Tag Archives: William 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 1586 – Henry Cheke died

Henry Cheke was born in 1548 and was the eldest son of Sir John Cheke and his wife Mary. Cheke was tutored at an early age by his father’s friend, Peter Osborne and later sent to King’s College, Cambridge. However, Cheke’s father died when he was just nine years old and although Cheke inherited his father’s land that were worth two hundred marks a year he also inherited debts that totalled a thousand marks.

As a minor Cheke’s wardship was likely to have been granted to Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, therefore Cheke and Cecil corresponded often with Cheke asking for help or thanking him for various things.

In 1568 Cheke was granted his M.A. from Cambridge at just the age of 20 although Cheke was studious some believed that Cecil had a hand in it being granted early. With his M.A. and Cecil’s influence Cheke attended the 1572 Parliament for Bedford. Just two years later he would be seeking Cecil’s help again, this time in the form of employment.

In 1569 Cheke married Frances Radcliff and although we know for definite they had their son, Thomas, the total amount of children the couple had is unknown, although many believe they had three sons and two daughters

In July 1576 Cheke received a clerkship from the Privy Council and not long after that Cheke set sail for the continent, in particular France and Italy. During his travels Cheke translated a play about the ‘devilish devices of the popish religion’ and dedicated it to Lady Cheney of Toddington.

Upon his return back to England on 3rd January 1578 Cheke was placed on the roster of Privy Council clerks and would be required for six months of the next year; January, February, July, August, September and October. In August of the same year Cheke was sent to York to take up the role of secretary to the council in the north. He resided at the council in a place called ‘The Manor’

With his new position within the council in the north Cheke retained his position in Parliament this time for Boroughbridge and served on a committee that discussed the fraudulent conveyances bill on 15th February 1585.

Cheke became involved in an argument with the Archbishop of York when two council servants were arrested. The Archbishop complained that Cheke had attempted to hinder his proceedings whereas Cheke stated that he and other members of the council commissioners had simply refused to comply with the demands of the Archbishop who had demanded to see depositions and examine those who had not been listed in the Archbishops commission.

Cheke died on 23rd June 1586, most likely at ‘The Manor’ and as buried in York Minister. Although the cause of his death is not officially known it is widely believed that he died after breaking his neck after falling down some stairs. This allegedly occurred after he had openly mocked the Catholic martyr, Francis Ingleby. However, the two incidents were never proven to be linked.York MinsterYork Minster, burial of Henry Cheke

On this day in 1588 – Anne de Vere died

Anne de Vere nee Cecil, was born on 5th December 1556 to William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley and his wife Mildred Cooke. Anne would grow up to be well educated and was well versed in French, Latin and potentially Italian, she was tutored by William Lewin. It is no surprise that Anne was a woman of many languages when her mother was well noted from her translations from the Greek.

In 1569 Anne was engaged to Sir Philip Sidney but the marriage negotiations failed and instead she married Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford on 19th December 1571 at Westminster Abbey. Edward was the ward of William Cecil and so the two grew up in the same household.

Following the marriage Anne continued living at home and son fell pregnant and on 2nd July 1575 she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth. Edward was abroad touring Europe and upon his return accused Anne of adultery and declared the child illegitimate. In April 1576 he officially separated from Anne and refused to recognise her at court.

During the separation in 1581 Edward was imprisoned in the Tower of London at the Queen’s command for having an illegitimate child with one of her Lady’s of the Bedchamber. Edward was quickly released and in December 1581 Anne had begun corresponding with her husband once more and they reconciled the following month, with Edward accepting that Anne’s daughter was his.

With the marriage reconciled the de Vere’s went on to have a further four children taking the total to five, four girls and a boy. Unfortunately Lord Bulbecke died in his early infancy. It was believed that Anne wrote a handful of poems about her son that were published in Pandora (1584), however these are potentially written by someone else using her viewpoint.

Anne died on 5th June 1588 at the age of 31 from unknown causes. She is buried at Westminster Abbey where her mother and daughters were later buried.

Lower part of the monument to Mildred, Lady Burghley and her dauThe tomb of Anne de Vere in Westminster Abbey

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

On this day in 1590 – Sir Francis Walsingham died

Sir Francis Walsingham was born around 1532 to William and Joyce Walsingham in Chislehurst, Kent. The Walsingham’s were a well connected couple and William served as one of the members of the commission that was created to investigate Cardinal Wolsey.

Walsingham had a great education at King’s College, Cambridge but he did not complete a degree and after a year in Europe he enrolled at Gray’s Inn in 1552 to qualify as a lawyer but things didn’t go to plan. In 1553 Edward VI died and Mary I ascended the throne many Protestants fled England for fear of being arrested as a heretic. Walsingham continued his studies at Basel and Padua.

Elizabeth I came to power in 1558 and with that the Protestant exiles returned to England. Walsingham was quickly elected into Elizabeth’s first parliament representing Bossiney, Cornwall. Walsingham married Anne, the daughter of the Lord Mayor of London; however she died after just two years of marriage. Walsingham remarried in 1566 to Ursula St. Barbe and they had a daughter, Frances.

A huge influence in parliament by 1569 Walsingham soon found himself working with William Cecil stopping plots against the Queen. One of his biggest triumphs included the collapse of the Ridolfi Plot, which aimed to place Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne.

Walsingham in 1570 was created ambassador to France and helped negotiations for a marriage between Elizabeth and Henry, Duke of Anjou. The negotiations soon collapsed on the grounds that Henry was a Catholic. Walsingham believed that the French should be England’s closest allies and so the Treaty of Blois was agreed between the two nations in 1572.

Walsingham successfully returned to England in 1573 proving himself in his duties in France as competent and trustworthy. As a result he was appointed to the Privy Council and made joint principal secretary with Sir Thomas Smith. Smith retired in 1576 leaving Walsingham in office alone and in charge of the privy seal.

Walsingham’s role as principal secretary included handling all royal correspondence and setting agendas for council meetings. Walsingham also opened new trade routes and commissioned the exploration of the New World. Walsingham was also sent on many missions across Europe to discuss peace treaties, marriage potential and gather military intelligence.

Walsingham was knighted on 1st December 1577 and held many positions as a result including Recorder of Colchester and High Steward of Salisbury, Ipswich and Winchester. In 1578 Walsingham was appointed Chancellor of the Order of the Garter, a post that he held until 1587 when he became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster as well as retaining his position of principal secretary (also known as secretary of state).

With Catholism still causing the Protestant Queen problems Walsingham began authorising the use of torture on Catholic priests and those suspected of conspiring with Catholics in order to gain confessions or information. In order to drive any potential of a Catholic rebellion out of the country Walsingham began employing informers and intercepting messages. In May 1582 Walsingham intercepted messages from the Spanish ambassador to Scotland which indicated another attempt to place Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne of England. Involved in this plot was Nicholas Throckmorton, an old friend of Walsingham’s. Throckmorton was arrested and tortured in order to gain a confession. Throckmorton was executed in 1584.

As a result of the Throckmorton plot a new law was passed that announce that anyone conspiring against the Queen would be arrested and executed. The Bond of Association was drawn up by Walsingham and William Cecil. Mary, Queen of Scots was placed under house arrest with a friend of Walsingham’s. He instructed his friend to intercept all of Mary’s letters and report back to him. Whilst also arranging Mary to believe that her letters were being sent out safely whilst in fact they were being intercepted. In 1586 Anthony Babington wrote to Mary about a plot that was in the works to rescue her and assassinate the Queen. Mary and her conspirators were arrested and put on trial. Mary was eventually executed in 1587.

Walsingham’s work was far from over also in 1586 he received many notifications from his informants abroad warning him of Spain’s preparations to invade England. Walsingham oversaw many preparations to ensure that England would be ready for the oncoming invasion in particularly he oversaw the renovations of Dover Harbour.

Walsingham died on 6th April 1590 at his home and was buried the following day at 10pm in Old St Paul’s Cathedral. His grave was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Sir Francis Walsingham

On this day in 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I died.

On March 24th 1603 Queen Elizabeth I died, aged 69.

In the years leading to her death she had lost many of the courtiers that were close friends of hers from Robert Devereux, who was executed for treason in 1601 to Robert Dudley, who died in 1588 and was believed to be Elizabeth’s true love. Elizabeth’s most trusted advisor William Cecil died in 1598.

In late 1602 Elizabeth was out walking and caught a chill and began complaining of feeling unwell. Elizabeth retired to Richmond Palace in March and refused to allow the doctors in to examine her, she also refused to take to her bed and rest. Elizabeth would stand for hours and sat occasionally. Elizabeth eventually lay on the floor for four days where she grew weaker and eventually was unable to argue with her ladies in waiting who moved her to her bed. Elizabeth’s Privy Councillors gathered around her in the hope that she would finally name her successor but she was too weak to even talk. Elizabeth signalled to Robert Cecil who understood that it was a sign to name James VI of Scotland as her successor.

Archbishop Whitgift was called to the Queen’s bedside to offer prayers and Elizabeth slowly drifted into sleep and never awoke finally passing away on March 24th. A proclamation was issued to declare Elizabeth’s death and the succession of James VI of Scotland. Due to the way the Elizabethans still followed the Julian calendar Elizabeth actually died on the last day of 1602, with each New Year taking place on 25th March. A new year for a new ruling dynasty.

Elizabeth’s cause of death was never known as no post mortem was carried out however two theories of her death were simply old age or blood poisoning caused by the white lead and vinegar mixture she used upon her skin.

Elizabeth was laid to rest of 28th April 1608 in Westminster Abbey.

Under her leadership England advanced significantly in the Arts through the works of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and John Donne. England also explored many new lands through Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Richard Greenville. She also successfully saw off many attempts of invasion from the Spanish. The death of Elizabeth saw the end of the Tudors and she left England in a better place than when she took the throne.

Elizabeth I tomb effigy (digitally altered so railings do not sh                        Tomb of Queen Elizabeth I at Westminster Abbey.

                               Photo courtesy of Westminster Abbey

On this day in 1560 – Sir Edward Hoby born

Sir Edward Hoby was born on 20th March 1560 to Thomas Hoby and Elizabeth Cooke. Hoby was also the nephew of William Cecil, Lord Burghley and eventually the son in law of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, Queen Elizabeth’s cousin.

Hoby was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Oxford. With his uncle’s guidance he quickly rose in the Elizabethan court and was sent on many confidential missions as a spy.

Hoby married Elizabeth Paulet, the daughter of William 1st Marquess of Winchester but then in 1582 remarried Margaret Carey, daughter of Elizabeth’s cousin, Henry Carey 1st Baron Hunsdon. The day after his wedding to Margaret he was knighted by the Queen.

In 1584 Hoby was sent on a mission to Scotland with his new father in law and greatly impressed King James VI, later the King of England. He was commended and highly praised in writing by the king and was asked to wear a token of appreciation and their brotherhood. Elizabeth’s disapproval of this relationship was a reason for Hoby to stay away from court for a time.

In July 1588 Hoby was again selected again to check on the progress on the preparation for the Spanish Armada.

Hoby received many accolades serving in Elizabeth’s court some of these included being made a knight of the shire in Berkshire in 1588, justice of the peace for Middlesex in 1591 and constable of Queenborough Castle, Kent in 1597.

Upon the ascension of King James I Hoby was made a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and had his debts wiped cleaned.

Hoby died at Queenborough Castle on 1st March 1617.

Sir Edward Hoby