Elizabethan Era 1558 - 1603

Tudors Times 1485 - 1603

Jacobean Era 1603 - 1625

William Cecil Lord Burghley during Elizabethan Era



William Cecil was born on 13th September 1521 to Richard Cecil and his wife Jane Heckington in Bourne, Lincolnshire. Richard Cecil was the owner of the Burghley estate. William Cecil was an English statesman, chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for almost her entire reign.

William at first entered The King's School, Grantham and later on joined Stamford School. At the age of fourteen years in 1535, he went to St John's College, Cambridge. It was here that he met the top educators like Roger Ascham and John Cheke and gained an unusual knowledge of Greek.

William developed a liking for John Cheke's sister, Mary and in 1541 was removed by his father from Cambridge without taking his degree and was placed at Gray's Inn. Despite all this, William married Mary and in 1542 they had a son named Thomas, future Earl of Exeter. However, in 1533, Mary died. William got married again in 1546 to Mildred, daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke.

In the initial days of his career, William was in the service of the Duke of Somerset. The Duke was Lord Protector in the first few years of the young King Edward VI. William accompanied the Duke on his Pinkie campaign of 1547. In 1543, William sat in Parliament but his name was not mentioned in the parliamentary returns until 1547. It was then that he was elected for the family borough of Stamford.

In 1548, there is a description which refers to him as the Protector's Master of Requests. This means that he was working as a clerk or a registrar of the court set up by the Protector to hear the grievences of the poor people. However, in 1549, he was sent to the Tower along with the Duke but was later on released on a bond of 1000 marks.

He laet on ingratiated himself with Warwick and on 15th September, 1550 he was sworn as one of the King's two Secretaries. On 11th October 1551 he was awarded the knighthood. Later on he was appointed as the Chancellor of the Order of the Grater. William Cecil was not a part of the divorce between Catherine and Henry VIII. There was a rumour in 1554 that William Cecil will take over as the Secretary of State after Sir William Petre.

William was employed in the administration of the lands of Princess Elizabeth by the Duke of Northumberland. William Cecil was appointed as the Secretary of State twice, firstly between 1550-1553 and for the secondly between 1558-1572. His control over the finances, leadership shown in the Privy Council and pioneering the network of intelligence made him the most important minister for a long time during Elizabethan period.

William Cecil had been a part in the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. The steps taken by him for the same show his willingness to take the responsibilities that Queen Elizabeth I avoided. His contribution in the Religious Settlement of 1559 was remarkable. In 1569, William represented Lincolnshire in the Parliament and in 1563, represented Northamptonshire.

He even took an actively participated in the proceedings of the House of Commons as its Speaker in 1563. He was elected as the Chancellor of the Cambridge University in 1559 and in 1561, he was made the Master of the Court of Wards and Liveries. His job as the Master was to provide for education and the upbringing of the sons, the wealthy fathers of whom had died before their sons achieved majority. William was the first Chancellor of Trinity College, Dublin from 1592-1598.

In 1571 in contemplation of the marriage of his daughter Anne Cecil to Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the Queen made William Baron of Burghley and from 1572, he took over as the Lord High Treasurer. William Cecil was regarded as a faithful husband, a caring father and a dutiful master.

In the year 1590, William had lost his hearing capacity but he carried on with the Queen's affairs until the last. He was said to have collapsed in 1592 because of heart attack. William Cecil had survived all his children excluding Robert and Thomas. However on 4th August 1598 William Cecil passed away at his London residence. He was buried in St Martin's Church, Stamford. On receiving the news of his death, Queen Elizabeth was shaken from within.

The relation shared by Queen Elizabeth I and William Cecil began even before the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. From the very beginning, Elizabeth had trusted William as he was the perfect minister she wanted to carry out the affair's of the court. William Cecil until the very end of his life was dedicated to his work and was an efficient minister. Also at the same time he was a perfect husband and a father. His death had left an deep impression upon the minds of the Elizabethan people.

   
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