the race for power and fame. Ascham and Cheke and Sir Thomas Smith, whom he had loved as familiar friends at Cambridge; Sir Nicholas Bacon, who sat with him for long in the council, not always agreeing with his opinions; Leicester and Walsingham and Sir Christopher Hatton, and many another whose name has become a household word, all passed away before him. It seemed as if he could do without any or all of them; but it is very safe to assert that without him the reign of Elizabeth would not have been as glorious as it was, nor could the nation have emerged from all the long series of difficulties and perils through which it passed under his vigilant and vigorous guidance, so prosperous and strong and self-reliant, if there had been no Cecil in the council of his sovereign, and if his genius had exercised less paramount control. Only once in his career did Elizabeth display towards him any serious marks of her displeasure. After the execution of Mary Stuart she dismissed him from her presence, and spent her fury upon him in words of outrageous insult. He had carried out her secret wishes, but it suited her to have it believed that he had misinterpreted her instructions.

As he outlived almost all his old friends, so did he survive all his children except his two sons, Thomas, his firstborn [see CECIL, THOMAS, Earl of Exeter], and Robert, his successor in more than one of his offices of state and the inheritor of no small portion of his genius [see CECIL, ROBERT, Earl of Salisbury]. Of five other children by Lady Mildred, three sons died early. His daughter Elizabeth married, as has been said, William Wentworth, eldest son of Lord Wentworth of Nettlested; the marriage took place in 1582; the husband died about a year after, and his widow did not long survive. There was no issue of the marriage. His other daughter, Ann, married Edward de Vere, seventeenth earl of Oxford, by whom she had three daughters, but no son. It was a very unhappy alliance; the earl treated his wife very badly, and she died in June 1588. Her mother, Lady Mildred, followed her daughter to the grave in less than a year; she died on 4 April 1589. Cecil mourned her loss with pathetic sorrow. His mother, who had been to him through life an object of tender solicitude, had already passed away in March 1587. In his old age Cecil must at times have felt his loneliness. He had almost completed his seventy-sixth year when death came upon him at his house in the Strand on 4 Aug. 1598. His body was removed for burial to Stamford Baron, his obsequies being performed on the same day with much magnificence at Westminster Abbey.

Illustrious as a statesman, his private life displays a character peculiarly attractive. He was a man of strong affection—gentle and tender to children, of whom he was very fond—an indulgent father, even when his son Thomas tried him sorely by his early dissipation and went so far as to remind his father that he could not be cut off from the entailed estates, which were settled upon him. He watched the education of his children with constant interest, and made liberal provision for his daughters when they married. His loyal fidelity to his early friends and kindred showed itself whenever a legitimate opportunity occurred for assisting them [see especially under BROWNE, ROBERT], and his grateful love for his old college and for Cambridge he never tired of expressing in word and deed. The hospital for twelve old men at Stamford still remains in testimony of his kindly charity, and in his will he left many legacies to the poor and the unfortunate. In the midst of all his wonderful official labours he contrived to keep up an interest in literature; he was a lover of books and of learned men, and a student to the last. His health was frequently impaired by overwork and mental strain. In 1580 he suffered much from his teeth, which had begun to decay. He was always an early riser, and writing to a correspondent who wished to speak with him at the court, he warns him that his only chance of securing an interview was by being in attendance before nine in the morning. The sums he spent on his buildings and gardens at his various houses were enormous. In defending himself against the attacks of his slanderers in 1585 he thinks it necessary to excuse and explain this lavish outlay. Burleigh, the glorious palace which still remains as a noble monument of his magnificence, he says he had built upon the old foundations, but such as he left it—he left it while it was his mother's property, and he never presumed to treat it as his own during her lifetime. It was not till after her death that the queen was entertained within its walls. It was at Theobalds and Wimbledon and Cecil House that Elizabeth was received with such extraordinary splendour. Twelve times, it is said, the queen was his guest, and the cost of her visits entailed on each occasion an outlay which sounds to us almost incredible. His gardens were celebrated over Europe, and we hear of his experiments at acclimatising foreign trees, which he imported at a great cost. For mere pictorial art he seems to have cared but little, though his agents were instructed to procure specimens of sculpture for him from Venice and probably elsewhere. He had a great taste for music; there is no indication of his being fond of animals. His hospitality was unbounded, and he kept great state in his establishments. He had a high idea of what was expected from the prime minister of the queen of England. All this splendour and profuseness could not be kept up through life and any large accumulation of wealth be left behind him. In truth Cecil did not die as rich a man as might have been expected, and there is good reason for believing that if his father had not left him an ample patrimony he would have died as poor a man as many another of Elizabeth's ablest and most faithful servants. Cooper, in the ‘Athenæ Cantabrigienses,’ has given a list of sixty of his works. They are for the most part state papers, apologies, and ephemera, never printed and never intended to be published to the world. He had made large collections in heraldry and genealogy, with which studies he was much interested. He expressed himself with facility and precision in Latin, French, and Italian, and he returned the letters which his son Thomas wrote to him from Paris with corrections of the mistakes in French which the young man had made. The mass of manuscripts which he left behind him is prodigious. In the single year 1596, when he was in his seventy-fifth year and his constitution was breaking up, no less than 1,290 documents, now at Hatfield, and every one of which passed under his eye and were dealt with by his hand or the hand of his secretaries, remain to prove his amazing industry, his methodical habits, and his astonishing capacity for work. It must be borne in mind, too, that the Record Office and other archives probably contain at least as large a collection of his letters and other writings as his own muniments supply. A very valuable ‘Calendar of the Hatfield MSS.’ is now in process of being drawn up; only the first volume has as yet appeared; but a rough list of his papers has been printed in the 4th and 5th ‘Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission.’

Cecil was of middle height and spare figure. In youth he was upright, lithe, and active, with a brown beard which became very white in his old age, brilliant eyes, and a nose somewhat large for his face. His portraits are numerous, and have all probably been engraved (BROMBLEY, Cat. Engr. Portraits, 28); none of them are of any conspicuous merit. The authorities for his biography must be sought in every work which has any bearing upon the history of England during the latter half of the sixteenth century. The sources referred to below will be found to support the account of his life and administration given in the foregoing pages. Sources

The earliest and, in some respects, the most valuable life of Lord Burghley is that first printed by Peck in the Desiderata Curiosa. The author's name is not known. The Lives by Arthur Collins, Charlton, and Melvil (4to, 1738) are useful as far as they go; but a really satisfactory biography is still a desideratum; the materials are scattered very widely. In citing the following authorities special references are given only in cases where in the text a statement or opinion put forward for the first time, or otherwise noteworthy, may need verification: Collins's Peerage (1812), ii. 582; Cal. Dom. 1509, No. 295, Cal. 1513, No. 4597, Cal. 1534, No. 451, Cal. 1535, No. 149 (51); Calendars Dom. temp. Eliz. passim; Calendar of the Hatfield MSS. (1883–1907); Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. under ‘William Cecil’ and ‘John Cheke;’ Cooper's Annals of Cambridge, ii. 137; Baker's St. John's College, and Roger Ascham's Scholemaster, both by Prof. Mayor; Tytler's England under Ed. VI and Mary (1839); Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation, pt. ii. bk. ii.; Wright's Queen Elizabeth and her Times, 1838; Birch's Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth from 1581, 4to, 1754; Strype's Annals, and Life of Whitgift; Rymer's Fœdera, xv. 250; Haynes's Burghley Papers, 1740, fol., cover the period between 1541 and 1570; Murdin's Burghley Papers, 1759, fol., cover from 1578 to 1596; Collins's Sydney Papers, fol. 1746, vol. i.; Forbes's Public Transactions of Queen Elizabeth; 2 vols. fol. 1741; Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth; Jessopp's One Generation of a Norfolk House, chap. iv.; Morris's Troubles of our Catholic Forefathers; Naunton's Fragmenta Regalia; Wood's Athenæ Oxon., and Fasti, ed. Bliss; Kempe's Losely MSS.; Froude's Hist. of England, passim; Camden's Annals of Queen Elizabeth; Nicolas's Life of Sir Christopher Hatton. There are some valuable scraps of information in Burgon's Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham (2 vols. 1839). Martin Hume's The Great Lord Burghley (1898) brings together much information from the State Papers at the Public Record Office. A. J.

Original date of publication: 1886 —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gradvmedusa (talkcontribs) 21:40, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

Early Career; Devise of Succession[edit]

I was puzzled to read that Cecil was responsible for this illegal document, as I happen to be reading a biography of Cecil that has Northumberland writing it and is quite specific. So I rewrote most of this paragraph, citing my source. I hope that, if there is more than one credible account of this incident, as I've found to be the case for other aspects of the reign, they'll be added.

This perspective illumunates the nature of Cecil's courage (scroll down). He had principles, but would retreat from them under duress, either in the interest of the state or to preserve himself. --Deangup (talk) 05:32, 10 May 2008 (UTC)

The Wiki article Edward VI shows clearly that the question of Edward's will is still very controversial among historians. This only became a question of "principles" in hindsight, and Cecil was as much a turncoat as any other. The cited diary of Cecil's was written decades after the events, so no wonder he is always politically correct! This whole section of the article is perhaps a bit too extended in the context of the whole article.
Buchraeumer (talk) 00:05, 28 March 2009 (UTC)

Edward's royal command[edit]

But at Edward's royal command he signed it; he was the last of the councillors to do so. [1] - Is the author of this page sure he signed it? I believe he refused and compromise by holding his hand over the document as witness to the device. This is one of the acts which allowed him to stay relatively neutral during the transition from Jane Grey to Mary I (albeit he was obviously, at least on paper, a supporter of Northumberland's plans and thus a servant of Grey). Mary I thus accepted his loyalty. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 139.149.31.231 (talk) 08:42, 13 August 2008 (UTC)

Latin and other foreign languages in English wikipedia entries[edit]

At this time, the entry contains the following sentence:

"But service under Warwick (by now the Duke of Northumberland) carried some risk, and in his diary Cecil recorded his release in the phrase ex misero aulico factus liber et mei juris."
What does "ex misero aulico factus liber et mei juris" mean, or are only those who suffered through latin (a subject which was not available in my public school) supposed to get it?

Do we have a policy about the use of foreign language phrases in the English Wikipedia and whether they should include an English language translation or explanation whenever possible? Even if we don't can someone please provide a translation here?

Thanks! Ileanadu (talk) 22:01, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

Article still has POV Issues[edit]

Well it’s been over a year since these POV issues were raised and there still seems to be a fairly large amount of non referenced POV. If the POV is coming from reference-able sources then I think it would be best to add inline citations and to change the sentence structure to make it clear that these are the opinions of specific biographers. The way it is now unless someone comes to the talk page and reads this section they probably wouldn’t realize that this was not all just original research. It looks like a somewhat time consuming job so before I tackle it I want to make sure no one else is already putting in the effort (plus I don’t want to step on any toes).Colincbn (talk) 02:43, 2 July 2009 (UTC)

Congratulations if you feel fit to tackle this terrible article! The main problem with it from the start, I believe, was that it was lifted entirely from the 1911 EB. In Burghley's case this was not a good decision, as it was an entirely uncritical eulogy, sprinkled with some distasteful attacks on other people. These were not difficult to remove, the problem is that the article still largely is a peacocky evaluation of his supposed character instead of including facts. So you see the bias of this article was/is inherent as it cosisted from the start out of a biased "account". A few points have in between been worked on, but it is still a mess (when I came across it the first time there were even two footnotes sections, one in the middle of the article). Buchraeumer (talk) 16:11, 2 July 2009 (UTC)
Yes I can certainly see what you mean! I would definitely like to clean this up a bit. The first thing I will need to do is look for some other sources to cite as I try removing the POV. At the same time there are a lot of good facts in the current revision that I want to keep. I suppose I can simply cite the E.B. article for most of that. Well I'm off to scour the web for info...Colincbn (talk) 06:34, 5 July 2009 (UTC)
The conslusion of section "Private life" (To say that he was Machiavellian... principles might find some scope.) is unsuitable for WP, unless it can be attributed to some reputable sources. Are all policians Machiavellian? Did 16th century politicians prefer efficiency over princliple? How do we know what Burgley may have felt? While I do agree with these comments, I'm afraid that they may have to go, unless someone adds a citation. The Yeti 12:52, 6 January 2014 (UTC)

Variation in date of birth[edit]

Some sources seem to give Cecil's bith year as 1520, rather than 1521. Can anyone clarify? Many thanks, Whitenoiseuk (talk) 09:34, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

ODNB doesn't know: "born on 18 September 1520 or 1521". Probably should be changed. --Old Moonraker (talk) 10:00, 22 November 2010 (UTC)

descendant or descendent[edit]

Checked the OED. This change should apply to all uses in this article and I'm changing the other one as well. As a BTW, descendent would apply in astrology—descendent constellations—and the dangling bits of letters in typography. -- Old Moonraker (talk) 07:57, 10 November 2011 (UTC)

Vague[edit]

Vague talk about an "underground" appears in the article. I will delete it if the underground is not specified. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 109.154.12.105 (talk) 12:12, 15 May 2012 (UTC)

See "In Parliament". — Preceding unsigned comment added by 109.154.12.105 (talk) 12:15, 15 May 2012 (UTC)
It now has three references. This is possibly too many, but I see that IP editors are still disputing it. A quote (truncated here) cites "the treasonous practices of the Jesuit underground". --Old Moonraker (talk) 05:50, 28 May 2012 (UTC)


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