Tag Archives: Robert Cecil

On this day in 1592 – William Cecil died

William Cecil was born on 13th September 1520 in Bourne, Lincolnshire to Richard Cecil and his wife Jane Heckington. Cecil was educated at The King’s School, Grantham and then later Stamford School. In May 1535 at the age of 14 Cecil studied at St John’s College, Cambridge where he met Roger Ascham and John Cheke. In 1541 Cecil’s father transferred him to Grey’s Inn before he was able to complete his degree. It was during this time that Cecil spontaneously married Mary Cheke and they had a son, Thomas, a year later. However, the marriage ended in tragedy in February 1543 when Mary Cheke died. Cecil found love again and on 21st December 1546 Cecil married Mildred Cooke.

Cecil began his career in the service of the Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of the young King Edward VI. Cecil was part of Somerset’s Pinkie campaign in 1547 as part of the Rough Wooing wars. Cecil was also one of two judges of the Marshalsea and wrote an account of the campaign along with William Patten, the other judge.

It is believed that Cecil also sat in Parliament in 1543 until 1547 when he was elected for Stamford. In 1548 Cecil is described as the Lord Protector’s Master of Requests, a role that meant that he was a registrar of the court that dealt with the complaints of poor men, it was an illegal set up at Somerset House but was probably instigated by Hugh Latimer. At the same time he was the Lord Protector’s private secretary. At the fall of the Lord Protector, Cecil found himself in the Tower of London on 10th October 1549. Within three months though Cecil had allied himself with the Duke of Northumberland and secured his release from the Tower.

On 5th September 1550 Cecil was appointed as one of King Edward’s VI two Secretaries of State and the following April he became the Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. As it was becoming clear that the young King was dying his Council turned their attention to who would succeed Edward. It was clear that they did not wish to follow King Henry VIII’s wishes and place Mary on the throne, allowing the country to return to Catholicism. Therefore the Council put their support behind Lady Jane Grey, at first Cecil resisted the idea and even wrote to his wife; ‘Seeing great perils threatened upon us by the likeness of the time, I do make choice to avoid the perils of God’s displeasure.’ He eventually signed but when Mary did eventually take the throne he pretended that he had only signed it as a witness and not as someone who supported placing Lady Jane Grey on the throne.

During Mary’s reign Cecil was spared from persecution as he not only conformed to the Catholic ways but he played no part in the misery that Mary suffered during her childhood after her parents divorced. Mary also sent Cecil to meet Cardinal Pole upon his return to England in 1554.

Cecil was elected to Parliament for Lincolnshire in 1553, 1555 and 1559 and for Northamptonshire in 1563. In January 1561 Cecil succeeded Sir Thomas Parry into the office of Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries, this was a role that saw him help young boys from wealthy families, who had lost their fathers, into education and help raise them into the roles that they were born into. These young boys included Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland.

Upon Queen Mary’s death and the ascension of Elizabeth, Cecil who had been out of favour made his way to Hatfield House and was one of the first visitors to the new Queen. When the Privy Council arrived to present themselves to their new monarch they found that Cecil and the Queen were already making appointments including Cecil’s new role as Secretary of State. This would be the starting point of Cecil’s career during the reign of Elizabeth as he would go on to lead Elizabeth’s Privy Council, set up an established intelligence service and controlled the finances of the crown.

In February 1559 Cecil was elected as Chancellor of Cambridge University succeeding Cardinal Pole he was also granted an M.A in 1564 when Queen Elizabeth visited the University. Cecil was also awarded an M.A at Oxford University in 1566 and he later went on to be the first Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin between 1592 and 1598.

On 25th February 1571 Cecil was given the title of Baron Burghley by Queen Elizabeth, with his new title he also continued in the role of Secretary of State and was effectively running the country on behalf of the Queen. However, in private Cecil attacked the Queen and in particularly in 1572 he criticised the Queen’s handling of Mary Queen of Scots who was gathering a large amount of support from the Catholics, which was a dangerous situation as Elizabeth had been excommunicated by the Pope just two years earlier.

Cecil had two magnificent homes during his lifetime. Burghley House was modelled on Richmond Palace and was built between 1555 and 1587 and Theobalds House was situated just north of London and was built between 1564 and 1585, the Queen visited Theobalds eight times within 24 years.

Burghley HouseBurghley House

In 1572 Cecil was appointed to the role of Lord High Treasurer after the death of Lord Winchester. He was recommended to the role by Robert Dudley who had turned the offer down. Dudley stated that Cecil was the better man for the job as he had a stronger learning and knowledge than Dudley. Cecil’s position within the royal court was strengthening with every new position.

Cecil died on 4th August 1592 at his London home, Cecil House, it is believed that he died following either a stroke or a heart attack, when he fell ill it is believed that the Queen even attempted to held nurse him back to help. He was buried in St Martin’s Church, Stamford near Burghley House. His son, Robert, succeeded his father in many of his positions and became the Queen’s principal advisor and later aided the transition from Queen Elizabeth to King James.

William Cecil NPGWilliam Cecil, Lord Burghley

On this day in 1612 – Robert Cecil died

Robert Cecil was born in 1563 and was the son of William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and Mildred Cooke.

Cecil attended St John’s College in Cambridge during the 1580’s but he did not undertake a degree and in 1584 and 1586 he sat representing Westminster and Hertfordshire from 1589 at the House of Commons.

In 1588 Cecil joined Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, in a diplomatic mission to the Spanish Netherlands to negotiate peace with Spain. This trip was unsuccessful and peace was not reached.

In 1589 Cecil married Elizabeth Brooke and the couple had a son, named William, in March 1591. His wife died when their son was six years old. The couple also had a daughter, Frances.

In 1590 Cecil took on the role of Secretary of State following the death of Sir Francis Walsingham. In 1591 Elizabeth knighted Cecil and he was sworn in as the youngest member of the Privy Council. Cecil took a leading role at Queen Elizabeth’s court after the death of his father in 1598 and served not only Elizabeth but also her successor, King James I.

Cecil saw many crises from the Spanish Armada to the war in Ireland. He also had many run-ins with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Devereux was unsuccessful in Ireland after Cecil convinced Devereux to go to Ireland to stop the uprising. With Devereux’s failure and unauthorized return after agreeing a truce with the Earl of Tyrone, Cecil saw this as an opportunity to place Devereux on trial. Later, in 1601 he led the ill fated Essex Rebellion and was sentenced to death.

Cecil’s position at court grew with the death of many of Elizabeth’s closest advisors such as, Robert Dudley, Sir Walter Midmay, Sir Francis Walsingham and even his own father William Cecil. Cecil was pivotal to matters of state security and he oversaw the smooth transition between Elizabeth and James’ rule. It is believed that he was in secret communication with the King of Scotland before Elizabeth’s death as he was to be Elizabeth’s heir, even if she would not publicly name him. Upon the Queen’s death she made a silent gesture to Cecil for him to write to James to invite him to be the next King of England.

Cecil was highly decorated by King James on 20th August 1603 he was created Baron Cecil of Essendon, in 1604 Viscount Cranborne and finally Earl of Salisbury in 1605. James also persuaded Cecil to exchange his home from Theobalds, Hertfordshire for Hatfield Palace which Cecil extensively rebuilt.

Cecil began pushing for the laws of the last monarch regarding Catholics to be reinstated pushing James to believe that Catholics could still not be trusted; this was proven for Cecil with the actions of the Gunpowder Plot. Catholics plotted against the new King and planned to blow up Parliament at the state opening.

Suffering from poor health and scurvy Cecil took a journey to Bath, to take the hot spring water but he died at Marlborough on 24th May 1612 before the trip could be completed and buried in Hatfield parish church. Despite his position at court Cecil died £30,000 in debt and much of his estate was sol off to pay his debts.

Robert Cecil