William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley : biography
William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley (sometimes spelled Burleigh), KG (13 September 1520 – 4 August 1598) was an English statesman, the chief advisor of Queen Elizabeth I for most of her reign, twice Secretary of State (1550–1553 and 1558–1572) and Lord High Treasurer from 1572. He was the founder of the Cecil dynasty which has produced many politicians including two Prime Ministers.
In popular culture
Cecil has been a character in many works of fiction and documentary essay concerned with Elizabeth I's reign. Richard Attenborough depicted him in the film Elizabeth. He was a prominent supporting character in the 1937 film Fire Over England, starring Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, and Flora Robson. Burghley (spelled Burleigh in the film) was played by Morton Selten. He also appears in the television mini-series Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren, in which he is played by Ian McDiarmid. He was also portrayed by Ronald Hines in the 1971 TV series Elizabeth R.http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0066652/ He is portrayed by David Thewlis in Roland Emmerich's Anonymous.
Cecil appears as a character in the novels I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles, The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory and is a prominent secondary character in several books by Bertrice Small. He also appears prominently in the alternative history Ruled Britannia, by Harry Turtledove, in which he and his son Sir Robert Cecil are conspirators and patrons of William Shakespeare in an attempt to restore Elizabeth to power after a successful Spanish invasion and conquest of England.
Cecil is also portrayed by Ben Willbond in the BAFTA award winning children's comedy television series Horrible Histories.
William Cecil's early career was spent in the service of the Duke of Somerset (a brother of the late queen, Jane Seymour), who was Lord Protector during the early years of the reign of his nephew, the young Edward VI. Cecil accompanied Somerset on his Pinkie campaign of 1547 (part of the "Rough Wooing"), being one of the two Judges of the Marshalsea. The other was William Patten, who states that both he and Cecil began to write independent accounts of the campaign, and that Cecil generously contributed his notes for Patten's narrative of the Expedition into Scotland.
Cecil, according to his autobiographical notes, sat in Parliament in 1543; but his name does not occur in the imperfect parliamentary returns until 1547, when he was elected for the family borough of Stamford.
In 1548, he is described as the Protector's Master of Requests, which apparently means that he was clerk or registrar of the court of requests which the Protector, possibly at Hugh Latimer's instigation, illegally set up in Somerset House to hear poor men's complaints. He also seems to have acted as private secretary to the Protector, and was in some danger at the time of the Protector's fall in October 1549. The lords opposed to Somerset ordered his detention on 10 October, and in November he was in the Tower of London.
Cecil ingratiated himself with Warwick, and after less than three months he was out of the Tower. On 5 September 1550 Cecil was sworn in as one of King Edward's two Secretaries of State. In April 1551, Cecil became Chancellor of the Order of the Garter.Frederick Chamberlin: Elizabeth and Leycester Dood, Mead & Co. 1939 pp.61,62 But service under Warwick (by now the Duke of Northumberland) carried some risk, and decades later in his diary, Cecil recorded his release in the phrase "ex misero aulico factus liber et mei juris" ("I was freed from this miserable court").
To protect the Protestant government from the accession of a Catholic queen, Northumberland forced King Edward's lawyers to create an instrument setting aside the Third Succession Act on 15 June 1553. (The document, which Edward titled "My Devise for the Succession", barred both Elizabeth and Mary, the remaining children of Henry VIII, from the throne, in favour of Lady Jane Grey.) Cecil resisted for a while, in a letter to his wife, he wrote: "Seeing great perils threatened upon us by the likeness of the time, I do make choice to avoid the perils of God's displeasure." But at Edward's royal command he signed it.B.W. Beckingsale: Burghley Tudor Statesman (New York: Macmillan 1967) pp.45-46 He signed not only the devise, but also the bond among the conspirators and the letters from the council to Mary Tudor of 9 June 1553.Frederick Chamberlin: Elizabeth and Leycester Dood, Mead & Co. 1939 pp.63-65
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